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Olympus E-10

by Philip Greenspun, 2001

Digital photo titled british-museum-lion-butt-in-great-court

The Olympus E-10 is a digital camera for photographers who want the creative control, fast operation, and effective viewfinder of a digital SLR but without the weight and complexity of an interchangeable lens system.

The camera's CCD sensor is quite a bit smaller than the standard 24x36mm frame of a 35mm camera. With the Nikon and Canon system digital SLRs, this means that you're lugging around a lens that is twice as heavy, bulky, and expensive as it needs to be. With the Olympus E-10 it means that they simply designed a zoom lens that projects a large enough image circle to cover the sensor (just barely). The 9-36mm zoom lens gives the equivalent perspective of a 35-140mm zoom on a 35mm camera.

The viewfinder has the adequate eye relief, i.e., an eyeglass wearer can see the entire image and the shutter speed/aperture display just underneath. The image is a bit dim but, strangely, gets brighter after turning the camera on. The Olympus E-10 is a single-lens reflex (SLR) camera. The imaging sensor and the viewfinder are getting light from the same lens. However, unlike the typical SLR, the Olympus does not have a mirror that flips up and out of the way during exposure. A permanent beam-splitting prism is in the imaging path. This means that the viewfinder receives only a fraction of the light from the lens during image composition and the image sensor receives only a fraction of the light during exposure. So the f/2.0 maximum aperture of the lens might be equivalent to f/2.5 on an SLR with a mirror.

Digital photo titled british-library-metal-cladding

This is a 4-megapixel camera, producing an image 2240x1680 in size. The images are 8 bits deep when producing standard JPEGs (1.3 MB each), 10 bits deep when storing RAW images (3.4 MB each). Resolution isn't everything, as you can see for yourself by looking at the quality of the pixels in full-resolution JPEGs coming out of the Canon S100, G1, and D30 cameras then the E-10 underneath:

To my eyes, the raw pixels from the D30 and the E-10 are sharper and clearer than the point-and-shoot raw pixels.

Digital photo titled fountain-on-gran-via

Contrasty scenes quickly overwhelm the standard 8 bits of the JPEGs. At right, for example, is a photograph of a street fountain in Barcelona. Notice how the details of the buildings are washed out when we've given enough exposure for the dark metal of the fountain. This would have been a good time to use the RAW mode. Unfortunately the RAW images have to be manually processed with Olympus-supplied software, whereas JPEGs can be batch-processed with ImageMagick (the way that we've done the 10,000 or so images at photo.net; see http://philip.greenspun.com/panda/images for background on this subject). Below is a couple more Barcelona scenes, the Parc Guell and the Richard Meier modern art museum, that suffer from the 8-bit limitation of the JPEG. If you'd taken these photos with color negative film, a machine print might look similar to what you see below but a custom print or a little work in Adobe PhotoShop would be able to restore the the lost detail. If you originate 8-bit JPEGs in a digital camera, though, the detail is lost forever.

The E-10 has an adjustable contrast setting but it is virtually impossible to use in practice because (a) it requires going through menus to set, and (b) the LCD displays don't make it easy to figure out what the camera is doing at exposure time.

The E-10's imaging sensor is much smaller than the chips in professional digital SLRs such the Nikon D1, Canon D30, and Fuji S1. In general, small sensor = noisy. The E-10 is no exception to this rule. Noise is acceptable with the camera set to ISO 80 but becomes obtrusive at ISO 160 and ISO 320 (the other two possible settings). At right is an image of the Olympic radio tower at Barcelona's stadium. The sensor speed was mistakenly left on 320. Notice the heavy grain in the sky. If you want to capture the magic of available light, gird yourself with a professional SLR and an f/1.4 or f/1.8 lens.

User Interface

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Having just finished a review of the Canon D30, my overwhelming impression of the E-10 was its sluggishness. The camera is slow to wake up. The camera is slow to complete image processing following an exposure. Want to view an image that you've just exposed? Turn the control dial to the playback mode. Something catches your eye for a new photo? Bring the camera up to your face and press the shutter release. Nothing happens. Keep pressing. Nothing happens. Kick yourself for forgetting to switch the control dial back to one of the image-creation modes.

Aside from sluggishness, the other glaring user interface anomaly for a professional photographer is that metering hints and exposure compensation settings are expressed numerically rather than graphically. For example, if you're in manual exposure mode and you've set the camera 2/3 stop over the meter's recommendation, you'll see a "+0.7" in the viewfinder LCD. Suppose you're in autoexposure mode and are metering off some snow that you want to appear white in the final image rather than gray. You set exposure compensation of 1 f-stop overexposure. The camera reads "+1.0". Compared to the large analog needles of 1970s SLRs and the LCD graphs of modern SLRs, this is a decidedly slower and less intuitive way of representing exposure.

Digital photo titled man-fighting-serpent-on-illa-de-la-discordia

One nice thing about the E-10 is that it has two control wheels. In manual exposure mode, shutter speed is set with the finger wheel by the shutter release while aperture is controlled by the thumbwheel on the back of the camera. In autoexposure mode, the priority setting (aperture or shutter speed) is set with the finger wheel. Olympus had an opportunity to let you set exposure compensation with the rear control dial. Instead, the rear dial merely duplicates the function of the front dial.

Missing features? The camera has no depth-of-field preview button. There is no "panoramic assist" mode that is standard on point-and-shoot style digital cameras. You can still stitch together photos after the fact but you'll probably have to use a tripod to keep the horizon level.

