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Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-M5

The Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Olympus OM-D E-M5 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in July 2014 and February 2012. The SX520 is a fixed lens compact, while the E-M5 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a 1/2.3-inch (SX520) and a Four Thirds (E-M5) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 15.9 megapixels.

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-M5
Canon SX520   Olympus E-M5
Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Micro Four Thirds lenses
15.9 MP – 1/2.3" sensor 15.9 MP – Four Thirds sensor
1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
ISO 100-3,200 ISO 200-25,600
No viewfinder, LCD framing Electronic viewfinder (1440k dots)
3.0" LCD – 461k dots 3.0" LCD – 610k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Tilting touchscreen
1.6 shutter flaps per second 9 shutter flaps per second
Lens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
not weather sealedWeathersealed body
210 shots per battery charge360 shots per battery charge
120 x 82 x 92 mm, 441 g 122 x 89 x 43 mm, 425 g
Canon SX520:
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Olympus E-M5:
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Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS and the Olympus OM-D E-M5? 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

The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-M5. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are available. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter.

The E-M5 can be obtained in two different colors (black, silver), while the SX520 is only available in black.

Size Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-M5
Compare SX520 versus E-M5 top
Comparison SX520 or E-M5 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-M5 is notably larger (10 percent) than the Canon SX520. It is noteworthy in this context that the E-M5 is splash and dust-proof, while the SX520 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

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-M5 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-M5 and their specifications in the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

Concerning battery life, the SX520 gets 210 shots out of its NB-6LH battery, while the E-M5 can take 360 images on a single charge of its BLN-1 power pack.

The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. If you would like to visualize and compare a different camera combination, you can navigate to the CAM-parator app and make your selection from a broad list of cameras there.

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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-M5 122 mm 89 mm 43 mm 425 g 360 Y Feb 2012 1,299i
3.
 
Canon SX540 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 205 n Jan 2016 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX530 120 mm 82 mm 92 mm 442 g 210 n Jan 2015 429i
5.
 
Canon SX710 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 230 n Jan 2015 349i
6.
 
Canon SX700 113 mm 66 mm 35 mm 269 g 250 n Feb 2014 349i
7.
 
Canon SX60 128 mm 93 mm 114 mm 650 g 340 n Sep 2014 549i
8.
 
Canon T5 130 mm 100 mm 78 mm 480 g 500 n Feb 2014 449i
9.
 
Canon SX510 104 mm 70 mm 80 mm 349 g 250 n Aug 2013 249i
10.
 
Nikon B600 122 mm 82 mm 99 mm 500 g 280 n Jan 2019 349 i
11.
 
Olympus PEN-F 125 mm 72 mm 37 mm 427 g 330 n Jan 2016 1,199i
12.
 
Olympus E-M5 II 124 mm 85 mm 45 mm 469 g 310 Y Feb 2015 1,099i
13.
 
Olympus E-M1 130 mm 94 mm 63 mm 497 g 350 Y Sep 2013 1,399i
14.
 
Olympus E-P5 122 mm 69 mm 37 mm 420 g 330 n May 2013 999i
15.
 
Panasonic GX7 123 mm 71 mm 55 mm 402 g 350 n Aug 2013 999i
16.
 
Sony HX90V 102 mm 58 mm 36 mm 245 g 360 n Apr 2015 429 i
17.
 
Sony H200 123 mm 83 mm 87 mm 530 g 240 n Jan 2013 249 i
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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The SX520 was launched at a lower price than the E-M5, despite having a lens built in. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.

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Sensor comparison

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants of image quality. All other things equal, a large sensor will have larger individual pixel-units that offer better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the 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-M5 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-M5 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-M5 sensor measures

Even though the E-M5 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 15.9 megapixels. This implies that the E-M5 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 3.76μm versus 1.33μm for the SX520), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the SX520 is much more recent (by 2 years and 5 months) than the E-M5, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size. 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 Canon PowerShot SX520 HS has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus OM-D E-M5 are ISO 200 to ISO 25600 (no boost).

SX520 versus E-M5 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 adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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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-M5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60i22.812.382671
3.
 
Canon SX540 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.311.780648
4.
 
Canon SX530 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.211.671247
5.
 
Canon SX710 1/2.3 20.2 5184 38881080/60p20.211.671247
6.
 
Canon SX700 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/60p20.111.462945
7.
 
Canon SX60 1/2.3 14.2 4608 30721080/60p19.210.812739
8.
 
