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Olympus D-360L
A new entry-level 1.3 megapixel camera from Olympus adds more control at a low price.

(Review first posted 3/8/2000)

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1.3 megapixel resolution for 1280 x 960 images
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Fixed focal-length lens, equivalent to 36mm on a 35mm film camera
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Variable ISO, 125 to 500
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Spot metering option for difficult lighting conditions
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Panorama-assist mode for capturing multiple shots to tile into panoramas
   

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Manufacturer Overview
With one of the broadest digicam lineups in the industry, Olympus is clearly a camera manufacturer who's successfully making the transition to the digital era. At the high end, their product line extends to the 3 megapixel C-3030, announced in February, 2000. The D-360L model that's the subject of this review defines the other end of their lineup, offering "point and shoot" automation with a 1.3 megapixel resolution and a very simple user interface. The D-360L is clearly aimed at the casual photographer, looking to document life memories with a minimum of effort and fuss. At the same time though, it offers fairly sophisticated features including exposure compensation, spot metering, and variable ISO (light sensitivity), that let you shoot successfully in situations where less-capable cameras would leave you helpless. Overall, a good entry-level digital camera that's easy to use, yet offers important features that go beyond the bare minimum usually associated with the category.
Highlights

  • 1.3 Megapixel CCD delivering up to 1280 x 960 resolution.
  • 1.8 inch, color backlit LCD.
  • F2.8, 5.5 mm aspherical glass lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 2x digital telephoto mode.
  • Apertures at F/2.8, F/5.6 and F/11.
  • 1/2 to 1/500 second shutter speeds.
  • Variable ISO settings (Auto, 125, 250 and 500).
  • Automatic exposure.
  • "ESP" matrix or spot metering options.
  • Exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV.
  • White balance with Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings.
  • Sequence shooting mode takes up to 10 images in 0.5 second intervals.
  • Panorama mode.
  • 12 second self-timer.
  • Built-in flash with four modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, Off and Slow-Sync).
  • Direct print setup for Olympus photo printer.
  • NTSC video out. (US Models, PAL in European version)
  • Image capture on SmartMedia with uncompressed TIFF available.
Executive Overview
The Olympus D-360L is an update of their earlier entry-level models, with a surprising number of control-oriented features added. The result is a camera that's ideal for the casual snapshooter, who also wants the capability to handle a wider variety of situations than a traditional "beginners" camera could accommodate. Its 1280 x 960 resolution should be plenty to produce sharp prints up to about 5x7 inches.
If you're familiar with Olympus' D-320L and D-340L models, you'll quickly recognize the nearly identical styling of their latest model, the D-360L. Taking advantage of the same tried and true styling (if it ain't broke, don't fix it), Olympus has come up with an updated version of one of their most uncomplicated digital cameras. The D-360L remains extremely light weight and portable, with dimensions that allow it to easily slip into a shirt or coat pocket. The same sliding lens cover serves as the power switch and lens protection (meaning you don't have to keep track of a pesky lens cap). The control layout is also very similar and straightforward, with the major controls on the top of the camera and just the Display button and two adjustment buttons on the back panel with the LCD monitor. The status display panel on top of the camera reports the camera settings as well as the number of available images and battery power. Our only complaint about the design is that the tripod mount and battery compartment are too close together to allow for quick battery changes when working on a tripod (we're always picky about this, due to the unusual amount of studio work we do), but most consumers won't mind this.
The D-360L offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for composing images. The optical viewfinder is relatively basic, with just a few framing guidelines and a center autofocus target to help you line up shots. The 1.8 inch LCD monitor, when activated, serves as a viewfinder as well, but doesn't display any camera information (with the exception of the self-timer, macro and digital telephoto modes, when activated). With the status display panel and the optical viewfinder, it would seem that you could easily get along without the LCD monitor. However, the menu systems are completely dependent on the LCD monitor and you can't alter very many settings without going through the menu. Optically speaking, the D-360L is equipped with an F2.8 aspherical glass, 5.5mm lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera, a moderate wide-angle). While the lens doesn't zoom optically, there is a 2x digital telephoto which can be turned on through the Record menu (but remember that the use of digital telephoto results in a lower-resolution image). Apertures are automatically controlled with stops at F/2.8, F/5.6 and F/11.
