Olympus E-20 SLR Review

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Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Introduction & Physical Views

First Look posted 10/15/01
Full review posted 11/12/01

Click on the E-20 to take a QuickTime VR tour

Note: To clear up any confusion - there are two models of the E-20, designated E-20N (NTSC video) and the E-20P (PAL video). They are identical in every respect except for the format of the video out signal to match your local TV standard.

The Camedia E-20 SLR is the flagship of Olympus' E-Series of digital cameras. Building on the proven capabilities of the award-winning Camedia E-10 SLR with new technologies and features, the E-20 sets new standards for digital photography. Featuring a unique dual mode image capture capability: the Interlaced Scan mode allows for 5 Megapixel (effective) resolution to capture images with the highest possible detail. The Progressive Scan mode of 2.5 Megapixel (effective) resolution is for capturing fast-paced action or when shooting in very bright light, it extends the shutter speeds up to 1/18,000 second.

The Camedia E-20 features a 5-megapixel imager and lens technology specifically designed to focus light evenly across the entire CCD surface. The all black aluminum body and fast f2.0 9-36mm (35-140mm in 35mm) zoom lens is designed to maximize image quality. Manufactured with Extra Dispersion (ED) glass, the lens features fully multicoated elements with dual aspherical glass elements to reduce chromatic aberrations and deliver the highest image quality of any lens built for a digital camera. A variety of matched add-on lenses deliver the flexibility digital photographers need to maximize creativity.

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Using Olympus' exclusive TruePic technology, the E-20 produces smoother gradations and true-to-life photographic images. A new Noise Reduction System produces clear, colorful images from ½ second to 60 seconds long in the Manual Mode and up to 8 minutes in Bulb, making low light and night photography truly available to the photographer. Exposure options are abundant with Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual as well as AE Bracketing and Time-lapse. Just as you would expect from a SLR, the E-20 has a manual zoom and focusing ring on the lens barrel and a real focusing screen. The autofocus system uses an Olympus-patented IR-active focus system for initial focus and a TTL passive focus for fine, accurate focus. Professionals will also appreciate the hot-shoe and PC flash connectivity for creative lighting.

Extremely easy to use, the Camedia E-20 offers one-touch buttons and dials as alternative means to change program modes. Rather than navigate through layers of LCD menu commands, the Camedia E-20 sports dedicated buttons to control shooting modes, flash, white balance and media card settings. Aperture and shutter controls are set using dials, enabling quick and easy access to a wide range of commonly used features and settings.

Camedia E-20 Features Overview

  • High quality 5 Megapixel (2560 x 1920) Interlaced Scan mode or
    2.5 Megapixel Progressive Scan mode with shutter speeds up to 1/18,000 second

  • Noise Reduction System for ½ second to 60 sec exposures in Manual and up to 8 minutes in Bulb

  • Versatile image quality modes including:

    • Uncompressed TIFF (all sizes 640 x 480 to 2560 x 1920)
    • JPEG (2.7:1, 4:1 or 8:1 compression)
    • 48-bit RAW mode (16 bit per color)

  • 2.5-frame-per-second Burst Mode up to 4 frames (3 frames in RAW mode) in the Interlaced Scan Mode, and 4.5 frames per second to 7 shots in the Progressive Scan Mode.

  • Very fast response with only 60ms shutter lag time.

  • Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes (with +/- 2 step EV in 1/3 steps exposure compensation) (Aperture and shutter controls in 1/3-step increments)

  • 4X Zoom Lens 9-36mm (35-140mm), ED Aspherical Glass Elements, 62mm filter size.

  • Fast f/2.0, large diameter, aspheric zoom lens with a 7-blade aperture

  • Manual Focus and Manual Zoom rings on the lens barrel.

  • Dual Autofocus (Active-IR/Passive TTL Auto Focus with illuminator)

  • User selectable Digital iESP Multi-Patterned, Center-weighted or 1.6-2% Spot Metering

  • Scene detecting Digital iESP TTL Flash System with FL-40 Flash

  • 1.8" color LCD display swings between a 20° down angle and a 90° up angle

  • SmartMedia and CompactFlash Type II card slots, Microdrive compatible

  • Auto Bracketing (1/3EV, 2/3EV or 1EV) for 3 images

  • Auto White Balance, 7 Preset settings (3000-7500K), One-Touch custom white balance

  • ISO setting: Auto / 80 / 160 / 320

  • TTL hot shoe for FL-40 speedlight and PC Connection for external Flash

  • Full Information SLR Viewfinder (95% coverage) with functioning focusing screen.

  • Histogram in Playback mode on LCD

  • All Aluminum Body and Mirror Housing (Professional Black Color)

  • Built-in Intervolometer for timed shots from 1 minute to 24 hours

  • Rechargeable LBP-10 or the new LBP-12 battery and Grip (B-HLDR-10) system provides extended life, doubling the number of shots per charge.

  • Uses E-10 accessories, including cases, flash, NiMH batteries, AC adapter and auxilliary lenses (28mm, 200mm, 420mm, and f=35mm Macro).

The Camedia E-20 is available now with an estimated street price of $1999. It ships with a 32MB Olympus SmartMedia memory card, lens hood, video cable, USB Auto-connect cable, two LB-01 (CR-3V) Lithium batteries, RM-1 remote control, Olympus Camedia Master 4.0 (Windows / Macintosh), Adobe Photoshop Elements v. 1.0 (Windows / Macintosh), lens cap, strap, QuickStart Guide, Windows 98/98SE USB Driver installation guide, and manual.

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Olympus

The all-aluminum body gives the E-20 durability and strength including the "Mirror Box," which acts as a heat sink to reduce the heat generated by the imager and the internal electronics to improve the photographic quality.

