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Hailed as the world's smallest and lightest DSLR, the Olympus E-420 replaces the E-410 in the Olympus Four-Thirds system line-up. With 10 million effective pixels, from a total of 11.8 million, it seems like Olympus may have hit a bottleneck with the four-thirds sensor. This is the sixth DSLR in the range (since the original E-400) to feature this pixel count - and that includes the flagship E-3.
At the same time as Olympus announced this model, it also launched a 25mm f/2.8 pancake lens, which, with the camera's 2x magnification ratio equates to 50mm in 35mm terms. This low profile lens combined with the small camera promises to be an almost pocketable DSLR (for cargo pants wearers at least). However for the purpose of this test we used the 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens pictured. Like the other cameras from the E-400 series, this model doesn't have in-camera image stabilisation.
Despite the small size of the camera's body, Olympus has managed to incorporate a 2.7inch LCD onto the back of the camera, with Live View courtesy of the Live MOS sensor. Like the E-520, the E420 has autofocus in Live View mode, thanks to the inclusion of both contrast detection AF (usually found in compact cameras) and phase difference detection system (normally used in DSLRs), making the focusing with Live View much quicker. The default autofocus setting is the Imager AF mode, in which focus is maintained by the imaging sensor. In this mode the reflex mirror doesn't move during shooting, maintaining a clear view of the scene at all times, though the image dims slightly during exposure.
Two further AF mode options are in the menu; Sensor AF which uses the sensor built into the pentaprism, and Hybrid AF, which uses a combination of both sensors depending on whether the shutter is depressed halfway or all the way down. The Imager AF offers 11-selectable focus points, while the other two only offer three selectable AF points. The camera also now has face detection AF.
Olympus also claims that the LCD, which uses it's improved HyperCrystal II Technology, delivers twice the contrast of previous models and offers better viewing in extreme lighting conditions. Olympus also claims it offers better colour detail and a wider angle of view of 176 degrees. Resolution has been given a slight boost in the process with 230,000 dots as opposed to 215,000 on the E-410.