E-20 vs. E-10
What do you really get?

Updated Jan 31st 2002


You have probably already read the specs of the new
Olympus digital SLR E-20 camera
all the cool stuff, 5 megapixels, faster shutter speeds and so on. But what does it really mean in real life everyday use of the camera?


Lets start with the most visible update. 2560x 1920 means more dots which delivers bigger sharper prints. With a Photoshop file size of 14.4 megabytes, the e-20 produces a 245 dpi 8x10 compared to the e-10 which delivers a 8x10 at 210 dpi. Not much..? If you were to make a 16x20 print the e-20 would give you about 120 dpi. compared to about 105 dpi from the e-10, this is a more important difference, since it makes for a hugely better quality of the large print.

Olympus have chosen to put the same two slots in the camera as before, but unlike the e-10 the e-20 now officially supports the IBM MicroDrives, all the way to 1 gig. This is important because it means cheap storage for your high resolution images.

White Balance.
Everything is as with the e-10, the e-20 will allow you to chose a appropriate color from the most blue of moments to the reddest tungsten light. Personally I find 5500k works wonderfully in daylight... But hey. More options is better.
Manual options: 3000, 3700, 4000, 4500, 5500, 6500 and 7500 °K
Some people prefer the auto white option, I do not care much for the automatic selections myself.

Same as before, you can choose between 80 asa, 160 asa and 320 asa.

Image Quality.
This is a important point, the few images I have seen from beta cameras suggest that the noise in the pixels are the same or less than what you would experience with the e-10. along with the higher resolution, it will deliver smoother final prints. Personally I'm quite convinced that the shipping version of the e-20 will have less noise in the image than what was the case with the e-10, simply because of the time since the e-10 camera came out. Technology have improved, and it is hard to imagine that this improvement would not also affect the image quality.
Olympus beta E-20 gallery
Single highrez Olympus beta E-20 image

Active Noise Cancelation.
The new e-20 camera also incoperates a very cool active noise cancelation technology when taking time exposures. In effect it takes a picture with the shutter closed, this should be a entirely black image, however noise from the chip will show up in this image, this camera then substracts this image from the time exposure capture, the result is a significant reduction in the overall noise of the final image.
This feature is selectable in the main menu, and is only recomended when photograhing time exposures, as it takes almost 1 minute to process the image after the shutter closes. However if you are looking for great quality images at long exposure times. The E20 is probably the best choice around right now.

Olympus 4x zoom lens, 9 – 36 mm F2.0-2.4, all glass zoom lens with one ED and two aspherical lens elements (14 elements in 11 groups). This is practically the same lens as what was on the e-10, it also have a 62mm filter tread. Other than I had hoped Olympus would have put a longer zoom on the new camera. This is a perfect lens, and have proven to be reliable and tack sharp. It compares to a 35-140mm on a regular 35mm camera.
More importantly, the choice of lens, also means that you can use any accessory lenses you might have purchased for the e-10, or you can purchase used e-10 lenses for your e-20. I feel this is very important for people who use a camera professionally, since the investment in extra lenses is almost as big as the camera itself.

Progressive mode.... What is this..?
Well, this is a interesting way of not reading all of the pixels on the chip, the result seems to be that the e-20 is able to deliver some astonishing shutter speeds as high as 1/18.000th (That's really FAST Folks). But the drawback is that the resolution is reduced to about half as many active pixels 1,792 X 1,344

This is where things gets a little sketchy. Because if you got the idea of making a 8x10 print from a progressive scan capture. Well suddenly you would have a 168dpi print, while this is still enough to pass as a photograph... At best there are not much room left for cropping.
Now, WHY did Olympus choose to put this funny value e-20 digital SLR..? My guess would be that this is a great shot at the sports market, until now the e-10's biggest drawback was its limited shutter speed. 1/640th just did not put a smile on the face of a lot of sports shooters, so they did instead pick up something like a Nikon D1, which clearly is a accepted professional camera by lots of newspapers across the country, you do not have to flip many pages in a newspaper to find the telltale look of a D1 camera's digital images. Interestingly enough, it just so happens that the D-10 have a image size of 2000x1300 pixels, when printing a 8x10 that comes out to 162 dpi. Shooting in the Progressive mode it is also possible to capture 4.5 frames per sec up to 7 exposures before the buffer is full, this is very respectable for sports photography. The drawback here is that it still take a lot of time to put these frames away, about 4sec each. multiply with 7 frames in buffer, the good news is that the E20 allows you to continue photograhing more frames as soon as buffer space are available.

The e-20 Sports Camera
It seems to me that Olympus have delivered a very nice sports camera, with shutter speeds all the way up to 1/18.000th with a image quality matching that of the already established Nikon D1. Not bad in a sub $2000 package which also can deliver 5 megapixels for high resolution print work, such as weddings and portraiture photography. From my perspective, the only real issue with the e-20 as a sports camera is that the zoom is a bit short, traditionally the 80-200mm zoom seems to the be favorite lens for lots of sports, this is a range the shooters as used to zoom, after that they jump to a 300mm. It would be nice to see a zoom-through add on lens allowing sports shooters to zoom up to about 200+mm.
Though, that said, I must say that I do feel that the camera clears the files out of buffer to slowly to really be a comfortable sports camera...

Over all operating speed of the Olympus e-20 digital SLR have increased but not as much as I had hoped for. The camera handles larger files than the E10, but it takes almost as long time to put them away, I'm guessing that the Olympus TruePic feature which is part of creating smooth graduations may be consuming a lot of processor power. Personally I would vote for a feature to turn off whatever slows me down and let me work faster when needed.

Hardware Changes?
Olympus mentioned in the press release that the body have been updated based on feedback from photographers. Well, I looked high and low, to me it looks like a E-10 body with new badges... UNTIL I found it. The exposure compensation button have recieved a raised edge around the lower half to prevent people from pressing the compensation button while working with the camera. Not much, but positively a change of hardware.. (smile)

What is missing from the picture?
Well there are a couple of things I really would have liked to see in this camera.
Auto Bracket in Manual mode is still missing.
Selectable number of frames in auto bracket.
Instant capture using the IR remote control.
Less than 1 minute increments for the time-lapse mode.
The camera monitor can still not fold much downwards, making it hard to capture images overhead.
Olympus still need to come out with a serious wide-angle add on lens, something like 18mm

Is it worth upgrading from the e-10 to the e-20?
Well naturally that depends what you do with your camera... The Olympus e-10 is still a very serious and capable camera. However if you make your living with your camera, YES, positively, the Olympus e-20 delivers lots of great features which have been missing in the e-10, including higher resolution and better image quality. While still being compatible with the stuff you already purchased for your e-10.
That said.... I'm currently making my living with a Olympus Camedia E-10, and it delivers wonderful images which my clients are 100% pleased with. This camera is everything most people will ever need from a digital camera. If you have one already or have your hands on one at a great prize, and need a solid prosumer camera, get it. Upgrading is a search for more pixels and a few features, however the E-10 are likely to meet all of your needs.
For refference, I have added a Olympus Camedia E-20 to my toolbox, and am very pelased with it.

Jaja from Belgium Digital have done a outstanding E10 vs. E20 comparison of the Camedia E10 and the E20 cameras. Talk a moment to see for yourself. Normally I do not like to link into frames, but this was the only way I could find to bring you directly to the comparison, please click and visit Belgium Digital's main page.

Back to the e-10 page

Comparison between E-20 and Canon D-30 image quality

Steves Digicam Olympus E-20 review

dpreview Olympus E-20 review

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