Olympus E-520 vs E-P1
The Olympus E-520 and the Olympus PEN E-P1 are two digital cameras that were announced, respectively, in May 2008 and June 2009. The E-520 is a DSLR, while the E-P1 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. Both cameras are equipped with a Four Thirds sensor. The E-520 has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the E-P1 provides 12.2 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
|Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|10 MP, Four Thirds Sensor||12.2 MP, Four Thirds Sensor|
|no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO 100-1600||ISO 100-6400|
|Optical viewfinder||No viewfinder, LCD framing|
|2.7" LCD, 215k dots||3.0" LCD, 230k dots|
|Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)||Fixed screen (not touch-sensitive)|
|3.5 shutter flaps per second||3 shutter flaps per second|
|In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|750 shots per battery charge||300 shots per battery charge|
|136 x 92 x 68 mm, 535 g||121 x 70 x 36 mm, 355 g|
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-520 and the Olympus PEN E-P1? 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.
The side-by-side display below illustrates the physical size and weight of the Olympus E-520 and the Olympus E-P1. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
The E-P1 can be obtained in three different colors (black, silver, white), while the E-520 is only available in black.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-P1 is considerably smaller (32 percent) than the Olympus E-520. Moreover, the E-P1 is markedly lighter (34 percent) than the E-520. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-520 nor the E-P1 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. Both cameras have similarly sized sensors, but DSLRs have a larger flange-to-focal plane distance than mirrorless cameras, which imposes contraints on the optical engineering process and generally leads to bigger and heavier lenses. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-520) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-P1). Mirrorless cameras, such as the E-P1, have moreover the advantage that they can use many lenses from other systems via adapters, as they have a relatively short flange to focal plane distance.
The following table provides a synthesis of the main physical specifications of the two cameras and other similar ones. 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.
|Olympus E-520»||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||18.9 oz||750||n||May 2008||699||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-P1«||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Jun 2009||799||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P3« »||4.8 in||2.7 in||1.3 in||13.0 oz||330||n||Jun 2011||799||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2« »||4.5 in||2.8 in||1.7 in||12.8 oz||280||n||Jan 2011||599||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3« »||4.3 in||2.5 in||1.5 in||11.0 oz||300||n||Jun 2011||599||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-450« »||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.5 oz||500||n||Mar 2009||499||Olympus E-450|
|Olympus E-600« »||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.9 oz||500||n||Aug 2009||449||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620« »||5.1 in||3.7 in||2.4 in||18.4 oz||500||n||Feb 2009||699||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2« »||4.8 in||2.8 in||1.4 in||12.5 oz||300||n||Nov 2009||799||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30« »||5.6 in||4.3 in||3.0 in||24.7 oz||750||n||Nov 2008||1,299||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420« »||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.5 oz||500||n||Mar 2008||599||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-410« »||5.1 in||3.6 in||2.1 in||15.3 oz||500||n||Mar 2007||699||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510« »||5.4 in||3.6 in||2.7 in||19.0 oz||750||n||Mar 2007||799||Olympus E-510|
|Panasonic GH1« »||4.9 in||3.5 in||1.8 in||13.6 oz||300||n||Mar 2009||899||Panasonic GH1|
|Panasonic L10« »||5.3 in||3.8 in||3.1 in||19.6 oz||450||n||Aug 2007||599||Panasonic L10|
|Note: Measurements and pricing do not include easily detachable parts, such as interchangeable lenses or optional viewfinders.|
Any camera decision will naturally be influenced heavily by the price. 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 somewhat lower price (by 13 percent) than the E-P1, which makes it more attractive for photographers on a tight budget. Normally, street prices remain initially close to the MSRP, but after a couple of months, the first discounts appear. 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.
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.
Technology-wise, the E-P1 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.
While the two cameras under review share the same sensor size, the E-P1 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-P1 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). However, it should be noted that the E-P1 is a somewhat more recent model (by 1 year and 1 month) than the E-520, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that at least partly compensate for the smaller pixel size.
The resolution advantage of the Olympus E-P1 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the E-P1 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 20.2 x 15.1 inch or 51.2 x 38.4 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 16.1 x 12.1 inch or 41 x 30.7 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 13.4 x 10.1 inch or 34.1 x 25.6 cm. The corresponding values for the Olympus E-520 are 18.2 x 13.7 inch or 46.3 x 34.7 cm for good quality, 14.6 x 10.9 inch or 37.1 x 27.8 cm for very good quality, and 12.2 x 9.1 inch or 30.9 x 23.2 cm for excellent quality prints.
The Olympus E-520 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Olympus PEN E-P1 are ISO 100 to ISO 6400 (no boost).
For many cameras, data on sensor performance has been reported by DXO Mark. 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 imaging performance. The following table provides an overview of the physical sensor characteristics, as well as the sensor quality measurements for a selection of comparators.
|Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.8||10.1||536||51||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.2||573||55||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||1080/60i||20.9||10.3||499||52||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-450||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.5||512||56||Olympus E-450|
|Olympus E-600||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.5||10.3||541||55||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.4||530||55||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.4||527||56||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52||Olympus E-510|
|Panasonic GH1||Four Thirds||12.0||4000||3000||1080/24p||21.6||11.6||772||64||Panasonic GH1|
|Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55||Panasonic L10|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The E-P1 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-520 does not. The highest resolution format that the E-P1 can use is 720/30p.
