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Olympus E-520 Digital Camera Review

olympus080910.jpgDigital Camera Review by: Katrina Putker


If you’re currently a compact camera user teetering on the edge of a decision whether to upgrade to a DSLR or not, the Olympus E-520 may well help make that decision for you. With an array of both advanced and user-friendly options available, this camera is ideal for those ready to graduate to DSLR but not yet ready to let go of the comforts of compact shooting.

The 10 mega pixel E-520 offers the styling and function of a prosumer DSLR - along with popular features across the current market including image stabilisation, shadow adjustment and face detection technologies, along with a 2.7 inch Hyper Crystal LCD – and all at a fraction of the cost.

One of the most notable features of the E-520 for me, is actually how little it weighs. At approximately 500 grams with battery, 14-24mm lens and memory card included, the portability rating of this DSLR is high. The plastic casing however, is slightly under whelming in terms of its likely durability, although no formal testing was conducted to prove this assumption either way.

The E-520 is nicely conventional in its overall design and proves by and large ergonomic aside from the awkward positioning of the on/off switch, especially considering its proximate placement to the control dial and the way the two unavoidably clash during powering.

Otherwise, the unit is pleasing to the eye and its grip pads for the right hand fingers and thumb are effective both in terms of traction and placing. While black, white and silver are the dominant colours used, hints of the trademark Olympus blue are strewn across the 5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 inch body as a welcomed aesthetic detail.

Logical operation of all available menus is easily achieved with the E-520 although there are a significant number of buttons and features to become familiar with – as with any DSLR currently available. While initially a new DSLR user may feel slightly overwhelmed by the couple dozen buttons, dials, locks and latches on the E-520 body, they can rest assured that familiarity will come with practice and experience.

Once used a few times, the function of each button will prove both obvious and logical and as a result, speed-of-use and understanding will undoubtedly increase over time. The extensive instruction manual provided is brimming with technical information that is well supported with diagrams and sample images to help ensure further user comprehension.

Adjustment to a number of the key shooting settings on the E-520 can be made with the click of a button and in many cases, there are more than one, or even two, ways of accessing and changing particular settings. Add to this the ability to customise the function of the flash and mode buttons, along with the function button, and you discover the E-520 allows for a certain level of programmability that other cameras in its price range simply do not. 

The information screen clearly shows all current settings upon start-up and in between shots. Indeed, there is a lot of information to process, but anyone considering entering the DSLR market will expect to learn the importance of white balance and ISO settings along with metering and auto focus mode, so being quickly, clearly and repeatedly provided with such information is essential.

While the through-the-viewfinder information is also sufficient, its placement to the right hand side of the window is somewhat awkward for the eye, much more so than if placed at the bottom of the viewfinder where the eye naturally and easily moves to and from when composing.

Unfortunately, across a number of different functions and operations the E-520 is quite mechanical and clunky in sound, particularly when focusing in live view and whenever the shutter is used. While this is not a great downfall overall, for the more discreet photographer it is not especially favourable.

Another interesting feature which will get a mixed reaction is in Auto mode, when the built in flash pops up and multiple strobes and/or individual flashes are used to assist focusing in low light or low contrast conditions. Some may argue this is a little distracting for the both the shooter and potential subjects. It is likely to contribute to shorter battery life as well. Even when the flash is manually turned off, the strobes are still automatically generated for focusing.

The E-520 does however conveniently offer separate slots for Compact Flash and XD-Picture Card memory cards meaning one of each can be inserted simultaneously while the user selects which of the two is recording the information.

Similarly, the built-in flash can be used alone or in conjunction with the Olympus FL36R and FL50R wireless flash units, further expanding the creative lighting possibilities. This is important to note considering the built-in flash on the E-520, as with many of its competitors, offers limited coverage and power and as such, is suited best as a fill light only.

medal-gold-r.jpg The E-520 comes in an all inclusive twin lens kit (minus memory card, which few manufacturers include) so with a single purchase, you are ready to go and having two lenses (14-24mm, 40-150mm) at your immediate disposal allows for greater creativity and versatility when shooting.

Overall image quality was rated very high with fine colour reproduction, while noise among the higher range of ISO does become obvious. 20 scene modes are included – again, to help buff the transition from compact to DSLR - while manual, program, shutter and aperture priority modes expand shooting possibilities for the more advanced user.

This is a good transitional camera for anyone wanting to progress to DSLR for the first time although it does have some minor limitations that should be considered and, I imagine in many cases, overlooked.



Appearance rating 4 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
4 stars
Value for money 4 stars
RRP (AUD) $1,499
Effective Pixels 10 Mega pixels
Image Sizes 7 sizes
Lens ZUIKO Digital, FourThirds System lens
Resolution Settings 3648 x 2736, 3200 x 2400, 2560 x 1920, 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480
Manual Focus Yes
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority Yes
Shutter Priority Yes
Shutter Speeds 60 - 1/4000 sec. (Bulb: up to 30 min. with limiter)
ISO 100 - 1600
LCD Monitor Yes
LCD Size 2.7 inch HyperCrystal II LCD panel
Viewfinder Eye-level TTL Optical. 95% field of view.
Flash Yes, Retractable pop up flash
Hot Shoe Yes
White balance 8 settings (3000K - 7500K), 1 custom setting (2000K - 14000K), Auto: Advanced detection system with Live MOS sensor
Self Timer Self-timer (12s, 2s)
Storage Type CompactFlash card (Type I and II), Microdrive, xD picture card. (Dual slot). xD-Picture Cards can be used directly in the xD-Picture Card slot.
Storage Included [Mb] No
Image Formats RAW, JPEG, RAW+JPEG
Connectivity USB 2.0
Power Source DC 8.3V, 2A (100 ~ 240V)
Battery Options BLM-1 Li-ion battery (included)
Dimensions 136mm x 92mm x 68mm
Weight 475g (Body only), 490g (Body & Battery)





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In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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