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Olympus E-5 vs E-520

The Olympus E-5 and the Olympus E-520 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in September 2010 and May 2008. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-5 has a resolution of 12.2 megapixels, whereas the E-520 provides 10 MP.

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

Headline Specifications
Olympus E-5
versus
Olympus E-520
Olympus E-5   Olympus E-520
Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor 10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor
720/30p Video no Video
ISO 100-6,400 ISO 100-1,600
Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
3.0 LCD, 920k dots 2.7 LCD, 215k dots
Swivel screen (not touch-sensitive) Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)
5 shutter flaps per second 3.5 shutter flaps per second
In-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
Weathersealed bodynot weather sealed
750 shots per battery charge750 shots per battery charge
142 x 117 x 75 mm, 873 g 136 x 92 x 68 mm, 535 g

Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-5 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 Olympus E-5 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 Olympus E-5 vs Olympus E-520
Compare E-5 versus E-520 top
Comparison E-5 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 (25 percent) than the Olympus E-5. Moreover, the E-520 is substantially lighter (39 percent) than the E-5. It is worth mentioning in this context that the E-5 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 compare the optics available in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog.

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.
 
Olympus E-5 142 mm 117 mm 75 mm 873 g 750 Y Sep 2010 1,699i
2.
 
Olympus E-520 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 535 g 750 n May 2008 699i
3.
 
Canon 60D 145 mm 106 mm 79 mm 755 g 1100 Y Aug 2010 1,399i
4.
 
Olympus E-P3 122 mm 69 mm 34 mm 369 g 330 n Jun 2011 799i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL2 114 mm 72 mm 42 mm 362 g 280 n Jan 2011 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3 110 mm 64 mm 37 mm 313 g 300 n Jun 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 110 mm 64 mm 34 mm 265 g 330 n Jun 2011 499i
8.
 
Olympus E-450 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2009 499i
9.
 
Olympus E-600 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 535 g 500 n Aug 2009 449i
10.
 
Olympus E-620 130 mm 94 mm 60 mm 521 g 500 n Feb 2009 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-420 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 n Mar 2008 599i
12.
 
Olympus E-3 142 mm 116 mm 75 mm 876 g 750 Y Oct 2007 1,699i
13.
 
Olympus E-410 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 n Mar 2007 699i
14.
 
Olympus E-510 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 n Mar 2007 799i
15.
 
Sony A77 143 mm 104 mm 81 mm 732 g 470 Y Aug 2011 1,399i
Notes: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as add-on or interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.

The price is, of course, an important factor in any camera decision. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-520 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 59 percent) than the E-5, 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 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. 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.

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.

In terms of chip-set technology, the E-5 uses a more advanced image processing engine (TruePic V+) than the E-520 (TruePic III), with benefits for noise reduction, color accuracy, and processing speed.

Olympus E-5 and Olympus E-520 sensor measures

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-5 offers a higher resolution of 12.2 megapixels, compared with 10 MP of the E-520. This megapixels advantage translates into a 11 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-5 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 4.29μm versus 4.74μm for the E-520). In this context, it should be noted, however, that the E-5 is much more recent (by 2 years and 4 months) than the E-520, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that compensate for the smaller pixel size.

The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-5 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-5 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inches or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inches or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inches or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-520 are 18.2 x 13.7 inches or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inches or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inches or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.

The Olympus E-5 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 6400. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus E-520 are ISO 100 to ISO 1600 (no boost).

E-5 versus E-520 MP

For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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"). The Overall DXO ratings for the two cameras under consideration are close, suggesting that they provide similar imaging performance. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar 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.
 
Olympus E-5 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.610.551956
2.
 
Olympus E-520 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.410.454855
3.
 
Canon 60D APS-C 17.9 5184 34561080/30p22.211.581366
4.
 
Olympus E-P3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.810.153651
5.
 
Olympus E-PL2 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024720/30p21.410.257355
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i20.910.349952
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 30241080/60i21.010.349952
8.
 
Olympus E-450 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.551256
9.
 
Olympus E-600 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.510.354155
10.
 
Olympus E-620 Four Thirds 12.2 4032 3024none21.310.353655
11.
 
Olympus E-420 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.510.452756
12.
 
Olympus E-3 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.610.557156
13.
 
Olympus E-410 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.110.049451
14.
 
Olympus E-510 Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736none21.210.044252
15.
 
Sony A77 APS-C 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.013.280178

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-5 indeed provides movie recording capabilities, while the E-520 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-5 can use is 720/30p.

