By RICHARD LEWIN, Technology Writer/Consultant
Not so many years ago, the top camera manufacturers realized
"digital" would naturally become a major force in the professional
The benefits of instant image production and cost savings alone assured digital's future success with pros, as soon as image quality reached a high enough level to compete with film. Knowing that pro shooters already had their own SLR lenses, most camera manufacturers counted on brand loyalty by building digital SLRs based on traditional SLRs. The lens focal length differences for digital versus traditional would be dealt with later.
Olympus has entered the pro market in a different way-with a "Fixed Lens SLR" called the Camedia E-10 SLR, a 4-megapixel digital camera with a 35-140 35mm equivalent nonremovable zoom lens, all for under $2,000.
According to Mr. Hideshi Hosoi, Product Manager for Olympus Digital Products, the E-10 was designed for digital from the ground up. The lens quality and design were the first consideration. Olympus chose a fixed mount lens for two main reasons: lens alignment and dust prevention. Since CCD and MOS sensors require much more accurate lens alignment than film, a fixed mount was chosen to avoid the wear caused by repeated lens mounting and removal. Not being able to remove the lens also meant not allowing dust-the arch enemy of digital pickups-an easy entry point. The lens, with every element multicoated, has even been optically optimized for digital. As Mr. Hosoi explains, CCD pixels are like small "buckets" waiting to be filled with light that has passed through the lens. Obviously, it is easier to fill the buckets by "pouring" the light straight in, rather than at an angle. Since digital sensors are much less responsive than film to light approaching at an angle, the E-10's lens is custom designed with straight-through image projection.
The camera's all-aluminum diecast body is based on Olympus's famous L-shaped "IS" Series 35mm fixed lens SLRs (IS-1, IS-3, IS-30, etc.). Extremely comfortable to hold and well-balanced for those long shoots, and the clever design only begins there. What has really been well arranged for us is the layout of the camera controls. Instead of forcing the photographer to use a menu to change settings in the middle of a hurried shoot, each commonly used control (e.g., "+/-", "macro", "resolution", "flash mode") has its own cleverly positioned button. Press the function button while turning the Main Dial on the back, or, if it's more convenient, the Sub Dial on top.
Other valuable features:
• Both SmartMedia and CompactFlash can be used; images can be copied from one format to the other in the camera. • LCD monitor tilts up/down for over-the-crowd or low-angle shots.
• LCD Control Panel has a back light for shooting in dark areas.
• Multicoated auxiliary lenses available: macro conversion, 0.8 wide (28mm equivalent), 1.45 tele (200mm), 3x tele (420mm).
• Shutter speeds vary from 8 seconds to 1/640 second in Manual, and from 2 seconds to 1/640 second in Auto.
• Powered by two CR-V3 lithium batteries, 4 AAs, an AC adapter, or an extended battery holder that mounts on the camera bottom.
• For critical exposure situations, a histogram of the current image can be brought up on the LCD Monitor with the push of a button on the camera's back. • Video out is provided for a quick slide show where no computer is available.
• USB out is Storage Class, i.e., users of Windows Millennium, Windows 2000, and Mac OS 8.6 or later, don't have to load drivers. Camera appears as a Drive.
I found the E-10 a digital dream come true. The output quality is incredible, the zoom range is perfect for my Event Photography business, the TTL flash system—both built-in and with the FL-40 Accessory Flash—is extremely accurate. Olympus has a winner. Richard Lewin, a photographer, technology writer, and digital imaging consultant, has been retailing photographic products for 30 years.
Olympus Camedia E-10 Specs
Memory: 3V (3.3V) SmartMedia (SSFDC) Card (2M,
4M, 8M, 16M, 32M, 64MB). One 32MB card including Panorama function
supplied w/camera. 3V CompactFlash Type II (Flash Memory-Micro
Drive not recommended).
Recording System: Still image; JPEG (DCF: "Design rule for Camera File system"), TIFF (non-compress), DPOF support RAW (16 bit per color). Ships with Photoshop Plug-in for RAW 10 Bit A>D Converter.