Unexpected features? Unlike a traditional single-lens reflex, the E-10 does not have a mirror. So the sensor is receiving light from the lens at all times. This means that you can have a point-and-shoot style real-time image preview on the rear LCD monitor.

Flash Photography

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The E-10 has a flip-up built-in flash of modest power. It almost but not quite rises high enough to avoid casting a shadow with the plastic lens hood at the widest zoom setting (i.e., remember to remove the hood when using the flash or set the lens to a normal or telephoto perspective).

The E-10 accepts accessory flashes in a hot shoe, and has a PC sync cord on the left side of the body for use with studio strobes.

The photo at right illustrates the limitations of on-camera flash in any case. It is a wall relief in the cloister of Barcelona's cathedral. Notice how the shape of the sculpture is almost impossible to discern because the light is coming from directly behind the viewpoint.


Digital photo titled sagrada-familia-passion-facade

The standard camera will take 4 AA batteries. Fresh alkalines give the camera enough juice for about ... 4 pictures! Don't even try. The custom-sized Olympus disposable lithium batteries are good for about 250 pictures. A pair will cost $20 and can only be purchased at camera shops that sell Olympus digital cameras.

For heavy users, we recommend purchasing the B-30LPS vertical grip and rechargeable battery kit ($500). This gives you a lithium polymer battery of formidable power.


As with every other digital camera we've tested, the Olympus E-10 it does not understand when it is being held vertically. Thus all the portrait-format JPEGs, once transferred into a computer, are incorrectly oriented. You have to work through the images manually in some kind of desktop application, manually rotating all the pictures that you took while holding the camera vertically. Thus does human labor substitute for Olympus's omission of a 50-cent mercury switch.

Digital photo titled smashed-window-at-fur-shop-on-bahnhofstrasse-zurich

The E-10 is not clever about switching ISO speeds when in "auto" mode. If, however, the light gets a bit dim and you switch manually to the maximum ISO 320 speed, you'll probably forget to switch back when you're in the sun again. Why? The Olympus does not display in any of its LCDs the ISO setting. You have to explicitly press the setup menu button to check the ISO setting. By contrast the Canon D30 shows the ISO setting at all times and a custom function setting lets you quickly adjust it without going through any menus.

It would be nice to have a 100% viewfinder. With a film camera there are a lot of ways to lose the edges of the frame: to a slide mount, masked off in printing, masked off in scanning. With a digital camera, what you capture is what you present, unless you want to go into an image editing program and laboriously crop. So the viewfinder really ought to be 100%.

Hidden Bonuses

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A digital SLR with interchangeable lenses has a hidden liability: dust. If you can change the lens, you can open the camera to the dusty world. With a film camera, this isn't such a big deal because with every frame a fresh clean sensor (a piece of film) comes out of the factory-sealed film canister. With a digital camera, a speck of dust that lands on the imaging sensor will mar every photo that you take for months unless you (1) notice, and (2) flip up the mirror and blow the dust off. The Olympus E-10 sidesteps this problem with the simple expedient of gluing the lens permanently to the camera!

[See our Nikon D1 review for a horrific dust-on-sensor story.]

Bottom Line

The Olympus E-10 has some of the same advantages of the professional digital SLRs cameras: big and accurate viewfinder so that you can see what you are photographing, fast autofocus, ability to capture action because there is little shutter lag, and high image quality. Yet it is less than half the size, weight, and bulk of a system digital SLR plus lens. This makes the E-10 perfect for parents who want to capture their kids at sporting events. It is also a very good travel camera. Bird and wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the E-10 plus the screw-in converter that increases the optical system's magnification to the equivalent of a 420mm telephoto lens on a 35mm camera.

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One nice thing about the E-10 is how the ownership experience can be similar to that of a film camera. You can leave it on the shelf for 6 months with a big flash card and the disposable lithium batteries installed. If a photographic situation arises, just grab the camera and run out the door. You can be sure that the batteries will work, that you didn't forget any required accessories, and if the flash card is large enough you won't have to worry about spares.

If you already have a collection of Canon or Nikon lenses and are intent on using a digital SLR as a tool, you'll probably be happier with the Canon D30 or Nikon D1. These cameras have the user interface that you expect, are capable of higher image quality in many situations, and can be used for specialized assignments with macro lenses, supertelephotos, and extreme wide angle lenses.

Where to Buy

The Olympus E10 is stocked by Adorama, a retailer that pays photo.net a referral fee for each customer, which helps keep this site in operation. For additional retailer information, see our recommended retailers page and the user recommendations section.



The 35mm perspective of the E-10's zoom isn't really wide enough for comfort in old European cities. However, the long end of the lens is fun for compressing image elements and for isolating details:

Text and photos copyright 2001 Philip Greenspun.

Article created 2001

Readers' Comments

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Jay J. Pulli , February 20, 2001; 07:46 A.M.

Nice shots, but I am still struck by the impression that these digital source images are flatter, less saturated and just do not have the visual appeal of film source images which are then scanned via PhotoCD or other system. I certainly find this to be true of my Nikon Coolpix 800. Whites also seem to be blow out too (real values > 255,255,255?).

Hap Mullenneaux , March 01, 2001; 10:34 A.M.

Since controlling depth of field is one of the most critical tasks in creative photography, I think that reviewers should touch on the DOF properties of a camera/lens especially when the DOF is significantly different than a typical 35mm film camera/lens. The 9-36mm lens of the E-10 will have the DOF properties of a 9-36mm on a 35mm film camera. At full telephoto it will give magnification comparable to a 140mm lens but not the more limited DOF. Forget about shooting portraits with out of focus backrounds using any fixed lens digital camera.

