Composition and screen
Like traditional digital SLRs, composition with the E-500 is performed using its optical viewfinder alone. The shooting information is shown on a vertical strip to the right of the focusing screen and includes aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, metering and shooting mode.
The view through any digital SLR with a cropped sensor can appear quite small compared to a full-frame digital or 35mm film camera, but the E-500's appears even smaller still. It may deliver the typical 95 per cent field of view, but thanks to the squarer 4:3 aspect ratio of its sensor, the view appears narrower than other digital SLRs. It really is like peering through a tunnel, although after a while you get used to it.
Compensating for the tiny viewfinder is a generous 2.5in colour screen. Since this occupies a large portion of the rear of the camera and there's no room on the top surface, this main screen doubles-up for showing shooting information - just like the Konica Minolta 5D.
Like the KM 5D, you can also cycle between two different formatting options, by pressing the Info button. The more detailed of the two shows an absolute wealth of information including the image pixel dimensions, colour space, sharpness, contrast and saturation settings. By pressing the OK button you can also move around this page using the four buttons and select the option you'd like to change without having to delve into menus.
This selection process works well in practice, although it's annoying to find the screen still illuminated as you move your eye to the viewfinder to take a picture. This can be quite distracting, but rather than sensibly fit an proximity sensor like Konica Minolta, you'll need to manually turn the E-500's screen off by pressing the info button again. Unlike the Konica Minolta D-SLRs, the information on the screen also doesn't rotate as you turn the camera body. This and the eye proximity sensor are small points, but illustrate the 5D's classiness.
What the E-500 lacks in this respect though it makes up for in detail and options. During playback the Info button allows you to cycle through no fewer than seven pages of information including brightness or RGB histograms and separate flashing Highlight and Shadow warnings. It's impressive to have this level of information available, especially on a budget model.
The E-500 allows you to zoom-in up to 14 times on images during playback, although unfortunately there doesn't appear to be any detail beyond the 8x position. Don't worry, there really is additional detail on images recorded at the full resolution, but annoyingly you can't see it all when zooming-in during playback. This is a disappointment for anyone who likes zooming-in to the maximum detail available, perhaps to confirm the focus.