Canon T5 APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p21.911.372463
9.
 
Canon SX510 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/24p20.011.358645
10.
 
Nikon B600 1/2.3 15.9 4608 34561080/30p20.712.2109552
11.
 
Olympus PEN-F Four Thirds 20.2 5184 38881080/60p23.112.489474
12.
 
Olympus E-M5 II Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.012.584273
13.
 
Olympus E-M1 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p23.012.775773
14.
 
Olympus E-P5 Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.812.489572
15.
 
Panasonic GX7 Four Thirds 15.8 4592 34481080/60p22.612.271870
16.
 
Sony HX90V 1/2.3 18.0 4896 36721080/60p20.211.673847
17.
 
Sony H200 1/2.3 15.2 5184 2930720/30p19.911.252944
Note: DXO values in italics represent estimates based on sensor size and age.

Many modern cameras cannot only take still pictures, but also record videos. Both cameras under consideration are equipped with sensors that have a sufficiently high read-out speed for moving images, but the E-M5 provides a faster frame rate than the SX520. It can shoot movie footage at 1080/60i, while the Canon is limited to 1080/30p.

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Feature comparison

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-M5 has an electronic viewfinder (1440k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the SX520 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Canon SX520, the Olympus E-M5, and comparable cameras.

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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-M51440 n3.0 / 610 tilting Y 1/4000s 9.0/s n Y
3.
 
Canon SX540none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 5.9/s Y Y
4.
 
Canon SX530none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/2000s 1.6/s Y Y
5.
 
Canon SX710none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 6.0/s Y Y
6.
 
Canon SX700none n3.0 / 922 fixed n 1/3200s 8.5/s Y Y
7.
 
Canon SX60922 n3.0 / 922 swivel n 1/2000s 6.4/s Y Y
8.
 
Canon T5optical n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0/s Y n
9.
 
Canon SX510none n3.0 / 461 fixed n 1/1600s 3.8/s Y Y
10.
 
Nikon B600none n3.0 / 921 fixed n 1/4000s 7.4/s Y Y
11.
 
Olympus PEN-F2360 n3.0 / 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 10.0/s n Y
12.
 
Olympus E-M5 II2360 n3.0 / 1037 swivel Y 1/8000s 10.0/s n Y
13.
 
Olympus E-M12360 n3.0 / 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 10.0/s n Y
14.
 
Olympus E-P5optional n3.0 / 1037 tilting Y 1/8000s 9.0/s Y Y
15.
 
Panasonic GX72760 n3.0 / 1040 tilting Y 1/8000s 5.0/s Y Y
16.
 
Sony HX90V638 n3.0 / 921 tilting n 1/2000s 10.0/s Y Y
17.
 
Sony H200none n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/1500s 0.8/s Y Y
Notes: *) Information refers to the mechanical shutter, unless the camera only has an electronic one.

One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The SX520 has one, while the E-M5 does not. While the built-in flash of the SX520 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the SX520 and the E-M5 write their files to SDXC cards. The E-M5 supports UHS-I cards (Ultra High Speed data transfer of up to 104 MB/s), while the SX520 cannot take advantage of Ultra High Speed SD cards.

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 OM-D E-M5 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-M5Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
3.
 
Canon SX540-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
4.
 
Canon SX530-stereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
5.
 
Canon SX710-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
6.
 
Canon SX700-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
7.
 
Canon SX60Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0YY-
8.
 
Canon T5Ymono / mono--mini2.0---
9.
 
Canon SX510-stereo / mono--mini2.0Y--
10.
 
Nikon B600-stereo / mono--micro2.0Y-Y
11.
 
Olympus PEN-FYstereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
12.
 
Olympus E-M5 IIYstereo / monoY-micro2.0Y--
13.
 
Olympus E-M1Ystereo / monoY-micro2.0Y--
14.
 
Olympus E-P5Ystereo / mono--micro2.0Y--
15.
 
Panasonic GX7Ystereo / mono--mini2.0YY-
16.
 
Sony HX90V-stereo / mono--micro2.0YY-
17.
 
Sony H200-mono / mono---2.0---

It is notable that the E-M5 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-M5 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-M5 was replaced by the Olympus E-M5 II, while the SX520 was followed by the Canon SX530. 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.

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Review summary

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is there a clear favorite between the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-M5? Which camera is better? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.

