Olympus are a well established digital camera manufacturer, offering a full range of compacts, digital SLRs and their small form factor PEN range of interchangeable lens cameras. Olympus are behind both Canon and Nikon in terms of market share, but their cameras are well regarded and offer excellent quality – certainly their PEN system is well worth considering if you’re after the features of a DSLR in a compact package.
Olympus manufacture a large range of compacts split into three lines – Easy, Stylish and Creative.
The most basic Easy models, such as the FE-26 and FE-4000 retail at under £100. Whilst they don’t offer huge feature sets, both have a basic zoom and more than enough megapixels, though in reality the Nikon Coolpix L21 is far better than any of Olympus’ low-end offerings.
The Stylus TOUGH models are a more interesting proposition, being shock and waterproof. The TOUGH-3000 shown here is a good low cost option for those who can utilise these features (or those who are notoriously clumsy!), whilst the TOUGH-8010 offers a more capable camera whilst retaining the rugged build.
The Creative line of Olympus compacts would be more fairly described as bridge cameras. They are physically larger than a typical compact model, and offer a larger image sensor (for better quality), a large non-interchangeable lens, and far more manual control than most compacts.
The Olympus SP-800UZ is the top of the Creative range, offering a 30x optical zoom and 14Mp sensor, yet sells for much less than even the most basic DSLRs.
The Olympus PEN line is a digital compact system of interchangeable lens cameras that aren’t strictly digital SLRs. They boast a comparatively compact form factor (similar to that of a typical bridge camera) but with the benefit of interchangeable lenses. The EP-2 is the flagship model, though all of the PEN cameras offer HD video and full time live view. They use the Micro Four thirds standard for the interchangeable lenses, the same as that adopted by Panasonic on their G Micro System.
The benefits are a smaller body than a typical DSLR, but lenses and accessories are harder to come by and can be pricey. If size is a big issue and you definitely want DSLR-esque lens flexibility then the PEN range is worth considering, though they tend to be more expensive than the similarly spec’d Panasonic G Micro System models.
Olympus DSLRs have long suffered a poor market share, although those who have them are usually very happy with them (Mark is one of those people!). One of the main selling points of Olympus DSLRs is that they are generally very compact compared to the offerings from Canon and Nikon (the E-450 is marketed as the worlds most compact DSLR).
Criticism of Olympus DSLRs is not uncommon, although largely this is based on the availability and cost of lenses and accessories rather than on any quality issues. On the plus side, the initial cost of the entry-level models is generally lower than the equivalent Canon or Nikon.
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