Olympus E-520 vs. E-510

olympus e-520
olympus e-510

This page will help you compare the Olympus E-520 (release date: July 2008) with the Olympus E-510 (release date: July 2007).

While these two cameras share a lot of features in common, the E-520 builds upon the core feature set that made the E-510 appealing: built-in image stabilization (works with all compatible 4/3 lenses), dust control and a live view LCD.

With the E-520, Olympus has improved upon some of these old features, and has thrown in a few new ones for good measure.

In this head to head between the Olympus E-520 vs. the E-510 we'll take a closer look at some of these improvements and enhancements so you can decide if you'd like to get a shiny new E-520 or if you can save some money with the older E-510.

Feature Overview

At first glance, the features on the E-520 vs. those on the E-510 appear quite similar:

Autofocus Points33
LCD Size2.7 inch2.5 inch
ISO Range100 to 1600100 to 1600
Dust Control
Built In Stabilization
Live View LCD
Face Detection 
Enhanced Dynamic Range 
Dimensions5.4x 3.6x2.7in
5.4x 3.6x2.7in
Weight17.3oz (490g)17.3oz (490g)
Memory MediaCompact FlashCompact Flash

Let's dig a bit deeper to find out more about why some photographers will find the E-520 a more appealing option.

E-520 Enhancements

The two big enhancements the E-520 makes over the E-510 both have to do with the same part: the camera's LCD.

  1. The E-520 has an improved live view autofocus mechanism
  2. The LCD on the E-520 is easier to view in bright sunlight
Live View Autofocus

One of the issues with the live view system on the E-510 (and in fact with most digital SLRs) is that the camera's main autofocus system doesn't work the same in live view as it does when you're using the viewfinder.

When you're looking through the viewfinder, you engage the autofocus system by pressing down halfway on the camera's shutter release button.

This lets you take full advantage of all the autofocus points available, and helps to pre-focus the camera on the subject so that you're ready to take the shot any time you want.

In live view mode, you have to press a separate button to get the camera to autofocus, and this process is fairly slow and clunky relative to the autofocus in the viewfinder. It's fine for non-moving subjects, but useless for tracking moving targets.

The E-520 improves upon the live view in the E-510 by making the controls one and the same: on the E-520, you can pre-focus the camera by pressing halfway on the shutter release whether you're in live mode or looking though the viewfinder.

High Contrast LCD

Olympus has improved the LCD on the E-520 so that it has more contrast (making it easier to see even in bright sunlight) and better color rendition.

While you should not really be using the LCD to judge color accuracy (since it probably won't match your computer's monitor) the extra contrast is a real benefit, especially if you want to use the live view feature extensively.

New E-520 Features

It would all be well and good if the E-520 just improved upon the feature set of the E-510, but Olympus decided to add a few new features that are becoming standard on new digital SLR cameras released in 2008.

  1. The face detection autofocus system locks focus on faces rather than distracting background and foreground elements
  2. Enhanced dynamic range improves the details in shadows in high-contrast scenes
  3. The E-520 can wirelessly control several external flash units
Face Detect Autofocus

Face detection is the new "it" feature in all types of digital cameras, and it's now just making its way to digital SLRs.

The face tracking system on the E-520 is designed to track up to eight faces within the frame, even if the subjects are moving around (great for small children who never sit still).

This system helps the autofocus to lock onto faces in the scene, so that the camera doesn't accidentally focus on something else.

Hopefully you'll never again have those family vacation photos where the background is in perfect focus and your beloved family members are a blurry mess.

Enhanced Dynamic Range

The biggest new features introduces on new digital SLR cameras in 2008 is improved control over dynamic range.

The issue is that digital SLRs have limited dynamic range: this means that when you take a photo in direct sunlight (where shadows appear very dark and highlights are quite bright) a digital SLR will "clip" on one side or the other of the brightness range.

The shadows in your photo will appear as pure black, or your highlights will appear as pure white. Either way, you're losing some of the detail that your eyes are able to see.

One way to correct for this is to expose every photo you take for the highlights, and then increase the detail in shadow areas using photo editing software.

This creates a more balanced and natural-looking image (something that's closer to the way that your eyes percieved the scene).

But editing every photo you take in direct sunlight to increase detail in the shadows can be a time-consuming and painstaking process. That's why it's nice that the E-520 handles this for you, at the moment when you take the photo.

Wireless Flash

For those who want to kick a little extra light on their subjects, the E-520 can wirelessly activate either the FL-50R or the FL-36R flash units.

The E-520 can wirelessly control up to three individual groups of flashes, with multiple flash heads in each group.

While you may not find yourself ever wirelessly controlling a dozen flash units at the same time, the wireless control is great for getting the flash off the camera which creates more dynamic lighting for your subjects (rather than the deer-in-the-headlights look of on-camera flash).


If you feel like face detection autofocus, a high contrast LCD, enhanced dynamic range and wireless flash control are all just features that you'd never leverage (nor have any desire to figure out), then the good news is that you can still pick up an E-510 for a great price.

If you'd like the extra features that are available on the E-520, then you've got two choices: purchase the camera/lens kit (which comes with a 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 Zuiko lens) or just get the camera body on its own and buy the lens separately.

Olympus E-510
Camera body only $495
With 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens $560
With 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 and
40-150mm f/4.0-5.6 lenses
Olympus E-520
Camera body only $600
With 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 lens $700

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