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Quick Review

Olympus Camedia D-230 Digital Camera

 

Camera QuickLook
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 2-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4 x 6 to 8 x 10 inches
Availability
October 2001
Suggested Retail Price
$349


Review Links
Overview
Picky
Details
Design
Operation
Recommended Accessories
Sample Pictures
Specifications
Conclusion

Introduction
Olympus has long been a dominant player in the traditional imaging market, with a wide array of consumer, scientific, and industrial products that range from 35mm cameras, to high-end film scanners, microscopes, and even high-powered binoculars. Not surprisingly, Olympus has also made a strong showing in the digicam marketplace, building a diverse line of successful consumer and prosumer cameras, ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the incredible pro-level E-20N SLR. The Camedia D-230 is an entry level digicam, sporting a 2-megapixel CCD and fixed-focal-length, all-glass, wide-angle lens. Designed for the beginning photographer, the D-230 leaves nothing to chance. Its fully automatic exposure system requires very little user intervention, yet it offers surprising versatility, with advanced options like spot metering, white balance (color correction), and sharpness and contrast controls. There's also a handful of creative options, including a QuickTime movie, panoramic stitching, rapid sequence shooting, and two in one picture modes. As with all of Olympus' most recent introductions, the D-230 also incorporates AutoConnect USB for a quick, easy connection to late-model computers, without the need for additional driver software. This automatic USB connection (quickly becoming a standard in the industry) means you can walk up to virtually any computer and immediately download and view your images. The D-230 also offers a nice range of image resolutions, from e-mail quality to 2-megapixel files capable of producing good-quality 8 x 10-inch photos.


Camera Overview
The Camedia D-230's compact, streamlined body design is long on portability and light on weight (7 ounces with batteries installed), with a clamshell sliding lens cover that protects the camera's front elements when not in use (perfect for stashing in deep pockets or a small purse). This simple-to-use, point-and-shoot style digicam features a high-quality glass, fixed-focal-length lens, with a wide-angle view that is great for small group snapshots, local scenery, landscapes, and indoor activities where space is at a premium. Unlike some competing entry-level point-and-shoot cameras, the D-230 has a autofocus lens, that can focus as close as 4 inches in Macro (closeup) mode. (Some entry-level digicams have fixed-focus lenses that don't let you get very close to your subjects.) Its 2-megapixel resolution can produce anything from e-mail quality pictures, sharp 5 x 7-inch prints, or even 8 x 10-inch prints that are a close match to conventional photo quality images. In short, it's a great "memory maker" for active teens and adults!

The D-230 has a fixed focal length (that is, a non-zoom) lens, equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus covers a range of approximately 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity in normal shooting mode and 4 inches to 1.6 feet in Macro (close-up) mode. Though it offers high-quality optics, the D-230's wide-angle view is somewhat limiting in people photography, since it causes distortion in close-up shots (an effect you can see in our "Close-Up Portrait" test image). The fixed focal length also prevents you from zooming in on faraway subjects, like individual sports players or nature shots of wild animals. (The D-230 does have a 5x Digital Zoom, but we don't recommend using it often, since it merely enlarges the center pixels of the camera's CCD, rather than magnifying the image optically, as is the case with a true optical zoom lens.)

Exposure control on the D-230 is very straightforward, as the camera operates under automatic exposure at all times. Simply opening the clam shell cover turns it on and places it in the shooting mode, so it's pretty quick on the draw, with lower than average shutter lag from the time you press down on the Shutter button to the time the shutter actually fires. (Half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the shot itself prefocuses the lens, giving you a very short delay when you actually snap the picture.) The majority of exposure options are controlled through the on-screen menu system, which means you'll have to learn to navigate three pages of menu items if you want to change quality settings or make exposure adjustments. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically determined, but the user can control the Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center), Contrast, Sharpness, and Flash modes. The D-230's built-in flash is effective to approximately 11.5 feet (3.5 meters) from the camera and includes a red-eye setting that reduces the occurrence of redeye effect in portraits.

Along with simplicity and portability, the D-230 also offers some interesting (and fun) creative options. For example, you can record up to 60 seconds of (silent) QuickTime movies -- another great method for remembering special moments. A self-timer mode lets you mount the camera on a tripod, press the shutter button, and take your place in a group photo before the shutter actually fires. There's also a Sequence Shooting option that works much like a motor drive on a professional 35mm SLR. You can capture up to five high-quality images in rapid sequence (about 1.5 frames per second) for as long as you hold down the shutter button, or until you run out of memory. With the camera set to its lowest image-quality setting, you can shoot sequences as long as 25 images.) When special Olympus SmartMedia storage cards are used, the D-230 can also record up to 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. After capture, images are downloaded to a computer and "stitched" together with the camera's bundled software. (You can use any standard 3.3 volt SmartMedia card in the D-230, but only Olympus cards enable the panorama-shooting feature.) The "2 in 1" mode records two images side-by-side and saves them as a single image file. Finally, You can transform your full color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through the camera's Playback menu.

