Angela Nicholson explains the benefits of buying a second DSLR and compares some of these more affordable DSLR cameras with enthusiast-centric models

Buying a second DSLR – Olympus

Olympus E-450 DSLRIts compact form, Super Control Panel and attractive sub-£300 price makes the E-450 a good second-body option for Olympus E-3, E-30 and E-620 users.

With street prices in the region of £740 for the E-30 and £499 for the E-620, these models are unlikely to find a home in any enthusiast’s camera bag alongside an Olympus E-3 (£977).

However, in addition to a newer 12.3-million-pixel Live-MOS sensor, these two cameras offer Olympus’s Art Filters, which aren’t featured on its now two-and-a-half-year-old top-end model.

Fortunately, Olympus is habitually generous with the features it gives its lower-end DSLRs and even the entry-level E-450, which is available for £298.99, has three Art Filters (Pop Art, Pin Hole and Soft Focus).

Unlike the rest of the Olympus DSLR range, the E-450 doesn’t have in-camera image stabilisation (IS), but this needn’t be a major concern if it is usually married with wideangle optics while the first body is used with telephoto lenses. Those who cannot bear the thought of a second body without IS may prefer to spend a few pounds more and opt for the E-520, which is available from around £315.

Image quality

One downside of the E-450 is that with an effective of pixel count of 10 million, it has around two million fewer pixels than Olympus’s other DSLRs. Fortunately, this makes little practical difference to the size of images when they are prepared for printing.

Examining our resolution chart images from the E-30, E-620 and E-450 also confirms that it makes very little difference to the amount of detail that is visible in images. Interestingly, when the high-sensitivity noise reduction is set to its default value, the JPEG images are much noisier than comparable files from the E-620 and E-450 – both of which produce pretty similar amounts of noise across the sensitivity range.

At ISO 1600 JPEG images from the E-30 have around twice as much noise as those from the E-450 and E-620. This is likely to be the result of the older E-30 having the TruePic III image processing engine, while the E-450 and E-620 have the newer TruePic III+ engine.

LCD screens

Olympus E3 with articulated LCD screen

E-3 users may miss the articulated screen when they switch to an E-450 or E-520.

Neither the E-450 nor the E-520 has an articulated screen, so E-3, E-30 and E-620 users will find their existing cameras are the best choice for low-angle shots.

Olympus E-450

Olympus doesn’t skimp on the build quality of its entry-level cameras, so the E-450 won’t disappoint. Nevertheless, it weighs just 380g and is one of the lightest DSLRs around. It’s also only a little bigger than the mirrorless Panasonic Lumix DMC-G2, so it makes a good choice for Four Thirds devotees looking for a small, highly portable camera.

However, the lack of any meaningful fingergrip makes the camera better suited for use with shorter optics rather than with telephoto lenses.

Although it has comparatively few buttons and dials, the four navigation controls on the back of the E-450 can be set to provide shortcuts to some of the most commonly used features. With the exception of the function (Fn) button, however, these controls have no markings so the photographer must remember their role. If this is an issue, again the E-520 may be a better choice.

Olympus back: The E-450

Image: The E-450’s Super Control Panel provides a quick way to check and change settings

Super Control Panel

Like Olympus’s other DSLRs, the E-450 and E-520 have a Super Control Panel display on the LCD screen that is interactive, and allows users to check and adjust a larger number of the camera settings. This makes it relatively easy to switch between using different cameras within the range.

Different AF systems

Using a camera with a slower AF system or one that has fewer AF points than your main camera can take a little getting used to, but it is still possible to get top-notch results.

Even photographers with cameras that have tens of AF points often use the central point for the vast majority of their photography, preferring to use the focus-and-recompose technique. When the subject is off-centre, this can often be faster than using the navigation controls to activate one of the outer AF points.

The central AF point is also usually the most sensitive so it can make focusing quicker, especially in low light.

When photographing moving subjects with a lacklustre AF system, it can be helpful to pre-focus. With a cyclist, for example, focus on the point they will occupy when the composition is perfect before they arrive there, then begin firing as they approach to ensure the moment is captured. You should also consider using a smaller aperture than you might normally as the greater depth of field will help conceal some focus inaccuracy.

  E-30 E-620 E-520 E-450
Date tested 21 Feb 2009 18 April 2009 5 July 2008 20 June 2009
Pixel count 12.3 million 2.3 million 10 million 10 million
Street price £740 £499 £315 £298.99
AF points 11 7 3 3
Max sensitivity range ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-3200 ISO 100-1600 ISO 100-1600
Memory card CF, xD CF, xD  CF, xD CF, xD
Battery BLM-1 BLS-1 BLM-1 BLS-1

  1. 1. Choosing a second body
  2. 2. Buying a second DSLR - Canon
  3. 3. Buying a second DSLR - Nikon
  4. 4. Buying a second DSLR - Olympus
  5. 5. Buying a second DSLR - Pentax
  6. 6. Buying a second DSLR - Sony
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