When the Olympus E-3 was featured last December, the 11-point dual cross (44 point) sensor stood out from the crowd - in speed and accuracy. As pointed out in that article, Olympus needed to move as much of the E-3 technology as possible to their regular DSLR line as fast as possible. When Olympus announced the E-520 just a couple of months ago it appeared Olympus might have done just that.

It does appear the new E-520 brings over a substantial amount of E-3 technology, but it does borrow form other top four-thirds cameras as well. It even brings over contrast detect focusing with 11 points from Panasonic/Leica. However, the 3-point autofocus that appears so dated is continued in the E-520. Where other DSLR manufacturers are now featuring fast 9-point AF modules, Olympus and Nikon still relegate 3-point AF to their entry models. This is somewhat surprising since nothing else about the E-520 is entry-level except the price.

At $699 street price for the E-520 with the 14-42mm (28-84mm) kit lens, the E-520 competes with the Nikon D60 kit with VR lens ($699), Canon XS kit with IS lens ($705), Sony A300 kit ($599), and Pentax K200D kit ($699). The Sony A350 kit ($799) and Canon XSi ($799) are a small step up. There are even two lower priced models that compete in the Sony A200 and Olympus E-420 - both of which are available with the kit lens at around the $499 price point. This is an extremely crowded field, with many competing DSLR cameras in the price range from $499 to $799. The question then becomes whether the E-520 represents good value in this huge group filled with many excellent DSLR cameras.

Olympus also markets a two-lens kit that adds the excellent and tiny 40-150mm (80-300mm) telephoto zoom. The two-lens E-520 kit adds just $100 to the total. Sony also markets two-lens kit versions of the A200, A350, and A350, but the telephoto premium is $200 in the Sony kits for the added 75-300mm (112-450mm) zoom.

The Olympus E-520 is an upgrade to the E-510, which has been the biggest seller for Olympus in the consumer DSLR space. The new model adds processing improvements, more effective in-body IS (Image Stabilization) that works with any lens, and what Olympus describes as on-LCD Autofocus combined with Face Detection. These are the same updates that recently made their way to the tiny E-420, while keeping and improving the "IS with any lens" that was a standout feature of the E-510.

Olympus describes the improved Live View technology as "advanced autofocus Live View enables photographers to compose their images and bring them into sharp focus on the HyperCrystal II LCD - just like a point-and-shoot camera." While Olympus did not provide much detail, it is now clear the new Live View on the E-420 and now the E-520 adds Contrast Detection AF to the Phase-Detection AF used in the last generation E-410 and E-510. This is the same technology used by Panasonic in their swing-tilt-swivel screen Lumix L10.

Since Olympus pioneered Live View, which is now appearing on almost every new DSLR, it should come as no surprise that Olympus has enhanced Live View on the latest models to better compete in this fiercely competitive market. However, for now the new Contrast Detect Live View and face detect only works with a few Olympus and Panasonic/Leica lenses. Considering the fact Olympus added the Contrast Detect AF with just a Firmware flash to the lenses, it certainly appears Contrast Detect AF and Face Detection capabilities could be added to other lenses in the future with a firmware upgrade.

New Features and Improvements


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  • trisweb3 - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    For Olympus, the E-510 and E-410, and now the -20 series, have certainly sold better than any previous models.

    Wish I had facts to back this up, but I can only go off what my local photo store tells me about the E-420/520 selling like hotcakes.

    Obviously Canon/Nikon are still at the top, but the improvement is notable.
  • melgross - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    Better than any of THEIR previous models. That doesn't make it a best seller. Reply
  • araczynski - Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - link

    i'll need to come back here to read up on this again when i'm in the market for a new slr in the next year, hopefully this isn't all old news by then. Reply

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