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Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-420

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Olympus E-420 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in July 2014 and March 2008. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-420 is a DSLR. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and a Four Thirds (E-420) sensor. The Canon has a resolution of 15.9 megapixels, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP.

Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.

Headline Specifications
Canon SX520
versus
Olympus E-420
Canon SX520   Olympus E-420
Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Four Thirds lenses
15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 10 MP – Four Thirds sensor
1080/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 100-1,600
No viewfinder, LCD framing Optical viewfinder
3.0" LCD – 461k dots 3.0" LCD – 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
1.6 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
210 shots per battery charge500 shots per battery charge
120 x 82 x 92 mm, 441 g 130 x 91 x 53 mm, 440 g
Canon SX520:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-420:
Check Ebay offers

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Olympus E-420? Which one should you buy? Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their body size, their imaging sensors, their shooting features, their input-output connections, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-420 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All size dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

Size Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-420
Compare SX520 versus E-420 top
Comparison SX520 or E-420 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-420 is notably larger (20 percent) than the Canon SX520. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the SX520 nor the E-420 are weather-sealed.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete and possibly misleading, as the SX520 has a lens built in, whereas the E-420 is an interchangeable lens camera that requires a separate lens. Attaching the latter will add extra weight and bulk to the setup. You can compare the optics available for the E-420 and their specifications in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX520 gets 210 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the E-420 can take 500 images on a single charge of its BLS-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.

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Body Specifications
    Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
Weather
Sealing
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX520 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 441 g 210 n Jul 2014 399i
2.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599i
3.
 
Canon 4000D 129 mm 102 mm 77 mm 436 g 500 n Feb 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon 1300D 129 mm 101 mm 78 mm 485 g 500 n Mar 2016 449i
5.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 399 i
6.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429i
7.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 349i
8.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349i
9.
 
Canon 1200D 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449i
10.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549i
11.
 
Canon SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249i
12.
 
Nikon B600 122 mm 82 mm 99 mm 500 g 280 n Jan 2019 349 i
13.
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499i
14.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
15.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699i
16.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699i
17.
 
Olympus E-400 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Sep 2006 699i
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

Any camera decision will obviously take relative prices into account. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The SX520 was launched at a lower price than the E-420, despite having a lens built in. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Further, a large sensor camera will give the photographer additional creative options when using shallow depth-of-field to isolate a subject from its background. On the downside, larger sensors are more costly to manufacture and tend to lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Canon SX520 features a 1/2.3-inch sensor and the Olympus E-420 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-420 is 704 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 5.6 and 2.0. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Canon SX520 and Olympus E-420 sensor measures

Despite having a smaller sensor, the Canon SX520 offers a higher resolution of 15.9 megapixels, compared with 10 MP of the Olympus E-420. This megapixels advantage comes at the cost of a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 1.33μm versus 4.74μm for the E-420). However, it should be noted that the SX520 is much more recent (by 6 years and 4 months) than the E-420, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that make it possible to gather light more efficiently. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the SX520 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

The resolution advantage of the Canon SX520 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the SX520 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 23 x 17.3 inches or 58.5 x 43.9 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 18.4 x 13.8 inches or 46.8 x 35.1 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 15.4 x 11.5 inches or 39 x 29.3 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-420 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-420 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

SX520 versus E-420 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

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Sensor Characteristics
    Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
1.
 
Canon SX520 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.111.567246
2.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
3.
 
Canon 4000D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.469563
4.
 
Canon 1300D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p23.612.9149779
5.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.780648
6.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.211.671247
7.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.211.671247
8.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p20.111.462945
9.
 
Canon 1200D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463
10.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
11.
 
Canon SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p20.011.358645
12.
 
Nikon B600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.712.2109552
13.
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
14.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
15.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
16.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
17.
 
Olympus E-400 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.010.612753
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. The SX520 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-420 does not. The highest resolution format that the SX520 can use is 1080/30p.

Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-420 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX520 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Canon SX520 and Olympus E-420 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.

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Core Features
    Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Specifications
(inch/000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Max
Shutter
Speed *
Max
Shutter
Flaps *
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Canon SX520none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
2.
 
Olympus E-420optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
3.
 
Canon 4000Doptical n2.7 / 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
4.
 
Canon 1300Doptical n3.0 / 920 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
5.
 
Canon SX540none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX530none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX710none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon SX700none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5/s Y Y
9.
 
Canon 1200Doptical n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
10.
 
Canon SX60922 n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4/s Y Y
11.
 
Canon SX510none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8/s Y Y
12.
 
Nikon B600none n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
13.
 
Olympus E-450optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5/s Y Y
16.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
17.
 
