New Features and Improvements

As the E-510 was an E-410 with a more robust grip and the addition of in-camera IS, so the E-520 is an E-420 with a bigger hand grip and added IS. This keeps the E-520 body small and the weight is 475g (16.8oz) compared to the 380g (13.4oz) of the E-420. The E-520, like the E-420, also introduces significant changes in Live View and AF that include the addition of Contrast-Detect AF.

The Live-MOS sensor in the E-420 and now the E-520 provides AF on the LCD screen with a push of the shutter-release halfway - without the LCD blackout that is necessary when a mirror-flip is required. The new sensor also provides 11-point multiple AF with the contrast detection system. The Focusing specifications provide a clearer picture of the significant changes to the AF capabilities in Live View mode.

Olympus E-520 Autofocus
AF system TTL phase difference detection system, contrast detection system (with 25mm f2.8, 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, 40-150mm f4.0-5.6)
Focus mode Single AF (S-AF) / Continuous AF (C-AF)* / Manual Focus (MF) / S-AF + MF / C-AF + MF. C-AF mode is not available with the contrast detection system
Focusing point 3-point multiple AF with the phase difference detection system (Auto, selectable in option)
11-point multiple AF with the contrast detection system (Auto, selectable in option)

Not long ago, Olympus surprised users with firmware updates to their 14-42mm f3.5-5.6, 40-150mm f4-5.6, and new 25mm f2.8 pancake lens that supported Contrast-Detect AF on the Panasonic Lumix L10. That seemed a strange firmware update at the time, but now that the new E-420 and E-520 feature the same Contrast-Detect AF as the L10 it is now making some sense. The new 11-point Contrast-Detect AF combined with Face Detect On the E-520, E-420, and Panasonic L10 is a real joy to use. It is not as fast or seamless as the Sony A350 Live View, but the LCD screen is virtually a 100% view with fewer compromises. Significantly, the E-420/E-520/L10 Live View also supports 7X/10X magnification in Live view mode to assist in precise focusing. That is a feature not available on the competing Sony A350/A300. Live View also supports the MF/S-AF mode, which allows manual touch up in AF on the LCD after AF.

Perhaps Olympus did not want to emphasize the fact that their E-520 and E-420 featured the same Dual Live View system as the Panasonic L10, as you really have to dig a bit to figure out the systems appear to be the same, which should come as no surprise since Panasonic currently manufactures sensors for both Olympus and Panasonic cameras. However, the L10 has been well received for its features, if not its cost, and Olympus users will be happy to know 11-point Contrast-Detect AF is available in Live View even if the Phase-Detect system remains 3-pont.

The HyperCrystal II LCD display grows to 2.7 inches in the E-520, matching the new E-420. The Olympus trademark Supersonic Wave Filter auto-sensor cleaning system has appeared on every Olympus DSLR since the E-1 and it is continued on the new E-520. Sensor Resolution remains 10MP (megapixels) derived from 11.8 million effective pixels. While the resolution is the same as the E-510 it appears the sensor for the E-520 and E-420 are upgraded from the earlier models.

Index Olympus E-520 Competition
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  • steveyballme - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    I just prefer my ZuneCam because it's lighter!

    http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com">http://fakesteveballmer.blogspot.com
    Reply
  • illusionist - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Is it just me or ya'll get the feeling that this place is owned/heavily sponsored by nvidia?
    Reply
  • Rev1 - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Is it me or was the reply completely irrelevant to the review here? Reply
  • teldar - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Sounds like it may be interesting.
    I have to say that I would really like the new Pentax k20 when I graduate, but the new lenses for them start around $600. To get a 2 lens kit similar to what is available with this olympus, it's around $2300. I little on the pricey side for a definitely amateur photographer.
    Maybe in the next year, Olympus will upgrade their autofocus one more time.

    T
    Reply
  • trisweb3 - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Disclaimer: I am an Olympus user and I like the cameras, but I try to keep very objective about camera brands as it doesn't help anyone to argue over them - just use what's best to you. Okay then.

    Wesley, AnandTech, I know you are not digital camera specialists and you're trying to give this a chance, and I appreciate the attention you're giving to alternative brands and other option, kudos there, but putting real trust in your reviews is somewhat difficult for me personally. There's a lot of speculation, missed points, incomplete understanding, and a general misconception of what's important and what's not in a digital camera.

    For example (this was what really hit me in this review) the white balance preset for Tungsten light is absolutely 100% completely inconsequential to actual photography. It's meaningless, just use a different preset or set the white balance so white is white, every modern camera can do this, and it's no merit or demerit of any of these, yet it got a good three paragraphs of attention in the review.

    Also, it may be important to you, but you lambaste the 3-point AF system as a true failing of the camera. While I find that's true if you use multi-point autofocus extensively, on every camera I've ever used, I just want the center point so I know where focus is going to go. It is certainly a limitation that people should know about, but it's not going to have the same importance to everyone else as it did to you. Not bad though, it's good to know.

    The paragraph on Image Quality was entirely about noise - this is not the only aspect of the image that people care about. What about color balance and appearance? Highlight and shadow rendition? Dynamic range? I'd love to hear more depth to this important bit.

