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Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-520

The Nikon D80 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in August 2006 and May 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are based on an APS-C (D80) and a Four Thirds (E-520) sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 10 megapixels.

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

Headline Specifications
Nikon D80 VS Olympus E-520
Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
10 MP, APS-C Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
no Video no Video
ISO 100-1600 (100-3200) ISO 100-1600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
2.5" LCD, 230k dots 2.7" LCD, 215k dots
Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
3 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
Lens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
600 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
132 x 103 x 77 mm, 668 g 136 x 92 x 68 mm, 535 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Nikon D80 and the Olympus E-520? 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 Nikon D80 and the Olympus E-520 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 Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-520
Compare D80 versus E-520 top
Comparison D80 or 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 (8 percent) than the Nikon D80. Moreover, the E-520 is markedly lighter (20 percent) than the D80. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the D80 nor the E-520 are weather-sealed.

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 compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Nikon Lens Catalog (D80) and the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-520).

Concerning battery life, the D80 gets 600 shots out of its EN-EL3e 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, just click on the right or left arrow next to the camera that you would like to inspect. Alternatively, you can also use the CAM-parator to select your camera combination among a larger number of options.

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)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D80» 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 668 g 600 n Aug 2006 999iNikon D80
 
Olympus E-520« 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699iOlympus E-520
 
Canon 30D« » 144 mm 106 mm 74 mm 785 g 750 n Feb 2006 1,399iCanon 30D
 
Leica M8« » 139 mm 80 mm 37 mm 591 g .. n Sep 2006 5,499iLeica M8
 
Nikon D5000« » 127 mm 104 mm 80 mm 590 g 510 n Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D90« » 132 mm 103 mm 77 mm 703 g 850 n Aug 2008 1,299iNikon D90
 
Nikon D40X« » 124 mm 94 mm 64 mm 522 g 520 n Mar 2007 729iNikon D40X
 
Nikon D300« » 147 mm 114 mm 74 mm 925 g 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D50« » 133 mm 102 mm 76 mm 620 g 400 n Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s« » 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 500 n Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70« » 140 mm 111 mm 78 mm 679 g 400 n Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Olympus E-600« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449iOlympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620« » 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699iOlympus E-620
 
Olympus E-420« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599iOlympus E-420
 
Olympus E-410« » 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699iOlympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510« » 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799iOlympus E-510
 
Panasonic L10« » 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 n Aug 2007 599iPanasonic L10
Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as 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 E-520 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 30 percent) than the D80, 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

The imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 tend to be more expensive and lead to bigger and heavier cameras and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Nikon D80 features an APS-C sensor and the Olympus E-520 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-520 is 40 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 D80 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-520 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Nikon D80 and Olympus E-520 sensor measures

Even though the D80 has a larger sensor, both cameras offer the same resolution of 10 megapixels. This implies that the D80 has a lower pixel density and larger individual pixels (with a pixel pitch of 6.11μm versus 4.74μm for the E-520), which gives it a potential advantage in terms of light gathering capacity. It should, however, be noted that the E-520 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 9 months) than the D80, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The Nikon D80 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600, which can be extended to ISO 100-3200. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-520 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

D80 versus E-520 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service assesses and scores the color depth ("DXO Portrait"), dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports") of camera sensors, and also publishes an overall camera score. Of the two cameras under review, the D80 has a notably higher overall DXO score than the E-520 (overall score 6 points higher), which gives it an advantage in terms of imaging quality. This advantage is based on 0.7 bits higher color depth, 0.8 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.1 stops of reduced low light sensitivity. The adjacent table reports on the physical sensor characteristics and the outcomes of the DXO sensor quality tests for a sample of comparator-cameras.

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 D80 APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.111.252461Nikon D80
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855Olympus E-520
 
Canon 30D APS-C 8.2 3504 2336none21.510.873659Canon 30D
 
Leica M8 APS-H 10.4 3936 2630none21.111.366359Leica M8
 
Nikon D5000 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.586872Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D90 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848720/24p22.712.597773Nikon D90
 
Nikon D40X APS-C 10.0 3872 2592none22.411.451663Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D300 APS-C 12.2 4288 2848none22.112.067967Nikon D300
 
Nikon D50 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.910.856055Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70s APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70 APS-C 6.0 3008 2000none20.410.352950Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-600 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.510.354155Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252Olympus E-510
 
Panasonic L10 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.310.842955Panasonic L10
The E-520 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The D80 lacks this capability. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The D80 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 viewfinders of both cameras offer the same field of view (95%), but the viewfinder of the D80 has a higher magnification than the one of the E-520 (0.62x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The table below summarizes some of the other core capabilities of the Nikon D80 and Olympus E-520 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar cameras.

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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D80optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D80
 
Olympus E-520optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
 
Canon 30Doptical Y 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 5.0 Y n Canon 30D
 
Leica M8optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/8000s 2.0 n n Leica M8
 
Nikon D5000optical n 2.7 230 full-flex n 1/4000s 4.0 Y n Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D90optical Y 3.0 920 fixed n 1/4000s 4.5 Y n Nikon D90
 
Nikon D40Xoptical n 2.5 230 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D300optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 1/8000s 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
 
Nikon D50optical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/4000s 2.5 Y n Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70soptical n 2.0 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70optical n 1.8 130 fixed n 1/8000s 3.0 Y n Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-600optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-420optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-410optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y Olympus E-510
 
Panasonic L10optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

One feature that differentiates the E-520 and the D80 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-520 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the D80 has to rely on optical image stabilization in OIS-equipped lenses to achieve the same effect.

