Built like a tank
When you first hoist this 2.5-plus-pound camera, you might start wondering exactly how much a 15MB file weighs. But the aluminum body and 3-inch, 35mm to140mm (35mm camera equivalent) zoom lens deliver benefits that make them worth the weight. According to Olympus, the body dissipates noise-causing heat that can plague hi-res cameras (as we've seen with the Minolta Dimage 7), and the large, f-2.0 lens allows better light capture and the ability to accept 62mm lens add-ons. And even though it's heavy, the E-20N stood up to months of physical abuse at our hands.
Like the E-10, the E-20N surfaces all-important camera functions into button-dial combinations: you press the button to access a setting and use a dial to scroll through all of the options. Though the buttons all lie in the places where your fingers naturally rest while shooting, they seem to be randomly scattered around the camera: exposure compensation and macro on the left of the body, timer and metering to the left of the eyepiece, exposure lock in the back right behind the control dial, and so on. It takes repetitive use to be able to make adjustments without looking. However, Olympus has made playing back images more convenient on the E-20N by adding a quick-review function. By tapping twice on the display button you enter playback mode, but you return immediately to the previous shooting settings when you touch the shutter release. The LCD flips up for added shooting flexibility, though it's not nearly as useful as the fully rotating designs on cameras such as the Nikon .
We like the lithium CR-V3 batteries that ship with the camera; they last a long time, and you can pick them up at a corner drugstore (at least in New York City). In a pinch, the E-20N will take four AAs, or you can invest in one of the rechargeable options. The batteries can be awkward to replace since they slide into a holder that goes into the camera body. But you can easily change the batteries, as well as the CompactFlash or SmartMedia card (the camera ships with a 32MB version of the latter) while the E-20N is mounted on a tripod.
Two cameras in one
In addition to the standard interlace-scan shooting mode offered by all 5-megapixel cameras, the E-20N provides a progressive-scan mode. Though it limits your images to a maximum of 2.5 megapixels, it allows you to obtain shutter speeds up to 1/18,000 of a second--faster than what's available on any 4-plus-megapixel consumer camera. This greatly increases the variety of scenes that you can capture. Unfortunately, the E-20N limits you to a macro focus distance no closer than eight inches.