Exposure-wise, we found the user interface very uncomplicated with straightforward navigation, despite the added features. (Most of the time you just point and click). While we do appreciate the ability to control the exposure, even partially, we do recognize the fact that many consumers don't want to mess with exposure settings and are looking for an easy to use, point and shoot camera with no fuss. With that in mind, we're sure many of those same consumers will greatly appreciate the simple operation of the D-360L. Shutter speeds, while automatically controlled, range from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds and the camera does not report this information to the user. (As photographers, we like to know as much as possible about what the camera is doing exposure-wise, but recognize that the audience this camera is intended for really could care less). However, you do have control over many other exposure options. The adjustable white balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings. Additionally, the built-in flash offers Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In, Slow-Sync and Red-Eye Reduction/Slow-Sync modes, giving a good bit of versatility. You can also adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV, select between spot and center-weighted metering and set the variable ISO (light sensitivity) to Auto, 125, 250 or 500 settings. (The most-sensitive ISO 500 setting introduces a fair bit of image noise, but can really make the difference between a usable image and a hopelessly blurry one when you're shooting the kids' soccer game at twilight.)
Two special exposure modes are available, Panorama and Sequence shooting. When using an Olympus card, you can activate the Panorama mode through the Record menu. This displays an alignment grid on the LCD monitor, allowing you to take successive shots and then link them together on a computer later. The Sequence shooting mode, also accessible through the Record menu, allows you to take up to 10 shots (at the lower "VGA" size of 640 x 480 pixels) at 0.5 second intervals (depending, of course, on SmartMedia space and the amount of image information to process). The D-360L lets you record images at several compression levels: Standard Quality high and normal (640 x 480 image size), High Quality, Super High Quality and the uncompressed TIFF (1280 x 960 image size).
U.S. models of the D-360L come with an NTSC video cable for playing back images on a television set (we assume European models come with PAL timing and appropriate cables). There's also a standard serial cable included for connection to a PC. Mac users can obtain a free connection cable with an included mail-in coupon and there's an optional USB adapter (card reader) available for both Mac and PC users. An included software CD comes loaded with Camedia Master for downloading and manipulating images, as well as stitching together panorama shots. Kudos to Olympus for providing a full software package that runs on both Mac and PC platforms! Four AA alkaline (or equivalent) batteries run the D-360L: As always, we strongly recommend rechargeable NiMH batteries, and we suggest keeping a couple sets of charged spares around, even when working without the (always power-hungry) LCD monitor. The AC adapter is sold separately from the camera, but we recommend picking one up as it saves battery power when downloading and reviewing images. There is an auto power-off feature that puts the camera in standby mode after three minutes of inactivity. If the camera remains inactive, it will shut itself off completely after four hours.
With its minimalist design and logical control layout, the D-360L takes almost no time to get acquainted with. The menu system is easy to understand and there's virtually no work involved to use it, since the camera takes control of the exposure by default. We think this is the perfect digicam for those who want to take good pictures without worrying too much about the details. At the same time though, it includes important options like exposure compensation, variable white balance, spot metering, and even variable ISO. Plus, the light weight portability of the D-360L makes certain that it won't be left behind, even on the most carefree, spur-of-the-moment trips. Design
For the D-360L, Olympus has stuck to the same styling and compact shape of its previous D-320L and D-340L models (without the gold tone of the D-340L). The D-360L maintains a light weight sensibility at only 8.3 ounces (235g) and a compact size of 5 x 2.6 x 1.9 inches (128 x 65 x 47mm). Design-wise, everything is very similar to the duotone styling of the previous models, including the sliding lens cover, which serves to protect the lens as well as turn the camera on. The built-in flash is embedded in the top of the lens cover, which slides open just wide enough to expose the small lens. The remaining part of the camera front offers a very minimalist aesthetic, with just the red self-timer light on the bottom corner. We like the slightly tapered body of the D-360L, which helps it slip easily into a pocket. (A practice also encouraged by the sliding cover, which alleviates worries of lens scratches and smudges.)


Most of the controls are on the top panel of the camera, including the shutter button, flash, self-timer, macro and menu buttons. There's also a small status display panel that reports all the camera settings, including the number of available pictures and remaining battery power.


The back panel of the camera features the LCD monitor, optical viewfinder and a couple more controls (Display and two adjustment buttons). Overall, the design of the back panel is extremely smooth and clean.


