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Olympus E-420 versus Olympus E-520

The Olympus E-420 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in March 2008 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-420 vs Olympus E-520

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-420 and the Olympus E-520 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three successive views from the front, the top, and the rear are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. You can also use the toggle button 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 – the E-420 – represents the basis or 100 percent across all the size and weight measures).

Snapsort Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-520
Compare E-420 versus E-520 top
Compare E-420 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 larger (6 percent) than the Olympus E-420. Moreover, the E-520 is markedly heavier (22 percent) than the E-420. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-420 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. 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.

Concerning battery life, the E-420 gets 500 shots out of its BLS-1 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
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-520« 5.4 in 3.6 in 2.7 in 18.9 oz 750 n May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Nikon D3000« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.5 in 18.9 oz 500 n Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
Nikon D60« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 500 n Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D40X« » 4.9 in 3.7 in 2.5 in 18.4 oz 520 n Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
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-450« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.5 oz 500 n Mar 2009 499- i Olympus E-450
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-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-400« » 5.1 in 3.6 in 2.1 in 15.3 oz 500 n Sep 2006 699- i Olympus E-400
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-420 was launched at a somewhat lower price (by 14 percent) than the E-520, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. 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-420 vs Olympus E-520

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.

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-420 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-420 and the E-520 have the same pixel density, as well as the same pixel size. Moreover, the two cameras were released in close succession, so that their sensors are from the same technological generation.

E-420 versus E-520 MP

Consistent information on actual sensor performance is available from DXO Mark for many cameras. 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 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-420» Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.452756Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520« Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.410.454855Olympus E-520
Nikon D3000« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.311.156362Nikon D3000
Nikon D60« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.511.456265Nikon D60
Nikon D40X« » APS-C 10.0 3872 2592-22.411.451663Nikon D40X
Olympus E-620« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.310.353655Olympus E-620
Olympus E-450« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.510.551256Olympus E-450
Olympus E-600« » Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024-21.510.354155Olympus E-600
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-400« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-----Olympus E-400
Panasonic L10« » Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736-21.310.842955Panasonic L10
Both the E-420 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-420 vs Olympus E-520

Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a variety of features. The E-420 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-420, the Olympus E-520, and comparable cameras. If you need more detail on the specs, you can find comprehensive listings, 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
Olympus E-420»optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520«optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y Y Olympus E-520
Nikon D3000« »optical n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D3000
Nikon D60« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D60
Nikon D40X« »optical n 2.5 230 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Nikon D40X
Olympus E-620« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-620
Olympus E-450« »optical n 2.7 215 fixed n 4000 3.5 Y n Olympus E-450
Olympus E-600« »optical n 2.7 230 swivel n 4000 4.0 Y Y Olympus E-600
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-400« »optical n 2.5 215 fixed n 4000 3.0 Y n Olympus E-400
Panasonic L10« »optical n 2.5 207 swivel n 4000 3.0 Y n Panasonic L10

Both the E-420 and the E-520 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. Neither of the two has a direct successor, so they represent the end of the respective camera lines from Olympus.

Review summary: Olympus E-420 vs Olympus E-520

So what is the bottom line? Is the Olympus E-420 better than the Olympus E-520 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-420:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 95g or 18 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (14 percent cheaper at launch).


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-520:

  • Longer lasting: Gets more shots (750 versus 500) out of a single battery charge.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the match-up finishes in a tie (2 points each). 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.

E-420 02:02 E-520

In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras is instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-420 or the E-520 handle or perform in practice. 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 adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular 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-420»85/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Mar 2008 599- i Olympus E-420
Olympus E-520«87/100HiRec4.5/54/54.5/5 May 2008 699- i Olympus E-520
Nikon D3000« »Rec72/1004/53.5/54.5/5 Jul 2009 599- i Nikon D3000
Nikon D60« »80/100HiRec4/5rev4.5/5 Jan 2008 629- i Nikon D60
Nikon D40X« »79/100HiRec4/5rev4/5 Mar 2007 729- i Nikon D40X
Olympus E-620« »88/10072/1004.5/5rev5/5 Feb 2009 699- i Olympus E-620
Olympus E-450« »--4/5-4/5 Mar 2009 499- i Olympus E-450
Olympus E-600« »----4.5/5 Aug 2009 449- i Olympus E-600
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-400« »85/100-4/5-4/5 Sep 2006 699- i Olympus E-400
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 ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time 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. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. An an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please send me an email, and I will try to locate and add the respective data to the application.

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