Olympus E-520
4.2Overall Score
Price (RRP): $999 Manufacturer: Olympus

Reviewer: Byer Gair

Olympus does not have a wide range of DSLR models, but, once you acquire a body you get access to an enormous range of lenses that run from 18 mm to 600 mm. For many that is the attraction of a digital SLR – your camera becomes part of a system.

The company’s E-520 sits midway between the E-420 and the pro level E-3 and offers top features at an approachable price. So far, so good.

Olympus’ approach to DSLR design is to build an image stabiliser into the camera body that shifts the image sensor to compensate for camera shake at slow shutter speeds. This has the advantage that you can then fit any Four Thirds format lens to the camera and enjoy being able to use shutter speeds at least four times slower than normal and help you shoot in low light or allow you to use a faster shutter speed when shooting fast action.

Four Thirds lenses and accessories are made by Olympus, Panasonic and Sigma in an extensive range of types and focal lengths, at prices that vary from budget to pro. They equal in quality the offerings from the long established len systems from Nikon, Canon and Pentax.

The E-520 uses contrast detection to deliver fast, accurate focusing, which works in closely with viewing via the optical pentaprism viewfinder or the Live View LCD screen. Live View works well, with minimal lag and rapid, onscreen confirmation of sharp focus. Many other makers have followed Olympus with this feature.

A compact DSLR, the E-520 weighs less than 800 grams with battery and a 14-22 mm lens fitted. It has comfortable balance and is easy to use in most shooting positions.

More often seen in compact digicams, the E-520 has advanced a Face Detect and Shadow Adjust feature able to detect up to eight separate faces and then optimise the exposure of faces and background. Group shots are now much easier to capture.

The sensor is a Live MOS device, another aspect of the Four Thirds system. It is claimed that it can achieve the same quality as a CCD while keeping energy consumption down to levels comparable to CMOS sensors. Live MOS reduces the draw on battery power and reduces image noise.

The sensor is kept clean and any dust particles are trapped on adhesive material inside the camera. This cleaning function happens each time the camera is turned on.

Operation

A small lever surrounding the mode dial kicks on the power, while close by are the shutter button and control dial; the latter cycles through options like ISO speed, AF and metering modes, white balance options etc. These controls are grouped to the right of the camera while other, less-used functions are to the left side.

Power on, you initially see a screen full of settings; the pentaprism viewfinder is now operable. Tap the display button and the Live View appears. Shoot away!

Features

Unlike the earlier E-420 model, which accepted SD cards, the new E-520 now takes CompactFlash Types I/II, xD-Picture Card and the less-used Microdrive. You now get a choice of differing card formats and are not now tied to one only – xD-Picture Card.

To best suit varying subjects you can choose exposure settings that range from auto, Program AE, aperture and shutter priority as well as manual.