Olympus E-520 vs Sony NEX-7
The Olympus E-520 and the Sony Alpha NEX-7 are two digital cameras that were revealed to the public, respectively, in May 2008 and August 2011. The E-520 is a DSLR, while the NEX-7 is a mirrorless interchangeable lens camera. The cameras are based on a Four Thirds (E-520) and an APS-C (NEX-7) sensor. The Olympus has a resolution of 10 megapixels, whereas the Sony provides 24 MP.
Below is an overview of the main specs of the two cameras as a starting point for the comparison.
Going beyond this snapshot of core features and characteristics, what are the differences between the Olympus E-520 and the Sony Alpha NEX-7? 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 physical size and weight of the Olympus E-520 and the Sony NEX-7 are illustrated 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 width, height and depth dimensions are rounded to the nearest millimeter.
If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Sony NEX-7 is considerably smaller (36 percent) than the Olympus E-520. Moreover, the NEX-7 is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the E-520. In this context, it is worth noting that neither the E-520 nor the NEX-7 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. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can compare the optics available for the two cameras in the Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-520) and the Sony E-Mount Lens Catalog (NEX-7). Mirrorless cameras, such as the NEX-7, 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. In case you want to display and compare another camera duo, you can use the CAM-parator app to select your camera combination among a large number of options.
|1.||Olympus E-520||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||535 g||750||n||May 2008||699|
|2.||Sony NEX-7||120 mm||67 mm||43 mm||400 g||430||n||Aug 2011||1,349|
|3.||Fujifilm X100||126 mm||75 mm||54 mm||445 g||300||n||Sep 2010||1,199|
|4.||Olympus E-450||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||n||Mar 2009||499|
|5.||Olympus E-600||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||535 g||500||n||Aug 2009||449|
|6.||Olympus E-620||130 mm||94 mm||60 mm||521 g||500||n||Feb 2009||699|
|7.||Olympus E-P1||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Jun 2009||799|
|8.||Olympus E-P2||121 mm||70 mm||36 mm||355 g||300||n||Nov 2009||799|
|9.||Olympus E-30||142 mm||108 mm||75 mm||701 g||750||n||Nov 2008||1,299|
|10.||Olympus E-420||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||440 g||500||n||Mar 2008||599|
|11.||Olympus E-410||130 mm||91 mm||53 mm||435 g||500||n||Mar 2007||699|
|12.||Olympus E-510||136 mm||92 mm||68 mm||538 g||750||n||Mar 2007||799|
|13.||Panasonic L10||135 mm||96 mm||78 mm||556 g||450||n||Aug 2007||599|
|14.||Sony A6400||120 mm||67 mm||50 mm||403 g||410||Y||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6000||120 mm||67 mm||45 mm||344 g||360||n||Feb 2014||599|
|16.||Sony A3000||128 mm||91 mm||85 mm||411 g||470||n||Aug 2013||329|
|17.||Sony RX1||113 mm||65 mm||70 mm||482 g||270||n||Sep 2012||2,799|
|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 manufacturer’s suggested retail prices give an idea on the placement of the camera in the maker’s lineup and the broader market. The E-520 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 48 percent) than the NEX-7, 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.
The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant 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. 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 associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.
Of the two cameras under consideration, the Olympus E-520 features a Four Thirds sensor and the Sony NEX-7 an APS-C sensor. The sensor area in the NEX-7 is 62 percent bigger. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 2.0 and 1.5. The sensor in the E-520 has a native 4:3 aspect ratio, while the one in the NEX-7 offers a 3:2 aspect.
With 24MP, the NEX-7 offers a higher resolution than the E-520 (10MP), but the NEX-7 has smaller individual pixels (pixel pitch of 3.90μm versus 4.74μm for the E-520). Yet, the NEX-7 is a much more recent model (by 3 years and 3 months) than the E-520, and its sensor will have benefitted from technological advances during this time that enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixel-units.
The resolution advantage of the Sony NEX-7 implies greater flexibility for cropping images or the possibility to print larger pictures. The maximum print size of the NEX-7 for good quality output (200 dots per inch) amounts to 30 x 20 inches or 76.2 x 50.8 cm, for very good quality (250 dpi) 24 x 16 inches or 61 x 40.6 cm, and for excellent quality (300 dpi) 20 x 13.3 inches or 50.8 x 33.9 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-520 has a native sensitivity range from ISO 100 to ISO 1600. The corresponding ISO settings for the Sony Alpha NEX-7 are ISO 100 to ISO 16000 (no boost).
