Olympus Digital SLR Cameras

There used to be several Olympus digital SLR cameras available, but there aren't anymore.

Olympus has not released a new digital SLR since 2010 and that camera (the E-5) was more for professional photographers than amateurs.

Instead, Olympus has made the decision to focus their efforts on developing their line of mirrorless cameras, also know as Olympus PEN cameras. Olympus also has an SLR-like mirrorless camera called the OM-D E-M5.

While the PEN cameras have definitely done well in the mirrorless market, it's a shame that there have not been any new Olympus SLRs, although it does make sense.

When your three primary competitors are Canon, Nikon and Sony, it's challenging to release cameras that can capture the attention of the general public.

But for many years, Olympus did just that.

Olympus Digital SLR Firsts

Olympus never seemed content just releasing a minor upgrade to the camera that they released the previous year. Instead, they focused on creating some ground-breaking technology that eventually found its way into DSLRs from other companies.

For example, Olympus was the first to have a dust-control system inside their camera, to keep dust spots from appearing on the camera's sensor.

Second, they were the first to develop a live view LCD screen: one that behaved just like a compact camera, allowing you to take pictures using either the optical viewfinder or the LCD on the back of the camera. This was introduced on the E-330.

Finally, an Olympus digital SLR was the first to combine dust control, live view and built-in image stabilization (allowing you to shoot hand-held in very dim light) all into a single camera. This camera was the E-510.

What was also unique about Olympus digital SLRs was their adoption of a format called "Four Thirds."

The Four Thirds System

The Four Thirds system applies to both the connector between camera and lens (called the lens mount) as well as the type of digital sensor (it is neither a CCD nor a CMOS).

If you buy a Canon DSLR you have to buy Canon (or Canon-compatible) lenses to go with it. You can't take a Nikon or Pentax lens and stick it on your Canon camera because the point of attachment (the lens mount) isn't the same size.

But with the Four Thirds system, any digital camera that follows the standard can use any Four Thirds lens.

This means that you can use the same Four Thirds lens on digital SLR cameras made by different manufacturers. For example, you could take your Four Thirds lens and attach it to either an Olympus or a Panasonic camera since they both follow the standard.

As for the sensor, it is physically smaller than other DSLR sensors (which are often called APS-C sensors). The smaller sensor provides two advantages:

  1. Four Thirds cameras have smaller mirrors, which create less noise when they flip up out of the way of the sensor every time you take a picture
  2. Since they don't have to light up a giant sensor, Four Thirds lenses are smaller and lighter than lenses for APS-C cameras

Since the sensor is smaller, it results in a 2x multiplier (crop factor) applied to every lens that you use. This multiplier helps if you're into wildlife photography, but it's a drawback if you want to take landscapes and interiors.

Discontinued Olympus Digital SLRs

As I mentioned at the start of this page, Olympus has not released a new digital SLR in some time. If you are the current owner of an Olympus DSLR looking to upgrade, there aren't a lot of options.

And if you're a newcomer to the world of digital SLR cameras considering an Olympus, just be aware that many of these cameras might be hard to find new.

Olympus E-5
olympus e-5
October 2010 The E-5 is the successor to the E-3 — a camera designed with the semi-professional photographer in mind. You can capture High Definition 720p video using the camera's flexible 3 inch LCD screen or you can capture stills using the fast 11-point autofocus paired with its 5 photo-per-second continuous drive. Those who travel with their camera will appreciate the weather sealing that locks out moisture and the dust control system that keeps the sensor clean when lenses are changed.
Olympus E-620
olympus e-620
May 2009 The E-620 sits squarely between the E-520 and the more advanced E-30. It packs many of the features of the E-30 (including dust control, image stabilization, live view and Art Filters) into a camera that's more the size of the E-420. A special bonus for photographers who enjoy high and low-angle photography is an articulated LCD screen that flips out from the camera body and can be viewed from a variety of angles.
Olympus E-30
olympus e-620
January 2009 The E-30 is the first Olympus digital SLR to include Art Filters: creative effects that can be applied to images without the need for editing software. The E-30 also includes a great feature for architecture and landscape photographers: a digital level display that appears in the camera's viewfinder and on the LCD. These two features are rounded out with dust control, built-in image stabilization and a live view LCD that flips out from the camera body.
Olympus E-520
olympus e-520
July 2008 Available one year later than the highly regarded E-510, the E-520 builds on the features that were popular in the first generation of this camera: dust control, a live view LCD screen and built-in image stabilization. The improvements that the E-520 makes over its predecessor include enhanced live view, face detection autofocus, and the ability to increase shadow brightness in high-contrast images.
Olympus E-420
olympus e-520
May 2008 The E-420 is one of the smallest and lightest digital SLR cameras you can buy. This is especially true when you pair the camera with a 25mm f/2.8 "pancake" lens. Despite its compact size, the E-420 includes a dust control system, live view LCD, face detection autofocus and expanded dynamic range.
Olympus E-3
olympus e-3
Nov. 2007 The E-3 is the flagship Olympus digital SLR camera, designed with professional photographers in mind. Advanced amateurs with enough pocket change will benefit from the E-3's 5 photo per second shooting speed, dust control system, built-in image stabilization, live view LCD (that flips out from the camera body and rotates), weather sealing and an ultra-fast 11-point autofocus system. New accessories for the E-3 include the HLD-4 battery grip (for longer shooting) and two new flash units (FL-50R and FL-36R) that can be activated wirelessly from the E-3's main flash.
Olympus E-510
olympus e-510
July 2007 The Olympus E-510 was the first digital SLR camera to include a triad of useful features: dust control, built-in image stabilization and a live view LCD. While other cameras at the time only had one or two of these features, the E-510 was the first to provide all three.
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