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Olympus E-400 E-400 specific discussion.

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  #1  
Old 27th January 2008
Hiding_Pup
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E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Finally got the chance to take my E-400 for a proper spin during a week-long trip to Germany during which I shot 13gb of RAW files. With nothing better to do, I decided to jot down my impressions on the plane back...

***

When I picked up my Olympus E-1 a couple of year ago, it was, with its "firesale" price-tag and pro-build features, something of a hidden gem, particularly if - like mine - it happened to come bundled with the all-weather, optically fantastic 14-54mm.

The E-400, only ever released in Europe and Japan, and now superseded by the E-410, is in something of a similar position. My sister pre-ordered her twin lens kit when it first came out in late-2006 and paid £800. A year later, and I stumbled upon the same kit, selling new at a reputable on-line dealer for a mere £245.

At that price, I wasn't sure what to expect. Probably, I thought, I'd have a nice, portable backup to my faithful E-1, useful for low-light parties and snapshots. What I wasn't expecting, however, was a camera that would replace my E-1, almost overnight, in 99% of the shooting situations I find myself in.

There are, of course, plenty of reasons why a photographer would prefer an E-1 to an E-400: the pro, weather-sealed build; the two command dials; the 100% viewfinder (the best of any 4/3 camera, E-3 excepted); the whisper-quiet shutter; and the dedicated buttons for AF/MF, ASA and bracketing. There are probably others, but these were the ones I thought I'd miss when I picked up the E-400.

Still, approaching this new camera with an open mind, I found that the improved performance of the E-400 rendered many of these missing luxuries obsolete. Sure, it'd be nice to have an MF/AF switch but the autofocus on the E-400 is faster and more accurate than the E-1, besides which, there's still the S-AF+MF option that I've been used to on my E-1 - so switching isn't something that I find myself needing to do very much any more. Ditto for ASA: on the E-1, I found myself toggling between 100, 200 and 400 ASA, using the lower settings whenever it was practicable. But the E-400 offers pretty good quality at 400ASA and so, again, switching back and forth isn't something I need to do so often any more. The E-1's 100% viewfinder was perhaps the one feature which helped me grow the most as a photographer and one I miss on the E-400 but there are consolations to the E-400's 95% viewfinder (which, thankfully, is surprisingly bright and contrasty): 95% means that you don't have to nail your framing absolutely completely, and also that you have a bit of latitude if your horizons are a bit wonky. Again, the technological advances of the E-400 offer a different approach to photography: with 10 megapixels instead of 5, there's more opportunity to crop during post-processing. This doesn't replace a 100% viewfinder, but it does make not having one a lighter burden to bear!

And, aside from its technological advances, the E-400 has one more trick up its sleeve: its size. It is really, really small. For those who cut their teeth on film cameras, it's Pentax MX, Nikon FG, Olympus OM sized, comparable to some of the larger bridge cameras available today.

Surprisingly, and I hadn't anticipated this, the E-400's small size has a huge effect on how it performs: battery power is less but there's more space in my camera bag for a couple of spares now; the sound of the shutter - a perky chirrup rather than the E-1's twilight murmuring - is markedly louder but the camera itself is less obtrusive so no-one notices or, more importantly, seems to care.

I've also found the E-400 makes larger lenses - like the 50-200mm - easier to use and, though you can't get a vertical grip for the E-400, it is significantly less cumbersome than an E-1 without a grip. It’s not as good as an E-1 with a grip, but the E-400 has the advantage of being small enough so you can carry two around all day, which makes very light work of lens-changing. Also, one of the reasons E-1 owners get grips for their cameras in the first place is because it improves the speed of the autofocusing. But the autofocusing on the E-400 is faster anyway...

Finally, there's the question of build, that undefinable happiness of feeling quality in the hand. There's no E-1 inspired magnesium alloy chassis of course, but the E-400 is no yogurt pot either. Despite being polycarbonate, it manages to feel solid and nothing wobbles, creaks or flexes. And then there's a cost issue: psychologically, I like the idea that if I trashed my E-400, it wouldn't cost me very much to replace. Besides, going on previous experience (zero casualty-rate), I reckon I’m unlikely to trash one, let alone five, in the next three to five years.

For me, the E-400 is, as dealers vent the last of the inventory, a complete steal, particularly if you're an afficiando, like me, of the Kodak sensor, and prefer the extra half-stop of dynamic range it offers over the E-410's sensor to having Liveview. I'm so convinced the E-400 is the camera for me right now, that I'm selling my E-1. Well, one of them anyway!

