• Price When Reviewed: 280 . 323

  • Pros: Excellent handling and build; ultra-compact dimensions; excellent Shadow Adjustment Technology; affordable price; impressive range of pro-spec lenses.

  • Cons: Increased noise at ISO 800 and ISO 1600, using the Shadow Adjustment Technology; no anti-shake option.

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

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Although we generally prefer larger camera bodies, the tiny dimensions and well-laid out controls felt comfortable and intuitive. Olympus still can’t be beat when it comes to making selections from the camera’s data panel. The E-420 is generally one button-push ahead of rivals – which really counts when the speed of operation means getting that once-in-a-lifetime shot.

Any traces of sluggishness are forgotten when using the viewfinder to focus and compose your shot. It’s blisteringly fast to auto-focus, and shot-to-times won’t keep you waiting. Bursts of up to 3.5fps are on a par with rivals, but it’s a long way short of the semi-pro models for action sequences. Still, other than a still slightly small viewfinder image, we’ve no complaints with handling or operation.

With the optimized exposure and great colour, picture quality is high, certainly at low ISOs. At ISO 800 and the maximum of ISO 1600, noise levels start to creep upwards, though the Noise Filter option can help keep the colour blotches at bay while maintaining reasonable detail.

It all adds up to a mature and sensible processing strategy, though we noticed some coloured banding in shadow areas with Hi-ISO’s and the Auto Gradation option enabled. All that’s really missing is an image-stabilization system.