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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 officially introduced, 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

The physical size and weight of the Olympus E-500 and the Leica Digilux 3 are illustrated in the side-by-side display below. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All size dimensions 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-500 – represents 100 percent 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 considerably larger (103 percent) than the Olympus E-500. Moreover, the Digilux 3 is markedly heavier (27 percent) than the E-500. 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 imaging sensor is at the core of digital cameras and its size is one of the main determining factors 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. 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 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 slightly 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 5.51μm for the Digilux 3). Moreover, 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 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 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 adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-500 and Leica Digilux 3 along with similar information for a selection of comparators. 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? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.


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Advantages of the Olympus Evolt E-500:

  • More compact: Is smaller (130x95mm vs 146x87mm) and thus needs less room in the bag.
  • 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).

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Arguments in favor of the Leica Digilux 3:

  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3 vs 2.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More prestigious: Has the Leica luxury appeal, which ensures a high resale value.
  • More modern: Was introduced somewhat (11 months) more recently.

If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-500 comes out slightly ahead of the Digilux 3 (4 : 3 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.

E-500 04:03 Digilux 3

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it remains incomplete and does no justice, for example, to the way the E-500 or the Digilux 3 handle or perform in practice. At times, user reviews, such as those published at amazon, address these issues in a useful manner, but such feedback is on many occasions incomplete, inconsistent, and unreliable. This is where reviews by experts come in. The table below summarizes the assessments of some of the best known camera review sites. The full reviews are available, 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

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. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. Also, kindly note that some of the listed sites have over time developped their review approaches and their reporting style.

Other comparisons

In case you are interested in seeing how other cameras pair up, just make a corresponding selection in the search boxes below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you cannot find the camera you are interested in, please send me an email, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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