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Tullio Sep 4, 2008 12:43 AM

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I've mentioned herebefore that I had the E510 and sold it because of its limited DR. However, I kept the Zuiko upgraded lenses I had bought for the E510 so when the E520 was announced, I was hoping that one area that Olympus improved onthe new camera was the DR. If so, I'd buy the body and be all set. After reading some initial reviews indicating that DR was improved, I decided to go ahead and give it a try.

Got the camera (body only)last week, charged up the battery and went straight to my backyard to take pictures of the pool slide under a blasting sun. Why? Well, the slide once blue, has faded over the years to the point where it is mostly whitewith somevery pale blue here and there. The E510 had a hard time preserving the highlights and since this is my primary area of interest, I figured that it would be a good way to starttesting the new camera. Well, I must say that the E520 passed the initialtest. Either the dpreview review of this camera is not very accurate regarding DRor the 1 f/stop gained in DR from its predecessorreally made a huge difference. After the very first couple of shots, I could tell there was a significant improvement over the E510 in terms of its ability to handle highlights. I usually set the camera to highlight/shadow blinking when the image is displayed because it tells me right away the areas where the highlights are overblown. There was hardly any blinking highlights so I knew that DR was better. Most high contrastimages were well exposed and I did not have to decrease Ev by more than -0.3 (in most cases). .

OK, so was I a happy, happy camper??? Well, not quite. I had set up the E520 just like the E510 in terms of NF (LOW) andpicture adj (either NATURAL or VIVID withcorresponding SAT, CNT and SHR values for each mode). After taking dozen of shots switching between the two modes (NATURAL and VIVID), I uploaded the images to my PC and had the first disappointment. The images were nowhere near the E510 in terms of sharpness.The question in my mind then was, isthis softness the result of the increase in DR? In other words, had Olympus messed up IQ in order to provide a better highlight control or are the settings used on the E510not good for the E520? One thing I've read in variousreviews is that the affect of NF ON/OFFon IQ onthe E520 is not nearly as significant as it ison the E510. The other thingI noticed as I was analyzing the EXIF data is that the E520 base levels for SHARPNESS is higher than the E510 by +1. In other words,a VIVID sharpness setting of+2 on the E520 yields to a real VIVID sharpness of+3 whilst on the E510 it yields to a real value of +2. This change indicates that Olympus is applying a heavier noise reduction on the E520. So,I decided to turn NF OFF and give it a try.The results? Much crisper images but still notas sharp as the E510. I then cranked up sharpness by +2 (this increase in base shrpby+1 BTW, applies to all modes: VIVID, NATURAL, MUTED,...). To compensate for the extra sharpness, I reduced saturation (all the way to -2 since VIVID produces very color saturated images)) and increasedcontrast to +1.OK, now the images were sharp. Really sharp.In fact, a bit toosharp. Lastly, I turned NF back on LOW I am now happy with IQ in terms of resolution and sharpness. Obviously this setting is very personal and suits my taste. Others may tryitand find it too harsh orthat colors are not deep enough. So, I encourage people to play with different settings. The EXIF Tool recommended by Wrotniak is awesome. It gives you all theinternalsetting valuesplus the ones you changed.No need to take notes asyou shoot.

So, does that mean the E520 is close to perfection? Not at all! To begin with, I felt that AF in low light struggles (I'm using the ZD 14-54mm and 40-150mm lenses). Many times the camera simply won't do anything, not even the usual "focus hunting" business. Ihalf press the shutter and absolutely nothing happens. At that point, I have to point the camera to something else and then go back and try to focus on the subject again. Now, if the subject is people, they get extremely aggravated by the delay. Not good. Some people have reported a front/back focus issue with the 14-42mm kit lens. I can't comment on that since I no longer have this lens but I can say that it seems like it happens with the 14-54mm as well but not all the time. I am using S-AF.

The last complaint is with regards to LV. Olympus implementation really sucks (specially compared to Sony's). It will not focus in low light at all and in good light condition it is very slow. A real primitive implementation IMO. I just wish that Olympus would do what Sony does and releasea cheapermodel similar to the E520 but w/o LV. I'd go for that.

Obviously this is not a review but my own personal impressions of the E520 and any suggested setting is soly based on my personal preferences.

Here are some initial shots taken with the E520 + 14-54mm and 40-150mm ZD lenses. The images wereselectedprimarily to show the camera's abilities rather than the subject, composition, etc. Although some pictures may look boring,my focus ison what the image is showing in terms of the camera's capabilities.

I'll start with this little flower lit by a harsh midday sun. The highlights are well preserved and the white petals show a lot of details.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 12:46 AM

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Ditto.No blown highlights.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 12:49 AM

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Lots of details on this one.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 12:57 AM

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A wide range of tones, all properly exposed.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 12:59 AM

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This one does not have strong highlights but it was shot at 150mm and then cropped. Very sharp, I'd say.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 1:02 AM

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Again, lots of details showing here.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 1:03 AM

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I could have done with a bit more DoF on this one...

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 1:04 AM

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This is one of my favorites. Lots of contrast but no blown highlights.

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 1:06 AM

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More well controlled whites

Tullio Sep 4, 2008 1:08 AM

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I took a similar picture with my Sony A300, which has a much greater DRbut it did not handle the bright hydrantnext tothe rusty colored container nearly as well.

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