Despite its being targeted toward entry-level users, the E-510 does have some nice customization features. For example, you can program the Fn (function) button to control a number of different functions. Its default setting is for depth of field, but it can also be turned off completely or set to set the custom white balance, let you shoot a test picture (without saving it to your memory card), or set the camera to My Mode, which can save all the current camera settings as your own custom shooting mode. If the function button is set to My Mode, and you have saved settings for that mode, you can set the camera to all those settings by pressing that one Fn button. The AEL/AFL button can also be configured to control autoexposure and autofocus locks in various different combinations. In addition to custom white balance and the camera's white balance presets, you can also choose a Kelvin temperature from 2,000K to 14,000K.
Outside of Live View mode, the Evolt E-510 performed well in our lab tests. The camera took 1.3 seconds to start and capture its first JPEG. Subsequent JPEGs took about 0.6 second between shots with the flash turned off and 0.9 second with the flash turned on. It took about 0.8 second between RAW images with the flash turned off. Shutter lag measured 0.4 second in our high-contrast test and 1.3 seconds in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In our continuous shooting test, the E-510 lived up to Olympus' claim of 3 frames per second. We were able to capture 3.1fps at the camera's smallest JPEG setting, and 2.9fps at full resolution.
While you can achieve very nice image quality with the Evolt E-510, out of the box I saw the same issues with the E-510 that Lori Grunin saw with the Evolt E-410. In its default settings, and with Firmware version 1.0, the E-510 underexposes and overblurs photos. Switching the Noise Filter to Low or Off will fix the blurring problem, and using a shooting mode other than Program can help overcome the exposure issues. Also, when faced with incandescent lighting, the E-510's automatic white balance tends to produce overly warm images, you're better off with the camera's tungsten preset in this situation, or better yet a custom white balance. This is somewhat strange, given that Olympus' significantly less expensive FE series cameras usually do an excellent job of automatically setting white balance.
To its credit, the E-510 does a good job of keeping noise under control across its sensitivity range. While noise becomes noticeable at ISO 800 and is clearly apparent at the top setting of ISO 1,600, you should still be able to get acceptable prints throughout the camera's sensitivity range. I just wish that the camera went beyond ISO 1,600. Even an entry-level SLR should reach at least ISO 3,200 at this point.
While the exposure quirks mentioned above might sound bad, you really can create very good photos with the Evolt E-510, though it can be a bit frustrating when compared to competitors, such as Canon's EOS Rebel XTi or Nikon's D40x. However, if you like the idea of this Evolt's Live View mode or built-in Image Stabilization (something neither of the aforementioned competitors have), then you should give the E-510 a look.
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Time to first shot||Raw shot-to-shot time||Shutter lag (dim light)||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)