Feature comparison

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. The E-5 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 viewfinder in the E-5 offers a wider field of view (100%) than the one in the E-520 (95%), so that a larger proportion of the captured image is visible in the finder. In addition, the viewfinder of the E-5 has a higher magnification (0.58x 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 Olympus E-5 and Olympus E-520 in connection with corresponding information for a sample of similar 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)
Mech
Shutter
Speed
Shutter
Flaps
(1/sec)
Built-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Built-in
Image
Stab
1.
 
Olympus E-5optical Y3.0 / 920 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
2.
 
Olympus E-520optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y Y
3.
 
Canon 60Doptical Y3.0 / 1040 swivel n 1/8000s 5.3 Y n
4.
 
Olympus E-P3optional n3.0 / 614 fixed Y 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
5.
 
Olympus E-PL2optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3optional n3.0 / 460 tilting n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1optional n3.0 / 460 fixed n 1/4000s 5.5 n Y
8.
 
Olympus E-450optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
9.
 
Olympus E-600optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
10.
 
Olympus E-620optical n2.7 / 230 swivel n 1/4000s 4.0 Y Y
11.
 
Olympus E-420optical n2.7 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.5 Y n
12.
 
Olympus E-3optical Y2.5 / 230 swivel n 1/8000s 5.0 Y Y
13.
 
Olympus E-410optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y n
14.
 
Olympus E-510optical n2.5 / 215 fixed n 1/4000s 3.0 Y Y
15.
 
Sony A772359 Y3.0 / 921 full-flex n 1/8000s 12.0 Y Y

One feature that is present on the E-5, but is missing on the E-520 is a top-level LCD. While being, of course, smaller than the rear screen, the control panel conveys some of the essential shooting information and can be convenient for quick and easy settings verification.

The E-5 has an articulated LCD that can be turned to be front-facing. This characteristic will be appreciated by vloggers and photographers who are interested in snapping selfies. In contrast, the E-520 does not have a selfie-screen.

Concerning the storage of imaging data, both the E-5 and the E-520 write their files to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards. Both cameras feature dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails.

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 Olympus E-5 and Olympus E-520 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.
 
Olympus E-5Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
2.
 
Olympus E-520Y- / ----2.0---
3.
 
Canon 60DYmono / monoY-mini2.0---
4.
 
Olympus E-P3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
5.
 
Olympus E-PL2Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
6.
 
Olympus E-PL3Ystereo / ---mini2.0---
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1Ystereo / mono--mini2.0---
8.
 
Olympus E-450Y- / ----2.0---
9.
 
Olympus E-600Y- / ----2.0---
10.
 
Olympus E-620Y- / ----2.0---
11.
 
Olympus E-420Y- / ----2.0---
12.
 
Olympus E-3Y- / ----2.0---
13.
 
Olympus E-410Y- / ----2.0---
14.
 
Olympus E-510Y- / ----2.0---
15.
 
Sony A77Ystereo / monoY-mini2.0---

Studio photographers will appreciate that the Olympus E-5 (unlike the E-520) features a PC Sync socket, so that professional strobe lights can be controlled by the camera.

Both the E-5 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. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.

Review summary

So how do things add up? Is the Olympus E-5 better than the Olympus E-520 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


Advantages of the Olympus E-5:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP) with a 11% higher linear resolution.
  • Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic V+ vs TruePic III).
  • Broader imaging potential: Can record not only still images but also 720/30p movies.
  • More complete view: Has a viewfinder with a larger field of view (100% vs 95%).
  • Larger viewfinder image: Features a viewfinder with a higher magnification (0.58x vs 0.46x).
  • Easier setting verification: Features an LCD display on top to control shooting parameters.
  • Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (920k vs 215k dots).
  • More flexible LCD: Has a swivel screen for odd-angle shots in portrait or landscape orientation.
  • More selfie-friendly: Has an articulated screen that can be turned to be front-facing.
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (1/8000s vs 1/4000s) 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.
  • Better studio light control: Has a PC Sync socket to connect to professional strobe lights.
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 4 months of technical progress since the E-520 launch.


Reasons to prefer the Olympus E-520:

  • More compact: Is smaller (136x92mm vs 142x117mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 338g 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 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 E-5 is the clear winner of the match-up (15 : 4 points). However, the pertinence of the various camera strengths will differ across photographers, so that you might want to weigh individual camera traits according to their importance for your own imaging needs before making a camera decision. 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.

E-5 15:04 E-520

How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-5 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 the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-5 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.

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.
 
