Camera thoughts (part 2 – Olympus)

October 5th, 2010 by

a second post in which I Show My Working in an attempt to figure out what camera to buy…

So, continuing with the Four Thirds models, the choice of manufacturers is made easy: basically, only Olympus make them in reasonable numbers. So what is there? Looking at models from the last three years: the E-410, E-420, E-450, E-510, E-520, E-620, E-30, E-3, & E-5 (in, I think, approximate order of glossiness).

The E-450 is basically identical to the E-420 with minor alterations; one down. We can cut out the E-3, E-30, and E-5 straight off, on the grounds that I do not have $2,000 to hand, and if I did I’d have better things to spend it on. The E-620 and below are a bit more plausibly priced, and all seem to still be on the market, so let’s look at those.

It’s a line of gradual improvement. The E-420 and E-520 are developments of the E-410 and E-510 respectively, with the 500 series being a bit larger and a bit more powerful than the 400 series, and the E-620 is an improvement on the E-520, but slimming down a bit. How does the E-620 look? As a kit with a 14-42mm lens, it’s $600; the E-420 with basic lens is $470, and the E-410 is, weirdly, priced higher than most of the 500 range (presumably it’s old enough to have stopped being discounted); the E-520 with the same basic lens is $500, and the E-510 with a pair of lenses is $680, $30 less than the E-620 plus the extra lens.

Is it worth saving either $100 (the 520) or $30 (the 510)? $30, certainly not; $100, perhaps. The differences between an E-520 and E-620 are an articulated screen, a larger viewfinder (although still apparently not perfect), and significantly better high-sensitivity performance. I’m leaning towards the E-620 there, but let’s keep them both in play for the moment.

So, what else. Both are flawed by reduced battery life, but a spare battery and switching them to charge should solve that problem. They both come as kits with a standard (and apparently quite decent) 14-42mm lens; lens sizes for a four-thirds camera are about half the “equivalent” 35mm lens sizes – so the base lens is 28-84mm equivalent. Coming from a camera which worked happily at 420mm-equivalent, this seems a bit of a letdown; there’s a couple of alternate lenses available, however, 40-150mm for $120 and 70-300mm (!) for $300.

So, we’ve got this far. The Olympus looks good. Pending the chance to get my hands on one and play with it, thus answering the key question of whether or not I’d like it, how low can I drive the cost?

The figures quoted above have all been from amazon.com; $500 for the E-520 and $600 for the E-620. UK prices are moderately terrifying – £450 and £575 respectively. This is definitely going to be a case where buying abroad is worth it – the E-620 plus second lens will cost almost exactly the same from the US as the E-520 from the UK. Part Three, I think, will need to be trying to figure out the cheap suppliers…

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