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Olympus E-3 versus Olympus E-520

The Olympus E-3 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in October 2007 and May 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. Both cameras offer a resolution of 10 megapixel. 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: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-520

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-3 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. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left – the E-3 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-520
Compare E-3 versus E-520 top
Compare E-3 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 (24 percent) than the Olympus E-3. Moreover, the E-520 is substantially lighter (39 percent) than the E-3. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-3 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. In this particular case, both cameras feature the same lens mount, so that they can use the same lenses. You can find an overview of suitable optics in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

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
Olympus E-3» 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.9 oz 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
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 D300« » 5.8 in 4.5 in 2.9 in 32.6 oz 1000 Y Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-5« » 5.6 in 4.6 in 3.0 in 30.8 oz 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
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-600« » 5.1 in 3.7 in 2.4 in 18.9 oz 500 n Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
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-30« » 5.6 in 4.3 in 3.0 in 24.7 oz 750 n Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
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
Olympus E-1« » 5.6 in 4.1 in 3.2 in 26.0 oz 750 Y Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
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 59 percent) than the E-3, 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: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-520

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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Both cameras under consideration feature a Four Thirds sensor and have a format factor (sometimes also referred to as "crop factor") of 2.0. Within the spectrum of camera sensors, this places the review cameras among the medium-sized sensor cameras that aim to strike a balance between image quality and portability. Both cameras feature a native aspect ratio (sensor width to sensor height) of 4:3.

Olympus E-3 and Olympus E-520 sensor measures

The two cameras under review do not only share the same sensor size, but also offer an identical resolution of 10 megapixel. This similarity in sensor specs implies that both the E-3 and the E-520 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. It should, however, be noted that the E-520 is a somewhat more recent model (by 6 months) than the E-3, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time.

E-3 versus E-520 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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. The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar image quality. 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
Olympus E-3» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.610.557156Olympus E-3
Olympus E-520« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
Nikon D300« » APS-C 12.2 4288 2848-22.112.067967Nikon D300
Olympus E-5« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956Olympus E-5
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655Olympus E-620
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155Olympus E-600
Olympus E-420« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756Olympus E-420
Olympus E-30« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.453055Olympus E-30
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
Olympus E-1« » Four Thirds 4.9 2560 1920-----Olympus E-1
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10
Both the E-3 and the E-520 offer Live View, so that they make it possible to use the rear screen for framing. Both cameras are still-image focused and cannot record videos.
 

Feature comparison: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-520

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-3 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 following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-3, the Olympus E-520, and comparable cameras. If needed, the dpreview camera hub, for example, contains further detail on the cameras' specs.

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
Olympus E-3»optical Y 2.5 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-3
Olympus E-520«optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
Nikon D300« »optical Y 3.0 922 fixed n 8000 6.0 Y n Nikon D300
Olympus E-5« »optical Y 3.0 920 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-5
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
Olympus E-420« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
Olympus E-30« »optical Y 2.7 230 swivel n 8000 5.0 Y Y Olympus E-30
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
Olympus E-1« »optical Y 1.8 134 fixed n 4000 3.0 n n Olympus E-1
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

Both the E-3 and the E-520 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-3 was replaced by the Olympus E-5, while the E-520 does not have a direct successor.

Review summary: Olympus E-3 vs Olympus E-520

So what conclusions can be drawn? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-3 or the Olympus E-520 – has the upper hand? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-3:

  • Easier setting verification: Has an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • More flexible LCD: Has swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (5 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in October 2007).


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-520:

  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (2.7" vs 2.5") for image review and settings control.
  • More compact: Is smaller (136x92mm vs 142x116mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 341g or 39 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (59 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (6 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-3 comes out slightly ahead of the E-520 (6 : 5 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.

E-3 06:05 E-520

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-3 or the E-520. 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. This is why expert reviews 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). The full reviews are available 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
Olympus E-3»88/100HiRecrevrev4/5 Oct 2007 1,699- i Olympus E-3
Olympus E-520«87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Nikon D300« »HiRecHiRec5/5rev4.5/5 Aug 2007 1,799- i Nikon D300
Olympus E-5« »-75/1004/5-4.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699- i Olympus E-5
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
Olympus E-420« »85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-30« »-71/1004.5/5-4/5 Nov 2008 1,299- i Olympus E-30
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
Olympus E-1« »-Recrevrev- Jun 2003 1,699- i Olympus E-1
Panasonic L10« »85/100Rec3.5/5rev4/5 Aug 2007 599- i Panasonic L10

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. Hence, a score should always be seen in the context of the camera's market launch date and its price, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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