Olympus goes public with mid-level E-620

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For a hands-on look at a pre-production E-620, take a look at our Olympus E-620 Video Preview.

Today, Olympus has announced yet another mid-priced, high-spec DSLR to round out its growing line of interchangeable-lens cameras.

Olympus E-620

The 12.3 megapixel Olympus E-620 sits squarely in the middle of Olympus’s current DSLR offerings – providing more imaging horsepower than the entry-level E-420 and E-520, while avoiding the $1000-plus price tags of the E-30 and E-3.

An “E-30 junior”
Although the E-620 keeps affordability front and center, the camera provides many of the key specs and technologies that made the prosumer E-30 a success. For starters, both models share Olympus’s newly developed 12.3 megapixel “Live MOS” Four Thirds format image sensor and 2.7 inch tilt/swivel HyperCrystal III LCD.

Olympus E-620

The screen, which can be rotated to face outward and then folded back into the body for “conventional” use, can also be pivoted to provide shot composition assistance (courtesy of the camera’s live view system) at just about any angle you can dream up.

The E-30 was touted as a camera for photographic exploration, and the E-620 carries over the bulk of its big brother’s creative functions in some form. The E-30’s Art Filters system – a separate shooting mode providing six distinct filters, including a high-grain black and white option, a high-saturation pop art setting, and a soft focus filter, among others – is included on the E-620 as well.

Likewise, the E-620 can shoot digital double exposures (as well as composite up to three RAW images) thanks to its slightly trimmed version of the E-30’s Multiple Exposure shooting mode. Aspect masking is also available here, allowing users to capture high-res shots in five different aspect ratios straight from the camera. While the E-620’s implementation of this Multi Aspect function doesn’t provide the plethora of aspect ratios available in the E-30, the basic functionality – as well as useful composition formats like 16:9, 3:2, and 6:6 – is fully intact.

Diminutive dimensions
With the majority of the E-30’s creative options preserved in some form, and a range of shared hardware making the transition as well, one might begin to wonder what separates these two models. The obvious answer is “size.”

Olympus E-620

While the E-30 is built on a scale closely resembling that of the professional E-3, fans of smaller cameras will be happy to note that the E-620 scales things back physically with a body that’s closer in size and shape to the very small E-420 – and nearly rivals even the Micro Four Thirds Panasonic G1 for compactness.

Olympus E-620

In spite of its size, the E-620’s interface and control layout is clearly designed with more advanced photographers in mind. Basic controls mimic those seen on the E-520 and E-30 models that bookend the new camera, with a number of dedicated buttons providing access to adjustments like sensitivity and white balance. The E-620’s buttons are also illuminated, making it easier to find the control you’re looking for in poor light.

Core Olympus technologies
It almost goes without saying at this point that the E-620 utilizes the open-format Four Thirds lens mount, providing compatibility with lenses from Olympus as well as Panasonic/Leica and Sigma.

Olympus E-620

The bigger news in this case is that unlike the similarly sized E-420, behind that lens mount, you’ll find a mechanically stabilized sensor in the E-620. Given the camera’s compact dimensions, packing in in-body IS was no small feat, and Olympus can (for the moment, at least) claim bragging rights for the E-620 as the smallest DSLR with mechanical image stabilization.

As noted, the E-620 also supports live view, allowing shooters to compose shots – or even see the effects of the above mentioned Art Filters and Multi Aspect shooting mode – on the camera’s LCD. As with previous Olympus models, the E-620 provides an Imager AF auto focus option in which the camera uses contrast-detection auto focus to lock in sharp shots without blacking out the on-screen preview for focusing.

Olympus E-620

Users seeking faster AF, or those shooting conventionally through the E-620’s optical viewfinder (which advertises a fairly impressive 95 percent coverage), will find an all new seven-point auto focus system in this model. Using five cross-type sensors, the E-620’s AF technology should prove to be fairly robust if the implications of such a specs sheet bear out as anticipated in practice.

Rounding out the E-620’s hardware, the new consumer cam features Olympus’s TruePic III+ image processor – the same chip used in the E-30 – as well as a few other advanced control niceties like three-group wireless flash management and built-in dust reduction technology.

Pricing and availability
The E-620 will be available at retailers in May. Suggested pricing is $699.99 for the camera body only, or $799.99 in kit form with the Zuiko 14-42mm lens. Optional accessories for the new model include a battery grip, as well as an underwater housing rated for use down to 130 feet.

For a hands-on look at a pre-production E-620, take a look at our Olympus E-620 Video Preview.

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