Billed as the world’s smallest digital SLR, the E-400 doesn't compromise on power or usability
Weighing only 375g (excluding both the lens and battery), the E-400 is significantly smaller and lighter than any other digital SLR on the market.
Despite its small size, it’s not a true entry-level camera; its specification and price place it in a tier above products such as the new Nikon D40. As a 10-megapixel digital SLR, it’s bound to invite comparison with other similarly specified SLRs, including Nikon’s D80 and Canon’s EOS 400D.
The E-400 is the smallest of the three; a little more compact than the 400D and practically dwarfed by the D80. It’s also far lighter than either of these main competitors, both of which weigh upwards of 500g. If a small kit bag is what you’re after, then the E-400 is already way ahead.
In terms of usability, there’s nothing cramped about the E-400’s design. Like the E-series cameras before it, it makes excellent use of its 2.5in LCD status panel for user input. The Menu button brings up the usual menu-driven configuration pages, but the regular information displayed between shots is not only informative but interactive.
Pressing the OK button lets you use the status display like a control panel, stepping though it with the cursor buttons to access individual settings quickly without the need to navigate up and down menus. It’s a little slower than having dedicated buttons for functions such as ISO and image resolution, but being an LCD it’s brightly illuminated so there’s never any problem reading button labels in darker environments.
Two levels of detail are available, or you can turn it off altogether to save battery power. The display is also de-activated while the shutter release button is depressed.
Since the introduction of the E-1 back in 2003, Olympus has used its own FourThirds lens system. Since then, the range of available lenses has expanded, incorporating not only Olympus-branded products but also lenses from Sigma and Leica/Panasonic.
A total of 17 E-system lenses are available from Olympus, with a further six from Sigma and now the image-stabilising lens from the Panasonic DMC-L1 is available as a stand-alone product.
In keeping with the E-400’s small and light design, two new lenses have been introduced simultaneously with the camera; a 14-42mm and a 40-150mm lens, both of which are tiny compared to their closest previously-existing models and weigh a lot less. These focal lengths need to be multiplied by a factor of two to arrive at their 35mm film equivalents of 28-84mm and 80-300mm respectively.
Both of the new lenses are available as kit lenses with the E-400. Our review model came with both, in a twin lens pack (£850). A single-lens kit is also available (£700)as is a body-only pack (£600), although this is currently a rare item due to Olympus prioritising the kits at this stage.
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Pros: Small and light; anti-dust system; choice of lenses, image quality Cons: No live preview; uses flash for auto-focus illumination, small viewfinder image Overall: Excellent quality and a compact body that's smaller and lighter than any other model makes the Olympus E-400 worthy of serious consideration
£600 (body only), £700 (14-42mm lens kit), £850 (14-42mm and 40-150mm lens kit)
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