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Olympus E-500 versus Leica Digilux 3

The Olympus Evolt E-500 and the Leica Digilux 3 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in September 2005 and September 2006. Both are DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) cameras that are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 8 megapixel, whereas the Leica provides 7.4 MP.

Body comparison

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-500 and the Leica Digilux 3 is provided in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. 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 E-500 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Olympus E-500 vs Leica Digilux 3 front
E-500 versus Digilux 3 top view
E-500 and Digilux 3 rear side
Body view (E-500 on the left)

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Leica Digilux 3 is somewhat larger (3 percent) than the Olympus E-500. Moreover, the Digilux 3 is markedly heavier (27 percent) than the E-500. Cameras intended for semi-professional or professional use tend to be a bit bulkier in order to give them the necessary ruggedness. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-500 nor the Digilux 3 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.

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 comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
Camera Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(y/n)
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-500 (⇒ rgt) 130 mm 95 mm 66 mm 479 g 750 no 2005 599discont. check
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft) 146 mm 87 mm 77 mm 606 g 750 no 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 no 2009 499discont. check
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 440 g 500 no 2008 599discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 no 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 136 mm 92 mm 68 mm 538 g 750 no 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) 140 mm 87 mm 72 mm 637 g 750 no 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 130 mm 91 mm 53 mm 435 g 500 no 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) 147 mm 85 mm 64 mm 624 g 750 no 2004 799discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 135 mm 96 mm 78 mm 556 g 450 no 2007 599discont. check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 146 mm 87 mm 64 mm 606 g 750 no 2006 999discont. check

The listed prices provide an indication of the market segment that the manufacturer of the cameras have been targeting. The E-500 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 60 percent) than the Digilux 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

The size of the sensor inside a digital camera is one of the key determinants 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 are more costly to manufacture and tent 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-500 and Leica Digilux 3 sensor measures
Sensor size

While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-500 offers a higher resolution of 8 megapixel, compared with 7.4 MP of the Digilux 3. This megapixel advantage translates into a 4 percent gain in linear resolution. On the other hand, these sensor specs imply that the E-500 has a higher pixel density and a smaller size of the individual pixel (with a pixel pitch of 5.30μm versus 5.52μm for the Digilux 3). However, it should be noted that the Digilux 3 is a somewhat more recent model (by 11 months) than the E-500, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of individual pixels.

E-500 versus Digilux 3 MP
Sensor resolution

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. 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 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 Sensor
Class
Resolution
(Megapixel)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Olympus E-500 (⇒ rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.5 10.5 512 56
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.5 10.4 527 56
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.1 10.0 494 51
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.2 10.0 442 52
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no - - - -
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 8.0 3264 2448 no - - - -
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 10.0 3648 2736 no 21.3 10.8 429 55
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) Four Thirds 7.4 3136 2352 no - - - -
The Digilux 3 offers Live View, so that it can project the live image that the sensor receives onto the rear screen for framing. The E-500 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 E-500 and the Digilux 3 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-500, the Leica Digilux 3, 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 Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(Y/n)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(Y/n)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(GN)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Olympus E-500 (⇒ rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 2.5 13 no
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 no
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.7 215 fixed no 4000 3.5 12 no
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 12 YES
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 tilting no 4000 3.0 13 no
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 215 fixed no 4000 3.0 10 no
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 1.8 134 fixed no 4000 2.5 11 no
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 swivel no 4000 3.0 11 no
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) optical no 2.5 207 fixed no 4000 3.0 13 no

Both the E-500 and the Digilux 3 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on ebay. The E-500 was replaced by the Olympus E-510, while the Digilux 3 does not have a direct successor.

Summary

So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-500 or the Leica Digilux 3 – has the upper hand? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.


Advantages of the Olympus Evolt E-500:

  • Less heavy: Is lighter (by 127g or 21 percent) and hence easier to carry around.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (60 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in September 2005).

Reasons to prefer the Leica Digilux 3:

  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (11 months) more recently.

If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-500 comes out slightly ahead of the Digilux 3 (3 : 2 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.

E-500 03:02 Digilux 3

In any case, while the comparison of technical specifications can provide a useful overview of the capabilities of different cameras, it remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the handling experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-500 or the Digilux 3. 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 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. You can find the full text of the reviews, respectively, at cameralabs.com, dpreview.com, ephotozine.com, imaging-resource.com, and photographyblog.com.

Review scores
Camera camera
labs
dp
review
ephoto
zine
imaging
resource
photography
blog
Camera
Launch
(year)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(amazon)
Used
Price
(ebay)
Olympus E-500 (⇒ rgt) 76/100 HiRec - - - 2005 599discont. check
Leica Digilux 3 (⇒ lft) - - - - - 2006 1,499discont. check
Olympus E-450 (⇒ lft | rgt) - - 4/5 - 4/5 2009 499discont. check
Olympus E-420 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2008 599discont. check
Olympus E-410 (⇒ lft | rgt) 86/100 HiRec 4/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 699discont. check
Olympus E-510 (⇒ lft | rgt) 89/100 HiRec 3.5/5 reviewed 4.5/5 2007 799discont. check
Olympus E-330 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed 3.5/5 - 2006 999discont. check
Olympus E-400 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 - 4/5 - 4/5 2006 699discont. check
Olympus E-300 (⇒ lft | rgt) - Rec reviewed reviewed 4.5/5 2004 799discont. check
Panasonic L10 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec 3.5/5 reviewed 4/5 2007 599discont. check
Panasonic L1 (⇒ lft | rgt) 85/100 Rec - reviewed 3.5/5 2006 999discont. check

The review scores listed above should be treated with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. Also, please note that some of the review sites have changed their methodology and reporting over time.

Other comparisons

If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, 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. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, please contact me, and I will try to update the database with the necessary infos.

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