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Olympus D-450 Digital Camera
An update of the popular D-400 Zoom adds speed, improved color, and great low-light capability!

(Review first posted 18 October, 1999)

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1.3 megapixels
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3x optical zoom lens
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Variable ISO, 160-640(!)
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Excellent color & white balance
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Exceptional low-light capability

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Manufacturer Overview
Olympus has a distinguished history in the digicam field, stretching back to their original D200-L and D-300L. They introduced the first sub-$5,000 digital SLR in the form of the D-600L, and continue to have one of the broadest lines of cameras in the industry. In late 1998, their D-400 Zoom model proved enormously popular, offering 1.3 megapixel resolution, a compact form factor, solid image quality, and a nice combination of features. Now, Olympus has updated this popular unit, improving both its image quality (with better color accuracy) and its shot-to-shot cycle time. Not only have they improved the product, but the new model D-450 Zoom comes in at a lower price, offering excellent value for this year's holiday season. (Fall/Winter, 1999).

Highlights

  • 1.3 megapixel CCD delivering 1280 x 960 or 640 x 480 resolution
  • Variable ISO, w/ auto or manual selection of ISO 160/320/640 (!)
  • Large buffer memory for very fast shot-to-shot cycle times
  • 3x optical zoom (35 to 105mm), f/2.8-f/4.4 maximum aperture
  • 2x "digital telephoto" at any focal length
  • Macro focusing to 8 inches (20 cm)
  • 1/2 to 1/1000 seconds shutter speeds
  • Both optical and LCD viewfinders
  • Dioptric adjustment for optical viewfinder
  • Continuous shooting up to two frames per second at VGA resolution
  • Four recording modes, including uncompressed TIFF
  • Built-in flash with five operating modes
  • Five user-selectable white balance settings
  • Panorama exposure mode when using Olympus-branded memory cards
  • Direct print to optional Olympus photo printer (P-300 and P-330)
  • SmartMedia image storage, 8 MB card included
  • Power via 4 AA batteries (alkalines included, buy a set of NiMH rechargeables!)



Executive Overview
For those of you already familiar with other Olympus digicams, the similarities in design between the D-400 Zoom and the D-450 Zoom will be immediately apparent, the 450 essentially being an update to the earlier model. The 450 Zoom body shines with a silvery gold tone and gold highlights. It's very compact and portable. A built in lens cover also serves as a power switch and effectively solves the lost lens cap problem. With the cover closed, the camera has a smoothly tapering profile that makes it easy to get in and out of pockets. All the main controls reside on the back panel of the camera, with the exception of the shutter button and zoom lever, which are on top. A small groove gives your thumb a natural place to grip the camera and makes it easy to shoot one handed.

An optical and LCD viewfinder are both located on the back of the camera. The optical viewfinder features a dioptric adjustment dial to accommodate eyeglass wearers, and green and orange LEDs which clue you in to the camera's status. The LCD viewfinder can be turned on and off with an adjacent button. The 1.8 inch screen features a TFT color display and reasonably accurate color representation. (Not usually a notable LCD characteristic.)

The Olympus 5.4 to 16.2mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera) offers a maximum aperture ranging from f/2.8 to f/4.4. Focus ranges from 8 to 31 inches (20 to 80 cm) in macro mode and from 31 inches to infinity (80 cm) under the normal setting. A TTL autofocus function utilizes an efficient contrast detection system for precise focusing. For shooting in low-light conditions, the camera offers two "quick focus" presets of 8 ft (2.5m) and infinity. The optical zoom lens is controlled by the Zoom lever on top of the camera, and an optional "digital zoom" function can be engaged via an LCD menu option.

Since there's no mode dial on the D-450 Zoom, the camera is placed in Record mode automatically when the lens cover is opened. From here, you can let the camera decide all the exposure settings, or you can adjust things such as white balance, flash, spot metering, ISO and exposure compensation (EV) through a menu system employing the LCD screen and rear-panel controls. Aperture and shutter speed are controlled automatically. A Self-Timer and sequential shooting mode are available when in Record mode, via the back-panel buttons. The flash is activated by simply flipping it up and offers five settings (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Slow Shutter Synchronization Auto and a Slow Shutter Synchronization with Red-Eye Reduction). White balance also offers five settings (Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and Fluorescent light), all controlled through the Record Menu. Exposure Compensation (EV) can be adjusted from –2 to +2 in 0.5 EV (f-stop) units, also through the Record Menu.

The Self-Timer gives a 12 second delay with a countdown before the shutter fires and the Sequence Mode allows you to shoot approximately two frames per second, depending on available memory and image quality. A Panorama mode is also available on the D-450 Zoom, accessible through the Function Menu. (Note that the Panorama option is only enabled when using Olympus-branded SmartMedia storage cards).