On the left side of the camera (viewed from the rear), are the digital and video input jacks, protected by a thin plastic flap. Our only complaint here is that the so-called hinge of the flap seemed a little flimsy and could be prone to breakage. Our advice? Just be mindful of it and treat it carefully.


The SmartMedia slot lives on the other side of the camera, beneath a metal-hinged plastic door. We found the door to be a little stiff to open and close, but we still applaud the ability to access the card at all times. This is a definite plus, especially relative to some camera manufacturers who place the card slot on the underside of the camera, making it impossible to remove the card while mounted to a tripod. We also appreciate the slight bulge of the hand grip, which houses the battery compartment and gives the user a good, firm grip on the camera.


The D-360L offers a nice, flat bottom with a plastic tripod mount and a locking battery compartment. Unfortunately for us, the battery compartment and tripod mount are too close together for our comfort. We always notice this because of the amount of studio work we do, and being able to change batteries without dismounting the camera always makes us happy. This is a pretty minor gripe though, as most consumers aren't so glued to the tripod.


Viewfinder
The D-360L offers both an optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for composing images. The real-image optical viewfinder features close-up correction marks, a central marks showing the autofocus area. The close-up correction marks are there because the closer you get to the subject, the lower the shot should be lined up in the viewfinder, particularly with subjects closer than eight inches. The correction marks are also offset to the left slightly. This down/left shift compensates for the slight offset between the viewfinder and the lens itself when the subject is very close. A small LED next to the viewfinder reports the camera's status and lets you know when the autofocus is ready. (It lights solid green when the focus is locked, flashes green if the camera can't focus properly, such as in very dark conditions, or if the subject is just too close to the lens.) The 1.8 inch, TFT color LCD display (approximately 61,000 pixels) can be turned on and off via the small, green Display button directly to the left. At 61,000 pixels the display isn't as sharp as that on Olympus higher-end cameras, but we had no problems using it, and it was both reasonably visible in sunlight (no LCD we've seen to date does really well in bright sun), and had a good, high refresh rate. (There's no perceptible lag between what happens in front of the lens and what you see on the LCD screen.)
While there isn't much of an information display on the LCD monitor while you're shooting (you'll have to check the top-side status display panel for camera status information), it does let you know when you're in self-timer, macro or digital telephoto modes and displays the camera menus when they're called up (unfortunately for battery life, most of the camera's settings rely on the LCD menu system, but it's pretty quick to navigate). In playback mode, the LCD monitor offers an index display mode and 3x zoom on captured images, in addition to the normal full-frame display of the pictures. The 9-up "thumbnail" index display is handy for quickly scanning through all the images on the card, while the playback zoom function is nice for checking details in the picture. (Did Aunt Sue blink?) In playback mode, the camera does display image capture mode (SQ, HQ, etc), and frame number.
Our one objection to the display system on the D-360L is that it's a bit awkward reviewing your image after you've shot it. When the LCD display is enabled, you do get a period of a few seconds to see the image you've just captured, but if you want to take a longer look, you have to close the camera's sliding cover and press the green Display button to switch to playback mode. This takes several seconds, and the camera is slow to respond to the Display button besides. (We had to train ourselves to be patient with it: Did I press it hard enough? Maybe not, I'll push it again. Oops! It just shut itself back off again. - A firm finger and a couple of seconds patience are in order.)
In common with most point & shoot film cameras, the viewfinder systems of the D-360L are somewhat "loose" in that the final image shows more of the subject than what you see in the viewfinder. The optical viewfinder shows about 83.6% of the final image, while the LCD finder is a bit more accurate, showing 89.1%. We're accustomed to optical finders showing less than the full frame, but prefer the LCD finder to be 100% accurate, for close framing. Alas, the viewfinders on the D-360L are fairly typical of those on point & shoot cameras, with even the LCD cropping the final image somewhat.

