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Olympus creatively extends its consumer dSLR line

The sub-$1,000 Olympus E-60 includes the Art Filters, which debuted in the higher-end E-30.

Olympus E-620
Olympus America

Update: Now with preview video after the jump.

Filling another hole in its dSLR product line, Olympus takes on the Canon EOS Rebel XSi and Sony Alpha DSLR-A350 with the new E-620 (Nikon's D80 and D90 are cheaper and more expensive than these models, respectively.)

Let's take a look at the basic specs:

  Canon EOS Rebel XSi
(with 18-55mm IS lens)
Olympus E-620
(with 14-42mm lens)
Olympus E-30
(body only)
Sensor 12.2-megapixel CMOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS 12.3-megapixel Live MOS
Color depth 14 bits 12 bits 12 bits
Sensitivity range ISO 100 - ISO 800/ 1,600 (expanded) ISO 200/100 (expanded) - ISO 3,200 ISO 100 - ISO 3,200
Focal-length multiplier 1.6x 2x 2x
Continuous shooting 3.5 fps
53 JPEG/6 raw
4 fps
n/a JPEG/5 raw
5 fps
n/a JPEG/12 raw
Viewfinder 95 percent coverage
0.87x magnification
95 percent coverage
0.96x magnification
98 percent coverage
1.02x magnification
Autofocus 9-pt AF
center cross-type
7-pt AF
all twin; 5 cross-type
11-pt AF
all cross-type
Live view Yes Yes Yes
LCD size 3 inches fixed 2.7 inches articulated 2.7 inches articulated
Mfr. price $799.99 $799.99 $1,299

Olympus packs quite a bit in for the money, including a fully articulated LCD (as compared to the tiltable LCD on the Sony A350); sensor-shift image stabilization; a built-in wireless flash controller, which everyone but Canon includes; and Art Filters, the preset special effects that the company introduced in the E-30.

The Art Filters, especially given their limited implementation, make a lot more sense in the E-620 than in the E-30, and could possibly provide a compelling reason for a newbie to buy the E-620 over a comparably priced competitor.

Though it's a bit lower resolution than the A350's 14 megapixels, in this class, the difference between 12 and 14 doesn't amount to a lot, and in fact can be an advantage. (It uses the same sensor and TruePic III+ image processor as the E-30, so theoretically, image quality should be similar.) You need a really good lens to resolve well at higher resolutions, and chances are, the budget-conscious buyer of these cameras won't want to spend a fortune on lenses.

On the downside, the E-620 has fewer AF points than Canon and Sony's (9 points) offerings; only testing will tell how much of an impact this has on focus accuracy and performance.

When it ships in May, it will be available in two configurations: a body-only version for $699.99 and a kit including the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens for $799.99. Olympus will also offer a new battery grip and underwater housing to accessorize the camera.