Every time a mention of the Olympus 4/3 camera system is made in articles we get comments that there is no promised size and weight savings with the 4/3 line. That ignores the E-410, which is currently the smallest DSLR made, but it is certainly true of the Pro-oriented E-3 whose construction and weather-sealing yield a solid camera that is both large and heavy. Perhaps to remind users that small is also beautiful, Olympus has just announced the world's smallest DSLR and a new 25mm f2.8 "pancake" lens that redefines small on a DSLR.

Olympus pioneered Live View, a feature that has become almost a checklist item for every new DSLR introduction these days. The Point-and-Shoot users who are migrating to DSLR in record numbers are used to this feature and many want to continue the ability to see and compose photos on the rear LCD. The E-420 takes Live View to a new level in the Olympus line, using both phase-detection and contrast-detection for focus on the 10MP (megapixel) Live View screen. Olympus says it also works just like regular AF (Auto-Focus) on the E-420: when you push the shutter release half-way you get AF on the rear LCD just like you do when looking through the optical viewfinder.

In addition, Olympus added another hot point-and-shoot technology to the E-420. Face Detection is this year's must have feature in P&S as we reported in our PMA coverage. The E-420 is the first DSLR with this feature and it promises to keep up to eight faces in focus in a picture. Despite the smaller camera size, the E-420 also increases the LCD size to 2.7" from the 2.5" of the E-410. Shadow Adjustment Technology also promises an expanded dynamic range.

Here's a quick rundown of the major features and innovations on the E-420:

  • On-Screen Autofocus works as seamlessly as a point-and-shoot to display subjects in focus on the LCD the instant the shutter is pressed half way.
  • Face Detection Technology targets and locks on up to eight faces to ensure they are in focus and crystal clear for amazing portraits.
  • New and Improved HyperCrystal II Technology delivers twice the contrast and better viewing in extreme lighting conditions, a broader range of color detail, and a wider angle of view on the LCD so you and your friends can see it up to 176 degrees off-center.
  • Shadow Adjustment Technology captures detail in the bright areas of a frame and opens up detail in the shadows that other cameras would render too dark or underexposed.
  • Perfect Shot Preview enables you to view and select your favorite effect right on the LCD, and see how the image will look before you even capture it, so you know that what you see is what you get.
A Closer Look
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  • punchkin - Sunday, March 9, 2008 - link

    I like the small size, but a 50mm f/5.6 equivalent lens is only really suitable for outdoor work IMO. I'd still take this over a DP-1 any day.
  • Wesley Fink - Monday, March 10, 2008 - link

    Where do you get 50mm f5.6? It's a 25mm f2.8 and the speed does not change just because it is equivalent to a 50mm lens. This is not like teleconverters. The pancake is a 25mm F2.8 and the camera can also mount any lens designed for 4/3 including the Leica 25mm F1.4 (equivalent 50mm f1.4). The Leica 25mm, however, is very large and heavy compared to the small pancake lens.
  • punchkin - Tuesday, March 11, 2008 - link

    Because on a 2X crop camera, the lens/camera system is slower. So you have an f/2.8 lens with the DOF of f/5.6 on full frame, an equivalent angle of view, and equivalent performance. TANSTAAFL. Nice camera-- with stabilization to help compensate for the slowness it'd be better.
  • v1001 - Sunday, March 9, 2008 - link

    Yeah this is exactly something I'd like too. A lot of people would love it. Most people don't like lugging around a big ugly camera. Thats why I got rid of 35 mm SLR a long time ago. Took great pictures but it was to big and in the end I ended up missing a lot of shots because I hated carrying it and packing it everywhere. I passed on the DSLR for the same reason and went straight to a compact digital. I carry it everywhere in my back pocket and whip it out all the time. Got many many shots I'd never have. And done right I get many shots that I'd put against these guys with $1000 DSLR's. But I'd still like a little more and to have a better camera. This small one is getting in the perfect compromise.

    By the way Dailytech when you post anything that is promoting size you need to have it next to something to compare. We have NO sense of scale from these pictures when it's just by itself. Looks like any other full sized DSLR.
  • gipper51 - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    I think this little camera would appeal to alot of people, myself included. I currently have quite a bit wrapped up in a Minolta/Sony DSLR system, but I really like what Oly is doing lately. I'd love to own an E-3 with 12-60mm/50-200mm combo. I'm considering picking up an E410 with a 2 lens kit because they are going for so little. It's a great travel camera with the basic kit.
  • haplo602 - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    I realy wonder who is the target audience for this kind of SLR.

    let's sum up:

    1. small, light (but this is offset by the lenses)
    2. mostly live view scene composition as it has poor AF otherwise (3 points are inadequate for anything bu static pistures)
    3. no image stabilisation to speak about

    it looks like a gadget for the posh folks to brag "look I have a SLR and how small it is"

    it has a hybrid AF system that favors live view. it has no image stabilisation. it is an olympus 4/3.

    I mean the nikon D40 has the same (ok it's larger and no live view) yet it at least has the complete nikon system available.

    the only nice thing is the new pancake 25mm lens. it seems it is the old tessar design (judging by the 2.8 aperture).
  • Johnmcl7 - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    Disagree on most of your points - this camera gives you the flexibility to go very compact with the 25mm compact lens, reasonably compact with the 14-42mm and 40-150mm lenses or high pro performance if you need the 35-100mm F2 or similar.

    It is not 'mostly liveview composition', I've never had trouble with the three point Olympus AF system with high motion subjects. I prefer this because you know what you're getting, on my current camera I have an 11 point AF system but only have the centre AF point enabled because I want to choose what to focus on, not the camera.

    As for your comparisons to a point and shoot, you completely forgot about the sensor size - most point and shoot (the S100FS looks to be about the only exception right now) use small, pixel stuffed noisy sensor where the main focus on the camera is markettable features rather than actual image performance. I have tried taking point and shoot cameras on social nights out to take advantage of their more discrete form but always find myself frustrated by their poor low light performance. Not only does the larger sensor give far better high ISO performance, you also get more depth of field options.

    The lack of IS is more the killer for me at the moment, that and I'd prefer a 28mm equivalent pancake lens as 50mm is not wide enough.

  • taleril - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    This might not be the best place to ask this, but do you think this would be a decent first DSLR for someone? I'm thinking about this as a gift for my girlfriend.

    It seems like the smaller form factor would be nice. She's never had an SLR or DSLR.

    Hope this isn't too far off topic.
  • Wesley Fink - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    The current E-510 is also quite small. It is the same basic camera with a larger grip and image stabilization built into the body. It does have Live View but the Live View isn't as versatile as that on the E-420. If you can wait until May the E-420 might be a good choice. If you plan to get something before then the E-510 two lens kit with these same small lenses is a good value, small, and a very capable outfit.
  • haplo602 - Thursday, March 6, 2008 - link

    ah there is no edit function on this forum :-((

    I forgot to add: a p&s offers the same today with more versatility (zoom lens, IS, movie recording etc.) for less price, no dust worries (closed system).

    I realy do not see any advantage about this SLR.

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