When going up against Canon and Nikon digital SLRs, manufacturers have to offer something pretty compelling -- awesome speed, fabulous photo quality, one-of-a-kind features, a great design or a bargain price for the whole package -- to draw attention to themselves. The E-620 is a solid example of an inexpensive dSLR (it costs around £550 for the body only), but it doesn't really distinguish itself from the crowd, much less from the offerings of Olympus' two biggest competitors.
In addition to the 69mm (2.7-inch) flip-out-and-twist LCD display, standard on most Olympus models, the E-620 has some good touches, including a built-in wireless flash controller -- lacking in competitors like the Canon EOS 500D and Nikon D5000 -- and in-body image stabilisation. But, although it offers competitive photo quality, it lacks the (admittedly primitive) video-capture capability that Canon and Nikon have brought down to this price segment, and it can't match their performance or comparatively streamlined interfaces.
Olympus offers three configurations of the E-620: body only, a kit with the 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 lens (about £600), and a two-lens kit with that lens plus the 40-150mm f4-5.6 lens (around £710). Given the Four Thirds standard's 2x focal-length multiplier, those lenses cover the equivalent angle of view as 35mm-based 28-84mm and 80-300mm lenses.
At around 540g, with dimensions of 130 by 94 by 61mm, the E-620 is about the same size and weight as the 500D, but is lighter and more compact than the D5000 and Sony Alpha DSLR-A380. It has Olympus' trademark grip, which is shallower and less comfortable than its competitors' grips. That's definitely a good reason for you to hold the camera and give it a feel before you buy. Although made of plastic, it nevertheless feels solid and well built.
Unlike many of the newer, simpler designs for entry-level models, the E-620 retains plenty of button-based direct-access controls. In fact, it has the same controls as the higher-end E-30, albeit laid out differently because of the different body size. This may make the camera look intimidating for first-time dSLR buyers, although the controls operate in a pretty straightforward manner.
The mode dial sits to the left of the viewfinder, containing the usual array of modes: program, aperture/shutter-priority, and manual (PASM); the most frequently used scene program modes; full auto; and art/scene, in which you can select from the handful of Olympus 'art filters' or an additional set of scene program modes. To the right of that is a dial for navigating menus and options, which operates in conjunction with the four-way navigation and OK buttons on the back.
Those buttons bring up options for ISO sensitivity (100 to 3,200), white balance (presets, manual and Kelvin), autofocus (single, continuous and manual, plus AF and single with manual override) and metering (digital ESP/evaluative, centre-weighted, and shadow, highlight and standard spot). A drive-mode button to the left of the viewfinder offers up single shot, high (4 frames per second) and low (1-3fps) speed burst, 2- or 12-second self-timers, and remote/delayed operation. In a pleasing touch, the labels on the back buttons illuminate.