Olympus E-520 Review

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Olympus E-520 Digital SLR
The Olympus E-520 is a 10-megapixel digital SLR with a compact body, built-in image stabilization, a 2.7-inch LCD with live view, and enough exposure modes to please any photographer. It’s part of the Four Thirds System, which uses a smaller 4:3 aspect ratio imaging sensor that helps keep the camera body and lenses small and light.

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Olympus E-520 Studio Test Images
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September 1st - Alta


  • Light and compact
  • Built-in mechanical image stabilization
  • Super Control Panel LCD interface
  • Excellent, compact lenses
  • Lots of customization possible
  • 3.5 frames-per-second frame rate
  • Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction system
  • Great value

  • Image quality isn’t as good as the competition
  • Sometimes auto focus locks up
  • Only three auto focus points
  • Menus and customization options can be overwhelming
Olympus E-520 - front and back

I’ve been using the E-520 since Olympus sent me a pre-production camera in the early spring. On the surface it looks almost exactly like the E-510. However, there’s a lot more to the E-520 than meets the eye. It has a new 10-megapixel sensor, new TruePic III image processing, new LCD, Live View with auto focus and face detection, improved in-camera image stabilization, and better high ISO performance. I’ve shot a wide variety of stuff with it including candid people photos, spring ski photos and hundreds of mountain bike pictures. I’ve actually used it more than any other camera while I’ve had it. Let me tell you why…

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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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