Olympus E-54/5....75/1004/54.5/5 Sep 2010 1,699i
2.
 
Olympus E-520..87/100..+ +4.5/54.5/5 May 2008 699i
3.
 
Canon 60D5/5+..79/1004/54.5/5 Aug 2010 1,399i
4.
 
Olympus E-P3..83/100..74/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 799i
5.
 
Olympus E-PL23/583/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jan 2011 599i
6.
 
Olympus E-PL33/5+ +..72/1004.5/54/5 Jun 2011 599i
7.
 
Olympus E-PM1..86/100..71/1004.5/54.5/5 Jun 2011 499i
8.
 
Olympus E-450........4/54/5 Mar 2009 499i
9.
 
Olympus E-600..........4.5/5 Aug 2009 449i
10.
 
Olympus E-6203/588/100..72/1004.5/55/5 Feb 2009 699i
11.
 
Olympus E-420..85/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2008 599i
12.
 
Olympus E-3..88/100..+ +o4/5 Oct 2007 1,699i
13.
 
Olympus E-410..86/100..+ +4/54.5/5 Mar 2007 699i
14.
 
Olympus E-510..89/100..+ +3.5/54.5/5 Mar 2007 799i
15.
 
Sony A775/591/100..81/100..5/5 Aug 2011 1,399i
Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.

Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings are only valid when referring to cameras in the same category and of the same age. 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.

Olympus E-5:
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. Alternatively, you can follow any of the listed hyperlinks for comparisons that others found interesting.

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    Specifications: Olympus E-5 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 Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    Camera Type Digital single lens reflex Digital single lens reflex
    Camera Lens Four Thirds lenses Four Thirds lenses
    Launch Date September 2010 May 2008
    Launch Price USD 1,699 USD 699
    Sensor Specs Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    Sensor Technology CMOS CMOS
    Sensor Format Four Thirds Sensor Four Thirds Sensor
    Sensor Size 17.3 x 13.0 mm 17.3 x 13.0 mm
    Sensor Area 224.9 mm2 224.9 mm2
    Sensor Diagonal 21.6 mm 21.6 mm
    Crop Factor 2.0x 2.0x
    Sensor Resolution 12.2 Megapixels 10 Megapixels
    Image Resolution 4032 x 3024 pixels 3648 x 2736 pixels
    Pixel Pitch 4.29 μm 4.74 μm
    Pixel Density 5.42 MP/cm2 4.44 MP/cm2
    Moiré control Anti-Alias filter Anti-Alias filter
    Movie Capability 720/30p Video no Video
    ISO Setting 100 - 6,400 ISO 100 - 1,600 ISO
    Image Processor TruePic V+ TruePic III
    DXO Sensor Quality (score) 56 55
    DXO Color Depth (bits) 21.6 21.4
    DXO Dynamic Range (EV) 10.5 10.4
    DXO Low Light (ISO) 519 548
    Screen Specs Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    Viewfinder Type Optical viewfinder Optical viewfinder
    Viewfinder Field of View 100% 95%
    Viewfinder Magnification 0.58x 0.46x
    Top-Level Screen Control Panel no Top Display
    LCD Framing Live View Live View
    Rear LCD Size 3.0inch 2.7inch
    LCD Resolution 920k dots 215k dots
    LCD Attachment Swivel screen Fixed screen
    Shooting Specs Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    Focus System Phase-detect AF Phase-detect AF
    Continuous Shooting 5 shutter flaps/s 3.5 shutter flaps/s
    Image StabilizationIn-body stabilizationIn-body stabilization
    Fill Flash Built-in Flash Built-in Flash
    Storage Medium CF or XD cards CF or XD cards
    Second Storage Option Dual card slots Dual card slots
    Connectivity Specs Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    External Flash Hotshoe Hotshoe
    Studio Flash PC Sync socket no PC Sync
    USB Connector USB 2.0 USB 2.0
    HDMI Port mini HDMI no HDMI
    Wifi Support no Wifi no Wifi
    Body Specs Olympus E-5 Olympus E-520
    Environmental SealingWeathersealed bodynot weather sealed
    Battery Type BLM-5 BLM-1
    Battery Life (CIPA)750 shots per charge750 shots per charge
    Body Dimensions 142 x 117 x 75 mm
    (5.6 x 4.6 x 3.0 in)
    136 x 92 x 68 mm
    (5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
    Camera Weight 873 g (30.8 oz) 535 g (18.9 oz)

    Did you notice an error on this page? If so, please get in touch, so that we can correct the information.

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