2.5 star rating

Olympus Evolt E-520 Review

Pros: Large LCD; Good build quality; Easy to adjust settings;
Cons: Mediocre image quality; Slow speeds; No flash-off option on the mode dial;
The Verdict: This DSLR is cheap and easy to use, but its speed and image quality aren’t up to snuff.



For shutterbugs upgrading from a point-and-shoot, the Olympus Evolt E-520’s manual controls and continuous shooting options will feel like an improvement. But despite this camera’s large LCD and professional feel, even in this budget category it’s possible to find faster cameras that take sharper, more vibrant pictures.

Article Continued Below

Design and Interface

Compared with the Canon EOS Rebel XS and Nikon D40, the E-520 has a boxy shape: it’s longer, taller, and more rectangular than either. At 1.6 pounds with the included lens it’s also the heaviest, but advanced shooters might take its solid build more seriously.

The deep hand groove provides an easy grip. On top is a hot shoe flanked by buttons for flash, self-timer, and continuous shooting controls, as well as a mode dial. Annoyingly, there’s no option for no-flash mode (the camera does come with a ring to diffuse light entering the lens).

The bright 2.7-inch LCD has a large field of view and is the biggest screen in the budget DSLR class. The buttons running along the left side of the screen are for playback, deleting photos, and menu and info buttons. On the other side are AEL/AFL, image stabilization (IS), and Live View buttons, as well as a five-way pad whose outer buttons double as white balance, autofocus, ISO, and metering controls.

The E-520’s interface lets you adjust many of the camera settings using the buttons on the back, as opposed to drilling into the menu systems. Although intuitive, these menus have a cruder look than those on the D40 or Rebel XS.

Image Quality

Overall, the E-520’s image quality was mediocre. Indoors and out, many shots looked oversaturated; on a blustery day, for instance, the camera imbued the sky with shades of blue that weren’t there.

At the same time, our photos were usually underexposed. In a backlit shot we took of a gilded statue, we could make out less shadow detail than we could with the D40 or XS, and the cloudy sky appeared even more overcast than it should have. A portrait of friends, taken in a dim room, revealed a dark background with flash-splashed faces; the lighting was hardly natural. Moreover, with a maximum ISO of 1600 (the D40’s is 3200) the E-520’s low-light sensitivity is relatively limited.

Moreover, our photos just didn’t look as artistic as they could have. In a Macro shot of flower buds the background was hardly blurry. Similarly, our shots of a friend in her wedding gown failed to make her pop against her background.

High-Speed Shooting

In continuous shooting mode only a few of our shots with the E-520 looked crisp, showing razor-sharp subjects against a blurred background. On the whole, though, most of our action shots looked blurry. Despite the fact that it’s rated for 3.5 shots per second (as opposed to the XS’ 3 shots per second), the camera felt slow while we were shooting: it didn’t focus as quickly as the Canon EOS Rebel XS, and our succession of shots wasn’t as rapid. 

Live View

Accessing Live View is as simple as pressing a button on the camera’s back side. Once in Live View, however, we didn’t like how slow the action appeared on screen. As with other DSLRs, the shot-to-shot speed is slower in Live View than with the optical viewfinder. After each shot, the photo hung on the screen for 6 seconds before we could take another; with the viewfinder there was almost no shutter lag.

External Storage and Battery Life

Like other Olympus cameras, the E-520 has a CompactFlash and xD Card slot; only some notebooks—and no Macs—have a reader that can accommodate the xD format. xD Cards are more expensive, too: at press time, Best Buy was selling 2GB SD Cards for $13.99, and 2GB xD cards for $39.99. The E-520’s rechargeable battery was still going strong after more than a hundred shots, though.

The Verdict

Although the Olympus Evolt E-520 made a good first impression with its solid, ergonomic build and intuitive interface, it quickly lost points for its slow speeds and lackluster image quality. Although the Nikon D40’s ($499) interface takes getting used to, we still recommend it to DSLR newbies over the E-520.

Tags: Olympus Evolt E-520, Olympus, Digital SLR Cameras, Digital Cameras, reviews, Digital Cameras and Camcorders

Technical Specifications
Olympus Evolt E-520

Camera TypeDigital SLR
Battery TypeRechargable
Digital Camera LCD Size2.7 inches (230,000 pixels)
Size5.4 x 3.6 x 2.7 inches
Weight1.6 pounds with 14-42mm lens
All Product Types Accessories eReaders Laptops Networking Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS AVADirect Averatec BeagleBone BenQ CTL Corp. CyberPowerPC Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Eurocom Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Google Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo Maingear MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Razer Sager Samsung Sony Sony PlayStation Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv Vizio VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating Editor's Choice 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 21 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1136 x 768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1792 x 768 1900x1080 1920x1080 1920x1200 2560 x 1440 2560 x 1600 2560 x 1700 2880 x 1620 2880 x 1880 3200 x 1800 3840 x 2160 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options