Another big plus is the ability to change the ISO setting on the camera. Through the Record Menu, you can select Auto, 160, 320 and 640. While the higher ISO values produce images with more noise in them, they're invaluable for capturing images that would be impossible otherwise.

Images are stored on 3.3V SmartMedia cards (an 8MB card comes with the camera) with choices between SQ (Standard Quality), HQ (High Quality), SHQ (Super High Quality) and Non-Compressed TIFF. 

A Video Out cable allows you to connect to a television set for image playback. Two CDs come with the camera and hold the Camedia image transfer software, Adobe PhotoDeluxe and Quick Stitch for both Mac and Windows operating systems (excluding the iMac).

Camera Design
The D-450 Zoom is similar in style to its predecessor, the D-400 Zoom. The small, rectangular body recalls the shape and styling of several film based point and shoot 35mm cameras out on the market, which may make the camera more familiar to some. A sliding lens cover eliminates the hassle of a lens cap and serves as the power control as well. Once slid open, the lens comes out from hiding and the status display becomes active. Likewise, you shut down the camera by partially sliding the cover towards the lens and then fully closing it once the lens retracts.



The D-450 Zoom is relatively easy to hold and keep up with, more so with the wrist strap attached. A lip on the open lens cover and prominent ridge on the camera's back provide a secure grip when holding it. Weighing in at approximately 9.5 oz (270g) without the batteries and card, the D-450 Zoom offers the convenience of light weight combined with its compact dimensions of 5 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches (127 x 66.5 x 53 mm). The slightly rounded contours when it is closed help it slip in and out of pockets easily.



All of the controls are on the back of the camera, with the exception of the shutter button and zoom lever. We found the controls relatively easy to negotiate, although it took a few references to the manual since some of the icons weren't initially easy to decipher. Everything else is where it should be, the SmartMedia slot and Video Out/AC jacks on the sides and the battery compartment and tripod mount on the bottom of the camera. 



The top of the camera holds an LCD data readout showing camera status, the shutter button, and a toggle lever to operate the zoom lens.



One note here, the tripod mount lives on the far left (when looking at the back of the camera) instead of the center, on the right in the picture above). We dislike tripod mounts this far off-center: The mass of the camera hanging off the edge of the tripod's mounting platform places extra stress on the camera's tripod threads, and produces a less rigid attachment. 

Viewfinder
The D-450 Zoom features an optical viewfinder as well as an LCD color monitor. The optical viewfinder features central crosshairs for assistance with composing and focusing. Green and orange LEDs sit directly beside the optical viewfinder and display the state of the camera, whether it's ready to take the picture or if there is an error. Also adjacent to the optical viewfinder is a dioptric adjustment dial, which almost escaped our attention (it's a solid black dial hidden on the side of the viewfinder). The dioptric adjustment lets you compensate for your own near- or far-sightedness when looking through the viewfinder. This is a rather unusual feature to find on a digicam at the price point of the D-450 Zoom. The LCD monitor is a 1.8 inch TFT color display with approximately 114,000 pixels. It's clear and bright, but washes out in bright sunlight as do essentially all other LCDs we've seen. In addition to serving as a viewfinder, the LCD monitor also shows the date and time, frame number, write protection, recording mode, erase features, battery check, file number and menus (when the latter are accessed). 

The manual states that when a subject is well lit or in bright sunlight, the LCD may show some vertical lines that will not be part of the final image. These streaks seem to emanate from points of particular brightness, such as the sun's reflection off a shiny surface. While distracting when they occur, we saw them only rarely, and didn't find them objectionable. (Although we can understand Olympus' mentioning them in the manual, as they'd doubtless cause owners great consternation if they weren't expecting them.)

The D-450 Zoom's viewfinder arrangement was unusual in that the optical and LCD viewfinders agreed with each other quite closely, both a bit more accurate than typical digicam viewfinders. The optical viewfinders on most digital cameras are rather "loose", showing less of the subject than appears in the final image. LCD viewfinders are generally more accurate, although fairly rarely 100% so. In the case of the D-450 Zoom, in wide-angle mode, the optical viewfinder showed 91% of the final image area, and the LCD 90.5%. (Within the margin of error for our tests.) At the lens' telephoto setting, the optical finder showed 87.5% of the final area, while the LCD showed 90%. We did find some rotation of the image in the optical viewfinder, although less than one degree, visible in our Viewfinder Accuracy test, but not likely to be apparent under typical picture-taking situations. Overall, we were pleased by the accuracy and consistency of the D-450's optical viewfinder.

