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Olympus D-460 Zoom

Olympus updates a popular 1.3 megapixel model with improved features and a simpler interface.

Review First Posted: 6/14/2000




MSRP $499 US

 

*
1.3 megapixel resolution for 1280 x 960 images
*
3x (35-105mm equivalent) optical zoom lens with autofocus
*
Variable ISO, 125 to 500
*
Spot metering option for difficult lighting conditions
*
Panorama-assist mode for capturing multiple shots to tile into panoramas




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. Earlier this year, we reviewed their D-360L entry-level model, a 1.3 megapixel camera with fixed focal-length autofocus lens and a strong feature set. Between these two models lies the D-460 Zoom, combining advanced options like variable ISO and spot metering with point & shoot simplicity for everyday use. The real plus relative to the less-expensive D-360L model is the 3x optical zoom lens that provides greatly enhanced framing flexibility. We're big believers in the value of zoom lenses for general-use cameras, and the D-460 Zoom combines good optics with solid camera performance.


Highlights

Executive Overview
Anyone already familiar with Olympus digicams will immediately notice the similarities in design between the D-450 Zoom and the new D-460 Zoom. The D-460's silvery body features glints of gold highlights and a flat black back panel. Its small size and smooth contours make it very compact and portable (and pocket friendly). As with the D-450, a built in lens cover also serves as a power switch and eliminates any worry over missing lens caps. 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 61,000 pixels.

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, depending on the zoom setting. Focus ranges from eight 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 by pressing the Macro/Digital Telephoto button.

Since there's no mode dial on the D-460, the camera is placed in Record mode automatically when the lens cover is opened. From here, you can leave the camera in charge of the exposure, 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. An added feature on the D-460 is the ability to shoot in Normal or Soft sharpness settings. 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 six settings (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Forced Off, Slow Shutter Synchronization Auto and a Slow Shutter Synchronization with Red-Eye Reduction). White balance also offers five settings (Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Incandescent 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-460, 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, 125, 250 and 500. 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. A software CD comes with the camera and provides the Camedia image transfer and manipulation software, which now also includes a panorama-stitching tool, for both Mac and Windows operating systems. (The tool works on all recent Mac computers, but iMac owners will need to purchase a USB-based card reader to import their photos.)

Design
The D-460 Zoom looks a lot like the preceding D-450 and D-400 models, with the exception of a black plastic back panel and a slightly different control layout. For the most part though, they look nearly the same. The D-460's small size and light weight make it extremely portable, and its smooth contours slip easily into most pockets. The D-460 weighs in at 9.5 ounces (270 g) and measures 5 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches (127 x 66.5 x 53 mm). With its accompanying wrist strap, the D-460 is easy to hold onto.



Olympus has continued the sliding lens cover design, which also acts as the camera's power mechanism. When the cover is slid open, the lens comes out into its operating position and the top status display panel comes alive. To shut the camera off, you just partially close the cover and wait for the lens to retract before fully closing the cover. It's a relatively hassle free design that keeps you from worrying about where the lens cap is, but we did find the need to pause to wait for the lens to retract slightly annoying. Besides the sliding lens cover, the front of the camera also holds the pop-up flash.



The shutter button, zoom control and status display panel live on top of the camera, all cleanly designed with a relatively flat surface. The smooth shutter button and rocker toggle zoom control just barely protrude from the surface.



The right side of the camera is quite plain, with only the hatch for the SmartMedia compartment appearing on it. (Actually, more of the card compartment hatch appears on the front of the camera, but you actually access the card from the side.) One minor annoyance, that actually is most likely a safety feature: In order to open or close the memory card compartment, you have to first close the front sliding cover. This is because the front cover obstructs access to the memory card hatch when open. As noted, this is probably a useful precaution against removing the memory card when the camera is writing to it (which can damage the card), but we found it slightly annoying. (Not as annoying as losing a card full of images to a write error, mind you, but annoying none the less. ;-)



The Video Out, DC and Digital jacks are all found on the left side of the camera (looking at the back), beneath a duotone plastic cover (bottom center) that snaps into place.



