Olympus D-590 Zoom Review

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Olympus Camedia D-590 Zoom

Steve's Conclusion

The latest "D" series model from Olympus (as of Dec. 2004), the Camedia D-590 holds the "top of the line" spot (formerly held by the recently reviewed D-580) and offers users 4-megapixels of resolution ,a 3x optical zoom lens, and a wide variety of fully automatic exposure modes.

Ergonomics are good. The sleek and stylish exterior is constructed of a durable plastic, and is small enough to carry in almost any size pocket or purse. Like most D-series cameras, the D-590 has a sliding lens barrier, however it isn't the "clam shell" type like that seen on past models. Instead of the barrier serving as a power switch, there is a dedicated On/Off switch that also controls the lens protector. The minimal camera controls are well-placed on the body, and the menu system is logically-organized. Its large 1.8-inch Semi-Transmissive LCD is the only viewfinder on the camera. I found it works great outdoors in bright sunlight, however it doesn't "gain up" when shooting in low-ambient lighting.

Its Olympus AF ZOOM 3x optical zoom lens covers a 35mm-equivalent range of 35 - 105mm. It produced sharp results throughout its range with mild barrel distortion present at wide-angle, and slight pin cushioning at telephoto (typical of cameras in this class.) The lens zooms smoothly, but not continuously through its range; it has 18 distinct steps, adequate for most shot composition needs.

The D-590's shooting performance was very robust for a camera in this class. Power up to first image captured was a fast 3.2 seconds. Shutter lag, the delay between depressing the shutter button and capturing the image, measured an impressive 1/10 second when pre-focused and just 4/10 second including autofocus. In single shot mode, the shot-to-shot delay averaged 1.7 seconds without the flash and between 3.5 and 5 seconds with flash, depending on the distance to the subject. Using its Sequential shooting mode, I was able to capture 3 frames in 1.6 seconds; it then took approx. 5.5 seconds to flush its buffer and start capturing the next 3-shot sequence. Our tests were done using an Olympus 512MB xD-Picture card, SHQ 2272x1704 quality, Program AE mode, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, photographer response, media, etc.

Beginners will appreciate the choice of 8 scene modes that optimize camera settings, which makes taking great pictures in almost any situation a snap. Its Night scene shots are improved by the D-590's noise reduction feature, automatically activated when the shutter speed is slower than 1/2 second; don't forget to use a camera support in this mode, or you'll have shots blurred by camera shake. To prevent "hot pixels" from ruining your otherwise perfect shot, its Pixel Mapping feature (accessible from the Setup menu) maps-out bad pixels if and when they appear. While the D-590 allows you to pre-set white balance (Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent), I found the Automatic setting foolproof in producing proper color balance. The ISO sensitivity is not adjustable, and its automatic range varies between 64 and 500 to suit a variety of shooting conditions.

We were pleased with the overall image quality when using highest SHQ 2272x1704 image quality mode. Our outdoor images were consistently sharp, well exposed, and richly saturated. Its 3x optical zoom lens offers enough field of view in the wide-angle range for composing landscape shots, while still providing plenty of magnification in the telephoto range to bring your subjects closer.

Our indoor results were also pleasing. I found its limited flash range (about 11.8 feet) to be slightly underrated, and when combined with its wide-angle field of view, it produced well exposed flash images in small to medium sized rooms and portraits of small groups or individuals. You'll be able to include yourself in those group portraits thanks to the D-590's tripod socket and the use of its self-timer. Although the D-590 does not have a focus-assist lamp, its autofocus system works fairly well in average indoor lighting conditions at the wide angle end of the zoom range. Its also very effective at squelching its flash at close range and, combined with its macro focusing capability, would be a good choice for capturing images of small objects for inclusion in online auction listings.

As with most consumer digicams, the D-590 has a movie mode; it is capable of recording at resolutions of 320x240 and 160x120; movie length is limited only by the amount of available memory. Movies are recorded with sound, which means zooming while recording is out of the question; you can however preset the focal length before recording. Overall it produced average movies with its autofocus system doing a good job of keeping up with fast moving objects. Be sure to check out the movie clip on our samples page.

The D-590 is powered by a proprietary LI-12B 3.7v 1230mAh lithium-ion battery pack. Olympus claims you can capture 175 shots with a fully charged battery. We were able to capture all of our samples (about 90 shots) and conclude our other test before it posted a low battery warning. We do recommend the purchase of a second battery pack and keep it charged and ready; or your picture taking fun will be over for at least 1½ - 2 hours while it charges.

Bottom line - with an estimated street price of under $300 at the time of this review (Dec. 2004), the Olympus Camedia D-590 Zoom offers a great overall value for the holidays. It will make a great choice for families desiring a digicam combining good image quality, useful features, and the ease of point-n-shoot simplicity. Its 4-megapixel SHQ images have enough resolution for 11x14-inch prints or cropped prints of smaller size. At its highest resolution, file sizes exceed 2-megabytes, so make sure you get a larger (128MB - 512MB) xD-Picture card; this will ensure you have plenty of room to capture everyone's smile while opening their presents this holiday season.

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