R.S. Adams , March 01, 2001; 04:52 P.M.

I too own an E-10, and tend to agree with Mr. Bond's criticism of the review. Of all that is said, the one thing that rings most true is that the camera is sluggish on start up. It is also not a camera for sports photography, it isn't intended to be. But in drive mode the camera will rack off a bunch of frames per second and buffer them, it can even buffer 4 or 5 uncompressed 1:1 files. I find this more than satisfactory for general situations. I also see no noise in sky areas at all on prints. Grain in 35mm looks noisier to me, frankly (I shoot 6x9 too). Up to 8x10 the image quality even in SHQ (1:2.7 jpeg) is remarkably good. And I've noticed that the "latitude" of the CCD is amazingly broad -- I didn't expect it to be. As to the blocked out highligts in the example photos, well there is an AE lock you know, so a little judicious thinking about exposure a la shooting chromes works just dandy.

I have the LiPO battery grip, and agree that it is the way to go if you don't want to worry about power consumption. Not cheap, but it also makes vertical shooting easier, and makes the camera easier to handle for a guy with large hands.

As to low light photography, well I just plain old disagree. Now if you're talking hand held low light, well perhaps. But on a tripod with the electric cable release... I've seen photos on another review site that were taken by moonlight at ASA 80 setting that look like high noon (not that I necessarily like that effect) that have remarkably low noise. According to the reviewer it kicked butt of the digital cameras tested to date, including the high end SLRs, for low light work.

I have the wide, and short tele screw on lenses, and while they are admittedly a pain in the butt to put on and off, they are very good build quality and work wonderfully well w/ no loss of speed and are great optical quality in what you see on paper (I have no idea how they "test").

No mention was made of the fact that the camera takes both SM and CF type I and II cards simultaneously, a really nice feature, and images can be moved from one to the other if necessary.

Here's a gripe that wasn't even mentioned that I think significant... the tripod thread socket on the aux battery grip is in a completely awful location, making the use of an arca swiss type QR plate dang near impossible, and I doubt that Kirk or RRS will bother to come up with something custom that would remedy this.

Here's my final "take" on things. I've used almost every 35mm system out there at one time or another. When push comes to shove, 35mm film when properly printed or scanned still beats the current state of things when you get over 8x in size on paper. But, the E-10 is a dynamite camera. I think it suffers from the "if the lenses don't come off it ain't a 'real' camera" syndrome (snobbery). But, this camera is capable of doing almost anything one could ask any modern camera to do. It will make really good 12x16 photos (check the examples in this month's Shutterbug e.g.) if properly handled, and if one uses GF 2.O and uncompressed files to start with, the sky's the practical limit.

The "instant gratification" of any digital camera is really great.. and not just because it is fun... it is also very productive for "knowing" that you've got the image, and for learning and being really free to create. The E-10 isn't fast enough operating-wise for a main workhorse camera for a working pro, though it is capable of professional results that rival any of the other digitals out there at this time, IMO. But, for a serious amateur, or for certain applications for a pro (to add to the clubs in the bag, so to speak) its is a wonderful image making machine.

And finally, the build quality is excellent, and if price/performance counts (strangely not mentioned in the review), it has to be the hottest macine around in that way (for the moment at least).

Joel Batts , March 01, 2001; 05:33 P.M.

What a disappointment I find after the reading the E-10 review. One cannot compare the E-10 to the point-and-shoot model. E-10 is not a point-and-shoot digital camera. 'Real photographers' don't reply on pop-up flash of the camera, camera's metering system, auto-focus and other "nice" features. You should know your camera, how it operates, what setting it is on or how to get to the setting that you want instead of reply on the camera's 'auto' features to do everything for you.

Gripes - Do other point-and-shoot digital cameras ahve DOF preview button? - Do other point-and-shoot digital cameras have 'a mirror?' - "Hidden bonuses?" Would you hide the features of your products from your potential customers or use them to sell your products? - I don't think other standard, traditional cameras understand "when it is being held vertically" either. Thus, my 35mm negatives "are incorrectly oriented" as well when taken vertically. - Well none of my other cameras, digital and traditional, are "clever about witching ISP speeds when in 'auto' mode." - On the other hand, 'big and accurate viewfinder so that you can see what you are photographing" does not make the E-10 a professional digital camera. - People are 'silly,' to say the least, if they don't take the batteries out when not using the equipment for 6 months or more, any kind of electronic equipment for that matter.

Summary If you want to 'create' your own image and vision, digitally, the E-10 might be a good choice, otherwise, stick with point-and-shoot camera and let it do everything for you. Ask yourself, do you want to control your camera and pictures or have the camera control you?

Yes, I have one and making pretty good money from it and have yet had a complaint from the customers. With all due respects, I find the review of the E-10 rather biased, 'immature' and 'childish,' to say the least.

Michael Bond , March 01, 2001; 05:46 P.M.

This site and photographs are unquestionably first-rate. THE E-10 REVIEW IS BELOW ACCEPTABLE STANDARDS. Here is why:

1. "on E-10 sluggishness": you do not turn control dial to preview if you expect to continue shooting. You double-click the "screen" button. Then if in the middle of preview you wish to take a shot, it's almost instantaneous. If you do not read the manual and just click (because that worked with another camera with another interface), nothing will happen indeed.