The D-230 stores images to a 16MB SmartMedia card supplied with the camera (optional upgrades are available in capacities as large as 128MB). The camera comes with two standard AA batteries, but can also use rechargeable NiMH or NiCd batteries, a single CR-V3 lithium battery pack, or an optional AC adapter (sold as a separate accessory). Based on our test results, this camera has a pretty low power drain, but also has only two batteries. It's big advantage though (like most Olympus digicams) is that it burns almost no power when the LCD is shut off. We clocked estimate about an 90 minutes of continuous operation in Shooting mode with the LCD on, almost limitless (over four days) on-time with the LCD off, and more than two hours of continuous playback time. Even given its fairly low power drain, we still strongly recommend picking up an extra set of rechargeable batteries, and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such downloading images to a computer.


About Batteries
Time for our standard battery tirade: We've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that we're now inserting this standard notice in the reviews of all AA-powered cameras on our site: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. (Even the "high power" ones the battery manufacturers say are designed for devices like digital cameras.) Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. We suggest you buy two sets of batteries, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Good brands of batteries include Maha (our favorite), GP, Kodak, and Nexcell. Also, buy the highest capacity AAs the manufacturer makes, the few extra dollars for the extra capacity is usually well worth it. Getting a good charger is critical though, almost more so than buying good batteries. We recommend the Maha C-204F (see the photo at right), the charger we use the most in our own studio. Particularly important for a 2-cell camera like the D-230, the C-204 charger has two separate circuits, so it can charge batteries just two at a time, rather than the sets of four supported by most chargers. - Read our review of it for all the details. Or, just click here to buy one, you won't regret it.

Basic Features

  • 2-megapixel CCD.
  • Optical viewfinder.
  • 1.5-inch color LCD display.
  • All-glass, fixed-focal-length lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens).
  • 5x Digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control.
  • Built-in flash.
  • SmartMedia Card Storage (16MB card included).
  • Power supplied by two AA batteries, one CR-V3 battery pack, or optional AC adapter.
  • Olympus Camedia Master software for both Mac and Windows.

Special Features

  • QuickTime movies.
  • Sequence (rapid-fire) shooting mode.
  • Self-timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Panorama mode for stitching together multiple images.
  • 2 in 1 mode for side-by-side pictures.
  • Black-and-white and Sepia effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens mode.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Image Contrast and Sharpness adjustments
  • Digital ESP (full frame) and Spot metering options.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • USB AutoConnect (no driver software needed)

Recommendation
The D-230 is a good-quality point-and-shoot digicam with just enough user options to handle most average shooting conditions. Its streamlined, compact design is clearly meant to go places, and image quality is good for making photographic prints up to 8 x 10 inches or sending e-mail attachments over the Internet. The D-230's limited external controls will keep the learning curve at a minimum, along with the simple-to-follow LCD menu system. The D-230 is an ideal starter digicam for families, teens, or young adults who want to get into digital photography without a major investment.


Design
The Olympus D-230 employs the familiar sliding lens cover design that has become a trademark of consumer-level Olympus digicams. The molded plastic body keeps the D-230's weight down to just 6.2 ounces (175 grams) without batteries. Likewise, its long, thin dimensions are less bulky than previous models, measuring only 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches (110 x 62 x 37mm). The D-230 is a bit long for small shirt pockets, but it should slide easily into a larger shirt pocket, coat pocket or purse, and the included wrist strap makes it quick on the draw and easy to hold onto.

On the front of the camera, you'll find the 36mm equivalent, fixed-focal-length lens, an optical viewfinder window, built-in flash, and the tiny self-timer lamp that counts down the 12-second delay before the shutter fires. The clamshell sliding lens cover also serves as the power switch, activating the camera and placing it into Record (Shooting) mode. When opened, the cover provides a sculpted ridge near the right edge of the camera, which serves as a grip for your fingers as they wrap around the camera.

On the camera's right panel is the SmartMedia compartment and wrist strap attachment eyelet. The SmartMedia compartment door opens from the front of the camera and is hinged to the camera body so that it can open as wide as necessary to access the card. The central portion of the door hinge serves as the wrist strap eyelet.

On the opposite side of the camera are the DC In and USB jacks, covered by a rubber strip that lifts up to reveal the connectors.

The top of the D-230 is smooth and feature-free, with only the small silver Shutter button on the far right side.

The limited external controls are all located on the camera's rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 1.5-inch LCD monitor. Adjacent to the viewfinder eyepiece, on the right side, are two LED lamps that report camera status. Control buttons on the rear panel include the Four Way Arrow pad, a Display button, and a Menu / OK button. Along the far right side of the rear panel is a gently sculpted bulge that accommodates for your thumb to grip as you hold the camera in your right hand.

