"Excellent grip and feel with professional pictures!"5.0 starson by Blowry22
Pros: Great 4/3 system camera, allows for smaller sized lenses equivalent to 2x the 35mm standard in half the size.
Great weight ratio and grip. Solid feel and button layout is good.
"Super Control Panel" allows for easy change of settings.
Cons: No real major cons after about 1500 shots. Maybe the viewfinder could have been a tad bit larger.
Going from 35mm SLR to dSLR technology takes a little getting used to (see below).
Summary: First off, this is my first dSLR (I've been using Olympus 35mm SLRs for years now. The "tricky" part for me was getting used to everything being digital and electronic. For example, I'm used to manually turning an aperture ring but now that is controlled electronically. I can still choose my aperture but rather than turning a ring I rotate a control button. Focus is also done differently (but not bad).
For the focus, when using manual focus, you "set" the focus ring to rotate in the direction you would like. For example, clockwise *or* counter clockwise (all up to you) but then it functions like any other SLR focus ring.
This camera doesn't have an electronic zoom. All of that is done manually on the lens. Not a bad thing but if you are used to having that little button on your "point and click" then it will take some getting used to.
The 4/3 system of the camera is excellent!! Tons of lenses out there for the system. It allows for smaller / more compact lenses. Example of this... I have a 40-150mm lens that is equivalent to a 80-300mm lens but is half the size of my 70-210mm lens for my 35mm SLRs.
I picked the Olympus for several reasons... first, I've been using the Olympus OM 35mm series and I know they make a great camera. I have several lenses that I still can use with the E520 by buying the OM ring adapter. Everything is manual across the board when using the OM lenses. I haven't done this yet as the included 14-42mm and the 40-150mm lenses provide me with an equivalent 28-300mm range (and the Olympus Digital Zuiko lenses are really great!!)
Another major reason to choose this camera over Nikon and Canon (even Sony) was that the color reproduction is excellent!! (Better than the competition in my opinion).
I looked at the higher end E3 and a friends E1 as well. However for the serious hobbyist, the E520 provides literally everything one would need at a much lower price point.
I like that it can use both the xD and CF memory cards and even supports the UDMA CF cards for faster reading and writing. I'm using an older 2GB CF card and even that doesn't hold me up from being able to take picture after picture without delay. Fast recycle rate and 3.5 fps continuous picture rate as also both pluses. Depending on the resolution you choose you can go from virtually unlimited shots in a row (on a high pixel count setting) to about 6 in a row with the highest pixel count PLUS RAW.
And on that note, that was another big "plus" for me. Not just JPEG or RAW but *both* at the same time. This allows me to take the JPGs off right away but still have the RAW pictures to take into photoshop for whatever I want / need to touch up or change.
The "Super Control Panel" was a bit daunting at first but quickly became the greatest thing ever on a dSLR. Without having to go through a myriad of menus, you can change everything from ISO, flash, memory card, white balance, focus, picture format, color tones, color palettes (sRGB or Adobe RGB), face detection, metering, and focal points. Depending on what the mode dial is on you can also change aperture , shutter speed, exposure, and more). Like I said... daunting at first but blessing after working with it for about 500+ shots.
Plus there are direct buttons for setting ISO, WB, AF, and light metering almost instantly and two custom definable buttons.
For price comparison, I paid $639 for the camera body with the 14-42mm lens AND the 40-150mm lens from a popular company in New York that sells both online, through catalog, and has a store front up there. (I won't mention the name to be accused of "advertising" for them).
I also bought (and you should too) the 58mm UV filter for good measure (and buy two if you get both lenses). Approx. $10 - $12 each.
You should definitely check out the four-thirds website to learn more about this system that many manufacturers support. (http://www.four-thirds.org) Panasonic and Leica are also two other companies that make cameras for this system and a plethora of lenses are available and INTERCHANGEABLE across all of them!!
Also (to wrap this up) this camera has "live view" which allows you to use the 2.7" LCD on the back as a viewfinder. I personally just keep the super control panel on the LCD or preview / review shots and use the real viewfinder for taking the shots. However if you are coming from a "point and shoot" background and looking to move into better photography, it is available. Another good time to use it would be when the camera has to be held above your head.
It would be nice to have an E3 but you can't beat the price and performance that the E520 provides! Most features from the E3 (and the whole "E" series") are shared across the board.
Good luck and happy shooting!