Physical Views

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

Olympus Camedia E-20N, photo (c) 2001 Steves Digicams

The 5-megapixel Olympus Camedia E-20 and Sony DSC-F707.

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Page Two

Olympus Camedia E-20 Specifications

Product type: Digital SLR camera with 4.5 cm/1.8 inch color TFT LCD monitor.
Effective pixel number: 4.95 million pixels
(Approx. 2.5 million pixels in progressive scan mode.)

(The actual number of pixels used in image processing.)

Recording Media:
(Dual card slots)
3V (3.3V) SmartMedia (SSFDC) card (4 to 128 MB).
One 32 MB SmartMedia card is supplied with camera.
CompactFlash Type I/II (IBM Microdrive compatible)
Recording system: Still image: JPEG (DCF: "Design rule for Camera File system"), TIFF (non-compress), DPOF support, RAW data (Camera ships with Photoshop plug-in for RAW mode).
Image size: 2,560 X 1,920 (RAW, TIFF, SHQ, HQ)
1,792 X 1,344 (SHQ, HQ, SQ)
1,280 X 960 (SHQ, HQ, SQ)
1,024 X 768 (SHQ, HQ, SQ)
640 X 480 (SHQ, HQ, SQ)
Image pickup element: 2/3 inch CCD solid-state image pickup 5.24 million pixels.
RGB interlaced scan.
White balance: Full-auto TTL, pre-set manual (3000, 3700, 4000, 4500, 5500, 6500 and 7500 °K) "one touch" manual.
Lens: Olympus 4x zoom lens, 9 - 36 mm F2.0-2.4, all glass zoom lens with one ED and two aspherical lens elements (14 elements in 11 groups).
(Equivalent to 35 - 140 mm lens on 35 mm camera).
Optional 0.8x (wide) 1.45x, 3x (telephoto) and macro extension lenses.
Filter size: 62 mm.
Light metering system: Digital "ESP" multi-pattern metering system, centre-weighted average metering and spot metering.
Exposure control: Programmed auto exposure.
+/- 3EV by 1/3EV steps exposure compensation. AE lock possible.
Auto bracketing: selectable from 1/3EV, 2/3EV and 1EV; 3 images.

Aperture priority:
Wide: F2.0 - 11.0; Tele: F2.4 - 11.0, 1/3EV steps.

Shutter priority:
Interlace Scan mode: 2 - 1/640 sec. (used with mechanical shutter), 1/3EV steps.
Progressive Scan mode: 2 - 1/4,000, 1/18,000 sec.

Manual exposure:
Shutter speed; bulb (up to 8 minutes), 60 sec. - 1/640 sec. (Interlace Scan)
Shutter speed; bulb (up to 8 minutes), 60 sec. - 1/4,000, 1/18,000 sec. (Progressive Scan mode)
(1/18,000 sec. shutter speed in Progressive Scan mode is possible in Manual and Shutter priority exposure mode)

ISO: Auto, user selectable (80, 160, 320 equivalent ISO).
Focusing: Dual AF active and passive TTL system autofocus (contrast detection system) with focusing range: 0.2 m - infinity (step-less).
Manual focus (setting by gauge) with focusing range: 0.2 m - infinity (step-less).
Working range: Standard mode: 0.6 m - infinity;
Macro mode: 0.2 - 0.6 m.
Viewfinder: Optical SLR viewfinder with 95% viewing field. (Full Information/Mode/Aperture/Shutter Speed/Metering/+/-/AF/Flash/AE lock/WB.)
Focusing screen (shows focus).
LCD monitor: 4.5 cm/1.8 inch wider angle color TFT LCD with 118,000 pixels
(made from low-temperature poly-silicon), brightness adjustment is possible.
LCD can be tilted down 20 and up 90 degrees (click stops).
Video Out E-20N, NTSC
E-20P, PAL
Flash guide number Approx. 13 (ISO 80).
Flash modes: Built-in Flash:
Auto (low-& back-light), Red-eye Reducing flash, Off, Fill-in.
External terminal: (hot-shoe): FL-40 control available.
(x-synchronisation): ON
Slow synchronisation (First-curtain / second-curtain synchronisation effect).
Flash working range: Wide: 0.6 - 8.9 m (auto ISO).
Tele: 0.5 - 7.4 m (auto ISO).
Shutter release time lag: Approx. 60 msec.
Battery charging time for flash: Less than 7 sec. (at normal temperature with new battery).
Sequence mode: Interlace Scan mode: Approx. 2.5 frames per sec. up to 4 frames (up to 3 frames in RAW data mode),
Progressive Scan mode: Approx. 4.5 frames per sec. up to 7 frames.
Approx. 1 sec. shot to shot or faster at all times.
Self-timer/remote controller: 12 sec. delay / 2 sec. after optional remote controller operation.
Setting memorisation: Possible.
Outer connector: DC input terminal, USB AutoConnect interface (Storage Class).

Video output terminal, external flash terminal for FL-40 (shoe type connector), x synchronisation socket, remote controller jack.

Operating environment: Temperature: 0 - 40° C (operation), -20 - 60° C (storage).
Humidity: 30 - 90% (operation), 10 - 90% (storage).
Power supply: Main power source: 2 x lithium battery CR-V3 / LiPo battery with optional grip / 4 x AA Ni-MH batteries / 4 x AA Ni-Cd batteries / optional AC adapter.
(Zinc carbon (manganese) and AA lithium batteries cannot be used.)
Simultaneous recording onto image data.
Automatic calendar system: Up to year 2030.
Dimensions: 128.5 (W) x 103.5 (H) x 161 (D) mm (excluding projections).
Weight: 1050 g (without lens cap, batteries and storage media).

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