The D80 writes its imaging data to SDHC cards, while the E-520 uses Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. The E-520 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the D80 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 Nikon D80 and Olympus E-520 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.

Input-Output Connections
  Camera
Model
Hotshoe
Port
Internal
Microphone
Internal
Speaker
Microphone
Port
Headphone
Port
HDMI
Port
USB
Port
WiFi
Support
NFC
Support
Bluetooth
Support
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D80Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D80
 
Olympus E-520Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-520
 
Canon 30DYnonenone--none2.0---Canon 30D
 
Leica M8Ynonenone--none2.0---Leica M8
 
Nikon D5000Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D5000
 
Nikon D90Ymonomono--mini2.0---Nikon D90
 
Nikon D40XYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D40X
 
Nikon D300Ynonenone--mini2.0---Nikon D300
 
Nikon D50Ynonenone--none2.0---Nikon D50
 
Nikon D70sYnonenone--none2.0---Nikon D70s
 
Nikon D70Ynonenone--none1.0---Nikon D70
 
Olympus E-600Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-600
 
Olympus E-620Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-620
 
Olympus E-420Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-420
 
Olympus E-410Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-410
 
Olympus E-510Ynonenone--none2.0---Olympus E-510
 
Panasonic L10Ynonenone--none2.0---Panasonic L10

Both the D80 and the E-520 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The D80 was replaced by the Nikon D90, while the E-520 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 Nikon and Olympus websites.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is there a clear favorite between the Nikon D80 and the Olympus E-520? 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 Nikon D80:

  • Better image quality: Scores markedly higher (6 points) in the DXO overall assessment.
  • More dynamic range: Captures a larger spectrum of light and dark details (0.8 EV of extra DR).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.62x vs 0.46x).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in August 2006).

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Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-520:

  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 133g or 20 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 600) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology built-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (30 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 9 months) more recently.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the E-520 is the clear winner of the contest (8 : 4 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.

D80 04:08 E-520

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Nikon D80 and the Olympus E-520 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera listing whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the D80 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.

Expert reviews

This is where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cam
era
  labs  
dp
re
  view  
e
photo
  zine  
ima
ging
resource
photo
graphy
  blog  
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
 
Nikon D80++ +o4.5/54.5/5 Aug 2006 999iNikon D80
 
Olympus E-52087/100+ +4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699iOlympus E-520
 
Canon 30D+ ++ +oo.. Feb 2006 1,399iCanon 30D
 
Leica M8..+ +...... Sep 2006 5,499iLeica M8
 
Nikon D5000+ +75/1004/55/54.5/5 Apr 2009 749iNikon D5000
 
Nikon D90+ ++ +4/55/54.5/5 Aug 2008 1,299iNikon D90
 
Nikon D40X79/100+ +4/5o4/5 Mar 2007 729iNikon D40X
 
Nikon D300+ ++ +5/5o4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799iNikon D300
 
Nikon D5078/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Apr 2005 749iNikon D50
 
Nikon D70s......o5/5 Apr 2005 899iNikon D70s
 
Nikon D70..+ +..o.. Jan 2004 999iNikon D70
 
Olympus E-600........4.5/5 Aug 2009 449iOlympus E-600
 
Olympus E-62088/10072/1004.5/5o5/5 Feb 2009 699iOlympus E-620
 
Olympus E-42085/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2008 599iOlympus E-420
 
Olympus E-41086/100+ +4/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 699iOlympus E-410
 
Olympus E-51089/100+ +3.5/5o4.5/5 Mar 2007 799iOlympus E-510
 
Panasonic L1085/100+3.5/5o4/5 Aug 2007 599iPanasonic L10
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, 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 comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Nikon D80:
Check Ebay offers
Olympus E-520:
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: Nikon D80 vs Olympus E-520

    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 Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Nikon F mount lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date August 2006 May 2008
    Launch Price USD 999 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    Sensor Technology CCD CMOS
    Sensor Format APS-C Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 23.6 x 15.8 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 372.88 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 28.4 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 1.5x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 10 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 3872 x 2592 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 6.11 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 2.69 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability no Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100-1600 ISO 100-1600 ISO
    ISO Boost 100-3200 ISO no Enhancement
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 61 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 22.1 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 11.2 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 524 548
    Screen Specs Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 95% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.62x 0.46x
    LCD Framing Live View
    Rear LCD Size 2.5 inch 2.7 inch
    LCD Resolution 230k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Fixed screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 3 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationLens stabilization onlyIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Build-in Flash Build-in Flash
    Storage Medium SDHC cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Single card slot Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port no HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Nikon D80 Olympus E-520
    Battery Type EN-EL3e BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)600 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 132 x 103 x 77 mm
    (5.2 x 4.1 x 3.0 in)
    136 x 92 x 68 mm
    (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
    Camera Weight 668 g (23.6 oz) 535 g (18.9 oz)

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