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Olympus E-420 versus Olympus E-510

The Olympus E-420 and the Olympus E-510 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in March 2008 and March 2007. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 10 megapixel. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-510

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-420 and the Olympus E-510 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the E-420 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-510
Compare E-420 versus E-510 top
Compare E-420 and E-510 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-510 is notably larger (6 percent) than the Olympus E-420. Moreover, the E-510 is markedly heavier (22 percent) than the E-420. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-420 nor the E-510 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the E-420 gets 500 shots out of its BLS-1 battery, while the E-510 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-420» 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599- i
Olympus E-510« 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- i
Nikon D3000« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599- i
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629- i
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-450« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2009 499- i
Olympus E-600« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 n Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-520« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-410« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699- i
Olympus E-400« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Sep 2006 699- i
Olympus E-500« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.6 in 16.9 oz 750 n Sep 2005 599- i
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-420 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 25 percent) than the E-510, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-510

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-420 and Olympus E-510 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 10 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-420 and the E-510 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-420 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year) than the E-510, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

E-420 versus E-510 MP

For most cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the E-420 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-510 (overall score 4 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.3 bits higher color depth, 0.4 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-420» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756
Olympus E-510« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252
Nikon D3000« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.156362
Nikon D60« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.511.456265
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655
Olympus E-450« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.551256
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155
Olympus E-520« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855
Olympus E-410« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.110.049451
Olympus E-400« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-----
Olympus E-500« » Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448-----
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955
Both the E-420 and the E-510 offer Live View, so that they make it possible to use the rear screen for framing. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-510

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-420 and the E-510 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Olympus E-420 and Olympus E-510 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

Core Features
  Camera Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-420»optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n
Olympus E-510«optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y
Nikon D3000« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D60« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-450« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y
Olympus E-520« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-400« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n
Olympus E-500« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n

Both the E-420 and the E-510 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-510 was replaced by the Olympus E-520, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-510

So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-420 or the Olympus E-510 – has the upper hand? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-420:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (4 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 98g or 18 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (25 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Is somewhat more recent (announced 1 year after the E-510).


Advantages of the Olympus E-510:

  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in March 2007).

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-420 emerges as the winner of the contest (6 : 3 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera.

E-420 06:03 E-510

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-420 or the E-510 handle or perform in practice. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why expert reviews are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). The detailed reviews can be accessed by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review scores
  Camera cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Olympus E-420»85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i
Olympus E-510«89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i
Nikon D3000« »Rec72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599- i
Nikon D60« »80/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2008 629- i
Nikon D40X« »79/100HiRec4/5rev4/5 Mar 2007 729- i
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i
Olympus E-450« »--4/5-4/5 Mar 2009 499- i
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i
Olympus E-520« »87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i
Olympus E-410« »86/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i
Olympus E-400« »85/100-4/5-4/5 Sep 2006 699- i
Olympus E-500« »76/100HiRec--- Sep 2005 599- i
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If the camera you are interested in is not available, kindly get in touch, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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