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"). Of the two cameras under consideration, the NEX-7 offers substantially better image quality than the E-520 (overall score 26 points higher). The advantage is based on 2.7 bits higher color depth, 3 EV in additional dynamic range, and 0.9 stops in additional low light sensitivity. The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.
| DXO |
|1.||Olympus E-520||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.4||10.4||548||55|
|4.||Olympus E-450||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.5||512||56|
|5.||Olympus E-600||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.5||10.3||541||55|
|6.||Olympus E-620||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.3||536||55|
|7.||Olympus E-P1||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.4||10.4||536||55|
|8.||Olympus E-P2||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||720/30p||21.5||10.4||505||56|
|9.||Olympus E-30||Four Thirds||12.2||4032||3024||none||21.3||10.4||530||55|
|10.||Olympus E-420||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.5||10.4||527||56|
|11.||Olympus E-410||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.1||10.0||494||51|
|12.||Olympus E-510||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.2||10.0||442||52|
|13.||Panasonic L10||Four Thirds||10.0||3648||2736||none||21.3||10.8||429||55|
|17.||Sony RX1||Full Frame||24.0||6000||4000||1080/60p||25.1||14.3||2534||93|
Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but also of capturing video footage. The NEX-7 indeed provides for movie recording, while the E-520 does not. The highest resolution format that the NEX-7 can use is 1080/60i.
Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the NEX-7 has an electronic viewfinder (2359k dots), while the E-520 has an optical one. Both systems have their advantages, with the electronic viewfinder making it possible to project supplementary shooting information into the framing view, whereas the optical viewfinder offers lag-free viewing and a very clear framing image. The viewfinder in the NEX-7 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 NEX-7 has a higher magnification (0.73x vs 0.46x), so that the size of the image transmitted appears closer to the size seen with the naked human eye. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Olympus E-520, the Sony NEX-7, and comparable cameras.
One feature that differentiates the E-520 and the NEX-7 is in-body image stabilization (IBIS). The E-520 reduces the risk of handshake-induced blur with all attached lenses, while the NEX-7 offers no blur reduction with lenses that themselves do not provide optical image stabilization.
The E-520 writes its imaging data to Compact Flash or xD Picture cards, while the NEX-7 uses SDXC or Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. The E-520 features dual card slots, which can be very useful in case a memory card fails. In contrast, the NEX-7 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 Sony Alpha NEX-7 and, in particular, the interfaces the cameras (and selected comparators) provide for accessory control and data transfer.
| WiFi |
| NFC |
Both the E-520 and the NEX-7 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 and Sony. Further information on the two cameras (e.g. user guides, manuals), as well as related accessories, can be found on the official Olympus and Sony websites.
So how do things add up? Which of the two cameras – the Olympus E-520 or the Sony NEX-7 – has the upper hand? Is one clearly better than the other? A synthesis of the relative strong points of each of the models is listed below.
Arguments in favor of the Olympus E-520:
- Brighter framing: Features an optical viewfinder for clear, lag-free composition.
- Longer lasting: Can take more shots (750 versus 430) on a single battery charge.
- Sharper images: Has hand-shake reducing image stabilization built-in.
- 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 category (48 percent cheaper at launch).
- More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in May 2008).
Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha NEX-7:
- More detail: Has more megapixels (24 vs 10MP), which boosts linear resolution by 58%.
- Better image quality: Scores substantially higher (26 points) in the DXO overall evaluation.
- Richer colors: Generates noticeably more natural colors (2.7 bits more color depth).
- More dynamic range: Captures a broader range of light and dark details (3 EV of extra DR).
- Better low-light sensitivity: Can shoot in dim conditions (0.9 stops ISO advantage).
- Broader imaging potential: Can capture not only stills but also 1080/60i video.
- More framing info: Has an electronic viewfinder that displays shooting data.
- 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 (0.73x vs 0.46x).
- 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 (921k vs 215k dots).
- More flexible LCD: Has a tilting screen for odd-angle shots in landscape orientation.
- Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (10 vs 3.5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
- More compact: Is smaller (120x67mm vs 136x92mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
- Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 135g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
- More legacy lens friendly: Can use many non-native lenses via adapters.
- More modern: Reflects 3 years and 3 months of technical progress since the E-520 launch.
If the count of individual advantages (bullet points above) is taken as a guide, the NEX-7 is the clear winner of the contest (17 : 6 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 wedding photographer will view the differences between cameras in a way that diverges from the perspective of a travel photog, and a person interested in cityscapes has distinct needs from a macro 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 Sony NEX-7 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 remains partial and cannot reveal, for example, the shooting experience and imaging performance when actually working with the E-520 or the NEX-7. 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 adjacent summary-table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (amateurphotographer [AP], cameralabs [CL], 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.
