Olympus E-520 Review

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The Olympus E-520 is a unique camera and I’ve found it a little hard to explain exactly how and why I like it so much. This may sound strange to some, but photography isn’t all about image quality. What makes a good camera is the balance between image quality, camera handling, and the photographer’s budget. My main cameras this year have been the Olympus E-520, the Olympus E-3, the Canon XTi / 400D, the Canon XSi / 450D, the Canon EOS 40D, and the Canon EOS 50D. Although it doesn’t have the best image quality of the bunch, the camera I used the most this year was the E-520. For me, the E-520 strikes the best balance between camera size, handling, and image quality. It’s my favorite camera for outdoor photography, where a smaller, lighter rig means always having the camera with you and getting more photos. For the price, the E-520 is really hard to beat. And the unique mix of compact size, great Olympus glass, and built-in image stabilization set it apart and make it a special camera – reminiscent of the discontinued and much-revered Olympus OM 35mm SLRs.

Who Should Buy It
The Olympus E-520 is an excellent choice for:

  • Travel and outdoor photographers who want a light, compact digital SLR system
  • Olympus E-System owners who want to upgrade from the E-510 or other older Olympus DSLRs – it’s a worthy upgrade.
  • Olympus E-3 owners who want a small, light backup camera.
  • First-time digital SLR buyers who want a lot of value for their camera dollar.

This camera is not the best choice for:

  • Professional sports photographers or photojournalists for whom speed and accuracy are top priorities.
  • Studio and landscape photographers who need maximum resolution, detail, and image quality.
  • People who are uncomfortable with small cameras – try it on for size before you buy.

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Contents of the Olympus E-520 Box

  • Olympus E-520 body
  • ED 14-42mm Zoom lens
  • Li-ion Battery BLM-1
  • Li-ion battery charger BCM-2
  • USB 2.0 cable
  • Video cable
  • Shoulder strap
  • OLYMPUS Master 2 CD-ROM
  • Instruction Manual
  • Registration card
  • Eyepiece cap EP-4
  • Lens and Body Caps
  • Lens Hood

Other Resources:
Olympus E-520 Announcement And Preview >>
Compare Prices For Olympus E-520 >>
Olympus E-520 User Reviews >>
Write a Olympus E-520 Review >>
Olympus E-520 Camera Specs >>
Olympus E-520 Sample Gallery >>
Olympus Web site >>
Download Olympus E-520 Camera Manual >>
All Digital Camera Pro Reviews >>
Digital Camera Buyer’s Guide >>
All Digital Camera Sample Images >>

All photos copyright Photo-John and/or PhotographyREVIEW.com.

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About the author: Photo-John

Photo-John, a.k.a. John Shafer, is the managing editor of PhotographyREVIEW.com and has been since the site launched back in 1999. He's an avid outdoor enthusiast and spends as much time as possible on his mountain bike, hiking or skiing in the mountains. He's been taking pictures for ever and ever, and never goes anywhere without a camera.

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  • Photo-John says:

    I posted a link for this review along with a request for feedback on the Flickr Olympus E-System Community group page. I got a little more than I bargained for – possibly because this wasn’t a 100% glowing review. Some people seemed to miss the fact that I really like the E-520 and encourage people to consider it seriously. But within the grumbling about details, I was offered some very good criticism, as well as some error corrections. I believe I’ve fixed all of my mistakes (thanks, Velocity of Sound). And I’ve tried to address the criticism within the review without completely rewriting it. Specifically, I’ve rewritten the Conclusion and added a note about how I shoot to the end of the Image Quality section. But like I said, I don’t want to completely rwrite the review. The intention was to clarify some things, not defend every detail. I do want the review to be as useful and accurate as possible, though. And to that effect I appreciate the feedback.

    If anyone wants more details about the criticism, you can check out the discussion about the review on the Flickr Olympus E-System Community forum. I have nothing to hide :-)

    Flickr Olympus E-520 Review Discussion
    And if you want to discuss the review with the PhotographyREVIEW.com community, here is a link to our home thread:

    PhotographyREVIEW.com Olympus E-520 Review Discussion

    If you actually own the E-520 and want to share your opinion and experience, commenting here is great. But we really need your reviews on the Olympus E-520 user review page. That way you can leave a rating and add to the overall body of knowledge about the camera. Here’s a link to that review page:

    Olympus E-520 User Reviews

    Thanks everyone – especially the Flickr Olympus E-System Community folks – for your feedback. I hope it helps make this review, and future reviews more useful and easier to read.

  • shimmer2 says:

    This is a fair review. I bought the E520 and two kit lenses after researching all aspects. I was not starry-eyed about it. The camera has been a delight to use and is very well thought-out. Most of the features are ones you actually want. The Zuiko kit lenses are excellent and the kit is unbeatable value. Size and weight are good.
    You have to learn to coax the best out of this camera, including in lower light / lower contrast situations. But it can be done. The in-body image stabilisation is excellent and there is faster glass available to offset the stop or two you lose on ISO compared with Canon or Nikon rivals. Image quality in normal range is excellent, and the colour rendition (of both lenses and sensor/processing engine) is superior.

    Since buying the kit I looked at the Nikon 300, 700, & D90 but after four months of using the E520 every day I decided to stick with, and invest in, the E-system. I’ve acquired three more Zuiko lenses and they are….quite fantastic!

  • Greg McCary says:

    Very nice review John. I don’t own the 520 but have owned the 510 and currently the E3. I must say the 520 will be a good addition to the Olympus line up. I look forward to your reviews on the E-30 and also the G1. I got my eyes on the G1.

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