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The tenth camera in Olympus' Four Thirds system and the third in the 500 series, is the new E-520, a 10.0-megapixel model and an update to last year's E-510. Featuring the same sensor resolution as the earlier model, the new camera sees a few tweaks to improve the performance and handling.
Like the other current models in the range, the new camera offers Live View, allowing you to preview and compose images on the LCD, which is itself enlarged to 2.7". The autofocus has been improved to include both contrast detection AF as well as the phase difference detection system normally used in DSLRs, making focusing with Live View much quicker. A nice touch in the Image AF mode, is the way the mirror doesn't move to the down position during shooting, so you maintain a clear view of the scene at all times, though the image dims slightly during exposure. In this mode the AF system uses the imaging sensor. There are two further AF mode options in the menu, Sensor AF which uses the sensor built into the pentaprism and Hybrid AF, using a combination of both sensors, depending on whether the shutter is depressed halfway or all the way down. The Imager AF is the default mode, and allows 11-point selection, while the other two only offer three AF points. Incorporated within the new AF sensor is a face detection AF, which recognises human faces within the frame and focuses on them automatically.
Another familiar technology within the camera is the moving-sensor type image stabilisation. This has now been supplemented with a third mode. Mode one offers continuous IS, mode two allows horizontal panning of the camera, while mode three now offers vertical panning, i.e. shooting in upright format while moving the camera left or right. While this may seem to be rather specialised, I found it useful on the first day with the camera at the Southend air show, while shooting the Red Arrows display team. There are many other useful applications too,
Olympus was the first company to address the problems of dust on the sensor and E-series cameras have always had dust reduction. The E-520 is no exception, with the Supersonic Wave Filter operating to dislodge any stray debris at start up, though unlike older models, it doesn't show a graphic on the LCD, but a small blue LED on the top plate indicates its operation. This takes around a second to start the camera up, but is definitely a useful tool.
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