Optics
The D-360L features a 5.5 mm, F2.8, aspherical glass lens (equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera), featuring five elements in four groups. The contrast-detect autofocus operates through the lens and ranges from 20 inches (0.5m) to infinity in normal, wide-angle mode. A macro mode focuses from four to 20 inches (0.1 to 0.5m). Aperture is automatically controlled, with possible values of F/2.8, F/5.6 or F/11. Like most digicams, you can lock focus and exposure for off-center subject on D-360L by aiming the camera at the part of your subject you want in focus, halfway pressing the shutter button and, keeping the shutter button halfway pressed, re-aligning your composition before firing the shutter. (Less awkward than it sounds.)
A 2x digital telephoto can be activated by hitting the Macro/Digital Zoom button and using the + and - buttons to digitally zoom in and out (as always, digital telephoto lowers image quality in direct proportion to the zoom provided). On the D-360L, the digital zoom forces the camera into SQ mode (640 x 480 resolution):You get an image as sharp as a standard full-resolution one, just showing a smaller area of the subject.
Optically, the lens on the D-360L appears to be of fairly high quality, showing a relatively modest 0.47% barrel distortion, and an almost imperceptible amount of chromatic aberration. (Barrel distortion refers to a tendency for straight lines near the edge of the frame to bow outward in the middle. This tendency can be seen most clearly on our Viewfinder Accuracy test images. Chromatic aberration refers to a tendency for the lens to not focus the different colors of light at exactly the same spot. It can be seen as colored fringes around the black elements in our Resolution Test target, at the very corners of the frame.) Both barrel distortion chromatic aberration in the D-360L's lens are lower than average among point & shoot digicams.
Exposure
We found the exposure control on the D-360L to be uncomplicated and very user-friendly. It didn't take us long at all to get our bearings. The camera operates in autoexposure mode only, meaning you don't have to worry about setting the aperture or shutter speed. (Although we like the freedom of having at least partial manual control, we understand that many consumers are quite content with an automatically controlled point and shoot camera). The shutter speed is automatically adjusted from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds, depending on existing light levels and conditions, and the camera does not report or display the exposure settings it chooses. You do have flexibility with the ISO, which can be manually set at 125, 250 or 500. There's also an Auto ISO setting if you want the camera to take charge. The D-360L also gives you a choice between center weighted metering (which averages light readings around the center of the image) or spot metering (which takes a reading from dead center), giving you some versatility. White balance is also adjustable, with options of Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and Fluorescent settings. Exposure compensation can be increased or decreased to -2 to +2 EV in 0.5 EV increments. (Exposure compensation lets you adjust the exposure up for bright subjects or backlit scenes, and down for dark ones, or for flash exposures of a small subject against a dark background.)
The combination of ISO ratings extending from 125 to 500, shutter speeds from 1/2 to 1/500 seconds, and apertures from f/2.8 to f/11 should translate in a usable illumination range of just under 1 footcandle to about 10,000 footcandles (11 to 110,000 lux). This translates to a range from a well-light nighttime city street scene to open sun on a bright day. We were a little concerned that the D-360L might overexpose slightly with subjects like snow or beach scenes, but it handled a quick test with a piece of white paper in full sun just fine. At the lower end of its range, the 1 foot-candle rating seems slightly optimistic, but at twice that light level, it does quite well. (Do note though, that the high ISO rating used to achieve these low-light results brings along with it increased levels of image noise.)

Flash
The built-in flash on the D-360L offers Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In, Slow-Sync and Red-Eye Reduction/Slow-Sync modes. Flash power is claimed effective from eight inches to 9.8 feet (0.2 to 3.0 m). We found this agreed well with our own tests, in which it seemed to have little trouble reaching to 10 feet or beyond, but did tend to wash-out macro subjects at the minimum lens-subject distance of four inches. In use, note that the flash is still charging when the green LED next to the optical viewfinder is blinking. Also, the flash is not available in Sequence or Panorama modes. (In Sequence mode, the camera shoots more rapidly than the flash could recharge, and in Panorama mode, the flash's varying response to whatever it "sees" in front of the camera could result in radically different exposures for the individual shots making up the panorama.)
Special Exposure Modes
As just alluded to above, the D-360L offers two special exposure modes: Sequence and Panorama. Sequence mode is accessed through the Record menu and captures up to 10 images in 0.5 second intervals (depending on SmartMedia space and the amount of image information to record). Sequence mode switches the camera into low resolution (SQ) mode if it isn't already set there though, so the camera can captured images quickly enough. Panorama mode, also accessed via the record menu, takes a series of images that can be "stitched" together in the computer later with the included software. An alignment grid appears on the screen to help you align the right side of each shot. Exposure, focus and white balance are all determined by the first shot, so keep that in mind when composing images (for example, don't shoot into the sun on the first shot). Also, the uncompressed TIFF mode is unavailable when shooting in Panorama. Finally, the Panorama mode is only available when using Olympus SmartMedia cards. (The Olympus cards carry special "firmware" instructions that enable the panorama mode in Olympus cameras supporting that option. Third-party cards work fine for all other purposes in the camera, but only Olympus cards will activate the Panorama option.)
Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it.
On the D-360L, we found the shutter lag time with full autofocus to be about 0.74 seconds. Alternatively, shutter lag with prefocus (a half press of the shutter button before the actual exposure itself) is only 0.30 seconds. These are fairly typical numbers for digital cameras we've tested, slightly faster than average in full autofocus, and slightly slower than average with prefocus.
The camera obviously has some buffer memory, as the first three shots in high-res mode are much faster than the subsequent ones. We found the shot-to-shot cycle time at the maximum resolution and image quality setting to be about 7.0 seconds for the first three shots of a rapid-fire series. The time then increased to 13.0 seconds for the next couple of shots and returned to back to between 6 and 7 seconds for the next several. In the lower resolution settings, the minimum shot-to-shot cycle time is about 4.0 seconds, but you can shoot proportionately more frames before you run out of buffer memory. Shot-to-shot cycle times in the Sequence Shooting mode are .5 seconds in the lowest quality mode for up to 10 shots.
The D-360L takes about 1.4 seconds to start up and only about 0.4 seconds to shut down. Going from Record to Playback mode took an average of 2.3 seconds while flipping back from Playback into Record mode took around 2.4 seconds.