Last edited by Hiding_Pup; 28th January 2008 at 11:15 AM.
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  #2  
Old 27th January 2008
Xpres
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Well said - as an E1 and E410 user I agree, although for me the live view is more important than the 1/2 stop of dynamic range. For using manual focus lenses, especially long ones, it's fantastic. Think 500mm lens - EFL 1000mm - and then 10x live view! Makes a great telescope.
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Old 27th January 2008
Hiding_Pup
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Hmm... maybe the ideal kit would have an E-400 and an E-410...
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  #4  
Old 28th January 2008
Ellie Ellie is offline
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

It's nice to read that, because I've got an E-400 and always seem to get people hinting that it might not be any good because it's little. Nobody seems to remember that, prior to digital, most people's slr cameras weren't very big although they were quite heavy.

I moved from film to digital only a couple of years ago, when I chose my E-400 it felt instantly 'right', perhaps because I'd never got used to the other big/heavy dslr cameras.

I recently started a night course in the hope of learning something new, it's only at a local school, no certificate or anything. When the tutor (pro photographer with letters after his name) looked at everybody's cameras he made nice noises until he saw mine. Said he'd never seen an Olympus digital camera before, and I'd better put it on Auto for everything. There was all sorts of stuff about lenses (bigger the better), sensors too (the bigger the better) and comparing them to plate cameras (huh! ). I ended up feeling that he thought my camera is useless and I won't be ever be able to take decent pictures so there's no point in my being there. I'm getting so fed up with feeling the need to defend my choice of camera, when it's really nothing to do with anybody else.

Today we went for a walk and saw a group of Red Deer about a hundred yards from the path- I've never seen any in the wild before. I managed to take quite a lot of pictures, all using the 40-150 lens, before they ran away. I haven't edited many yet, but some of them aren't bad. When you've only got a few moments between seeing something and it vanishing for ever I don't know if it makes any difference what size camera you've got or how many letters you've got after your name, it's whether the lens that you've got on your camera will work and whether you can press the shutter quickly enough - and the E400 is certainly responsive.
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  #5  
Old 28th January 2008
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

What a pig that lecturer sounds to be - mind you he is only showing his own ignorance.

Why don't you get your own back by shooting excellent photos for class assignments - I've glanced at your site so I know you can do it.

Nick
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  #6  
Old 28th January 2008
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Just took a look at your deer pic on your website, Ellie. Fantastic! Very much look forward to seeing the rest when you're finished with them, so be sure to post them here, too, or flag them up with a link.

Your teacher sounds obnoxious. As someone who's been in education themselves, I'm cynical enough to wonder what a lettered professional photographer is doing teaching an unaccredited course for beginners if he's so great... Surely he ought to be schmoozing with celebs, like Mario Testino, or Annie Liebovitz, or Sam Taylor-Wood? No?

That said, I understand that it's easy come across as a bit arrogant when the truth is you're a bit ignorant. One of the things I used to be just a touch snobbish about was built-in flashes. Why does any self-respecting photographer need such a thing? The answer, I learnt this month, is because, sometimes - like on a long afternoon walk in a forest after a lovely lunch in a local restaurant - a flash just isn't something you necessarily have with you, even if you're an avid Strobist.blogspot.com reader like me.

It's a startling coincidence but it was an encounter with a deer that made me think differently about my E-400, too, while on was holiday. Imagine if you will, me, this time last week, in a forest, a bit tipsy from my Sunday beer, armed only with an E-400, no tripod, no telephoto and just a 14-54mm - but it could easily have been a 14-42mm - and only the built-in flash for additional light...


http://tinyurl.com/2hxjhs - for full-res
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  #7  
Old 28th January 2008
alert_bri
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Too true - the E-400 is a 10MP Kodak CCD classic!

Thanks for your review HP, I agree 100% - my E-400 is my main camera, with the E-3 and E-1 as backups simply because it is so portable and fun to use, and gives wonderful image quality all the way up to 800 ISO depending on your subject.

I recently posted a thread on dpreview, and attracted some other fans who also appreciate the benefits of owning this classic little DSLR...

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/re...ssage=26461461

I'll post a link from there to your impressions here - I think people will enjoy reading them.

Kind Regards

Brian
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  #8  
Old 29th January 2008
Ellie Ellie is offline
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Yes, Nick and 'Hiding_pup' - you're probably right.

I'm absolutely amazed at this deer picture, how on earth did you manage to capture it?