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Arguments in favor of the Canon PowerShot SX520 HS:

  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Ready to shoot: Has a lens built-in, whereas the E-M5 requires a separate lens.
  • Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
  • More affordable: Was introduced at a lower price, despite coming with a built-in lens.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 5 months of technical progress since the E-M5 launch.

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus OM-D E-M5:

  • 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.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60i versus 1080/30p).
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (610k vs 461k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/4000s vs 1/2000s) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (9 vs 1.6 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More flexible: Takes interchangeable lenses and can thus be used with specialty optics.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (360 versus 210) out of a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is splash and dust sealed for shooting in inclement weather conditions.
  • Better lighting: Features a hotshoe and can thus hold and trigger an external flash gun.
  • Faster buffer clearing: Has an SD card interface that supports the UHS-I standard.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in February 2012).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-M5 is the clear winner of the contest (18 : 5 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera. A professional wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro shooter. Hence, the decision which camera is best and worth buying is often a very personal one.

SX520 05:18 E-M5

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Canon SX520 and the Olympus E-M5 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best Superzoom Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the SX520 and the E-M5 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate.

Expert reviews

This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera 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-M54/5+ +..80/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2012 1,299i
3.
 
Canon SX540............ Jan 2016 399 i
4.
 
Canon SX530..+ +....4/54/5 Jan 2015 429i
5.
 
Canon SX710..+....4/53.5/5 Jan 2015 349i
6.
 
Canon SX700..+ +....4/54/5 Feb 2014 349i
7.
 
Canon SX603/5+ +..75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2014 549i
8.
 
Canon T53/5+....4/54.5/5 Feb 2014 449i
9.
 
Canon SX510..+ +....4.5/54/5 Aug 2013 249i
10.
 
Nikon B600..+....3.5/53/5 Jan 2019 349 i
11.
 
Olympus PEN-F....4/582/1004.5/55/5 Jan 2016 1,199i
12.
 
Olympus E-M5 II5/5+ +4.5/581/1005/55/5 Feb 2015 1,099i
13.
 
Olympus E-M15/5+ +..84/1004.5/54.5/5 Sep 2013 1,399i
14.
 
Olympus E-P55/5+ +..78/1004.5/55/5 May 2013 999i
15.
 
Panasonic GX74/5+..79/1005/55/5 Aug 2013 999i
16.
 
Sony HX90V4/5+ +....4/54.5/5 Apr 2015 429 i
17.
 
Sony H200........3.5/53.5/5 Jan 2013 249 i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and comparing ratings of very distinct cameras or ones that are far apart in terms of their release date have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

Canon SX520:
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Olympus E-M5:
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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 use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.

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    Specifications: Canon SX520 vs Olympus E-M5

    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-M5
    Camera Type Fixed lens compact camera Mirrorless system camera
    Camera Lens 24-1008mm f/3.4-6 Micro Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date July 2014 February 2012
    Launch Price USD 399 USD 1,299
    Sensor Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-M5
    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 15.9 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4608 x 3456 pixels 4608 x 3456 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 1.33 μm 3.76 μm
    Pixel Density 56.73 MP/cm2 7.08 MP/cm2
    Moiré control no AA filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 1080/30p Video 1080/60i Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 3,200 ISO 200 - 25,600 ISO
    Image Processor DIGIC 4+ TruePic VI
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) .. 71
    DXO Color Depth (bits) .. 22.8
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) .. 12.3
    DXO Low Light (ISO) .. 826
    Screen Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-M5
    Viewfinder Type no viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.58x
    Viewfinder Resolution 1440k dots
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 3.0inch
    LCD Resolution 461k dots 610k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Tilting screen
    Touch Input no Touchscreen Touchscreen
    Shooting Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-M5
    Focus System Contrast-detect AF Contrast-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 1.6 shutter flaps/s 9 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens-based stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash no On-Board Flash
    Storage Medium SDXC cards SDXC cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Single card slot
    UHS card support no UHS-I
    Connectivity Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-M5
    External Flash no Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI mini HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Canon SX520 Olympus E-M5
    Environmental Sealingnot weather sealedWeathersealed body
    Battery Type NB-6LH BLN-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)210 shots per charge360 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 120 x 82 x 92 mm
    (4.7 x 3.2 x 3.6 in)
    122 x 89 x 43 mm
    (4.8 x 3.5 x 1.7 in)
    Camera Weight 441 g (15.6 oz) 425 g (15.0 oz)
    Canon SX520:
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    Olympus E-M5:
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