Olympus enters the sub-$1000, 10MP DSLR market with the E-410 and the
Previously, Olympus was one of the few major players in the DSLR game to not have a 10 megapixel model in the US market. That all changed with today's announcement of the 10-megapixel E-410 and E-510.
We were baffled at Olympus' decision late last year not to market the E-400 in the U.S., wondering if it signaled a retreat from the American marketplace. But it appears the E-400 was simply the warm-up act for these two newcomers.
To be sure, these are two very different cameras; the E-410 isn't simply the E-510 minus mechanical chip-shift stabilization. Both share a ton of features, such as the Live MOS sensor with full-color autofocus-able preview; dual card slots for CompactFlash and xD media; a third-generation TruePic III processing engine; 176-degree LCD viewing angle; and RAW (.ORF), JPEG, and RAW + JPEG capture.
The E-410 (SRP $799 with kit 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 Olympus Digital lens) is svelte, bordering on petite. The finger grip and battery bulge beneath the shutter button is much less pronounced than on most competitors. The slim lines and light weight are accomplished through a number of interesting design and engineering choices (the electronics have been shrunk and the mirror is not set at 45 degrees to the focal plane). The pentamirror is positioned to compensate for the change in mirror angle, and the image in the viewfinder is unaffected, but this clever bit of engineering allows for some smaller overall dimensions.
The E-510 (SRP $899 with kit 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 Olympus Digital lens) has a meatier grip and is about 30 percent bigger overall. It needs the extra mass to hold the mechanical sensor-shift components. It also employs the slightly off-square mirror and pentamirror trick to slim down just a bit, but it definitely has a bigger overall presence than its sibling. The decision by Olympus to introduce a sensor-shift stabilizer is brilliant in the Four Thirds alliance arena. Now any Leica, Olympus, Panasonic or third-party lens can enjoy the benefits of stabilization for only $100 more than the E-410.
When we field tested several high-end Olympus telephoto lenses late last year, two of our biggest complaints were that none of the lenses were stabilized, and that the E-330 and even the "pro" E-1 was outclassed by the optics. (In fairness, when the E-1 was introduced, it was class-competitive, but that was quite a long time ago.) The sensor-shifting E-510, with a respectable 3 frames per second for dozens of shots (JPEG capture), may be the camera to put those complaints to rest once and for all.
And if you haven't noticed, Olympus has hinted on its Web site that it's not quite done for the year. In the promotional campaign for these cameras, Olympus teased that there was an even bigger camera hiding behind what we now know to be the E-410 and E-510.
Could a new Olympus flagship pro DLSR be on the horizon? Only time will tell, but for now, we're quite happy to see that Olympus has decided to enter the double-digit megapixel market with a couple of cameras that merit a serious look.