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Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review

Matt Grayson takes a look at the new Olympus E-450 to see if it gets his coveted nod of approval.

| Olympus E-450 in Digital SLRs
As the replacement to the E-420, the E-450 has an expanded exposure compensation and the addition of the new creative filters.

Olympus E-450: Specification
  • Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450Resolution: 10Mp
  • Sensor size: 4/3in
  • Sensor type: LiveMOS
  • Image size: 3648x2736
  • Aspect ratio: 4:3
  • Focus system: TTL phase difference detection system, contrast detection system
  • Focus points: 3 point automatic and manual selection (11 point in contrast detection)
  • Crop factor: 2x
  • Lens mount: FourThirds
  • File type: RAW, JPEG
  • Sensitivity: ISO100-1600
  • Storage: Compactflash, Microdrive, xD picture card
  • Focus types: Single, continuous, manual
  • Metering system: TTL open aperture, 49 zone
  • Metering types: ESP, spot, centre-weighted
  • Exposure compensation: +/- 5EV in 1/3 step increments
  • Shutter speed: 60sec-1/4000sec, bulb (30min)
  • Frames per second: 3.5fps
  • Flash: Built-in (Guide 12), external hotshoe
  • Flash metering: TTL auto
  • Flash sync speed: 1/180sec, 1/4000sec (Super FP mode)
  • Integrated cleaning: Supersonic Wave Filter
  • Live view: Yes, 100% coverage, phase difference and contrast detection AF
  • Viewfinder: Optical, 95% coverage, dof preview
  • Monitor: Hypercrystal II LCD, 2.7in (230,000dot)
  • Interface: USB 2.0
  • Power: Li-Ion
  • Size: 129.5x91x53mm
  • Weight: 380g (body only)

Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
Buttons are in a simple layout, ideal for the beginner.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
It's busier on the other side where all the action takes place.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
On top is a built-in flash and dedicated hotshoe compatible with the FL-50R or FL-36R.
Olympus E-450: Features
With the release of the E-620, Olympus have promised cameras with much more versatility and ease of use. The E-450 is marketed as ready-to-run meaning that you can stick the battery and a card in and the camera will be so easy to use you can shoot straight away.
Knocking a couple of million pixels out of the sensor will help with noise control but if the recent sensors are anything to go by then it should look pretty good anyway. That's a problem that Olympus have had to overcome due to the sensor being smaller than APS-C versions. They seem well on the way and the full test when ePHOTOzine receive a unit will give proof.
With the E-620 being pushed as the perfect camera in one, the E-450 can't offer the same features and it certainly looks like it's had its wings clipped. It only features three of the six Art Filters that Olympus have developed but I think that they are the most appealing out of them all. Pinhole gives a vignetted, faded look while Pop Art boosts colours and Soft Focus gives a misty, dreamy feel that will be popular in the coming summer months.
Using the FL-50R or FL-36R flash, you can increase the sync speed of the camera to as much as 1/4000sec in Super FP mode. If you've ever taken a picture using a flash at a higher speed than the flash sync, you'll know it gives a black band along the image where the shutter has started to close. To combat this, the flash needs to be on before the shutter moves but this is technically impossible, so the flash instead emits a series of high frequency bursts to ensure the whole image gets even exposure.
Exposure compensation has been expanded to a massive +/-5EV which can be adjusted in 1/3 step increments. This technology has been taken from the E-620 although the larger model offers 1/2 and 1 step increments as well.

Current Olympus users will have no problem getting to grips with this camera as the company have used the trialed and tested layout and GUI (Graphical User Interface). On top is a large command dial with the power switch sat underneath. Next to that is the thumb dial for changing the aperture or shutter speed while up at the front is the shutter release and exposure compensation button.

Because of the E-450's diminutive size, the layout looks a lot busier and this could be a problem for people who aren't current Olympus users. They'll see a camera with lots of buttons all over it and be put off. In a sharp comparison, the new Sony Alpha A230 has 13 buttons and dials to the Olympus 17. Not a massive difference but look at the pictures and the Olympus looks a lot more cluttered.

The menu system follows the olmypus ideaology of having everything infront of you. Again, it looks busy but works really well and doesn't take long to get used to. Simply pressing the ok button flags up the menu and the yellow box can be moved around using the pad on the back of the camera. The benefit is that when you're using the white balance, for example, the image will change colour in the background so you can see the effect.
Olympus E-450: Build and handling
Aimed at the novice and “rookie” photographer, the E-450 will be extremely easy to use. It hasn't got a large grip which is the same as the E-420 and this is to keep the dimensions more diminutive and appealing to the user that maybe doesn't want a huge system but does want to the flexibility of DSLR.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450The body is glassfibre reinforced plastic which is the same as the larger models before you start moving into professional territory and it provides a relatively robust but lightweight body. This material build is seen on every camera in the range except the flagship E-3.
Olympus are part of a group of companies that develop the system working with Panasonic, Leica and Sigma. It means that Leica and Sigma will have glass available for the E-450 giving superior optics. That's not to say that Olympus lenses are no good. The Zuiko system has been born from the ashes and redesigned for the FourThirds system.

Olympus E-450: Performance
A start up time of around 1.5sec means you're not waiting for very long before you can start shooting. A lot of this time is used shaking the sensor in the dust removal process. This si indicated by the SSWF light flickering for around half a second.