Mine will be up daily this week, the last one on Saturday. (This is the archive, so you can pick and choose what to look at.) Not quite as astonishing as yours, but it was one heck of an experience to see so many in one place.

alert_bri - I was pointed to your thread on dpreview by somebody on my blog site, from Canada, I was going to have a good read of it tomorrow.
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  #9  
Old 30th January 2008
Hiding_Pup
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Ellie, everyone here knows that animals prefer Olympus photographers to Canon/Nikon users - it's a fundamental law of nature :-) I've just "signed up" to your blog's RSS feed - haven't got a regularly updated photoblog myself so here's another, though this time with a 50-200mm and no flash:

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Old 23rd February 2008
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Hi there folks

I come from a long history of Nikon film SLRs and when it came to chosing a DSLR it was the small size of the E400 that decided it :-) I can get the camera and the two kit lenses in my jacket pockets. I added a Katzeye screen and often use old manual lenses - so its as close to a film SLR as I can get.. Excellent little gem.

Two gripes though: I wish Olympus would give us a minor upgrade (mirror lockup and focus confirm on legacy lenses etc etc...) Not much chance of that I guess.

Second, regret paying 600 for the kit considering how cheap it is now... But life is like that ain't it?

Pete
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  #11  
Old 23rd February 2008
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Thats an excellent write up, having previously used an E-1 and now an E-3 the E-400/410 really interest me. The size is the key, I used to use OM's and suspected that the size of the E-4** wouldn't be an issue even using something like the 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5. That was confirmed when I tried an E-410 with my 50-200 at the E-System Roadshow.

Ellie, I wouldn't worry about the naysayer's,

The Calf-Path
by Sam Walter Foss
(NH 1858-1911)

I.

One day, through the primeval wood,
A calf walked home, as good calves should;


II.

But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And, I infer, the calf is dead.
But still he left behind his trail,
And thereby hangs my moral tale.
The trail was taken up next day,
By a lone dog that passed that way.
And then a wise bell-wether sheep,
Pursued the trail o'er vale and steep;
And drew the flock behind him too,
As good bell-wethers always do.
And from that day, o'er hill and glade.
Through those old woods a path was made.


III.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged, and turned, and bent about;
And uttered words of righteous wrath,
Because 'twas such a crooked path.
But still they followed - do not laugh -
The first migrations of that calf.
And through this winding wood-way stalked,
Because he wobbled when he walked.


IV.

This forest path became a lane,
that bent, and turned, and turned again.
This crooked lane became a road,
Where many a poor horse with his load,
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.
And thus a century and a half,
They trod the footsteps of that calf.


V.

The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The road became a village street;
And this, before men were aware,
A city's crowded thoroughfare;
And soon the central street was this,
Of a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half,
Trod in the footsteps of that calf.


VI.

Each day a hundred thousand rout,
Followed the zigzag calf about;
And o'er his crooked journey went,
The traffic of a continent.
A Hundred thousand men were led,
By one calf near three centuries dead.
They followed still his crooked way,
And lost one hundred years a day;
For thus such reverence is lent,
To well established precedent.


VII.

A moral lesson this might teach,
Were I ordained and called to preach;
For men are prone to go it blind,
Along the calf-paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun,
To do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track,
And out and in, and forth and back,
And still their devious course pursue,
To keep the path that others do.
They keep the path a sacred groove,
Along which all their lives they move.
But how the wise old wood gods laugh,
Who saw the first primeval calf!
Ah! many things this tale might teach -
But I am not ordained to preach.


Wise words
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  #12  
Old 23rd February 2008
Hiding_Pup
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

What a great poem! I wonder whether the little calf have any opinions on APS-C vs 4/3 sized sensors...
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Old 23rd February 2008
DTD DTD is offline
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Still love the E-1 – build quality, ergonomics, 2 command dials and lots of direct access buttons. But I did use an E400 for several months and it was great to have such a portable camera – very snappable.
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Old 23rd February 2008
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiding_Pup View Post
What a great poem! I wonder whether the little calf have any opinions on APS-C vs 4/3 sized sensors...
I guess as he didn't spend much time, if any looking back he'd prefer 4/3rds
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Old 24th February 2008
Ellie Ellie is offline
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Re: E-400 from an E-1 user's perspective

What a superb poem, and so true too - although I think one of the reasons I chose the E-400 was because it felt like a film camera, which I was more used to. So in a way I was following some sort of beaten track by choosing the slightly retro feel.

And thanks too, sadly I gave up on the course because it wasn't going to take me anywhere, and with it got back my confidence in my camera thanks in part to people here.
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