Olympus E-520 : Compare Prices and Read Reviews

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Olympus E-520 Review

The Olympus EVolt E520, introduced in 2008 builds upon older models with a few more options, and features. The E520 is a camera for everyone from newbies to serious professionals.

The E520 comes with 2 new technologies that are only starting to become commonplace. 1 is face detection. The other is a dynamic range expansion tool, dubbed shadow adjustment technology. Face detection works ok for the most part, although it is quite slow in recognizing faces at times. The latter feature, we found quite useless. It simply didn't show the type of results we saw in other cameras that had this feature.

Like most DSLRs, the E520 supports several shooting modes such as auto, program, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, and scene (which has 20 preset scenes to choose from). There are also two underwater modes available, but don't just take the E520 out for a swim unless you want to waste money - it requires housing.

Overall, the design and feel is quite solid. Sure the E520 isn't going to earn you points for sexiness, but it doesn't look like an old camera by any means. If you're looking for sexiness, try the Sony NEX series. The E-520 earns high marks for being durable and having a solid burn. Just holding it, and pressing the buttons, it doesn't feel like a cheap old camera, but rather sturdy and reliable.

Ergonomically, the Evolt E-520 is perfect. We tried shooting with it for a few days and never had any problems. You won't feel any strains or discomfort from using it for extended periods of time. The grip is comfortable and there's a thumb rest too. The design and shape is different from conventional cameras but the ergonomics still top of the class.

There's a lot of buttons to play with here, which is good news for seasoned professionals. Newbies might want to read the manual to figure out what all the buttons do. But for the expert, it'd be fairly easy to get used to everything. What's cool is that you can assign different functions to some of the buttons if you want. If you've used exclusively Nikon, Sony, Panasonic or Canon cameras, this flexibility can let you transition to the Olympus Evolt E520 in a short amount of time.

Let's talk about the LCD display. You'll either hate it or love it. Some people complain there's just way too much info displayed in the LCD, but we like it this way. You have access to almost every setting in 1 single screen. We like how there is more than 1 way to change a setting. For instance, for white balance there are 3 ways to change it. Great for those that want that flexibility, but we can see how it can be confusing as well.

We love the viewfinder in this camera. It's big and bright, and clear enough to enable manual focus. Magnification is among the best in class.

On to performance. We're impressed with the overall performance of this camera, solid numbers all around. While power on to first shot time could be improved (3 seconds), shutter lag is small at .4 seconds, among the best in class. Focusing is extremely fast. Press to capture time usually takes .2 - .3 seconds. Continuous shooting is not excellent, but not shabby either at 3.2 frames per second.

In terms of image quality, keep in mind we used the 14-42 mm kit lens. We used several test shots and noticed that the Evolt E520 doesn't sharpen images as much as we would have liked - you might need to fine tune the sharpness settings.

Colors also are a bit muted with the Evolt E520, they're not as bright and vivid as you'll find with other cameras. The notable exception is the color red, which the E520 displays as markably more brighter than other cameras. Using vivid mode though made a huge difference, and provided very strong saturation, without an artificial look. We recommend playing with this mode to see which you prefer. Some prefer muted saturation, while others like their colors as bright and vivid as possible.

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 1

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 2

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 3

White balance were solid in all our photos. Noise performance was sub-par for the most part compared to other cameras but only upon close examination. When you reach a high ISO of 1600+, you'll notice some smoothness and graininess. We recommend playing with the noise filter to get the desired effect.

What about low light performance? Well, we decided to take the E-520 to a local strip club (yes, we're sinners). For the most part, the E520 delivered clear and detailed images when using an ISO up to 800. Certainly better than anything you'll produce with a point and shoot digital camera.

After that, the E520 produced more noise than other competing cameras. The noise looked fine grained though, making it look not as noticeable. Overall we expected this since the E520 has a smaller sensor than typical DSLRs.

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 4

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 5

Olympus E-520 Sample Image 6

If you up the ISO to 1600, you will really notice the noise, and graininess. We recommend you stick with 800 and below, and only use 1600 if you're desperate for a shot. Generally speaking, if low light performance is absolutely crucial to you, you should get another DSLR because this isn't one its strengths.


- 10 megapixels
- Supports ISO 100 - 1600
- 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels
- Supports pop up flash
- 3 X optical zoom with 14mm - 42mm lens
- optical viewfinder


- Good live view
- Face detection is solid
- Comfortable grip, and solid build
- Good colors, not overly vivid


- Noisy shots
- Interface can be overwhelming to the newbie


Overall the Evolt E520 from Olympus is a flexible DSLR that has many features to play with. If you're an aspiring photographer, it's not a bad DSLR to grow into, and improve your skills. If you're interested in playing with different settings, filters, and photographic styles, you'll have lots of fun with the E520. Noise concerns aside, the E520 does deliver sharp, crisp photos with accurate colors.

Rating: 4.8 out of 5

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Prices last updated on: Mon, 24 Jan 2022 17:17:03 PST

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