Mustek 530z Review

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Mustek MDC-530Z Zoom

Steve's Conclusion

Mustek's MDC530Z is the 5-megapixel little brother to the 8-megapixel MDC832Z, and includes many of the same features, like a 3x optical zoom lens, 2.0-inch LCD, and metal accented body. This point-n-shoot model offers the beginner fully automatic operation with its Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Sports, and Night Scene modes, while still enabling the novice user to change settings for ISO, White balance, Metering and Focus mode with its Program AE mode.

Like the 832Z, ergonomics are good. While this is no "ultra-compact" camera, it is small enough to be tucked away in your jeans pocket or a small handbag, yet large enough to fit comfortably in your hands. The metal accented body offers some degree or rigidity, ensuring it will survive the active user's lifestyle. The various controls are well placed and functional, and the onscreen menu system is easy to navigate. Like we saw on its big brother, the 2.0-inch LCD worked well as long as you are not in the bright sunlight, the display is very reflective and you will find yourself cupping it to see the subject; this is also when the optical viefinder comes in handy. Indoors or in marginal lighting conditions, the display "gains up" to help brighten your subject.

The 530z's shooting performance was sluggish. Power up to first image captured was about 3.4 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing the image, measured 3/10 of a second when pre-focused and 1 second including autofocus. When capturing a sequence of images, the shot to shot delay averaged about 4.2 seconds without the flash and 6 - 8 seconds with flash, depending on the distance from the subject and battery life. These times are slower due to the fact that you can not turn off image preview; which is about 1 second. The 530Z does offer a burst mode that allowed me to capture 3 shots in 2.7 seconds. It then takes about 5 seconds for the camera to preview and process the shots, before you can continue shooting. Our tests were done using an Sandisk Extreme 512MB SD card, 5M *** quality, Program Auto mode, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, photographer response, media, etc.

Image quality when using the 5M *** mode was good for a camera in this price range. Our outdoor samples are sharp, well exposed, and color saturation is pleasing. Noise levels are normal in high and low contrast areas, although, I did notice above average amounts of Chromatic Aberrations (purple fringing around highlights.) It seems that the 530Z favors portrait photography. Using the dedicated Portrait mode produced great results both indoors and out. Although it has a maximum flash range of 8.9 feet, I found it produced good exposure in marginal lighting from about 5 or 6 feet away. And outdoors, it worked well as a Fill-in flash. Overall, our people shots show nice facial detail and natural looking skin tones.

The 530z allows you to capture video at 320x240 (fixed 20fps) with audio. The length of a clip is limited only by the amount of available memory. Like we saw on the 832z, our movie samples were not the greatest, with visible compression noise, and an overall blurry look. I also noticed that the microphone is very sensitive to loud noise.

The 530z is powered by a pair of standard AA type batteries. While you can use Either Alkaline or NiMH batteries, we always recommend the NiMH. They offer better life and they'll save you money in the long run. Battery life was not what we have come to expect from a consumer model. I exhausted two pairs of 2500 mAh cells, and only captured about 70 sample images and concluded many of our other tests. Luckily, this model does feature an optical viefinder, which will help save precious battery power.

Bottom line - with an MSRP of only $179(US) the Mustek MDC530Z is a tempting model. While it does capture nice 5-megapixel images (that actually look better than its 8-megapxiel big brother the MDC832Z), its sluggish performance and poor movie mode really bring it down. If you're in the market for an affordable point-n-shoot, we suggest you look into some models from some other manufactures, like Canon's PowerShot A430, Sony's Cyber-Shot S90 or Panasonic's Lumix LS2 just to name a few.

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