The 10-megapixel Olympus E-520 is the bigger brother of the E-420. The primary difference between the two is that the E-520 benefits from in-camera image stabilisation technology.
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Four Thirds System
For the benefit of those unfamiliar with the Four Thirds system, the format was jointly devised by Olympus and Kodak, announced in 2002 and commencing a year later with the launch of the Olympus E-1. The system is unique in that it has been designed entirely for digital from scratch, breaking most of the constraints posed by 35mm-based cameras. We say ‘most’ because support is still offered for legacy Zuiko lenses via adaptors, though one of the system’s key points is that its lenses can be telecentric – that is, designed to direct light to hit the sensor at a perpendicular angle – as well as smaller and lighter, to correspond with the smaller size of the sensor.
Diminutive dimensions aside, the E-520 houses an 11.8 megapixel LiveMOS sensor offering an effective pixel count of 10MP. Images measure 3648 x 2736 pixels at their maximum resolution, equating to a print size of 12.1 x 9.1in. The sensor is said to have been redesigned to bring the dynamic range closer to that of the semi-pro Olympus E-3, while a new amplifier circuit is said to reduce noise and capture fine image details in highlight and shadow areas.
Shooting in Raw
Raw images are stored in Olympus’s ORF format, while JPEG capture allows the user to customise the four JPEG options available within the image quality menu, with regards to pixel count and compression ratios. So, for instance, you could set a large JPEG with fine compression, a medium JPEG with low compression and so on. Simultaneous Raw and JPEG recording is also available, with the option of varying the JPEG’s pixel count to either small, medium or large.
New AF Modes
The E-520’s main upgrade over the Olympus E-510 (and Olympus E-3) is that its live view system incorporates two new autofocusing modes. The Olympus E-510 (and Olympus E-3 had just one option – sensor AF – which used phase detection in between a temporary mirror blackout to achieve autofocusing. This has been carried over here, and is joined by an Imager AF mode, the default setting which uses contrast detection working off the main sensor, and a Hybrid AF mode which combines both phase and contrast detection.
The former focuses in real time, with the mirror staying put until the shot has been taken. This happens automatically once the camera senses it has focused correctly, though at default, compatibility is only offered with three Zuiko lenses – one of which being the kit lens. Those with existing lenses needn’t worry about this, as a firmware update may be downloaded to provide support for additional lenses. The second mode, Hybrid AF, is said to be a touch slower than the Imager mode alone, but is compatible with all Zuiko lenses straight ‘out of the box’. The live view may be magnified by a factor of either 7x or 10x, to aid focusing and to check detail, with the effects of altering exposure and image stabilisation settings also visible in real time.