    On the other hand, things about this camera that are truly important features were relatively ignored. What about in-camera image stabilization? Most people don't know how useful it is to have every lens stabilized. What about the dust-buster that really works, so you never have to clean the sensor?

    On the positive side, it's great to see a review on a large site that really focuses on the amateur average user and brings everything to a good conclusion. It's nice to hear it from a "Well, here's what I thought of it, let me show you" perspective. Plus, it should also be telling that real users such as yourself actually enjoy using Olympus DSLRs. I know I have, and convincing people of the validity of the E-system is always a bit difficult.

    So, keep it up, keep learning, try to stay objective, and try to focus on what's really important and don't worry too much about trivial details if you can avoid it. Thanks!
    Reply
  • Wesley Fink - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Thank you for your reply, but I still disagree with your claim that focus points don't matter. If they truly don't matter then why does Olympus use 11 double-cross points (44 segments) in the E-3 and only 3 in the E-510. Why then, does Nikon use 51 points in their top cameras and only 3 in their D60, and why does Canon use more points as the price goes up?

    I do agree that the number of points really don't matter in thoughtful photography when you have the time and know what you're doing. However, in action, sports, or even photographing active kids the number of points and focus tracking definitely DOES matter. Try shooting sports or playing kids with a D300 compared to the E-520 and you will also be convinced. ANY kind of focus tracking is very difficult to impossible with just 3 points. Can you take great photos with just 3 points or even one point or none - of course you can, but that is not the point.

    My point was that in a comparison to other cameras in its class the E-520 falls short in the AF module, and that does matter in the marketplace. Almost every other camera with which the E-520 competes has more AF points, better focus tracking, and faster AF, and that definitely DOES matter to many buyers.

    In other areas like color accuracy Olympus does a very fine job. The E-3 AF is SO much better in AF that its a fair question as to why Olympus won't bring some of that technology to their new, lower-priced cameras. It would definitely make Olympus even more competitive.

    I did overemphasize noise, as you point out. That was primarily because Nikon and Canon users often unfairly criticize Olympus for their noise as Inherently the case due to the smaller 4/3 sensor. The real size difference between 4/3 and Canon's 1.6X APS-C is fairly minimal and I was trying to put that concern to rest. Olympus has done a good job of bringing the excellent image processing and noise reduction from the E-3 to the E-520, and I believe it is important to show that to the rock-throwers.

    As for white balance Tungsten performance on Auto WB and Tungsten presets I confess that is a pet peeve. If you only shoot outdoors or in a studio they really don't matter. However, amateurs shoot indoors without flash - which is one of the reasons they step up from a P&S. How an entry level camera handles indoor available-light shooting is VERY important, IMO, in evaluating a camera - particularly an entry-level camera.

    Of course photographers and those who understand color temperatures and how to set up Custom White Balance can deal with poor Tungsten balance, but it still is very time consuming. For first time DSLR buyers, however, orange tinted photos are often a mystery. In case it wasn't clear the Olympus Tungsten preset did a pretty good job. Auto WB in tungsten lighting, however, was about as bad as Canon and Nikon. Actually Sony does the best job of handling Tungsten under Auto that I have seen in current DSLR cameras.
    Reply
  • melgross - Thursday, August 28, 2008 - link

    White balance settings don't matter at all if you're using RAW, in a proper converter. You can try setting a scene at any setting, and they will all become the same in the converter when the settings are changed there.

    But, when shooting JPEG, is sure does make a difference. Whatever setting is used determines the final quality. changing from one to the other can almost destroy the the image from a quality viewpoint.

    So I agree that whitepoint settings are very important if you shoot JPEC, as many amateurs sadly do. but for RAW shooters, it doesn't matter at all.

    I also agree that noise is very important. It determines the effective dynamic range of the camera.

    Color accuracy is like white balance. Shoot RAW, and it isn't too important (esp. when a camera uses 14 bit conversion). But when shooting JPEGs it is.
    Reply
  • trisweb3 - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Thanks for justifying all that, great response and I appreciate it.

    I wasn't arguing that focus points don't matter, I definitely see the value in having more and better of them, but I was just saying that it may not be as important to everyone as it is for you. But I've decided I sort of like your injection of opinion into reviews and while it's a different style than you usually see online, it's refreshing as well.

    I'm a happy Olympus user and fan as well, so I'm well up on all the noise, sensor size, and competitive comparison issues that normally come up. Just playing a little devil's advocate to try to keep you thinking :) Thanks again.
    Reply
  • pinto4402 - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Hey Wes,

    Keep up the good work. You bring a different perspective to camera reviews, and I appreciate it. I regularly read all the other review sites, but I actually look forward to your articles. Many reviewers tend to fetishize new technology for its own sake. You, on the other hand, actually evaluate whether a new technology is actually useful. Also, you take responsibility for your opinions as opposed to hiding behind statistics and "objective" tests which often times are quite useless to most photographers.

    You're not going to please everyone. Your article style is definitely not typical, but that's okay because we need a different voice in the camera reviewing universe.
    Reply
  • melgross - Wednesday, August 27, 2008 - link

    Compared to what? Everything other than Canon and Nikon?

    The two together have almost 90% of all D-SLR sales. That leaves the other 10% or so to Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Sigma, Panasonic, Samsung, etc.
    Reply

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