The Olympus dSLR line offers a great alternative to the big two and end up providing, with cameras like the E-510, a compact and high quality solution.
The E-510 is a great little camera. Now replaced by the E-520, which we are currently testing and will post test results shortly, the E-510 is still for sale in many places and will enjoy a great life on the secondhand market.
The E-510 packs a lot into a small camera: Live View, in body image stabilization, dust removal, a decent buffer so you never have to wait to shoot again (unless perhaps shooting sports), 10MPixels and a great range of exposure modes. It is convenient to handle, quite compact and takes great images. Because of the small sensor, the consumer model lenses, at least, are very compact, so your whole outfit can fit in a very small space.
We’ve been shooting with the E-510 for some time and have found the image quality excellent. Below you’ll find short exposure and long (15 second) exposure test card results, which show a reasonable noise control in the camera, we don’t actually shoot test cards. When you examine the 100% sections from real shots you find very low noise at all ISO settings and certainly lower than you might expect from a small sensor. All these are taken with noise reduction turned off to show the actual noise the camera produces.
15 second exposures
For the photography I do, I would consider this camera quite useable up to 800ISO, though I find the noise at 1600ISO too high for my tastes.
All round, the E-510 is a great camera. There are a few things that annoy, such as the exposure bracketing only allowing a maximum of three shots spaced one stop apart, which makes HDR harder than it should be, but in general this is a great camera that is certainly easy to take with you anywhere.
You will find RAW files from this test on our camera test page where you can download them and examine them yourselves.