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Customer Review

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Too clever for mere mortals, 27 Jun. 2010
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I have owned Olympus film cameras for 30+ years and am fully acquainted with their lightweight bodies yet `pro' quality lenses and ergonomic controls. When I wanted to upgrade to a `digital darkroom' using image processing computer software, it's not surprising that I stuck with brand loyalty.

However, the E520 is a world away from the likes of the OM4. Its Zuiko lenses continue to produce quality image results and the inclusion of body features like the image stabiliser are certainly well worthwhile, but everyday operation of the multitude of options and menus is, quite frankly, a nightmare. An `instruction book' is provided and this can also be downloaded from the enclosed dvd and printed up to A4 size. Thinking that would help me to make more sense of the somewhat obscure instructions, I printed all 148 pages up to A4. No use - it would appear that the manual is meant to be read by those who designed and built the camera. For the user, it's as clear as mud.

I'm left with the impression that Olympus wanted to cram as many modes, options and buttons as possible onto the E520 for no reason other than to prove that they could, but it merely results in covering the back plate with numerous controls for the owner to hit with his/her thumbs at exactly the wrong instant.

A tutorial dvd produced by `Quickpro Camera Guides', a 3rd party firm, was previously available for the E520, but Olympus says that it was "discontinued in Europe". A pity, because reviewers have said that it should have been included with the camera when sold. The dvd that DOES come with the E520 is just an advert showing 4 models with white teeth pretending to be 2 holiday couples being amazed by an E520 on a Mediterranean beach. My sister managed to order the tutorial dvd from Amazon in the USA and brought it here on a short trip home.

As long as you can put up with the slightly hyperactive presenter talking about the "kemra", "fine toon" and so on, the dvd comes into its own by being much easier to follow than the manual which, as I said above, assumes that the owner is an expert before even opening the manual! The tutorial dvd may be `generic', as the presenter only once (I think) says "E520", but this model is the one shown. I'm not talking about the more basic operations like using depth of field to best effect, but some of the E520's many modes are well buried in the pages of the manual, and I may have overlooked them without this tutorial disc. For example, the printed manual mentions the `Control Dial' on every other page without seeming to explain - right at the beginning - what this dial actually does.

Although it would have been helpful for Olympus to include the tutorial, you may decide that it would be worthwhile spending a further $25 to get much better instructions than the book will provide. Even then, because the E520 is so complicated, it will take a LOT of practice before you can use it almost without thinking as you may have with the film cameras.

On the E520, there is a program for every shooting situation you could think of. I'm not sure yet if this enhances or stifles creativity; time will tell. To help things, when you select a program (for example, "night" or "snow"), an "example" shot is displayed on the l.c.d. screen. A wide range of fairly lightweight, yet high quality, lenses are available for this DSLR and older OM lenses can be used with a suitable adaptor.

On the electronic front, the E520 comes with a host of features like image stabilization, variable and automatic white balance, `noise' suppression, a patented `ultrasonic' cleaner to remove dust from the image sensor and even multiple face detection software for 'intelligent' focusing and exposure in each frame(!) Light metering is no longer decided by the "centre-weighted" option that served the majority of us so well in the past. In addition to centre-weighted, even the OM4's spot metering (with highlight and shadow compensation) has been added to by this model's offering of "multi-segment" (an average value of 16 equal areas).

Further controls allow colour alteration, with labels like `vivid', `natural', `muted', `portrait', `monotone' and `custom'. But this is really information overload, I feel.

All in all, an impressive amount of electronic features packed into a small body. I just wish my fingers were smaller. Or maybe I'll have to adjust the control buttons with a cocktail stick! Because I feel that I've learned from the Quickpro guide, I'll revise my initial 3 stars to 4 and persevere with the non-intuitive controls.

The tutorial dvd I mentioned states that the combination of JPEG settings (fine and normal), with image sizes (large, middle, small) gives a restricted total of 4 image qualities (LF, LN, MN and SN). However, the camera manual (p62) states that there are 12 combinations of compression rates (Super Fine, Fine, Normal and Basic) and 3 image sizes (L, M, S) but that "only 4 can be registered at one time". Instructions on how to do so are typically vague. I can't find "Super Fine" on my E520 menus. Could another customer help?

Perhaps Olympus should release their own dvd to accompany their cameras.
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Initial post: 4 May 2011 16:15:08 BDT
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Posted on 17 Aug 2011 21:38:44 BDT
Last edited by the author on 17 Aug 2011 21:41:08 BDT
Barry Lees says:
Apologies for comments above; the gremlins were clearly at work. DVD shows only 4 combinations of print size but very helpful people at Olympus showed me how to get 17 combinations of print size and compression, although only 4 can be "registered" at any one time.
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Location: Greenock, Strathclyde Scotland

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