Olympus Evolt E500 digital slr

The Olympus Evolt E-5xx series was a very successful line of consumer level, digital slr cameras for Olympus which started with the subject of this post, the E-500.

My Camera

I paid just over £30 for this camera and was worried that I’d paid too much for it. I paid that much because the E series (particularly the E-520, but all are good) has been on my wish list for a long time, and they normally make quite a lot of money. I saw this one being sold by a charity shop on eBay, and it was sold as ‘untested – without a battery’. I took the gambol that it was likely a charity shop really would mean untested and bought it in the last seconds of the auction.

While I was waiting for the camera to arrive, I bought a battery for it from amazon so that when the camera arrived I could try it out. I discovered, when it arrived, that the camera actually had a battery adapter fitted which takes 3 CR123 batteries, so I could have saved a bit by waiting, but in the end 3 CR123 batteries would have cost a similar amount to the lithium ion battery I bought so I’m probably better off with the rechargeable.

I was glad to see as I removed it from the package, that the camera seemed in good physical condition. The lens fitted is the slightly lower spec 17.5mm to 45mm zoom offering, but it worked smoothly and had no marks or mould. The camera itself was in good condition, although the buttons on the back panel were a bit sticky.

With the battery installed I found the camera works as expected and is certainly worth the £30 I paid for it, but it does have a couple of issues. First, as I said above, the buttons on the back panel are sticky – it looks like the camera has had something like orange juice spilled over it which has gummed the switches up. They work, and after the first push free up, but when left for a couple of hours they are sticky again. I suspect the back panel needs to come off and the mechanical parts of the switched need to be properly cleaned out.

The other slight problem was that if I tried to fit a compact flash card in the card slot, the memory card door wouldn’t close. The card eject button extended too far as the card was pushed in the slot and fouled on the card door. This seemed to be because the mechanism was gummed up with whatever substance was dropped over the camera. I could use the camera with a xD Picture card in the other slot, so it wasn’t a big deal, but because I wanted to fix it I removed the eject mechanism to see if I could clean it up. Unfortunately I found that the mechanism, as well as gummed up, is also broken so I need to find a replacement at some point. Every cloud has a silver lining though because with the eject mechanism removed I can use a compact flash card now – it’s just a bit fiddly to remove it from the camera!

With the camera working, one final action I took was to update the firmware because I found the body was still at version 1 and version 1.4 was available on the Olympus site.

Olympus E500 Description

In common with most digital cameras, it would be boring to list a complete description of the E500 here since that sort of information is more easily found in the handbook which is still available on the Olympus main web site. Instead I’ll just give some highlights and give my impressions of using the camera in my next post, when I’ll also include some sample pictures.

The E-500 is an 8 Mega pixel, 4/3 sensor digital slr manufactured by Olympus in 2005. Being a 4/3 sized sensor, the camera has a crop factor of 2 times when compared to a standard 35mm full frame camera which makes the supplied 17.5 to 45mm lens the equivalent of 35mm to 90mm. It was also possible to buy the camera with a slightly wider 14mm – 45mm kit lens.

The E500 is equipped with the four main exposure modes of Program mode, Aperture priority, Shutter priority and full Manual mode, as well as fully auto and a whole range of Scene modes. There are good range of buttons for selection of things like focus points, AE lock, exposure compensation etc, as well as the usual 4 way arrangement of buttons for ISO, white balance, metering and AF.

One really nice feature of the E500 is the info display which allows you with only a few button presses to quickly jump to any setting on the camera and alter it. Although this is now a common feature on many cameras I believe Olympus were one of the first camera manufacturers to introduce the system.

The viewfinder is a little small compared to APS-C cameras and you do get the impression of looking down a tunnel at the scene a bit, but it isn’t a really bad experience. The view through the viewfinder is optical, and the camera is not equipped with live view. I’m not a great fan of live view, especially on SLR cameras where it tends to be quite clunky, but it is useful on cameras that have an articulated screen. In this case, I don’t think its absence is a big deal.

The information display in the viewfinder is pretty reasonable, with a display down the right hand side of the viewfinder displaying aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation and battery level etc.

The lens focusing is achieved by an internal motor rather than by a mechanical screw thread which makes it pretty silent and fast. Coming from a Pentax background (which still uses mechanical screw thread auto-focus) is seems particularly quick to me, although I know is wouldn’t stack up well against a modern DSLR. There are three focus points which are displayed in the viewfinder and have both audible and visual feed back to indicate which point it being used when auto selection mode is used. There is also a convenient button on the back panel which allow easy selection of an individual point if required.

All in all I’m quite impressed with the feature set and spec of the E500. I suspect that the slightly smaller sensor will probably mean that the low light performance will not quite be up to the level of an APS-C sensor, but I will find that out which I take some test pictures. That I will cover in my next post along with my impressions of using the E500.

Olympus E500 specifications

  • Olympus E500 4/3 sensor DLSR
  • 8 Mp CCD sensor
  • 2x crop factor
  • Shutter 60sec to 1/4000sec + B (8 min)
  • Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Program mode + Manual mode
  • Scene modes + Fully auto mode
  • ISO 100 to 10000
  • +/- 5 stops of exposure compensation
  • 3 point auto focus
  • Rear panel LCD for picture information and viewing – no live view
  • Matrix, centre weighted, spot metering using 49 segment sensor
  • Multiple weight balance modes
  • Very good Info panel for quick access to settings
  • Up to 2.5 shots per second
  • Twin card slots – xD data and Compact Flash
  • In built flash synchronised to 1/180sec
  • Diopter adjustment
  • Std Lens 17.5mm to 45mm f/3.5 – 5.6
  • Handbook available here
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