Optics
An Olympus 5.4 to 16.2 mm lens (equivalent to a 35 to 105mm lens on a 35mm camera) comes on the D-450 Zoom, with a maximum aperture ranging from f/2.8 to f4.4 depending on the zoom setting. It can focus from eight to 31 inches (20 to 80 cm) in macro mode and from 31 inches (80 cm) to infinity with the normal setting. The TTL autofocus function uses a contrast detection system which produces sharp, reliable focus in well-lit conditions, but may have problems in low-light situations. Low-light shooting is provided for with two preset focal distances of 8 feet (2.5m) and infinity selectable by pressing back-panel buttons during the exposure. (These seem to work well enough, but we'd like to see more "quickfocus" steps, or an autofocus-assist light for better low-light operation, particularly since the camera does so well in dim light with its variable-ISO capability.) The camera controls aperture automatically with settings of f/2.8 and f/8 in wide angle and f/4.4 and f/12.6 in telephoto mode. Neither aperture nor shutter speed are controllable when in manual mode.

The true 3x optical zoom, controllable by a rocker toggle on top of the camera, allows you to zoom in any increment. The manual reports that using the true optical zoom in combination with the digital telephoto can get up to approximately 6x zoom. Expect quality to suffer when the "digital zoom" is engaged though: Like all digital zoom options, it simply crops-out the central portion of the camera's sensor array, producing a smaller image. Thus, digital zoom is only useful if you only need a smaller image anyway: Great for web workers, but not as useful for printed output. The ability to use the D-450's "digital zoom" at any optical zoom setting is a nice touch though, and one we'd like to see in more digicams.

In response to reader requests, we now routinely measure lens distortion and aberrations as part of our camera testing. In the case of the D-450 Zoom, we found barrel distortion (straight lines close to the edges of the frame bowing outward) of 1.15% at maximum wide angle zoom, and pincushion distortion (the opposite of barrel distortion) of 0.5% at the maximum telephoto setting. These numbers are somewhat better than average for current (October, 1999) digicams. The wide-angle barrel distortion will be apparent in photos of buildings or other objects with straight edges, but probably not noticeable in pictures of "natural" objects. Alone among manufacturers of cameras we've reviewed however, Olympus provides a unique, automatic lens-distortion correction filter in their Camedia software. The software reads the file header information to detect the zoom focal length used to capture an image, and then applies exactly the right amount of distortion correction for that zoom setting. The result is that images processed through this filter in Camedia show no distortion, regardless of the zoom setting! 

Exposure
Basically, the D-450 Zoom only operates in Automatic capture mode: It doesn't provide a separate "manual" mode as do some digicams, but instead offers most of the adjustment options that would be relegated to Manual mode via the LCD menu system

Most of the time, you just point and shoot. (Great for the technologically-challenged.) Whether you're using the optical viewfinder or the LCD screen, frame the subject and halfway press the shutter button to set focus and exposure. Once the focus and exposure are set, the green LED next to the optical viewfinder will light solid, if it blinks, the subject needs to be refocused. If the orange LED blinks after focusing, the D-450 Zoom is recommending use of the flash, due to low shutter speed.

Focus and exposure lock is set for the center of the frame, but can be changed without pushing any buttons (except the shutter button). Just focus the camera on the portion of the subject that you want to emphasize and hold down the shutter button halfway. While continuing to hold the shutter button halfway down, reposition the subject in the viewfinder to your original composition, and then press all the way. The picture will be taken with the focus and exposure settings appropriate for the portion of the subject that was centered when you first half-pressed the shutter button.

The D-450 Zoom features a Quick Focus option, controlled by pressing the infinity button or the 2.5m/8ft button in conjunction with halfway pressing the shutter button. Olympus touts this as a good feature when quick shooting is required, but you need to be prepared in advance of the exposure by stopping to look and place your thumb over the appropriate button before you frame your shot.

Flash
You activate the flash by popping up the flash head itself which is located on the top front left of the camera. It simply flips up and down. As previously mentioned, the camera will indicate that a flash is needed by blinking the orange LED next to the optical viewfinder if it decides the shutter speed is too slow for stable handheld shooting. You can choose from five flash modes: Auto Flash Mode (no icon displayed), Red-Eye Reduction (eyeball icon), Fill-in Flash (lightning bolt), Slow Shutter Synchronization Auto (lightning bolt and the word "slow" displayed) and a Slow Shutter Synchronization with Red-Eye Reduction (lightning bolt, "slow" and eye icons). Each mode is accessible by hitting the flash button. Note that if the flash is up and the mode selected but the orange LED keeps blinking, the camera is still charging the flash. The manual states that if you use the flash while in Macro mode, light and dark colors may be slightly more exaggerated (higher contrast).