2. "Unexpected features" - (almost) live LDC preview. It is STANDARD on most cheaper digital cameras. Is it missing on D-30? Is D-30 your only point of reference as far as digital cameras are concerned? However another, not so "unexpected" but nice feature is that the LCD rotates. It's not immediately obvious to a film photographer how to use LCD and that with it you can do photography impossible with a film camera - so this feature is not even mentioned.

3. Your "tips" on batteries completely ignore the standard practice of using AA-size NiMH rechargeables. Last for 3.5-4 hours of street photography with LCD previews every 10-20 shots, sometimes after every shot. No one in his right mind will buy $20-30 disposables except as emergency back-ups.

4. Talking about noise you have to estimate when it is going to be visible. Most of the time E-10 noise is visible in Photoshop, but not on print, nor on severely reduced in size "webified" jpegs. If your small jpeg shows noise, find out how to properly do the conversion. If your print shows noise at 80 or 160, think about what you don't do correctly (320 does show visible digital grain, though. Print size is also an important factor; I cannot continue on this topic at length here).

In other words, after so many excellent in-depth reviews with accompanying numbers (e.g. dynamic range, shutter lag, battery life, lens sharpness and distortion etc.), which allow one to make precise comparisons, you owe it to your readers:

- to provide references to the "real", more technical and less opinionated reviews (www.dpreview.com, www,steves-digicams.com etc. - you did that)

- to say something new in addition to those if you wish to publish your own opinion; that would have happened naturally if you had read the reviews carefully.

Unfortunately what I've seen is a not very deep opinion of a (damn good) film photographer who tries to make sense of the new medium.

Michael Bond

P.S. Another comment above about how impossible it is to take portraits with blurred backgrounds is a total nonsense. I DO own this camera and DID take portraits, so the statement in question is in my view demostrably untrue. We also do remember that with digital (or digitized) what is on film is NOT YOUR FINAL RESULT - blur it in Photoshop. With digital you don't have to repeat some of the ridiculous practices of film - such as using 600mm telephotos for model shots, using graduated (or colour) filters, selecting film to match lighting, blindly making hundreds of shots bracketing like hell if you want your result guaranteed as "pros" routinely do etc.etc.

Digital is a whole new world in itself and needs to be explored. It's only natural that first it is going to be sneered at and misunderstood.

Tony Markle , March 01, 2001; 07:04 P.M.

Why compare the E-10 to the D30? The E-10 is $2,000 including the 35-140mm equiv. lens. The D30 is $3,000 for the body only. I can get the Olympus 3x telephoto attachment lens which gives a 420mm equiv. 2.8 lens for $600. A 400mm 2.8 lens for the Canon is $7,500.

A depth of field preview is not necessary on the E-10. Simply check a test shot on the monitor and adjust your f-stop as required.

I can print beautiful 13" x 19" prints on my Epson 2000P from the E-10 files. I have yet to meet anyone who does not think they are as sharp as enlargements from film.

Tony Markle

Laurin Trainer , March 02, 2001; 07:16 A.M.

I have to take issue with several points made in this "review". I think there were several omissions of important features and a lack of understanding concerning other aspects that were made inthe review.

1. The build quality of the E10 is suberb with its metal body. Its very rugged and ergonomicly beautifully made. In this regard I feel it is superior to the D30 and very very far ahead of the Fuji S1

2. No mention was made of the great advantage offered by the beam splitter as regards the silence of the camera as compared to an SLR type digital and film camera. The E10 can be silent. Think about candid shooting of stage, performance,nature and all those other times the slap of a mirror causes heads to turn.

3. This camera will flash synch up to its top speed of 1/640 with any flash.....studio flashes, Vivitars, the Fl40..u name it.

4. I would hate to have to spend the money for a 35-140 F2.0/2.4 lens from any company. This lens speed does help considerably when comparing the ISOs of many other digital cameras.

5. Stating that the splitter makes the F2 lens equal to an F2.5 on the other digital cameras is wrong. An exposure with the lens at F2 is the same as an exposure on a D30 at F2 if the same ISO is used. Since the E10 is set at ISO 80 and the D30 sets ISO at 100 there would naturally be a 1/3 fstop difference.

6. IMHO, seeing +.7 exposure is more intuitive than seeing other kinds of readouts.

7. Double clicking the button on the back of the camera brings you into play mode. To go from play mode to record mode takes a simple tap of the shutter button or a twist of the zoom. Its ready to shoot in an instant.

8. I felt the exposure in many of the test shots were awful and this was used to show poor dynamic range. In Phil Askeys site dynamic range is carefully considered using hard data. At ISO 80 the E10 compares very very well with all the cameras to date. The Fuji S1 and E10(at ISO 80) are very close with the others behind. The histogram is a great tool for checking exposures on the E10.

9. Low light performance is tremendous when shooting in low light levels on a tripod such as street scenes etc.

10. Noise is greater with the E10 than the D30 or Fuji S1. However I printing photographs is the real test and so far this noise is not an issue for me, your mileage may vary.

Having said that, is the E10 the perfect camera? No it isnt. For my uses though, its wonderful. Does the E10 have glaring weakness? Yes it does. I think the playback is horrible for reading the lcd and zooming in the lcd.

Every photographer has different needs and different tools should be used to get what you want out of your photograph. I happen to love the camera because it fits so much of what I do. For others its limitations would rule it out.

Philip Greenspun , March 03, 2001; 02:22 A.M.

David: my intended audience is neither digital camera owners nor film camera owners. My intended audience is photographers who want to achieve an artistic or practical goal. This could be a mom taking pictures of her kid's athletic event or a travel photographer creating illustrations for a story.