Operation and User Interface
As with the previous D-320L and D-340L models, we found the user interface on the D-360L very uncomplicated and simple to navigate, despite the additional options the D-360L presents. All the controls are clearly marked and logically laid out, and the LCD menu system is simple to follow. The only drawback to the menu system is that without a rocker toggle control (a favorite user-interface component of ours), the only way to scroll through the menu is to continually press the Menu button. While this isn't too much of a hassle, it takes a little getting used to, especially when compared to menus driven by a rocker toggle button. Of overriding importance for novice users though, is that the menu system is very easy to navigate and understand.
Control Enumeration

Shutter Button: Located on the top right of the camera, this button triggers the shutter when fully pressed and sets exposure and focus when halfway pressed. When navigating through menus, the shutter button serves as the "OK" to confirm menu selections.

Flash/Print Button: Located to the left of the shutter button, this button cycles through the flash modes while in Record mode (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In, Slow-Sync and Red-Eye Reduction/Slow-Sync). In Playback mode, this button cycles through the Card Print menu, which allows you to select the Date Print option and place images in the Print Reserve for printing to an Olympus photo printer later.

Delete Button: Located directly to the left of the Flash/Print button, this button deletes the currently-displayed captured image in Playback mode only.

Self-Timer/Protect Button: Located on the left of the status display panel, this button turns on the Self-Timer mode while in Record mode, which activates a 12 second self-timer delay when the shutter button is pressed. In Playback mode, this button write protects individual images from accidental erasure. (Note though, that reformatting the memory card will delete even "protected" images.)

Macro/Digital Telephoto/Index Display Button: Located directly to the left of the Self-Timer/Protect button, this button alternates between Macro, 2x Digital Telephoto and regular display in Record mode. In Playback mode, this button turns on the index display, which features nine thumbnail images on the screen at one time for quick review.

Menu Button: Located to the left of the Macro/Digital Telephoto/Index Display button, this button accesses the camera menus in both Playback and Record modes.

Display Button: Located to the left of the LCD monitor, this green button turns the LCD monitor on and off in Record mode. Also in Record mode, if hit twice quickly after snapping an image, puts you in Quick Display mode, which displays the most recently captured image. When the lens barrier is closed, pressing the Display button activates Playback mode for image review.

+/- Buttons: Located directly beneath the Display button, these buttons navigate through menu options in both Record and Playback menus. In Playback mode, these buttons scroll through captured images.
Camera Modes and Menus
Record Mode: Accessed by sliding the lens cover open, this mode allows you to capture images. The camera selects the appropriate aperture and shutter speed, while you have control over flash, white balance, exposure compensation, ISO and metering. Pressing the Menu button in this mode pulls up the Record menu with the following features:

  • Exposure Compensation allows the user to adjust the exposure compensation from -2 to +2 EV in 0.5 EV increments.




  • Metering: turns on spot metering or selects Olympus' "ESP" (matrix?) metering.