Olympus E-400optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

The SX520 writes its imaging data to SDXC cards, while the E-420 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-420 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the SX520 only has one slot.

Connectivity comparison

For some imaging applications, the extent to which a camera can communicate with its environment can be an important aspect in the camera decision process. The table below provides an overview of the connectivity of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and Olympus E-420 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

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Input-Output Connections
    Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Mic / Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
1.
 
Canon SX520-stereo / mono--mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-420Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 4000DYmono / mono--mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon 1300DYmono / mono--mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX540-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX530-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX710-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon SX700-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
9.
 
Canon 1200DYmono / mono--mini2.0---
10.
 
Canon SX60Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
11.
 
Canon SX510-stereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
12.
 
Nikon B600-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
13.
 
Olympus E-450Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
16.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
17.
 
Olympus E-400Y- / ----2.0---

It is notable that the E-420 has a hotshoe, which makes it possible to easily attach optional accessories, such as an external flash gun. The SX520 does not feature such an accessory-socket.

Both the SX520 and the E-420 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The SX520 was replaced by the Canon SX530, while the E-420 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Canon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-420? Which camera is better? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Advantages of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (15.9 vs 10MP) with a 26% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 1080/30p movies.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (461k vs 215k dots).
  • Ready to shoot: Comes with a built-in lens, while the E-420 requires a separate lens.
  • More compact: Is smaller (120x82mm vs 130x91mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 6 years and 4 months of technical progress since the E-420 launch.

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-420:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • Better image quality: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for higher quality imaging.
  • Richer colors: The pixel size advantage translates into images with better, more accurate colors.
  • More dynamic range: Larger pixels capture a wider spectrum of light and dark details.
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Larger pixels means good image quality even under poor lighting.
  • Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 1.6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Makes it possible to change lenses and thus to use specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (500 versus 210) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in March 2008).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-420 emerges as the winner of the match-up (13 : 10 points). However, the relative importance of the various individual camera aspects will vary according to personal preferences and needs, so that you might like to apply corresponding weights to the particular features before making a decision on a new camera. A professional wildlife photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a family photog, and a person interested in architecture has distinct needs from a sports shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

SX520 10:13 E-420

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-420 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best DSLR Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the SX520 or the E-420. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The table below provides a synthesis of the camera assessments of some of the best known photo-gear review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], digitalcameraworld [DCW], dpreview [DPR], ephotozine [EPZ], photographyblog [PB]). As can be seen, the professional reviewers agree in many cases on the quality of different cameras, but sometimes their assessments diverge, reinforcing the earlier point that a camera decision is often a very personal choice.

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Expert Camera Reviews
     Camera 
 Model 
 AP 
 score 
 CL 
 score 
 DCW 
 score 
 DPR 
 score 
 EPZ 
 score 
 PB 
 score 
Camera
Launch
Launch
Price (USD)
Street
Price
1.
 
Canon SX520..+....3.5/53.5/5 Jul 2014 399i
2.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599i
3.
 
Canon 4000D..o3/5..3.5/53.5/5 Feb 2018 399 i
4.
 
Canon 1300D4/5o4/573/1004/54/5 Mar 2016 449i
5.
 
Canon SX540............ Jan 2016 399 i
6.
 
Canon SX530..+ +....4/54/5 Jan 2015 429i
7.
 
Canon SX710..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 349i
8.
 
Canon SX700..+ +....4/54/5 Feb 2014 349i
9.
 
Canon 1200D3/5+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449i
10.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549i
11.
 
Canon SX510..+ +....4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249i
12.
 
Nikon B600..+....3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 349 i
13.
 
Olympus E-450........4/54/5 Mar 2009 499i
14.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699i
15.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
16.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
17.
 
Olympus E-400..85/100....4/54/5 Sep 2006 699i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon SX520:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-420:
Check Ebay offers

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you would like to check on the differences and similarities of other camera models, just make your choice using the following search menu. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.

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    Specifications: Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-420

    Below is a side-by-side comparison of the specs of the two cameras to facilitate a quick review of their differences and common features.

    Camera Specifications
    Camera Model Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens 24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date July 2014 March 2008
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 599
    Sensor Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    Sensor Technology BSI-CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format 1/2.3" Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 6.17 x 4.55 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 28.0735 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 7.7 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 5.6x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 15.9 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4+ TruePic III
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 56
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 21.5
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 527
    Screen Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.6 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-420
    Battery Type NB-6LH BLS-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)210 shots per charge500 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    130 x 91 x 53 mm
    (5.1 x 3.6 x 2.1 in)
    Camera Weight 441 g (15.6 oz) 440 g (15.5 oz)
    Canon SX520:
    Check Ebay offers
    Olympus E-420:
    Check Ebay offers

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