Laurin: you probably know more about the E-10 than I do since I only used the camera to take about 500 pictures. But I'm pretty sure that you're wrong about the beam splitter not reducing the effective f-stop of the lens. If the beam splitter is constantly sending light to the viewfinder, that is light that isn't available to the image sensor. So unless the E-10 somehow manages to swing the beam splitter out of the way or electronically change its behavior to stop splitting, the beam splitting must be stealing light.

To everyone criticizing the review instead of talking about the camera: you're missing the point of photo.net and the comment server. Someone who has just read my article isn't interested in whether or not you think it is a good article. They just read it! Either they liked it or they didn't. So a comment like "this isn't a good review" isn't helpful to other readers. On the other hand, if you contribute your experience on how to use the E-10 more effectively, ideally supplemented by example images (remember that you can always attach an image to your comment), that is enormously valuable.

Andrew Grant , March 14, 2001; 05:30 P.M.

This has to have been one of the more heated set of comments I have ever seen in response to a photo.net review. Some E-10 owners seem very defensive. I would like to assure Phil that not all photographers who use digital cmaeras are like that.

A couple more points. The prism on the E-10 does of course rob the sensor of light. This is, I believe, reflected in the low ISO speeds, 80-320, that the camera is capable of. To answer the previous poster, hot pixels have been very common on the E-10.

Dolan Halbrook , March 22, 2001; 03:06 A.M.

To Nick Blackburn:

Some microdrives work in the E-10, some don't. I currently use a 1GB microdrive in mine, which allows storage of about 1200 1:8 JPEGs. However, I get occasional battery errors by writing directly to the MD (too much load causes the camera to shut down), so lately I've been shooting to the smart media card, then transferring the full SM card to the MD. Seems to work like a charm.

I've owned the E-10 for about five months now and I'm fairly happy with it. Its best assets are build quality, ergonomics, and silence, light weight, dynamic range (which translates remarkably well into B&W), and the ability to shoot really slooooooooow handheld shutter speeds w/o mirror slap. Not so thrilled about the focal range (needs a 28), the metering, the color saturation, or the playback (as Randy Quaid would say, playback's a bitch, ain't it?! :). I've printed up to 11x14 on my Epson 1270 and been very happy with the results so far.

All in all, makes a pretty good digital traveler, esp. when armed with the MD and lots of NiMH batteries.

Andrew Grant , April 27, 2001; 01:12 P.M.

Excellent review. I noticed Chromatic Aberrations in the picture of the house. The S100 and G1 pictures also had some CA as does my Olympus C3000Z. In the D30 they were absent. The fixed lens on the E-10 is not only because of dust problems, it is because no one makes lenses for a 2/3" image area. The lack of lens choices could be an issue for some people.

I agree with Phil that anyone who wants to do available light photography needs to get the D30 or one of the digital SLRs that takes Nikon lenses. Anyone who really cares about picture quality should probably get a D30 or Fuji S-1.

E-10 buyers should definitely buy an FL-40 flash gun. You will need to use flash, so a good one will be important.

Personally, I have no Nikon F-mount or EOS lenses. I will probably wait a year and buy a D30 and some lenses.

4/27/01 Actually I found I couldn't wait a year, I sold all my Olympus stuff and bought a D30 and lenses. Also just heard that Olympus is working on a E-10 5.2 MP replacement with interchangeable lenses.

invue digital , May 22, 2001; 08:35 A.M.

Dear photo.net community:

Despite the volume of posts critiquing the author, I found all of the above comments on the Olympus E10 helpful--thanks to all. The only thing stopping me from buying a Fuji S1 (I own a ton of Nikkors, but no "S" or "VR" lenses) is its limited synch speed [1/125] and lack of TTL flash exposure compensation, and now, the knowledge of the problem of maintaining virgin-clean CCDs. The only thing stopping me from buying a D1/X/H, of course, is money. So, the Olympus E10 is becoming more and more attractive (although I heatedly despise the E10's completely UNFILM-LIKE aspect ratio of 1.33:1 vs. the 1.5:1 ratio of a 35mm film frame).

Here are the elements I find most necessary, and often neglected, in both print media and web-based articles:

1. Maximum flash synch speed of reviewed camera? [1/640]

2. TTL flash exposure compensation feature? [+/-2EV in 1/3EV steps]

3. Subjective color rendition commentary (flesh tones, etc.).

4. Quantitative dynamic range commentary.

5. Inclusion of studio-style test shots which include live models.

Since I employ fill flash regularly when shooting candids (and studio strobes on more structured shoots), flash synch is a very important detail to me. The high synch speed of the Nikon D1/X/H bodies of 1/500 finally delivers leaf shutter-style versatility to DSLRs. The 1/640 synch speed of the E10 is even better; however, this limited top shutter speed means packing a bunch of ND filters to shallow up my depth of field for daylight exteriors.

The mention of SUBJECTIVE impressions by the author, and others above, are most helpful--knowing how people who are using the reviewed camera "feel" about its usability, its imaging characteristics, and the product's other nuances are something unattainable from mere spec sheets. Posts which commented on subjective comparisons of "noise" vis-a-vis "film grain," for example, lend the greatest insight, at least to me, on how the camera performs.

Regarding the depth-of-field issue, since 90% of my fine art photography is shot wide open, it would be helpful to compare images shot with the E10 at f/2.4 at 140mm to an equivalent lens/aperture combination on the 24mm x 36mm imaging area of a 35mm frame. The E10's "2/3-inch CCD" is certainly significantly smaller than a 35mm film frame, and still smaller than the CCDs of DSLRs such as the S1, D30, and D1/X/H. Therefore, the E10 MUST result in a REDUCED "selective focus" effect (i.e., smaller circles of confusion of background elements), since the smaller the imaging area of any given format, the greater its inherent "depth-of-field."

