Friday, July 18, 2008

olympus ranks lowest of popphoto dlsr shootout

DSLR Shootout: Five Top Cameras Compared


The Results

DSLR Shootout: Five Top Cameras Compared


1 Canon EOS Rebel XSi 10 points

2 Nikon D60 8 points

3 Olympus E-520 (tie) 6 points

3 Pentax K200D (tie) 6 points

5 Sony Alpha 350 2 points

You can get superb images with any one of these cameras. Ranking IQ becomes a matter of looking at results at high ISOs. We gave the lead spot to the Canon EOS Rebel XSi for its consistency in resolution and noise control. The Nikon D60 had higher resolution than the Olympus E-520 and Pentax K200D, plus superb noise control. The Olympus' and Pentax's resolution, noise, and color accuracy were so close that we called it a tie. The Sony Alpha 350 at low-to-medium ISOs would have challenged the Canon. But at higher ISOs, noise rated Unacceptable unless heavy noise reduction was applied.


1 Sony Alpha 350 5 points

2 Canon EOS Rebel XSi 4 points

3 Pentax K200D 3 points

4 Olympus E-520 2 points

5 Nikon D60 1 point

The Sony Alpha 350 is a pleasure to use. Its live view, while making for a dimmer viewfinder, is the way these systems should work, with no delay in autofocusing and firing. The menus go from folder to folder by themselves, and the function button allows for rapid setting changes.

The Canon comes close behind, with a clear control layout, big menu type, and a bright viewfinder -- the best of the lot. Its live view, however, causes a delay in focusing and firing.

The Pentax shows how you can do more with less, with its logical control groupings under the function button.

The Olympus, for all its buttons, is very menu-dependent. And almost every editor who has used the Nikon D60 has found something frustrating -- try setting Adobe RGB color space without consulting the manual, for example.


1 Sony Alpha 350 5 points

2 Canon EOS Rebel XSi 4 points

3 Nikon D60 (tie) 3 points

3 Pentax K200D (tie) 3 points

5 Olympus E-520 1 point

We decided that the tools for taking the shot should rank higher than postproduction fixes -- you can, after all, fiddle with the image in editing software. On that basis we ranked the Sony first, for things like its fast AF with reliable across-the-frame tracking, and white-balance adjustments galore. Its Dynamic Range Optimizer can be a true lifesaver when shooting JPEGs.

The Canon takes second on the basis of superior autofocus, its Picture Styles menu, and RAW + JPEG capture that works with any JPEG style, including black-and-white. We were very impressed with its white balance shift and bracketing controls. We do wish it had better dynamic-range controls, though.

The Nikon and Pentax are like little Photoshop work stations. With either, you can make adjustments on a RAW file and save it as a JPEG. They both have good dynamic-range fixes and image profile adjustments. We have issues, though, with their respective AF systems -- limited across-the-frame tracking on one hand, slow on the other.

The Olympus' RAW-to-JPEG is far more rudimentary -- you can't preview the effects of your image settings. It has good dynamic-range controls, but its autofocus is the least sensitive of the five.


1 Canon EOS Rebel XSi (tie) 5 points

1 Nikon D60 (tie) 5 points

3 Pentax K200D (tie) 3 points

3 Sony Alpha 350 (tie) 3 points

5 Olympus E-520 1 point

The more lenses and accessories that work with your camera, the better. Canon and Nikon are undoubtedly at the top of the heap here. Pentax and Sony have a big established base of legacy lenses, and are both developing new optics at a good clip. Finally, Olympus just doesn't have the lens catalog of the other makers, and there are few third-party lenses made for the system.


1 Canon EOS Rebel XSi 23 points

2 Nikon D60 17 points

3 Pentax K200D (tie) 15 points

3 Sony Alpha 350 (tie) 15 points

5 Olympus E-520 10 points

The Canon wins overall on the basis of high marks across all factors.



EASE OF USE: A very ergonomic camera to grip, the successor to the E-510 gets a bigger LCD: 2.7 inches. This serves as the control panel, and you can scroll around it fairly quickly to access common settings. Its Perfect Shot Preview shows a grid of photos previewing what you'll get with various settings. Live view is simple to access, and provides three AF options -- but all of them involve at least a couple seconds delay in firing.

While the viewfinder has pretty good magnification, it's still tunnel-visioned, and eyeglass wearers in particular had a tough time seeing the data display without losing some of the finder image. The menus, while logically arranged, can take a lot of scrolling to find some settings. And we found it frustrating that the switch from auto- to manual focus is in a menu. Rank: 4

CONTROL: The E-520's image stabilization has three modes -- normal, and then two for panning with the camera held vertically or horizontally -- a first for sensor-based stabilization. Burst rate of 3.5 fps nominally ties it with the Canon, but it slows down after fewer shots than the Reb XSi does when set for Fine JPEGs. RAW images can be converted to JPEGs in camera, but to make various picture adjustments on the file you have to first change the camera settings -- a clumsy procedure. The camera has good weathersealing. Rank: 5

SYSTEM FLEXIBILITY: Olympus produces an array of fine optics and accessories, including two flash units with wireless TTL capability. But the drawback of creating a ground-up system is that it will have fewer pieces than competing camera makers for the foreseeable future. Rank: 5

WHAT'S MISSING: Direct RAW editing controls with preview of the effects.

NICE SURPRISES: In live view, you can have the entire control panel overlaid on the image as a transparency. The image-editing software that comes with the camera provides lens-distortion correction.


IMAGE QUALITY: Similar to the E-510's, though improvements in noise suppression resulted in Excellent image quality for both JPEGs and RAW files at ISO 100­-1600. Resolution hung on to nearly 2000 lines through ISO 1600. Rank: 3 (tie)

IMAGE STABILIZATION: Our testers average a handholding gain of 1 to 2.5 stops, tied with the Pentax in third place.

AUTOFOCUS: Similar in speed to the E-510, which isn't surprising, the Olympus is a notch behind the Nikon -- which is still pretty fast. Sensitivity, though, goes down only to EV 0. It ranks fourth overall.

CIPA BATTERY RATING: 650 shots per charge, 50% with flash. SIZE/WEIGHT: 5.4x3.6x2.7 in., 1.05 lb, body only, with card and battery. CARD: CF and xD. PRICE: $600, street, body only; $700 with 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 ED AF Zuiko Digital lens. INFO:



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