Olympus rates the D-450 Zoom's flash as having a maximum range of 8.5 feet (2.6m) in telephoto mode, and 13 feet (4m) at wide angle. In our own tests, we felt this rating was slightly conservative, as the light falloff from 8 through 14 feet seemed quite gradual. An added bonus is that you can combine a higher ISO setting (see below) with flash usage for really extreme flash range (we'd estimate out to about 26 feet in wide angle mode, with an ISO of 640), albeit with the image-noise tradeoff noted below.

Variable ISO (!)
Low ISO (equivalent "film speed" or light sensitivity rating) has been a bugaboo of digital cameras from their inception. Most consumer digicams have ISO ratings of 80-120 or so, much slower than the film most consumers are accustomed to using. As a result, most digital cameras fare poorly in low-light situations. In comparison, the D-450 Zoom does surprisingly well, particularly for such an inexpensive unit with so many other features. It's default ISO of 160 is better than most cameras on the market, and the variable ISO feature makes it one of the most light-sensitive cameras available for less than $1000.

Unlike most digicams on the market, the D-450 Zoom allows you to choose between four ISO settings. Through the Menu button, you can select from Auto, 160, 320 or 640 ISO settings. Similar to film based cameras, a higher ISO means faster shutter speeds and less light required but the resulting image may appear somewhat grainy (the "grain" being image noise). While the noise can become fairly pronounced at the higher ISO settings (particularly at lower light levels, with longer exposure times), the ability to capture images you simply wouldn't be able to get otherwise is a tremendous benefit. While not one of our formal tests, we occasionally venture to local shopping mall to snap night shots outside the local Starbucks (tm) coffee shop. In the past, we've never bothered taking a sub-$500 camera along to one of these shooting sessions, but did so with the D-450 Zoom. We were very pleasantly surprised by the excellent results we obtained: The dimly-lit parking lot and store exterior lit up like daylight, and color and image quality was quite good.

Another application where higher ISO is important is action photography: Typical digicams with ISO ratings of 100 or so aren't too good at freezing fast-paced action (the kids soccer game, etc.) By boosting the D-450 Zoom's ISO rating in well-lit scenes, you can shoot at much faster shutter speeds than otherwise, making this camera a good choice if you plan any sports or action photography. 

In our tests, we were consistently surprised by how well the D-450 Zoom did in low light: To be sure, there are other cameras on the market that do better, but to the best of our knowledge, they all cost significantly more. If you enjoy or are intrigued by nighttime available-light photography (or are interested in sports/action photography), the D-450 Zoom offers the most cost-effective approach to it in the current digicam world. (October, 1999)


Self-Timer
The Self-Timer function is controlled via the Self-Timer button. After pressing the Self-Timer button, focus the subject and then fully press the shutter button. The shutter will fire in 12 seconds. The Self-Timer LED on the front of the camera will light for the first 10 seconds and then blink for the remaining two. The self-timer function can be used in conjunction with Macro mode (see below), helping insure sharp macro shots when the camera is used with a tripod.

Macro
Macro mode is accessed by the Function button (designated by a star symbol). With Macro, a subject as small as 2.25 x 3 inches (57 x 76 mm) can fill the frame. This is about in the middle of the pack of current (October, 1999) digicams. The shooting distance in Macro can range from eight to 31 inches (0.2m to 0.8m). The LCD monitor automatically turns on when entering Macro mode and the Macro indicator appears on the display. To cancel the mode, hit the LCD on/off button. 

Sequence Mode
Sequence mode allows you to shoot up to two frames per second, depending on the image quality chosen and storage space available. The flash settings are unavailable in this mode and the shutter speed is fixed to go no lower than 1/30 seconds. In sequence mode, the camera will snap pictures one after another as long as you hold down the shutter button. (Note that shot-to-shot speed is a strong function of the image quality, and you'll only get the two shots per second in "SQ" mode.) 

Digital Telephoto
Digital Telephoto allows you to double the size of your subject, but at the expense of quality. Simply press the + and - buttons to control the digital zoom. The LCD monitor will automatically turn on and the mode is canceled by hitting the LCD monitor on/off button. Digital Telephoto can only be used in the SQ (Standard Quality) recording mode.

Panorama
The Function button also gives you the option to utilize Panorama when a standard Olympus memory card is in the camera or any special functions available when using an Olympus special function card. (In other words, the special panorama mode only works with Olympus-branded SmartMedia cards. This is only the case with Panorama mode however: All other camera functions work equally well with Olympus or third-party media.) In Panorama mode, blue cropping lines appear to help you line up each image of a panorama sequence. You can take as many exposures as you have room on the memory card for, all the settings for which (exposure and white balance) will be determined by the initial exposure. Panorama mode is canceled by hitting the function button again. Note that the flash is not available in this mode. Olympus suggests that you not move the zoom lever after shooting the first picture to avoid problems assembling the picture later. SQ (Standard Quality) is also recommended to save SmartMedia space. (Our own recommendation would be to purchase a larger memory card, if you plan on creating panoramas for printed output.)