[By the way, in broadcast video cameras, the above noted "white pixels" are commonly referred to as "dead pixels."]

Thanks to all for your helpful comments!

Best regards,

Tom Urbanski , July 06, 2001; 09:13 A.M.

First: I'm glad I read this "less than glowing" review last in the string of a half-dozen or so regarding the E-10. By the time I read this one I had already ordered the camera, having received it yesterday.

So far, the camera exceeds my expectations.

Second: I'm lost regarding comparison photos using different cameras that are using pictures not taken at the same time, of different objects, with different lighting. What did that compare?

I started with an Argus C3 in 1954, had Miranda's, Kowa's, Minolta's, Mamiya's, tons of Nikons and lenses, a Bronica ETR and a 'blad.

I can go through my shots of each and show you examples that would tend to make each camera appear to be "terrible", and an equal amount that would make you think each one was the best there ever was.

Third: This is my 3rd digital camera. The first was a 1 megapixel Kodak DC-120 I purchased based on Popular Photography saying that a 1 megapixel camera was capable of producing pictures equal in quality to a 35mm camera --- as far as "grain" as it applied to 8x10 prints.

Well, just a I moved up from my Argus to the Mamiya, Bronica and Hasselblad large format cameras, I've done the same with my digitals.

Perhaps my long experience with more "primitive" cameras that didn't have auto anything makes me less critical of things like the fact that the camera doesn't automatically rotate my shots for portrait orientation, but I can't imagine why anyone is wasting their time apparently looking hard for percieved short-comings on a camera like the E-10 especially with it's capabilities vs. cost.

Finally, I grew up with the smell of fixer wafting through my house and bought film in bulk, loading my own cassettes.

Having said that, I must be frank in saying that just as I lost interest in photography in general when I sold off my large format cameras in an economic crunch and was forced back to relatively grainy 35 mm for "snapshots", I'll never again waste money on film and a darkroom.

With the E-10 I've got the image quality of my large-format cameras back again and with Photoshop I can outdo anything I ever attempted in the darkroom.

Yep, you can teach an old dog new tricks!

Tom Urbanski

Greg Aldous , July 26, 2001; 01:09 P.M.

I purchased an Olympus E-10 last fall and have been extremely disappointed with the focusing system. I am losing at least 50% of my candid shots to out-of-focus situations and the manual option just doesn't cut it. This situation is amplified when using the Olympus external FL-40 Flash. To compound the problem the images look fine on the small LCD, but when I load them up for editing they are unusable. Olympus calls this a feature.

I am wondering if any other E-10 users are experiencing similar problems.

Axel Farr , July 26, 2001; 04:47 P.M.

Why an f/2 lens stays a f/2 lens even after a beam splitter:

The focal ratio f/2 only denotes the relation between the focal length and the opening of a lens. In that way, it has also a geometrical meaning about the amount of light which passes the lens. But it is incorrect to say, the beam splitter BEHIND the lens would rate the lens at f/2.8 - it will only result in a less bright image on the sensor.

The other way around it is correct: The beam splitter lets the CCD result in a eg. 80 ASA sensitivity, even if its native sensitivity is 100 or 125 ASA.

It is the same with those pro-SLRs which have a semi-permeable mirror which does not get out of the way: The mirror blocks parts of the light for the film, thus reducing its effective speed.

The focal ratio stays the same, best way to understand it is by looking at pictures taken with a gray filter: The amount of blurryness in the background stays the same, only the image gets darker.

Greetings, Axel

Randall Mascharka , August 07, 2001; 09:26 A.M.

I've owned an E-10 for 6 months and do find a love/hate relationship with the camera. Mostly I find the images excellent, comparable with the Nikon D1 I use at Ford Motor Co.. Problems: The camera focuses poorly in low light! The manual focus option is not usable as I have trouble focusing the camera manually in bright light. I bought the Olympus flash for the camera and this doesn't help. It doesn't aid the camera in focus aquisition. Secondly the flash pulses before firing. This is not red-eye reduction but a white balancing flash. It often causes my subjects to blink when the photo is taken. I find I'm very frustrated with the camera when taking indoor party pictures.

J.R. Neumiller , August 17, 2001; 04:27 A.M.

I've found great success with Sanyo 1600mAh AA NiMH rechargeable cells at this site. www.ripvan100.com. They seem to last much longer than other NiMH cells on the market, and are much cheaper too. I know several E10 users who swear by them.

I bought some for my electronic flash, and they are amazing! I can't believe I wasted so much money and TIME waiting for alkaline cells to recycle. You basically have to trash them after only about 2 rolls. When I do a wedding, I can go ALL DAY without switching out the cells, and have minimum recycle time too.

Can't say enough about these cells. I'm a super glad consumer.

