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Hands-on with the Olympus E-420: Pancake day

The 10-megapixel Olympus E-420 dSLR is so small you might lose it down the back of the sofa, especially with the new pancake lens attached

The Olympus E-410 was our Editors' Choice of cameras last year, and the E-510 was our travelling companion around CES earlier this year. We didn't think it was possible for entry-level dSLRs to get much lighter on their feet, but Olympus has pulled a rabbit out of the hat with the E-420, a teeny-tiny dSLR that gets even nimbler with the addition of a dinky pancake lens.

The E-420 is a 10-megapixel camera that weighs a mere 440g. One-handed operation is no bother at all, and at 130 by 91 by 53mm, it practically nestles in the palm. Sure, small SLRs aren't everyone's teacup, but there's no denying the portability of this little fella.

Images are raw or JPEG, recorded to CompactFlash or xD picture card. An optical pentamirror viewfinder gives 95 per cent coverage, while live view is available on the 69mm (2.7-inch), 230,000-pixel screen. As with higher-end models such as the E-3, live view now allows for what-you-see-is-what-you-get real-time previewing of shooting tweaks like depth of field adjustment.

This is the latest Olympus camera to be based on the Four Thirds lens standard, which means glass from other manufacturers can be used. One of the kits available includes a gobsmackingly slender Zuiko pancake lens. Less than 25mm thick, it boasts a 35mm equivalent focal length of 50mm, minimum focal distance of 20cm and an aperture range of f/2.8-f/22.

The one downside of all this downsizing is the absence of image stabilisation, so you'll have to buy stabilised lenses or a tripod if you're feeling unsteady. Still, you should have a few pennies left over: the Olympus E-420 is available now for around £470 with 14-42mm and 40-150mm Olympus ED glass, or around £420 with just the 14-42mm lens. The pancake lens kit will set you back £489. -Rich Trenholm