|1.||Olympus E-520||..||87/100||+ +||4.5/5||4.5/5||May 2008||699|
|2.||Sony NEX-7||5/5||+ +||81/100||4.5/5||5/5||Aug 2011||1,349|
|3.||Fujifilm X100||3/5||..||75/100||4/5||5/5||Sep 2010||1,199|
|4.||Olympus E-450||..||..||..||4/5||4/5||Mar 2009||499|
|5.||Olympus E-600||..||..||..||..||4.5/5||Aug 2009||449|
|6.||Olympus E-620||3/5||88/100||72/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2009||699|
|7.||Olympus E-P1||..||+||66/100||4/5||4.5/5||Jun 2009||799|
|8.||Olympus E-P2||3/5||+||69/100||4/5||4.5/5||Nov 2009||799|
|9.||Olympus E-30||..||..||71/100||4.5/5||4/5||Nov 2008||1,299|
|10.||Olympus E-420||..||85/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2008||599|
|11.||Olympus E-410||..||86/100||+ +||4/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||699|
|12.||Olympus E-510||..||89/100||+ +||3.5/5||4.5/5||Mar 2007||799|
|13.||Panasonic L10||..||85/100||+||3.5/5||4/5||Aug 2007||599|
|14.||Sony A6400||4/5||+||85/100||4.5/5||4/5||Jan 2019||899|
|15.||Sony A6000||5/5||+||80/100||4.5/5||5/5||Feb 2014||599|
|16.||Sony A3000||3/5||+||..||4/5||4/5||Aug 2013||329|
|17.||Sony RX1||5/5||..||79/100||4/5||4.5/5||Sep 2012||2,799|
|Notes: (+ +) highly recommended; (+) recommended; (o) reviewed; (..) not available.|
Care should be taken when interpreting the review scores above, though. The ratings were established in reference to similarly priced cameras that were available in the market at the time of the review. Thus, a score needs to be put into the context of the launch date and the launch price of the camera, and rating-comparisons among cameras that span long time periods or concern very differently equipped models make little sense. 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 use the search menu below. As an alternative, you can also directly jump to any one of the listed comparisons that were previously generated by the CAM-parator tool.
Specifications: Olympus E-520 vs Sony NEX-7
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||Sony NEX-7|
|Camera Type||Digital single lens reflex||Mirrorless system camera|
|Camera Lens||Four Thirds lenses||Sony E mount lenses|
|Launch Date||May 2008||August 2011|
|Launch Price||USD 699||USD 1,349|
|Sensor Specs||Olympus E-520||Sony NEX-7|
|Sensor Format||Four Thirds Sensor||APS-C Sensor|
|Sensor Size||17.3 x 13.0 mm||23.4 x 15.6 mm|
|Sensor Area||224.9 mm2||365.04 mm2|
|Sensor Diagonal||21.6 mm||28.1 mm|
|Sensor Resolution||10 Megapixels||24 Megapixels|
|Image Resolution||3648 x 2736 pixels||6000 x 4000 pixels|
|Pixel Pitch||4.74 μm||3.90 μm|
|Pixel Density||4.44 MP/cm2||6.57 MP/cm2|
|Moiré control||Anti-Alias filter||Anti-Alias filter|
|Movie Capability||no Video||1080/60i Video|
|ISO Setting||100 - 1,600 ISO||100 - 16,000 ISO|
|Image Processor||TruePic III||BIONZ|
|DXO Sensor Quality (score)||55||81|
|DXO Color Depth (bits)||21.4||24.1|
|DXO Dynamic Range (EV)||10.4||13.4|
|DXO Low Light (ISO)||548||1016|
|Screen Specs||Olympus E-520||Sony NEX-7|
|Viewfinder Type||Optical viewfinder||Electronic viewfinder|
|Viewfinder Field of View||95%||100%|
|Viewfinder Resolution||2359k dots|
|LCD Framing||Live View||Live View|
|Rear LCD Size||2.7inch||3.0inch|
|LCD Resolution||215k dots||921k dots|
|LCD Attachment||Fixed screen||Tilting screen|
|Shooting Specs||Olympus E-520||Sony NEX-7|
|Focus System||Phase-detect AF||Contrast-detect AF|
|Manual Focusing Aid||no Peaking Feature||Focus Peaking|
|Max Shutter Speed (mechanical)||1/4000s||1/4000s|
|Continuous Shooting||3.5 shutter flaps/s||10 shutter flaps/s|
|Image Stabilization||In-body stabilization||Lens stabilization only|
|Fill Flash||Built-in Flash||Built-in Flash|
|Storage Medium||CF or XD cards||MS or SDXC cards|
|Second Storage Option||Dual card slots||Single card slot|
|Connectivity Specs||Olympus E-520||Sony NEX-7|
|USB Connector||USB 2.0||USB 2.0|
|HDMI Port||no HDMI||mini HDMI|
|Microphone Port||no MIC socket||External MIC port|
|Wifi Support||no Wifi||no Wifi|
|Body Specs||Olympus E-520||Sony NEX-7|
|Battery Life (CIPA)||750 shots per charge||430 shots per charge|
136 x 92 x 68 mm
(5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 in)
120 x 67 x 43 mm
(4.7 x 2.6 x 1.7 in)
|Camera Weight||535 g (18.9 oz)||400 g (14.1 oz)|
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