In the colour test chart image, primary blue is really saturated as are the warmer colours such as red, yellow and orange. Mono tones are balanced nicely and I like the richness of the colours overall. The skin tone tile looks a bit on the pink side but the expanded skin tone tiles towards the bottom of the board look good.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
Colours look good on the E-450 although the skin tone tile looks overly pink. Warm colours are watm, earth colours are rich and mono tones are balanced.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
A sharp image results from the landscape test. Good metering but flat light does nothing for my contrast evaluation.
I really like the landscape image, it's sharp at the lock area and there's lots of detail yearnign to be looked at. The day was overcast giving flat light and not really helping in my quest of checking dynamic range but what is on display, namely in the lock basin, looks good.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
Taken in aperture-priority at f/2.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
Taken in macro mode.
I took two images of a small flower in macro mode and in aperture-priority using a really shallow depth-of-field (f/2) and seeing what the differences were in colour and depth. the aperture I used in aperture-priority is far wider than usually used for macro but it will illustrate the differences more and also shows the lack of control available in the preset modes. I really like the dreamy effect that using f/2 has achived and in macro mode this simply isn't possible.

The colours are warmer in the aperture-priority mode and more background is in focus using macro mode. Macro mode has produced a sharper image though this could be down to f/2 being such a small focal plane that the plant moved out of range in the wind.

Despite only having three of the six available Art scenes, you can adjust the colour output on the camera using the quick menu on the screen. It's located in the top corner and there are five available to use.

In the portrait test, I had to shoot the picture without flash three times before it locked focus. I find it annoying that cameras will still take a shot regardless of whether it's in focus or not. Adding flash ensured a sharp image first time and even though it was set to full power, it's not overpowered the subject. Skin tones are level with nice catchlights and subtle fill of the shadow areas.
Olympus E450
Taken without flash, the camera had trouble locking focus.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
Using flash gives a nice even image with a hint of catchlight.
Olympus E-450: Focus and metering
There are five focusing options on the Olympus E-450 DSLR camera. They are quickly located in the rear screen menu below the drive options. You can choose from single AF, continuous, manual and then two mixtures of the previous settings. These final two allow you to override the lens AF system without burning out the motor.

There's also face detection in live view and interestingly, when live view is switched on, continuous shooting is disabled.

You also have expanded metering options on the E-450. They include the usual options of centre-weighted, multi metering and spot. However, there's also the additional options of spot high and spot shadow. These two latter options are used when you're shooting a bright area and the highlights start to grey out. Using the spot high mode will over expose slightly to bring them white again. The same procedure works in reverse for spot shadow, underexposing for blacks to remain black.

Olympus E-450: Noise test
Olympus have made an amazing technological stride recently in terms of noise control. The noise on a 12Mp resolution E-30 is better than the 11Mp E-3 flagship.

It's handled beautifully on the E-450 too with pots of detail in the petals and a super smooth grey card area. Noise does gradually creep in even from a low setting such as ISO200 but only very mildly. In fact, if you didn't magnify to full size, you'd never see it.

Even at the maximum setting, ISO1600, noise is controlled very well and I'm surprised that olympus didn't expand it further. I think they could have got away with putting in two extra stops of sensitivity in and letting the camera go to ISO6400.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
The ISO100 test.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
The ISO200 test.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
The ISO400 test.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
The ISO800 test.
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus E450
The ISO1600 test.

Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review:
DxOMark provides objective, independent, RAW-based image quality performance data for lenses and digital cameras to help you select the best equipment to meet your photographic needs.

Visit the DxOMark website for tests performed on the Olympus E-450.

Olympus E-450: Verdict
Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: Olympus keep releasing cameras that are competing really well with Canon and Nikon. The menus are easy to use and they sport features that comparable cameras from the other manufacturers don't have. In this case it's the Art Filters and exposure compensation giving that extra bit of freedom to expand your creativity.

I like some of the features that Olympus have put on the E-450 and I think it could do well as long as people start to understand that FourThirds isn't a bad system to buy into. It works easily enough I can just see a lot of newcomers to photography being turned off because of all the buttons on the body.

Image quality is great, though, as is noise control and colour rendition. If you can see past the complexity of the buttons then you will bag yourself a lovely little camera.

Olympus E-450: Plus points
Lots of features for the newcomer to try
Standard menu system for back-up camera
Good colour reproduction
Excellent noise control
No loss of screen when focusing in live view

Olympus E-450: Minus points
Too many buttons
ISO levels too low
Only three Art modes

Olympus E-450 Digital SLR Review: FEATURES




The Olympus E-450 costs around £398.99 and is available from Warehouse Express here:

Olympus E-450

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Photographs taken using the Olympus E-450

BELL TOWERLamp ambient''Delivering their Catch''------ PIXKERIJA ----- FISHMARKET VALLETTA HARBOURAn 18th century jewel -- St Francis de Paule chapel ---- QORMI MALTATHE DOCKS ------ SENGLEAFra' Claude de la Sengle -- 48th Grand Master of the Order of Malta----- SENGLEA MALTABirgu-Isla CreekVALENTINE's DAWN ------ SENGLEA (ISLA in Maltese)Senglea Malta --------------Monochrome''De La Sengle'' Birgu ------ MALTASenglea Parish Church ---- Altar CapJosephine ----- BirguOrange Peel

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