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Nikon D500 versus Olympus E-520

The Nikon D500 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in January 2016 and May 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D500) and a Four Thirds (E-520) sensor. The Nikon has a resolution of 20.7 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 10 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-520

The physical size and weight of the Nikon D500 and the Olympus E-520 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive perspectives from the front, the top, and the back are presented. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also toggle the display to switch to a percentage comparison if you prefer that the measures are being expressed in relative terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the D500 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-520
Compare D500 versus E-520 top
Compare D500 and E-520 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-520 is notably smaller (26 percent) than the Nikon D500. Moreover, the E-520 is substantially lighter (38 percent) than the D500. It is worth mentioning in this context that the D500 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-520 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D500) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-520).

Concerning battery life, the D500 gets 1240 shots out of its EN-EL15 battery, while the E-520 can take 750 images on a single charge of its BLM-1 power pack.

The table below summarizes the key physical specs of the two cameras alongside a broader set of comparators. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D500» 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 30.3 oz 1240 Y Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Olympus E-520« 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Nikon D7500« » 5.4 in 4.1 in 2.9 in 25.4 oz 950 Y Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D3400« » 4.9 in 3.9 in 3.0 in 15.7 oz 1200 n Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« » 6.3 in 6.3 in 3.6 in 49.9 oz 3780 Y Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5500« » 4.9 in 3.8 in 2.8 in 14.8 oz 820 n Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 1110 Y Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.1 in 26.5 oz 1230 Y Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D7100« » 5.4 in 4.2 in 3.0 in 27.0 oz 950 Y Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D600« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 3.2 in 33.1 oz 950 Y Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Olympus E-620« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.4 oz 500 n Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
Olympus E-420« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-410« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« » 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 19.0 oz 750 n Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Panasonic L10« » 5.3 in 3.8 in 3.1 in 19.6 oz 450 n Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The listed launch prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-520 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 65 percent) than the D500, which puts it into a different market segment. 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: Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-520

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will tend to have larger individual pixels that provide better low-light sensitivity, wider dynamic range, and richer color depth than smaller pixel-units 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D500 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-520 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-520 is 39 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.5 and 2.0. The sensor in the D500 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-520 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D500 and Olympus E-520 sensor measures

With 20.7MP, the D500 offers a higher resolution than the E-520 (10MP), but the D500 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 4.22μm versus 4.74μm for the E-520). However, the D500 is a somewhat more recent model (by 7 years and 7 months) than the E-520, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels. Coming back to sensor resolution, it should be mentioned that the D500 has no anti-alias filter installed, so that it can capture all the detail its sensor resolves.

D500 versus E-520 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service determines an overall sensor rating, as well as sub-scores for low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and color depth ("DXO Portrait"). Of the two cameras under review, the D500 provides substantially higher image quality than the E-520, with an overall score that is 28 points higher. This advantage is based on 2.6 bits higher color depth, 3.6 EV in additional dynamic range, and 1.3 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Nikon D500» APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.014.0132483Nikon D500
Olympus E-520« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
Nikon D7500« » APS-C 20.7 5568 37124K/30p24.314.0148386Nikon D7500
Nikon D3400« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.813.9119286Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« » Full Frame 20.7 5588 37124K/30p25.112.3234388Nikon D5
Nikon D5500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.114.0143884Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.514.6133387Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/60p24.814.5295693Nikon D750
Nikon D7100« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.213.7125683Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Nikon D600« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.2298094Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.512.278770Nikon D300S
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655Olympus E-620
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756Olympus E-420
Olympus E-410« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.110.049451Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.210.044252Olympus E-510
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The D500 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-520 does not. The highest resolution format that the D500 can use is 4K/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-520

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The D500 and the E-520 are similar in the sense that both have an optical viewfinder. The latter is useful for getting a clear image for framing even in brightly lit environments. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D500 and Olympus E-520 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or, for example, in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Nikon D500»optical Y 3.2 2359 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n n Nikon D500
Olympus E-520«optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
Nikon D7500« »optical Y 3.2 922 tilting Y 8000 8.0 Y n Nikon D7500
Nikon D3400« »optical n 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« »optical Y 3.2 2359 fixed Y 8000 14.0 n n Nikon D5
Nikon D5500« »optical n 3.2 1037 swivel Y 4000 5.0 Y n Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »optical Y 3.2 1229 tilting n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D750
Nikon D7100« »optical Y 3.2 1229 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Nikon D600« »optical Y 3.0 921 fixed n 4000 5.5 Y n Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« »optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 8000 7.0 Y n Nikon D300S
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
Olympus E-410« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

The D500 is a current model that online retailers, such as amazon, will have in stock. In contrast, the E-520 has been discontinued (but it can be found pre-owned on eBay). There has not been a direct replacement model for the E-520 from Olympus.

Review summary: Nikon D500 vs Olympus E-520

So what conclusions can be drawn? Is the Nikon D500 better than the Olympus E-520 or vice versa? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.

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Reasons to prefer the Nikon D500:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (20.7 vs 10MP) with a 47% higher linear resolution.
  • Maximized detail: Lacks an anti-alias filter to exploit the sensor's full resolution potential.
  • Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (28 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • Richer colors: Generates images with noticeably better colors (2.6 bits more color depth).
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (3.6 EV of extra DR).
  • Better low-light sensitivity: Requires less light for good images (1.3 stops ISO advantage).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 4K/30p movies.
  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.2" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (2359k vs 215k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
  • Fewer buttons to press: Is equipped with a touch-sensitive rear screen to facilitate handling.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Longer lasting: Can take more shots (1240 versus 750) on a single battery charge.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More modern: Reflects 7 years and 7 months of technical progress since the E-520 launch.

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Advantages of the Olympus E-520:

  • Better moiré control: Has an anti-alias filter to avoid artificial patterns to appear in images.
  • More compact: Is smaller (136x92mm vs 147x115mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 325g or 38 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Easier fill-in: Has a small integrated flash to brighten shadows of backlit subjects.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (65 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been around for much longer (launched in May 2008).

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the D500 is the clear winner of the match-up (17 : 7 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.

D500 17:07 E-520

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the D500 and the E-520 in practical situations. User reviews, such as those found at amazon, can sometimes inform about these issues, but such feedback is often incomplete, inconsistent, and biased. This is why hands-on reviews by experts are important. The following table reports the overall rankings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Nikon D500»HiRec91/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 1,999 i i Nikon D500
Olympus E-520«87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Nikon D7500« »HiRec86/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Apr 2017 1,299 i i Nikon D7500
Nikon D3400« »Rec76/1004/54.5/54.5/5 Aug 2016 499 i i Nikon D3400
Nikon D5« »-89/1004.5/55/55/5 Jan 2016 6,499 i i Nikon D5
Nikon D5500« »Rec79/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Jan 2015 899- i Nikon D5500
Nikon D7200« »HiRec84/1004.5/54/54.5/5 Mar 2015 1,199- i Nikon D7200
Nikon D750« »HiRec90/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Sep 2014 2,299 i i Nikon D750
Nikon D7100« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Feb 2013 1,199- i Nikon D7100
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Nikon D600« »HiRec87/1005/54.5/54.5/5 Sep 2012 2,099- i Nikon D600
Nikon D300S« »HiRec82/1004/55/54.5/5 Jul 2009 1,799- i Nikon D300S
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
Olympus E-420« »85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-410« »86/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 699- i Olympus E-410
Olympus E-510« »89/100HiRec3.5/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2007 799- i Olympus E-510
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The assessments were made in relation to similar cameras of the same technological generation. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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