The D-230 has a very flat bottom panel, which holds the battery compartment door and plastic threaded tripod mount. The tripod mount is slightly to the right of the camera's center point, too close to the battery compartment door (on the far right) to allow for quick battery changes while mounted on a tripod. (But then, this isn't the sort of a camera that would be used a lot on a tripod anyway.) The battery compartment has a sliding plastic door that's hinged on the back side.


Camera Operation
Because of the D-230's limited exposure control and small number of external buttons, the camera's user interface is very straightforward. Simply opening the lens cover places it in Shooting mode. Entering Playback mode is a little less obvious, but just as simple, as you only have to press the Display button on the back panel when the lens cover is closed. (Pressing the button twice while in Shooting mode also activates Playback mode.) A four-way Arrow pad on the back panel serves several functions, including Digital Zoom control, navigating through on-screen menus, and scrolling through captured images. Each of the four Arrow buttons also serves as a separate control button. The Menu / OK button activates menus and confirms menu selections, while pressing the Display button once turns the monitor off in Shooting mode.

The majority of the D-230's exposure options are controlled through the LCD menu system, which features three main pages of options in both record and playback modes. These are fairly easy to navigate, but they can make it time-consuming to change things like file size and image quality. Otherwise, we found the D-230 very uncomplicated and quick to learn -- for a novice user, you'll need about 30 minutes to an hour to become familiar with its operation.


External Controls

Sliding Lens Cover: Protecting the lens on the front of the camera, this clamshell-style sliding cover also serves as the power switch. Sliding the cover open turns the camera on and places it into Shooting (Record) mode. Likewise, closing the cover turns the camera off.


Shutter Button: The only control on the top panel, the Shutter button sets the camera's exposure when halfway depressed. Fully depressing the button triggers the shutter.


Four-Way Arrow Pad: Located in the center of the rear panel, each of the four arrows points in a different direction (up, down, left, right). In any mode, the arrow keys navigate through menu options.

In Record mode, the up and down arrows control the digital zoom. The right arrow button selects Flash modes. The left arrow button activates the Macro mode.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images. The up and down arrows control the Playback Zoom, enlarging captured images on screen. The down arrow also accesses the Index Display mode.


Display Button: Just below and to the left of the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button controls the LCD monitor in Record mode, turning it on or off. If pressed twice quickly while in Record mode, this button accesses Playback mode.

When the lens cover is closed, pressing this button powers on the camera and places it in Playback mode. A second press of the button shuts off the camera (only while the lens cover is closed).


Menu / OK Button: Directly to the right of the Display button, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes. It also serves as the "OK" to confirm menu selections.


Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Activated by sliding the lens cover open, this mode sets up the camera to take pictures. The following exposure and camera options are available through the Record menu:

  • Camera:
    • Exposure Compensation: Lightens or darkens the overall exposure from -2.0 to +2.0 exposure values (EV) in one-half-step increments. One full EV unit is 2x (twice as much) or 1/2x (half as much) as the light that would normally be let into the camera.
    • Flash Mode: Sets the flash mode to Auto, Redeye Reduction, Flash On, Flash Off, Night View, and Night View with Redeye Reduction.
    • Drive: Controls the camera's shooting mode. Choices are Single frame, Self-Timer, Sequence Shooting, and Movie.
    • Focus: Sets the focus mode to Auto, Macro, or Infinity. (Infinity sets focus on distant subjects.)
    • Spot Metering: Turns the Spot Metering option on and off. Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the frame. When switched off, the camera uses Digital ESP, which reads the entire image area to determine exposure. Spot metering is handy for backlit subjects, or any time the subject and background have very different brightness levels.
    • Function: Enables the Panorama shooting mode, 2 in 1, or any other special function provided by Olympus brand SmartMedia cards.
  • Picture:
  • Setup:
  • Playback Mode: Entered by pressing the Display button while the lens cover is closed, or by pressing the Display button twice quickly when the lens cover is open, this mode allows the user to review captured images. The following playback options are available through the Playback settings menu:

  • Setup:

  • Sample Pictures
    See our sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of our test images. Click on any image to see the full-size photo.

    Outdoor
    Indoor
    Indoor Flash
     

     

     

    House
    Musicians
    Macro
     

     

     

    Davebox
    Resolution
    Viewfinder Accuracy


    Specifications
    See camera specifications here.


    Picky Details
    Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.


    Test Results


    In the Box
    Packaged with the D-230 are the following items:


    Recommended Accessories


    Conclusion
    The Olympus D-230 is clearly aimed at the entry-level point-and-shoot user. As such it does an excellent job of delivering good-quality images with a minimum of hassle. Compared to other entry-level models though, it includes enough controls to handle more challenging shooting conditions as your skills increase. It snaps good pictures under a surprisingly wide range of conditions, including incandescent lighting, moderate low light and midrange macro shooting. A great choice for a beginning photographer, easy to use, with a few features you can grow into. Recommended.


     

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