Exposure Compensation (EV adjustment)
You access the Exposure Compensation function by hitting the Menu button. Here you can adjust the exposure from -2 to +2 EV in half step increments. Press the OK button to confirm the selection. The adjustment is canceled by utilizing the same process or by closing the lens cover to power down the camera. Olympus warns that this setting may not work properly when using the flash. The D-450 Zoom's EV adjustment option is one area where we could see room for improvement: Our preference is for the exposure compensation adjustment to be available without needing to use the main LCD menu system: If the setting was shown on the top-panel LCD readout, you could change it with fewer button actuations. 

Spot Metering Mode
It's unusual to find anything more than simple "averaging" metering in an inexpensive digicam. The problem with this simplistic approach to metering is that it is easily fooled by backlit subjects, or any subject that's a significantly different brightness than the background. While EV adjustments (see above) let you guess at what the exposure should be, the real solution is "spot" metering, in which the metering system only looks at a small area in the center of the field of view. With spot metering and the ability to lock the exposure, you should rarely need to use the exposure-compensating EV adjustments discussed above. Just aim the camera to position the subject between the central marks in the D-450's optical viewfinder, and half-press the shutter button to read and lock-in that exposure setting. Then, reframe your picture while holding the shutter button down. Once everything's to your liking, press the shutter button all the way. It sounds much more complicated than it is: Once you get used to using a spot meter, the improved exposure accuracy will be more than worth the effort!

To access the D-450 Zoom's Spot Metering mode (select from average or spot) press the Menu button three times. Press OK to confirm your selection and an indicator will appear on the LCD monitor and the status display. Metering will return to the default averaging setting when the lens cover is closed.

White Balance
White Balance is also accessible through the Menu button (five hits). Here, you have five settings to choose from: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten or Fluorescent light. Hit OK to confirm the setting and the appropriate icon appears on the LCD monitor. The setting is canceled by hitting the Menu button again or by closing the lens cover. Some experimentation may be called for, as the camera's presets may not always match the lighting precisely. We did find that the D-450 Zoom's automatic white balance option was particularly effective at removing color casts, even in the case of the very yellowish illumination of our "indoor portrait" test. It's unusual to find this high a degree of automatic color correction in a digicam, making the D-450 Zoom a particularly good choice if you plan lots of indoor photography.


Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
All cameras have some delay between when the shutter release is pressed and when the shutter actually fires. In digital cameras, this time is used to focus the lens and set the exposure parameters (exposure time, aperture, and white balance adjustment). The D-450 Zoom showed fairly typical shutter delays of 0.63 seconds with full autofocus enabled, or 0.26 seconds if the camera was pre-focused by half-pressing the shutter button before the shot was actually taken.

Shot-to-shot cycle times are fairly brisk, thanks to a large buffer memory: 4.73 seconds for maximum resolution, 2.19 seconds for minimum resolution (including full autofocus on each exposure). The buffer memory holds a maximum of four maximum-resolution images: Once it's full, shot-to-shot speed slows considerably. Still, four frames in fairly rapid succession is enough that you'll only rarely encounter the buffer-full slowdown in normal usage. In continuous mode, our measurements didn't quite support Olympus' claim of 2 frames per second in lowest-resolution (SQ) mode: We found a maximum of 1.36 frames per second. At maximum resolution (SHQ), continuous mode produced a frame every 3.77 seconds.


User Interface
The D-450 Zoom user interface is relatively easy to grasp, all the controls are on the back of the camera except for the shutter button and zoom lever which remain on top. The SmartMedia slot lives on the side of the camera with a hinged door that snaps into place. Video Out and AC adapter jacks are on the opposite side, beneath a plastic flap that flips up to open. 

The camera turns on when you slide the lens cover back. It turns off in the same manner, by sliding the cover halfway back into place and then fully back once the lens retracts into its resting position. The flash is housed just over the lens in a compartment that flips up to open. 

As we mentioned earlier, the icons for each button are somewhat confusing at first, when you're accustomed to buttons labeled with their names (i.e. Menu, Disp, etc.). But after a quick read of the manual, the symbols make more sense.

Shutter Button
Located on the top right of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed and takes the exposure once fully pressed.

Zoom Lever
Located directly to the right of the shutter button, this lever rocks back and forth to control the optical zoom from wide angle to telephoto. It's marked with a green magnifying glass symbol.

