Olympus E-620 - Whats good and bad about 4/3.

Olympus E-620 14-42mm kit zoom

As part of my spending spree on the Olympus refurbished website, I bought an Olympus E-620, a camera I've always wanted to try.

Olympus E-620 14-42mm kit zoom

To me it illustrates, in one camera, just exactly why the 4/3 system hasn't been as successful as perhaps it should have been.

The camera is almost faultless. Small light, yet fast in use, built in IS, articulated screen, good live view, the best dust spot removal system around, plus lots of other goodies. For the price point, it has wonderful specifications. However it is let down by, what I believe, has let down every other Olympus four thirds camera, a poor noisy sensor. It doesn't really matter how great the camera handles and what it will do if the end result, the image, is disappointing. The E-620 shows luminance noise at its base ISO of 200. By ISO 800 the image is starting to degrade.

Olympus E-620 Leica Panasonic 25mm Summilux

Olympus E-620 Leica Panasonic 14-150mm Vario-Elmar

Apparently the E-620 uses the same sensor as in the Panasonic G1. If this is true then I can't imagine what Olympus have done to it. Olympus cameras, and I include m4/3 in this tend to have a lot of luminance noise, even at their base ISO's. I've seen the reason given for this as (very roughly) -  that in order to protect the highlights and the dynamic range the camera underexposes and then lightens up the shadows. It does this while processing the image, even for raw. This tends to produce noisy shadow areas even at low ISO's. To a certain extent you can see this in a camera like the Panasonic GH2, though it does it much better than the E-620. 

Personally, I'm not that bothered about a few small blown highlights so long as the image looks good overall. However, it seems I may be in the minority with this. 

There's talk of a new "Pen Pro" and Olympus "designing" a sensor made by Panasonic. Personally I think they should just use what Panasonic produce and concentrate on what they are good at, designing beautiful cameras. Olympus outside, Panasonic inside has always struck me a great combination and works to both of those companies strengths. An E-P3 with the same design as the E-P1/2, the VF-2 moved inside the camera and the Panasonic GH2 sensor would be all the "pro" I would wish for in a Pen. 

Olympus E-620 Leica Panasonic 25mm Summilux

Olympus E-620 Leica Panasonic 25mm Summilux

Olympus E-620 Leica Panasonic 14-150mm Vario-Elmar

However as of yesterday I no longer have the E-620. I've sold it on ebay for what I paid for it.
A shame, since I have a real like of the four thirds concept. However, it seems that I'm never going to get what I want from it. The E-5 might be better, but its too heavy for me and more than I want to pay, so I'll stick with my E-PL2, which I do like and see what Olympus come up with on the m4/3 front.