Beginners and advanced amateurs alike will find the E-410 a fully-featured camera. It can shoot simultaneous raw plus JPEG and allows you to choose white-balance color temperature values between 2,000K and 14,000K, as well as fine-tune along the red-blue and green-magenta axes. It offers five metering schemes, including two spot-metering variants--HI and SH--which automatically boost or decrease exposure to keep white or black subjects (such as snow or shadows) from rendering as middle gray. An Anti-Shock setting slows the mirror movement to minimize shake at long shutter speeds. The maximum sensitivity of ISO 1,600 is a bit of a disappointment, but the mere 3-point autofocus more seriously impacts performance.
The E-410 really delivers a mixed bag on the performance front. On one hand, it can be very fast: Up and shooting in 1.4 seconds, 0.4-second response time for high-contrast subjects with a 0.7-second shot-to-shot time each for JPEG and raw under the same conditions. For dimly lit subjects, that rises to a reasonable 0.9 second, and if you turn on the flash to improve your exposure, that drops to 0.7 second. It can also maintain a 3.3fps clip in continuous-shooting mode, regardless of resolution, for about 15 or so frames.
Olympus turns on the Standard level of noise filtering by default in the E-410, which unfortunately seems to consist solely of an indiscriminate, aggressive blur. Ironically, the image noise really isn't that bad, making this one case where the cure is worse than the disease. (Top: ISO 200, bottom: ISO 800. Left side: with noise Standard filtering, right side, without filtering. Images adjusted for exposure and white balance.) The Low setting makes a much better trade-off.
For other aspects of performance, however, things get a little grimmer. In its default Program mode settings--the ones typically used by first-timers--the E-410 underexposes and overblurs photos. It seems to be metering correctly, but selecting an aperture and shutter speed one-half to one stop darker than expected. Switching to any manual or semimanual exposure mode and changing the Noise Filter to Low or Off fixes the issues. That said, it still has some problems with delineations between light and shadow, as if it's not adjusting the tonal range to open up the midtones. Furthermore, the automatic white balance and presets tend to produce overly cool images. And though it snaps speedily, the photos aren't always quite as focused as I would expect. The camera needs more visual/audible feedback for when it can't achieve a focus lock, as well as an option to preclude shooting while unfocused.
In general, the E-410 is capable of producing very good photos; in that respect, it differs little from competitors like the Nikon D40x and Canon EOS Rebel XTi. It takes a little more effort to get there, however--a bit of an absurdity given Olympus' marketing it as a nonthreatening step up for the point-and-shoot photographer. If the Live View mode or compact design appeals to you, go to your local retailer and give the Evolt E-410 a try to make sure that their appeal lives up to your expectations. If not, you'll get better value for your entry-level buck with almost any of the models on our list of top prosumer dSLRs.
(Seconds: shorter bars indicate better performance))
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Frames per second: longer bars indicate better performance)