Dioptric Adjustment Dial
Clicks up and down to visually correct the viewfinder image and located to the left of the optical viewfinder. (A rare feature on an inexpensive digicam.)


LCD Monitor ON/OFF Button

  • In Record mode (lens cover is open), turns the LCD monitor on and off for conservation of battery power. If hit twice in a row while in this mode, puts you in Quick Display mode, where you can scroll through images with the -/+ buttons.
  • In Playback mode (lens cover is closed), once the LCD button is pressed, the camera checks the card and displays the last picture taken. (When first turned on, the LCD monitor flashes and then pictures appear).




Menu Button

  • In Record mode, this button accesses the Recording Menu.
  • In Playback mode, the Menu button pulls up the Playback Menu.




(-) Button (2.5/8ft Quick Focus Button)

  • In Capture mode, the – button allows you to change menu settings within menus. If pressed at the same time that the shutter button is halfway pressed, serves as the 2.5/8ft Quick Focus button, useful when quick shooting is required.
  • In Playback mode, this button allows you to move backwards through images.




(+) Button

  • In Capture mode, the + button allows you to change menu settings within menus.
  • In Playback mode, allows you to scroll forward through saved images.




OK Button (Infinity Quick Focus Button)

  • In any mode, the OK button confirms menu selections and changes.
  • In capture mode, if the OK button is pressed at the same time as the shutter button is halfway pressed, it activates the Infinity Quick Focus function. The infinity quick focus is useful when you don't have time to wait for autofocus to work on its own.




Flash Button (Index Display Button)

  • In Capture mode, allows you to select from the following flash settings:
    • Auto Flash Mode: The camera controls when the flash fires based on existing light conditions.
    • Red-Eye Reduction: Reduces the Red-Eye effect by emitting a preflash before the full flash.
    • Fill-In Flash: Always fires, regardless of light conditions.
    • Slow: Fires with low shutter speeds for night scenes and backlit subjects.
    • Slow with Red-Eye Reduction: Same as Slow but with the addition of the Red-Eye Reduction preflash.


  • In Playback mode (when the lens cover is closed), accesses the index display function which displays four, nine or 16 frames at a time. Also cancels the index display.




Self-Timer Button (Protect Button)

  • In Capture mode, activates the camera's Self-Timer which counts down from 12 seconds before firing the shutter.
  • In Playback mode, serves as the Protect button which turns image protection on and off.




Function Button

  • In Record mode, this button accesses the Function Menus (see below).
  • In Playback mode, this button calls up the Playback Function Menus (see below).




Erase Button

While in Playback mode, allows you to erase unwanted images either one frame at a time or all frames.

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode
Automatically adjusts each image based on existing light conditions. Some options are available for white balance, flash, exposure compensation and metering. This mode is automatically selected when the lens cover is opened. The Zoom lever controls the camera's optical zoom (up to 3x) while in this mode.

Hitting the Menu button repeatedly cycles through the following options. (Each function has its own screen display. Some were shown earlier, none will be shown here, due to space considerations):

  • Standard Mode: For normal picture-taking.
  • Exposure Compensation: Allows you to change EV settings from –2 to +2.
  • Spot Metering Mode: Allows you to change from Averaging to Spot Metering.
  • Recording Mode Selection: Allows you to select from Standard Quality (SQ), High Quality (HG), Super High Quality (SHQ) and Non-Compressed SHQ. (Another unusual option for an inexpensive digicam.)
  • White Balance: Selects from Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten light or Fluorescent light white balance settings.
  • ISO: Gives you the choice of Auto, 160, 320 and 640.
  • File Number: Lets you choose between Auto File or Name Reset.
  • Beep Sound: Lets you turn camera beeps On or Off.



Hitting the Function button repeatedly cycles through the following special function options. (Each function has its own screen display, none of which will be shown here, due to space considerations):

  • Standard Mode: Taking standard pictures.
  • Sequence Mode: Accesses the Sequential shooting mode which fires up to two frames per second, depending on image quality and SmartMedia space.
  • Macro Mode: Accesses the Macro function for subjects as small as 2.4 x 3 inches with a range from eight to 31 inches.
  • Digital Telephoto Mode: Allows you to digitally zoom up to 2x.
  • Function Card Mode: Turns on the Panorama Mode when a standard Olympus memory card is inserted and any special functions when a special function card is inserted. (We do not know of any "special function" cards available for the camera at this time.)




Playback Mode
Accessible when the lens cover is closed, or when Quick Review mode has been enabled by pressing the display button twice from Record Mode. Playback mode allows you to view saved images, delete unwanted ones, protect images and access special functions with a function card.

