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Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 1

Back in the early days of consumer digital photography, I was a bit of an Olympus fanboy. My first camera was the D-300L (launched in 1996 for around $900), which had a resolution of just 786k pixels. A year later I stepped up to the D-600L ($1299), which increased the resolution to 1.4MP and had a 3X zoom lens and, in a first for consumer cameras, a TTL optical viewfinder.

Then, in the year 2000, a really interesting camera arrived and, as you may have guessed, it was an Olympus. That camera was the E-10 and, after shelling out two grand, it would be mine.

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 2

Even if you ignore its hallmark feature (described later), the E-10’s specs were amazing for its time. It had a 4MP 2/3″ CCD, fast and very high quality lens with manual focus and zoom rings, twin control dials, an articulating LCD and much, much more.

In the above image alone you’ll notice its numerous collection of I/O ports, which included flash sync, remote control, USB and A/V output. There were plenty of direct controls, too, which kept you at an arm’s-length from the camera’s menu system.

The body was super-solid – perhaps more than some DSLRs of that era – and was weather-sealed.

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 3

Oh, that lens. The E-10’s 35-140mm equivalent lens has a maximum aperture range of F2-2.4, both aspherical and ED elements, and excellent sharpness. The zoom could be adjusted just like on an SLR – no buttons needed to be pressed. Focusing, on the other hand, was ‘fly by wire.’ The lens was threaded and Olympus offered some pretty crazy conversion lenses for it.

The E-10 had a pretty advanced AF system for that era. It first used infrared light (from a transmitter seen here) to get a rough idea as to the distance of the subject. Once that was done a more traditional contrast-detect system was used for fine-tuning.

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 4

Another nice feature on the E-10 was its articulating LCD (look how thick that enclosure is!). The 1.8″ screen could tilt upward 90° and downward about 20°. The E-10 also had a large optical viewfinder with 95% coverage, though DPReview founder Phil Askey had some issues with it.

Rear controls were conventional and could’ve come off of any camera made that year.

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 5

A number of things that made the E-10 feel a bit ‘pro’ were its dual control dials and backlit LCD info display. That SM/CF switch is how you toggled between memory card slots. Yes, the E-10 had two; one for SmartMedia and the other for CompactFlash. Looking back, I still have to laugh at the dedicated spots on the mode dial for connecting to a printer or computer. Those were the days (or not.)

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10

Throwback Thursday: Olympus E-10 6

I’ve covered many of the things that made the Olympus E-10 such an impressive camera, but I’ve been saving what makes it unique for the end. The E-10 was the first camera to allow photographers to use live view at the same time as the optical viewfinder. It does so via a ‘beam splitter’ which sent a TTL view of the scene to the camera’s large OVF and directly to that 4MP CCD. 

This was all very impressive, though the live view resolution was poor. And, for those wondering, the E-10 could not capture video. Can’t have everything, I guess. 

Overall, though, the E-10 was a heck of a camera, and one that I used for many years (and still have today.) For those who wanted an SLR-like camera that didn’t require carrying around extra lenses, there was nothing else like it on the market.

Read DPReview’s Olympus E-10 Review

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