Ian Greant , August 25, 2001; 04:24 A.M.

as an e10 owner I actually do not have any serious problems with Phil's review of the E10. <p> Yes it is obvious that Phil is first and foremost a film photographer but given that the review links to several excellent and very complete reviews I kinda liked having Phils real world perspective. <br>If you are buying a digital camera and thinking of doing commercial work you had better have a really good idea of what is happening on the other side of the fence. Just because someone on a web page somewhere said they print photo quality 13x19's from their E10 or D30 doesn't mean the publisher you try to sell your photos to is going to be the least bit impressed with a 2.3 MB JPEG. (personal experience speaking here, thank god for GF 2.0) <p>

Enough on that topic. I'll address a couple recent questions and concerns other owners have posted... <p>

1. Auto Focusing problems - set your camera to the telephoto setting. Don't take it off that setting unless you are doing a macro shot... what you are doing is shutting off the infrared focus and using only the ccd. Seems to be much more accurate. <p>

2. Manual Focus - this cameras manual focus is very, very sensitive. Learn to adjust it just a little at at time. Also realize that once it reaches infinity (there isn't a stop) it has a different feel (less resistance) <p> 3.. ISO - don't leave it on auto. Set it on 80 and leave it, unless you are trying to catch action in low light and don't mind some loss of image quality. <p> 4. Flash - hmmm if you find the red eye reduction pulse to be a problem set your flash to fill in mode. I also usually set my flash compensation about 1/2 step low.<p>

5. Color saturation - the E10 has white balance presets. Use 5500 to enhance the blues, reds, yellow etc. in your photo. I use this setting at least 85% of the time (just not under flourescents or incandascents)

<p> That's it for now. Feel free to visit my portfolio to see a bit of what I've done with my e10

Vuk Vuksanovic , September 26, 2001; 10:01 A.M.

I feel that Mr. Greenspun's review was perhaps a little too quickly put together and his reply to Michael Bond tremendously unfair. Not to dwell on criticisms (of the review) already made, let me just say that I bought the camera recently and it has sparked an such enormous interest in photography that I have been able to think about (or do) little else in my spare time over the past couple of months.

Ralph Hudson , December 27, 2001; 08:42 P.M.

Personally i think that the views that this was a bad review is out of place as each users view of what the camera does is necessary for a reliable decision on the merits of any camera or acessory. The idea that this was not what was needed if you were a pro is probably valid. How ever from my experience with any camera it is the user not the equipment that needs the features. one of the reasons pin hole photography is for a very few. you better know something about painting with light. the simplicity and reduced features of the e-10 e-20 series are what atracts me to them as well as the external flash sync connector. i have no need for mp3 players and movie mode on my camera, my digital camcorder does that perfectly and with much longer play times. for me the e-10 e-20 makes real good sense for 2 5 thousands cheaper than the so called pro cameras

J Greely , January 15, 2002; 02:14 P.M.

Since Philip wrote this review, Paul Dempsey has written a batch converter for the E-10 raw-format images, as well as a GUI-based conversion application and a detailed description of the format. Sadly, these tools are apparently not compatible with the E-20.

Joe Ellis , March 05, 2002; 02:19 A.M.

FYI - Just one quick trick to modify a comment Phil made in his review. You can double click the screen button to put the camera into image review. By doing this if you then touch the shutter release the camera almost instanteously returns to whatever shooting mode you were in. This keeps me from putting the camera to my eye when I am out on a shoot.


Kollin Bliss , November 01, 2002; 09:34 A.M.

Portrait 1

I've had my E-10 since February, 2002 now. I've been fortunate enough to use a fairly wide selection of digital cameras. From DC-50 to Fuji S1 to Kodak DX4900 to Canon A10. The E-10 really shines for studio work. The quality of the lens is excellent, the images are clear and detailed. I use it with a set of Calumet Travelites. The portraits above and below are unprocessed except for a resize and slight USM. This is a very useable camera, particularly for studio photography.

Albert Wang , November 05, 2002; 02:46 P.M.

An exceptional digiSLR for photojournalism too. I wouldn't be surprised if street photographers would be happy to have one of these. Of course the best thing is that it have a lot of heft for slow shutter shooting. I think that it would be worth combing the used market for this wonderful camera (for me, almost as good as the Sigma Sd9 and the Canon D60)!

Leslie Miklosi , January 07, 2003; 07:19 P.M.

I just bought myself an E10. Well, wow! I have seen a lot of digicams in this pricetag, but this one rox! In photography I am a beginner, but I have eyes and can see the differences. The Olympus E10 wins! Great cam, I love it!

Andrew C , February 17, 2003; 01:23 A.M.

Like the person above, I am relatively new to digital cameras (I'd put myself in the 'knowledgable consumer' bracket film-wise')and bought a used Olympus E10. If you're not a professional, I'm sure that the E10 will serve nearly ALL of your photographic needs. I only rank it low in its slow processing speed when in RAW mode. But I can live with 12 seconds between shots in RAW; many pros might not be able to.

For me, the tradeoff between the camera's minor flaws and its ability to virtually act like a film slr is not even an issue. Now, I can look through the viewfinder and (unlike a compact digital)feel relatively safe that I will be capturing what I am seeing. In this way, I can save on battery power and view my images at home and have more juice for shots. I can live with not knowing exactly what the shot looks like; after all, that's what we've been having to do with film all of these years!

Finally, price point was very important. I got my camera for $600 on this forum. I don't think you can get many better deals than that. If you're not going to enlarge your prints past 5X7 (and 4X6 is certainly safe), the 4.0 mega-pixel sensor should be good enough.

I admit, I was ready to blow a bigger wad on the Sigma Foveon camera, or perhaps even a D100. But when I really looked at my photographic needs, I decided to go for the E10 (which was top-of-the-line material, what, 2 years ago!?). If you're not a professional, and don't feel that you need the latest-greatest of everything, do your wallet a favour and pick this camera up. Regards!

Peter Thomson , March 24, 2003; 06:01 A.M.