Pressing the Menu button in Playback brings up the Playback menus with the following options. (Each function has its own screen display. Some were shown earlier, none will be shown here, due to space considerations):

  • Regular Display: For viewing photos one at a time.
  • All Frame Erase: Erases all images on the SmartMedia card.
  • File Number: Choose between the Frame Number and File Number in the playback overlay display.
  • Date Print: Prints the current date on an image (for use with a P-300 printer).
  • Date Set: Allows you to change the date and time setting.
  • Card Format: Allows you to completely reformat the SmartMedia care, erasing all images.
  • Index-Display Adjustment: Select between four, nine and 16 frames to be displayed at a time in thumbnail display mode.
  • Brightness: Allows you to adjust the brightness of the LCD monitor.




The Function Menu system offers the following while in Playback. (Each function has its own screen display. Some were shown earlier, none will be shown here, due to space considerations):

  • Regular Display: Displays images one at a time.
  • Slide Show: Automatically displays each image one at a time like a slide show.
  • Print Reserve: Allows you to reserve images to be printed on a P-330 printer.
  • Random Print/Print All: Allows you to print random images or all on a P-300 printer.
  • 4-Cut Print: Allows you to make 4-cut prints or sticker prints with a P-300 printer.
  • Multi Print: Allows you to make 16-cut prints or sticker prints with a P-300 printer.
  • Mirror Print: Allows you to make mirror image prints, useful for t-shirts, on a P-300 printer.
  • Function Card Mode: For use with Olympus SmartMedia function cards.




Self-Timer Mode
This mode is accessed by the Self-Timer button on the back panel and counts down from 12 seconds before making the exposure. The Self-Timer signal shows on the LCD Monitor for the first 10 seconds, then blinks for the remaining two, as does a front-panel LCD. The mode is canceled by hitting the Self-Timer button a second time.

Sequence Mode
Allows you to shoot up to two frames per second, depending on the amount of SmartMedia space and the image quality selected. Sequential shooting is not available with the Non-compression quality setting. Flash is also not available in this mode. The shutter speed will be set to 1/30 second max to prevent blurring from camera movement, or slowing of the sequence by over-long shutter times. The mode is activated and canceled by hitting the Function button while in Record mode.

Image Storage and Interface
The D-450 Zoom utilizes SmartMedia to capture and store images. An 8MB 3.3v card comes standard with the camera, but 16MB and 32MB sizes may also be used (2MB and 4MB sizes are also available, but largely obsolete). Be sure to only use 3.3V cards. You can use non-Olympus SmartMedia cards, but the manufacturer recommends formatting them in the camera immediately before use. Non-Olympus cards will not enable the camera's Panorama-shooting mode described earlier, but otherwise operate fine. Special function SmartMedia cards are also available from Olympus.

The remaining image capacity is shown on the LCD monitor when the camera is turned on. When the number reaches zero, the camera beeps and the green LED next to the optical viewfinder flashes. The table below shows the number of images of each size that can be stored on the provided 8MB memory card, and the approximate level of JPEG compression used for each.

Resolution/Quality vs Image Capacity High Resolution
# / Card Compression
Uncompressed 2 1:1
Fine (SHQ) 18 8:1
Normal (SHQ) 36 16:1
Basic (SHQ) 122 13:1

As always, SmartMedia should never be removed while the camera is in operation to avoid damaging the media. The card fits into a slot on the side of the camera, protected by a plastic flap that snaps into place.

The entire SmartMedia card can be write protected by placing a write protection sticker in the designated area. Write protection stickers can only be used once and must be clean to be effective. Write protection keeps the card free from any alteration whatsoever, except for formatting. You can protect individual images while in Playback mode by pressing the Protect button on a particular image. Once pressed, a lock symbol appears in the LCD monitor and that image cannot be erased unless the entire SmartMedia card is formatted or the protection is subsequently removed. Individual image protection is not available when the write protection sticker has been placed on the SmartMedia card.

Frames are stored on SmartMedia and assigned file numbers from 0001 to 9999. Under the Menu button in both Record and Playback modes, the File Number option allows you to select from Auto File and Name Reset. Auto File assigns a continuing number from the last file number of the last card used. This prevents the same file number being used for images taken together and saved on multiple cards. Name Reset sets the file number back to 0001 each time a card is inserted into the camera.

The Erase button allows you to erase individual images while in Playback mode. To erase all frames, hit the Menu button while in Playback mode and select the corresponding menu option. The entire card can also be erased by formatting, also available in the Playback menu by hitting the Menu button.