  • Record Mode: sets the record mode at Super High Quality (SHQ), SHQ TIFF, High Quality (HQ), Standard Quality normal (SQ) or SQ High. Cycle through the options by pressing the "+" or "-" buttons. To reach SQ High or SHQ TIFF modes, press and hold down the "+" button while on the previous menu selection.




  • White Balance: allows the user to select Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten or Fluorescent white balance settings.




  • ISO: allows the user to set the ISO to Auto, 125, 250 or 500 ISO values.




  • Drive: allows the user to select either Single or Sequence drive options.




  • Panorama: activates the Panorama mode and alignment grid. (When using Olympus-branded SmartMedia cards)




  • Beep Sound: turns the camera beep on or off.




  • File Number: allows the user to reset file numbering or leave it on auto.




  • Setting Reset: allows the user to reset all the camera settings to the factory defaults or leave them as is (Hold).




Playback Mode: Accessed by hitting the Display button when the sliding lens cover is closed, this mode allows you to review captured images, delete or protect them and set them up for printing. Pressing the Menu button in this mode pulls up the Playback menu with the following options:

  • Close-Up: allows the user to zoom into an area of the image for closer inspection.




  • Slide-Show: plays back captured images in a Slow or Fast slide show presentation.




  • File No. Display: allows the user to select between displaying the file or frame number with the image.




  • Function Card Mode: for use with Olympus special function cards.

    Not Shown


  • Card Setup: formats the card or erases all images from the card.




  • Date Set: allows the user to set the camera date and time.




  • LCD Brightness: allows the user to adjust the LCD brightness.





Image Storage and Interface
The D-360L utilizes removable SmartMedia cards for image storage and comes with an 8MB card (most users will want to go ahead and upgrade to at least a 16 or 32 MB card to store more images before having to return to the computer). Olympus brand cards are recommended, especially if you intend to use the Panorama function, but any third-party SmartMedia card should work for normal camera functions. The number of storable pictures is immediately displayed on the status display panel when the camera is turned on. Individual images can be write-protected through the Playback menu, which protects them from accidental erasure (except in the case of reformatting the card). Additionally, the Delete button on top of the camera makes it quick and easy to delete individual images in Playback mode (an Erase All option is available through the Playback menu). Write protection stickers are included with the SmartMedia card for protecting the entire card. Stickers can only be used once and must be clean to be effective.
Following is a list of the approximate number of images and their compression ratios for an 8MB card:

Resolution/Quality vs Image Capacity

High Resolution

Standard Resolution

Images

Approx.
Compression

Images

Approx.
Compression

Uncompressed Quality

1

1:1

n/a

n/a

Fine Quality

9

4:1

16

2:1

Normal Quality

18

8:1

60

7:1


Video Out
US versions of the D-360L come equipped for NTSC connection to a television set (we assume European models are equipped for PAL timing) and a cable is provided. Once the camera is connected to the television, the LCD monitor automatically switches off and you can view recorded images on the larger screen. A black border may be present on the screen and the image may appear off-center slightly, according to Olympus, and these effects will be recorded if recording to video tape. (This sort of screen-size misfit is not uncommon with digicams, and is more a result of vagaries in the television timing than an issue with the camera.)

Power
The D-360L operates on four AA nickel metal hydride, alkaline, lithium or NiCd batteries (do not use manganese batteries as the camera will overheat). Current battery power is displayed in the status display panel on top of the camera with a small battery graphic. An AC adapter is available as an accessory to the camera and we strongly recommend picking one up as it will save battery power while performing mundane tasks like downloading or playing back images. Additionally, the D-360L features an auto power off feature which places the camera in stand-by mode when left alone for three minutes (lightly pressing the shutter button turns it on again). After four hours of inactivity, the camera will shut itself off completely (it'll shut off more quickly if it determines battery power is low). Once the camera has done a complete power-down, you'll need to close the lens cover and reopen it to turn it back on again. The table below lists the power consumption we measured with the camera in various operating modes. Overall, the D-360L is fairly average in its power consumption, and should operate for up to two hours on a standard set of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable cells, with the LCD on. Most interesting is the power drain with the LCD off: It's practically nil! This means you should be able to blithely use the camera all day with the LCD off without fear of running out of battery power, a nice feature!