I found the Lithium battery pack option just outragously expensive so I persevere with several sets of 1850 mAhr NmH batteries. Having to, on a number of occassions, use the camera quite extensively and continuously, I was troubled by the rate of chewing up the batteries, and auto shutdowns. My solution was to purchase a sealed "dry-fit" lead-acid battery (nominally 6v but really above 6.5v when fully charged). This battery fits in a small camera bag which can be carried on your belt with its loop for that purpose, or slung over the shoulder with the provided shoulder strap. To connect to the the camera you just need 1 metre of a small gauge twin core "speaker cable" , I use black as it is not so noticeable, and it has a white stripe on one core which I need to identify the positive lead. For the camera end, which plugs into the external supply port ( centre pin positive ) you need a small plug which can be bought at any store like "Tandy" , "Radio Shack" etc, and at the battery end, my battery has male spade terminals, so the leads need female spades. All this is very, very easy to construct with a small soldering job at the plug, and a crimp (crush) at the spade lugs. If you're not comfortable, ask someone who is. I think it a good idea to colour code the spade connectors, red for positive and blue for negative. With this battery/bag slung on my belt, with a thin lead coming from it to the camera ( which incidentally, with the camera slung around my neck, does not at all get in the way at any time ) I have worked with it all day ( 6 hours ) camera on constantly, and took some 250 shots, some 180 with flash, and the battery was hardly even worked! And the cost? Battery AUS$22.00 , Bag AUS$10.00 Lead and connectors AUS$6.00 Total AUS$38.00 ( about US$20.00 !!! ) You will also need the special 6 volt auto-charger for this type of battery, mine cost AUS$28.00). Thats a far cry from AUS$900.00 (US$500), and a for higher capacity (4.2 Amp/Hour / 20 Hours [will last all weekend], as opposed to a straight 4.2 Amp/Hour ) and at the price if you are an extremely heavy user, splurge out and have 2 batteries! With all this, you can of course unplug the lead at any time and the camera drops back to using the installed batteries. Enjoy this experience soon, Cheers, Peter.

- - , April 15, 2003; 06:29 A.M.

you reviewd this camera as it was designed for parents without any photographic knowledge who would use it to shoot their son at the school's football match. this camera was designed for professionals (price, quality of the lens and the choice of CCD instead of D30's CMOS make us understand it). you transferred all lacks of every digital cameras on olympus e-10. I think you would review EOS 3 as terrible because has no LCD to see immediately the shoots. as owner of E-10 I admit this:

-the autofocus point in viewfinder is difficult to see in low light. -browsing stored files on lcd (playback, zoom in/out, moving through zoomed files) is really time-expensive.

used by a professional (not shooting in bright sun at 320 ISO, for example) this camera is excellent.

claude batmanghelidj , June 13, 2003; 01:06 P.M.

claude batmanghelidj , June 13, 2003; 01:07 P.M.

I don't know much about the technical side, but the camera is quiet, the autofocus is quick and the shutter very quiet, hey! no mirror up and down either, so lower shutter speeds are ok.

I like it, and I know that the upload for viewing shots on the LCD is slow, I checked the camera out in Shinjuku. But like the last guy said, we have been living with that in film cameras for years. I want one of these, and I will get one, once I have the cash.

Here is the article:

<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/photo/galleries/essays/010104.htm">Stephen King Teaches Photography</a>

I understand. I have been an equipment junkie for years. I have owne N,C, M, L, Cx, Px, all of them, but it is the piece of eqipment that is located behind the viewfinder that is the most important.

Michael Maffett , February 17, 2004; 04:45 P.M.

If I recall correctly, the E-10 was the first affordable digital SLR for the "rest of us." By that I mean it cost under $4000. Over 3 years I have taken tens of thousands of pictures on the Appalachian Trail, in the tropics, at the beach, on helter-skelter trips to Europe, in the woods, on the water, spelunking, etc. with amazing results. I use photography to capture moments and I need a rugged, dependable camera that takes great shots most of the time. The E-10 has filled the bill remarkably. I don't need interchangeable lens because I don't have a team of sherpas with me. I don't take epic telephoto shots because I don't want to lug a tripod around. I want to take 200 shots on one set of batteries and have 90% be acceptable and a dozen or so be printable as 8 x 10's. The only complaints I have are the relatively slow shutter speeds and the limitations of the flash. However, whoever thinks this camera is a glorified point-and-shoot needs lasik surgery. Believe me I have two powershots that take great pictures, but aren't in the same league. Mike Maffett M.D.

Mark James , January 22, 2005; 05:47 P.M.

Now that it is 2005, you can get an E-10 for about $600.00 ! For its features, performance, ergonomics, this camera is a STEAL ! For someone who wants to break into the DSLR world, this would be a great purchase. I have had mine since 2000, and besides the few quirks - I love it! Think about the point of diminishing return on price when shopping for a DSLR.

Arthur Sidner , May 10, 2005; 06:26 A.M.

I have used my E-10 continuosly since 2001 for business (technical publishing) and pleasure. I have found this camera easy to use and the image quality exceptional. I had owned three previous digital cameras by Olympus and this was the first model that completely satisfied me. Newer models have more megapixels and interchangeable lenses but I have not envied them enough to consider upgrading. On the contrary, the E-10 has inspired me to want to use it to its maximum potential. To that end, I have designed a publication (www.e-10adventures.com) for other serious amateurs like myself who find reading the manual an unexciting way to learn the features of the camera. This camera is worth the effort to master.

Image Attachment: Carrie 5.jpg

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