Video Out
The D-450 Zoom comes with a video output connector for viewing images on a television set (in the NTSC format, PAL is only available in the European version, the C-920). Once the camera is connected to the TV, keep the lens cover closed and turn on the camera via the LCD Monitor button. All the Playback mode menus and options are available. The LCD monitor will automatically turn off once connected to the TV. Olympus warns that a black border may appear around the image with certain televisions and that this border will print if printing directly from the television setup.


Power
The D-450 Zoom runs on four rechargeable AA batteries, either nickel metal hydride, lithium, alkaline or NiCd. The table below details power consumption in various operating modes.

Operating Mode Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD 540 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD <1mA(!)
Capture, half-pressed shutter w/LCD 800 - 540 mA
Capture, half-pressed w/o LCD 290 mA
Memory Write (transient) (same as capture mode)
Flash Recharge (transient) 890 mA
Image Playback 400 mA
"Sleep" Mode ~0 mA

Overall, the D-450 Zoom's power consumption is about typical of current (October 1999) digicams, with the exception that it draws virtually no power when in Record mode with the LCD turned off. As with most digicams, battery life will be quite short if you use the LCD continuously. By contrast though, with the LCD off, you can blithely leave the camera turned on all day long with the LCD off, and not make a dent in your battery life. There's an auto-off timer that shuts the camera down after a minute or so if left unattended. In Record mode, it will wake up again in just a few seconds when you press the shutter button.


Included Software
Two software CDs come with the D-450 Zoom containing Adobe PhotoDeluxe 3.0 for Windows 95/98/NT4.0, Adobe PhotoDeluxe 2.0 for Macintosh OS 7.1 – 8.x, Enroute QuickStitch for Macintosh and Windows and Olympus Camedia Master 1.1. Olympus notes that the iMac is not compatible with this image transfer system. (Our writer who worked on this piece is an iMac user, and loudly lamented this state of affairs!) Enroute's QuickStitch will almost certainly work on an iMac, but iMac users will need to purchase a USB-based card reader to import their photos.

Camedia Master 1.1 allows you to transfer images from the camera to the computer once connected. Adobe PhotoDeluxe offers a wide array of image manipulation capabilities with various filters and an option to place images on greeting cards, calendars, etc. There's also an Internet connectivity option where you can email images and set up electronic greeting cards.

The Quick Stitch program joins together the images taken in Panorama mode, turning them into one complete image, and is by far the best such program we've seen to date.

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-450 Zoom'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-450 Zoom performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, we found the D-450 Zoom to be an excellent performer, with excellent color and very good viewfinder and exposure systems. It uses RAM buffering to keep the shot-to-shot cycle times under 5 seconds at maximum resolution, contributing to a responsive "feel."

The D-450 Zoom's resolution tested out at a solid 700 line per picture height in the horizontal direction, and ~650 lines in the vertical, comfortably in the top echelon of 1.3-1.5 megapixel digital cameras. The lens shows some barrel distortion at the wide angle end of its setting, changing to slight pincushion at the telephoto end. Olympus is unique among digicam manufacturers though, in providing a software solution to correct for this geometric distortion in situations where it might be bothersome (architectural shots or others with straight lines close to the edge of the frame.) Chromatic aberration was very slight, estimated at ~0.5 pixels at all focal lengths.

The viewfinders (both optical and LCD) are fairly accurate, both showing roughly 90% of the final image area. This is considerably more accurate than most digicam optical viewfinders we've tested, about average for LCDs.

The D-450 Zoom incorporates several features we normally only associate with much more expensive cameras, including dioptric correction on the viewfinder for eyeglass wearers, selectable averaging or spot metering, and variable ISO capability. This latter contributes to absolutely exceptional low-light capability: We've seen better low-light shooting capability in digicams, but they all cost twice as much as the D-450's projected list and street prices. Furthermore, the D-450's auto white balance capability is significantly more powerful than most other cameras we've tested. (October, 1999) The combination of low-light ability and strong white balance correction make the D-450 Zoom particularly well suited to indoor shooting under difficult lighting.

Conclusion
Overall, the D-450 Zoom is an excellent camera for shutterbugs accustomed to the point and shoot style. There are some manual controls available, but the majority of the exposure settings are automatically selected. Color and image quality are very good, and low-light capability exceptional for a camera at its low price point. As we mentioned earlier, the button icons are a little non-standard, but are easily figured out with a quick glance at the manual. The need to pause as you shut the camera down is annoying, but the smoothly contoured package that results slides easily into pants or coat pockets. The portability and compactness of the camera make it an very viable solution for those wanting a take-anywhere camera.


Reviews by other Users!
Visit the PC Photo Review site, to read reviews written by other users,
Reader Sample Images!
Do you have a D-450 Zoom 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-450 Zoom

View the test images from the D-450 Zoom

 

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