Apart from body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the E-520 has an optical viewfinder, which can be very useful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-P1 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The adjacent table lists some of the other core features of the Olympus E-520 and Olympus E-P1 along with similar information for a selection of comparators.
|Olympus E-520||optical||n||2.7||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||Y||Y||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-P1||none||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P3||optional||n||3.0||614||fixed||Y||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||optional||n||3.0||460||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||optional||n||3.0||460||tilting||n||1/4000s||5.5||n||Y||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-450||optical||n||2.7||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||Y||n||Olympus E-450|
|Olympus E-600||optical||n||2.7||230||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620||optical||n||2.7||230||swivel||n||1/4000s||4.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2||optional||n||3.0||230||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||n||Y||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30||optical||Y||2.7||230||swivel||n||1/8000s||5.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420||optical||n||2.7||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.5||Y||n||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-410||optical||n||2.5||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510||optical||n||2.5||215||fixed||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||Y||Olympus E-510|
|Panasonic GH1||1440||n||3.0||460||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic GH1|
|Panasonic L10||optical||n||2.5||207||swivel||n||1/4000s||3.0||Y||n||Panasonic L10|
One difference between the cameras concerns the presence of an on-board flash. The E-520 has one, while the E-P1 does not. While the built-in flash of the E-520 is not very powerful, it can at times be useful as a fill-in light.
The E-520 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the E-P1 uses SDHC cards. The E-520 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the E-P1 only has one slot.
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-520 and Olympus PEN E-P1 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
|Olympus E-520||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-520|
|Olympus E-P1||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P1|
|Olympus E-P3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P3|
|Olympus E-PL2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL2|
|Olympus E-PL3||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-PL3|
|Olympus E-450||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-450|
|Olympus E-600||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-600|
|Olympus E-620||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-620|
|Olympus E-P2||Y||stereo||none||-||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-P2|
|Olympus E-30||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-30|
|Olympus E-420||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-420|
|Olympus E-410||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-410|
|Olympus E-510||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Olympus E-510|
|Panasonic GH1||Y||stereo||none||Y||-||mini||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic GH1|
|Panasonic L10||Y||none||none||-||-||none||2.0||-||-||-||Panasonic L10|
Both the E-520 and the E-P1 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The E-P1 was replaced by the Olympus E-P2, while the E-520 does not have a direct successor. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus website.
So what is the bottom line? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-520 or the Olympus E-P1 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? The listing below highlights the relative strengths of the two models.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-520:
- Easier framing: Has an optical viewfinder for image composition and settings control.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (3.5 vs 3 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 300) on a single battery charge.
- Easier fill-in: Is equipped with a small onboard flash to brighten deep shadow areas.
- Greater peace of mind: Features a second card slot as a backup in case of memory card failure.
- More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced segment (13 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been on the market for longer (launched in May 2008).
Advantages of the Olympus PEN E-P1:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (12.2 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 11%.
- Better jpgs: Has a more modern image processing engine (TruePic V vs TruePic III).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 720/30p video.
- Larger screen: Has a bigger rear LCD (3.0" vs 2.7") for image review and settings control.
- More compact: Is smaller (121x70mm vs 136x92mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 180g or 34 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More modern: Was introduced somewhat (1 year and 1 month) more recently.
If the number of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the E-P1 comes out slightly ahead of the E-520 (8 : 7 points). 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. 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.
How about other alternatives? Do the specifications of the Olympus E-520 and the Olympus E-P1 place the cameras among the top in their class? Find out in the latest Best DSLR Camera and Best Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera listings whether the two cameras rank among the cream of the crop.
In any case, while the specs-based evaluation of cameras can be instructive in revealing their potential as photographic tools, it says little about, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance of the E-520 and the E-P1 in practical situations. 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 where reviews by experts come in. The following table reports the overall ratings of the cameras as published by some of the major camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, and photographyblog). 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.
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.
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. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored.
- Canon 350D vs Olympus E-520
- Canon 40D vs Olympus E-520
- Canon 5D Mark III vs Olympus E-P1
- Canon 750D vs Olympus E-520
- Leica TL2 vs Olympus E-520
- Nikon D200 vs Olympus E-520
- Nikon D800 vs Olympus E-520
- Olympus E-520 vs Sony NEX-5R
- Olympus E-520 vs Sony RX100 III
- Olympus E-620 vs Olympus E-P1
- Olympus E-M10 vs Olympus E-P1
- Olympus E-P1 vs Sony HX95
Specifications: Olympus E-520 vs Olympus E-P1
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 Model||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Micro Four Thirds lenses|
|Launch Date||May 2008||June 2009|
|Launch Price||USD 699||USD 799|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|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|
|Sensor Resolution||10 Megapixels||12.2 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3648 x 2736 pixels||4032 x 3024 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.74 μm||4.29 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.44 MP/cm2||5.42 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||720/30p Video|
|ISO Setting||100-1600 ISO||100-6400 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic III||TruePic V|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||55||55|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.4||21.4|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.4||10.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||548||536|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||No viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.7 inch||3.0 inch|
|LCD Resolution||215k dots||230k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Fixed screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|Autofocus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Continuous Shooting||3.5 shutter flaps/s||3 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||In-body stabilization|
|Fill Flash||Build-in Flash||no On-Board Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XD cards||SDHC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-520||Olympus E-P1|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||300 shots per charge|
136 x 92 x 68 mm
(5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
121 x 70 x 36 mm
(4.8 x 2.8 x 1.4 in)
|Camera Weight||535 g (18.9 oz)||355 g (12.5 oz)|
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