dpreview.com’s review of the Olympus E-520 dSLR

Written by Gary on August 21st, 2008

dpreview.com have just published their detailed review of the Olympus E520, and I thought it deserves a few comments, feel free to add your own to this post.

Now dpreview.com is one of my favorite photography websites, but I feel the reviewers usually get bogged down in the small differences between image quality of sensors that most people really don’t need to worry about, while missing out on the much more important aspects of the camera fitting into a much wider system of lenses and its main utility.

I don’t think too many people would argue that the Four Thirds sensors have marginally less dynamic range and more image noise at high ISO than the larger sensor APS-C, DX or full frame dSLRs.

But these cameras can still produce a great 20″x30″ print if you are careful with ensuring you are using a good lens, expose well, focus well with aperture wider than diffraction limit of f/5.6-8, and ensure minimal camera shake (which is helped by the IS system). Indeed the Olympus cameras have arguably one of the best in-camera jpeg processing engine to minimise need for photographers to have to resort to Photoshop, etc to get the best images – this, along with the relative ease of use makes these cameras great for those getting into dSLR photography without being too intimidated.

The reviewers really miss the main reasons why you would want to buy the E520 – its not the camera that you are buying it for – after all the camera will depreciate to almost worthless within 3-5 years like any digital SLR.

Why do I buy Olympus dSLRs?

(ps.. I also am happy to consider buying Canon/Nikon full frame dSLRs too but for different reasons – I am not confined to Olympus – I buy cameras for what they can allow me to do, not for their brand name)

Primarily its for their portability in terms of weight, size when combined with their great range of high quality lenses whilst still achieving very acceptable high quality images and in-built IS, dust protection and live preview for when I need it.

If you don’t take your camera with you, it doesn’t matter how good the sensor or image quality potential is, and this is where Olympus comes in – I can take two bodies with 7-14mm and a 50-200mm lens attached and capture almost any type of creative photo I want without getting tired carrying them, AND they provide some unique photo creativity as mentioned in previous posts.

It’s a pity dpreview.com reviewers or perhaps its the nature of their review format which does not allow them to look more clearly at the big picture.

Whilst it is true that its direct competitors have caught up in camera functionality such that the E520 in itself does not have as much lead in functionality over its competitors as the E510 did when it was brought out, there is still a significant difference in the range and quality of quality lenses designed for the sensor than is available for the competitor lenses in APS-C or DX format.

The E520 does add some potentially useful benefits over the E510 such as improved shadow detail, contrast-detection AF in live preview, a second panning mode to IS, but perhaps more importantly, it allows use of wireless TTL flash photography via the new R designated Olympus flash units.

If I had a choice of an E510 or a E520 at double the price (I am not sure of actual current price differences), I would probably go for the E510 unless I really needed the wireless TTL flash capability and I was going to buy a R designated flash to use it with (eg. Olympus FL-50R or FL-36R flash) or I wanted an underwater housing (don’t think Olympus ever made them for the E510).

I hope in my haste, these comments make sense.


4 Comments so far ↓

  1. Geir says:

    You write:

    I can take two bodies with 7-14mm and a 50-200mm lens attached and capture almost any type of creative photo I want without getting tired carrying them,

    What about the 11-22 or 12-60 as an alternative to the 7-14? I ask because of the cost of the latter, and because I wonder if the area between 14 and 22 is something you might miss when capturing your images.
    Would you say that the sharpness is the same with the 11-22 as with the 7-14, or is it a class of it’s own?

  2. admin says:

    Either the ZD 11-22mm or the ZD 12-60mm or even the ZD 14-54mm would be great adjuncts to accompany the 50-200mm instead of the much more expensive 7-14mm lens.
    I would be happy taking any two of these outfits walking.

  3. admin says:

    When using the 7-14mm with 50-200mm there is a gap of 14-50mm (28-100mm in 35mm terms).
    I cover this most often by carrying the 14-42mm kit lens which is really light and compact as a 3rd lens.

    If I had a 14-54 or 12-60mm then I MIGHT consider carrying 3 medium size lenses such as these but given I like to try things different to what most photographers capture, I tend to favour the extremes of focal length range – any point and shoot can get the 28-100mm range in 35mm terms albeit not with the same quality.

    Having said this, when I need maximum quality for landscape/seascape shots I tend to get the tripod out plus Canon 1DMIII plus Canon EF 24-105mmL lens or 45mm tilt-shift lens for architecture, etc, but this is big, heavy, and not fun to carry around all day.

  4. Geir says:

    Which in fact means I should be happy with my 14-54 for now.