Olympus D-560 Zoom Review
Olympus continues to refine and improve their Camedia D-series of high performance and
affordable digital cameras with the introduction of the 3-megapixel D-560 with its 3x
zoom lens. The D-560 is the successor to the popular D-550 Zoom that we reviewed last year. These cameras
closely resemble their film counterparts, the Olympus Stylus, a pocketable 35mm
camera with a sliding lens barrier and a sleek and stylish exterior. All of Olympus'
digital cameras feature both an optical viewfinder and a color LCD to frame your shots.
The D-560 now employs a resolute 1.8-inch color LCD and the Scene Program menu which
allows 5 choices of pre-programmed exposure modes.
The D-560 Zoom can capture up to 2048x1536 size images in JPEG format. It also records 320x240 QuickTime motion video clips without audio at 15fps. Up to 15 seconds can now be captured per movie at HQ (320x240) resolution or up to 60 seconds if using the smaller 160x120 email mode.
No camera is better than its lens and the D-560 Zoom uses a all-glass, 3x optical zoom with a 35mm focal length equivalent of 35-105mm. There is also a seamless 3.3x digital zoom feature to further extend the zoom's range to a total of 10x. It has auto flash, fill flash and redeye reduction modes as well as a "night scene" mode with a slow-sync flash mode.
When powered up the lens extends and it's ready to take the first picture in about 5 seconds. Shooting in "SHQ" size mode, the camera's shot-to-shot cycle time is well under 4 seconds. The total shutter lag (time from pressing shutter to actually capturing) is about one second. These times are with the flash enabled and in single shot mode. If you do the usual half-press of the shutter and wait for the green focus light it will capture almost instantly when the shutter is fully pressed. When powered down, the lens is protected by the clamshell slide-over lens cover which is also the on/off switch. Overall, the D-560's image processing is quite robust for this level of camera and better than some of the more expensive cameras.
Like other Olympus cameras we have reviewed, the D-560 employs the TTL digital iESP metering with spot option and an excellent white balance system that consistently produces realistic colors in a wide variety of normal lighting conditions. Olympus dropped the noise reduction setting option, it is now automatic when in the Night Scene mode. The longest shutter speed in normal modes is one half second but that is extended to two seconds in the Night Scene mode. The auto noise reduction works nicely to remove most of the apparent digital noise (random red, green and blue dots) from these night shots. The extended image processing does take a few seconds before you can go on to the next shot but only in long Night Scene exposures. To help give you the most noise-free images possible there is a Pixel Mapping option in the Setup menu that lets you map out bad pixels if and when they appear. The ISO sensitivity is automatic and is varied between 100 and 400 as necessary.
Even though this is a relatively inexpensive camera it is equipped with a sizeable RAM buffer that allows for up to 5 frames in JPEG at SHQ, 14 frames in HQ and up to 86 frames in SQ mode to be captured in sequential drive mode. There are lots of other high-tech features in this easy to use camera so it will satisfy the needs of those users that like to be more involved in the creative process. It accepts any size xD-Picture Card right up to the latest 256MB size. Battery power is flexible, uses two NiMH type AA cells or one of the CR-V3 lithium batteries that last forever when stored away in the gadget bag (great back-ups for your NiMH rechargeables).
I believe this is going to be a successful product for Olympus, it's reasonably priced ($299), loaded with features, produces excellent pictures with enough resolution for prints from 4x6" up to 8x10" and larger and small enough to slip into your pants pocket -- and it's very easy to operate.
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