Written on: 26/06/2003 by Rick.
True Single Lens Reflex (SLR) camera that feels like a 35mm SLR with Olympus's best in class erganomics. Fast shutter speeds.
Slow write speed with poor buffering (only 4 images can be queued).
The E-20 is a newer version of the E-10 (also reviewed here). The main difference being that it now has 5 Megapixels to the E-10's 4.
Previous reviews of the E-10 are mostly applicable to the E-20. In other words, what's changed is additions and improvements. For example, the E-20 supports the IBM Microdrive. But mostly I'm interested in adding a few thoughts on where this digital camera is a winner and where others are better.
The E-20 is excellent for ultra-fast shutter speeds. So, wildelife and sports use might seem obvious. I've also found it excellent for interior shots at weddings (telephoto in low light during the service!). It is, however, very slow at writing its data to the storage media AND only allows 4 shots to be queued. So, if you're after more fast sequenced shots, with MORE THAN 4 shots in the sequence, this isn't the camera I'd choose.
For tripod mounted pictures (studio or outdoors), then the E-20 is fantastic. I'm now using mine instead of medium format cameras. In particular, its night shooting capabilities (enhanced by special software) are phenominal. But, that old focusing problem--inherited from the E-10--is still there, and autofocus sometimes doesn't like the dark. Still, you can check your results (to some degree) on the inbuilt display screen.
As a former professional photographer, I like the way the E-20 handles. Its erganomics are what I'd expect from Olympus--quite simply the best there is!! On the downside, there may be a few too many controls. I always liked the simplicity of the Olympus OM-1. For this reason, I tend to plan a shoot and not fiddle too much. With programmes like Photoshop (as your digital darkroom), you can safely leave the fiddling until later.
A few additional comments: if you use a microdrive, you'll be able to take lots more pictures than with a card, but, be aware that this is a miniature hard-drive. It is easily damaged by vibration or other shocks (especially when it's writing data), so better used on a tripod or studio situation. It also uses a lot of battery power (although, I do use mine with CR-V3 batteries, I'd recommend buying a portable power pack and DC-to-AC converter + AC Power Pack. Mine is a Car Jump-Starter + PC Power Converter).
Alternative camera: Sony's 5 megapixel camera. It does well what the E-20 doesn't and the E-20 does what it can't. So one of these should suit you. See the Sony DSC-F717.