Operating Mode

Power Drain

Capture Mode, w/LCD

560 mA

Capture Mode, no LCD

< 10 mA

Half-pressed shutter w/LCD

570 mA

Half-pressed w/o LCD

300 mA

Memory Write (transient)

200 mA

Flash Recharge (transient)

690 mA

Image Playback

430 mA


Included Software
Included with the D-360L is a standard PC serial cable for connection to a PC. Mac users can obtain a free serial connector with the included mail-in coupon. Optional USB adapters are also available for both platforms. A software CD contains Camedia Master, compatible with Windows 95, 98, NT and Macintosh OS 7.5 and higher. Camedia Master gives you the ability to download images from the camera and perform minor manipulations and corrections as well as "stitch" together the images taken in Panorama mode, turning them into one complete image. The CD with our evaluation model also included a copy of QuickTime 4.0, but this must have been an oversight as the D-360L does not have a movie capability.
Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the D-360L's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the D-360L performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the D-360L turned in good pictures for an entry-level camera: Its 1.3 megapixel resolution should produce good-quality prints up to at least 5x7 inches, and its color accuracy is very good. It reproduces the entire spectrum well, with only the slightest weakness in the "subtractive primaries" of cyan, magenta, and yellow. Overall color accuracy is exceptionally good though, especially for an entry-level camera, and particularly as it handled the always-problematic blue/purple problem in the model's pants and flowers in the outdoor portrait shot. Skin tones are excellent as well.

Resolution for the D-360L came in on the low side of average amongst 1.3 megapixel digicams we've tested to date (March, 2000), not surprising given its low cost. Despite the low price point though, resolution was quite respectable, only a little off the average, which included much higher-priced models. We called the visual resolution on our test target as being just under 600 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and a bit over 600 lines in the vertical orientation. The 640x480 pixel images shot in "SQ" mode were very sharp, particularly those saved in the high-quality mode for that size. The "Digital Telephoto" option makes the usual (severe) tradeoff between image size and resolution, since all it's doing is cropping into the central portion of the CCD and making a separate (smaller) file from it.

Despite its entry-level position, the D-360L provides good exposure control, with both matrix and spot metering, and variable ISO speeds up to ISO 500. Given its low cost, and entry-level profile, we were quite surprised by the good job the D-360L did with available-light shooting. We obtained the best results in full auto-exposure mode, letting the camera adjust its ISO (light sensitivity) and exposure as it saw fit. With its very high maximum ISO setting of 500, we found that the D-360L did pretty well down to light levels of about 1 footcandle (11 lux), about the level you'd find shooting outdoors at night under typical city streetlights. At one footcandle though, shadow detail was lost, but overall exposure was still pretty good. Naturally though, image noise becomes a factor as the ISO level is boosted.

We found the D-360L's optical viewfinder to be rather loose, showing about 83 percent of the final image area in high resolution (the smaller image size, 640 x 480, reproduced about 85 percent accuracy). The LCD monitor was only slightly more accurate, showing about 88 percent of the final image area in wide angle. (As with the optical viewfinder, the percentage was only a little better with the smaller image size, which showed about 89 percent). To give you an idea of what we're looking for, we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible.

The D-360L turned in a reasonable performance in the macro category, although it seems a little limited compared with some current (March, 2000) digicams which can capture smaller areas. The D-360L captures a minimum area of 4.11 x 3.08 inches (104.40 x 78.30 mm).

At the end of the day, the D-360L turned out very good pictures, with surprisingly accurate, vibrant color. It was slightly "soft" relative to higher-priced 1.3 megapixel cameras, but appears to offer good value for the money.


Conclusion
The D-360L is a very simple to use, straightforward digicam that provides the luxury of completely automatic exposure control for users who just want to "point and shoot". This camera is perfect for the user who wants to take great pictures without having to do too much work, although it does offer important control options such as exposure compensation, spot metering, and variable ISO for those times you need to go a bit beyond what the automatic exposure system can accomplish. The compact size of the D-360L ensures that it won't be left behind, since it so easily fits into a shirt or coat pocket. The built-in sliding lens cover also encourages this, avoiding concerns over a scratched or smudged lens. Overall, a very practical digicam that's simple to use, and has enough resolution to make good-quality 5x7 prints.

Reader Sample Images!
Do you have an Olympus D-360L camera? If you'll post an album of your samples on one of the photo-sharing services and email us at photos@imaging-resource.com, we'll list the album here for others to see!

For More Info:
View the data sheet for the D-360L

View the test images from the D-360L

 

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this article? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about Olympus D-360L, or add comments of your own!


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