The majority of the camera controls are found on the camera's back panel, in addition to the optical viewfinder, LCD monitor and an indented thumbgrip on the right hand side. The control layout is where the main aesthetic difference lies between the D-460 and the preceding D-450. Here, Olympus has opted for a series of arrow buttons to help navigate through menu options. As with the preceding models, the controls were simple to navigate.



The D-460 has a nice, flat bottom, taken up mostly by the battery compartment cover. One small problem we noticed here is that the tripod mount is on the far left of the camera body. The reason we dislike this placement is that 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 results in a less rigid attachment.

Viewfinder
The D-460 features both an optical viewfinder and an LCD color monitor for image composition. The real-image optical viewfinder is on the top left of the back panel and features a dioptric adjustment dial to accommodate eyeglass wearers. Centrally located crosshairs inside the viewfinder help you line up shots and set focus. Green and orange LEDs on the side of the viewfinder let you know the status of the camera, such as when autofocus is ready or when the flash is charging. The 1.8 inch color LCD monitor is normally inactive when the camera is switched on, but is quickly enabled by pressing the Display button beside it. We found the LCD monitor very bright and easy to see in most situations. It was still a little hard to read in very bright sunlight, a common affliction among LCD monitors. One difference between the D-460 and the D-450 is that the LCD monitor now has no constant information display. It does report the flash setting, self-timer and macro modes, but the remaining information (image quality, file number, battery power, etc.) is reported on the camera's top status display panel.

Viewfinder framing was a little tight with both the optical and LCD viewfinders. Using the optical viewfinder, we found about 88 percent frame coverage in the wide angle setting and about 87 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor produced only slightly better results, with 89 percent accuracy at wide angle and about 90 at telephoto. (We normally like to see LCDs with as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, but there's also an argument to be made for having the optical and LCD viewfinders agree closely with each other.) We also noticed that images framed with the optical viewfinder tended to slant towards the lower left hand corner, more than likely due to a shifted CCD sensor. Optics
The D-460 comes equipped with a 3x, 5.4 to 16.2mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35 to 150mm lens on a 35mm camera) with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 to f/4.4, depending on the zoom setting. In normal mode, the lens can focus from 31 inches (80 cm) to infinity and from eight to 31 inches (20 to 80 cm) in macro mode. 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.

The D-460's 3x optical zoom is controlled by a rocker toggle on top of the camera and pretty much lets you zoom in any increment. (The zoom lenses on some cameras tend to have certain "preferred" positions, a phenomena we didn't observe with the D-460.) An additional 2x digital telephoto increases the camera's total zoom to 6x, but image quality will suffer in direct proportion to the amount of digital enlargement. We noticed moderate optical distortion on the D-460, with the camera showing a 0.8 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end an about a 0.3 percent pincushion distortion at full telephoto. While more than we like to see, 0.8 percent barrel distortion at wide angle is fairly typical, while the 0.3 percent pincushion at telephoto is a bit better than most. Digital telephoto and macro mode are controlled by the same button on the back panel of the camera, meaning that you can't use the two together. However, digital telephoto can be enabled at any zoom setting, not just at maximum optical zoom. This is an uncommon feature on digicams we've seen but one that greatly increases the D-460's flexibility. The D-460's macro performance is quite good, as the camera captures a minimum area of 2.89 x 2.17 inches (73.41 x 55.06 mm) at the furthest telephoto setting. Exposure
The D-460 is great for consumers who want the uncomplicated ease of a point and shoot camera, since its exposure control is almost entirely automatic. While the camera controls shutter speed and aperture, you do optionally have control over exposure compensation, white balance, metering, ISO setting, image quality and other settings through the LCD based menu system. This more extensive LCD menu system is a bit of a departure from the D-450 design, which had many more control buttons. On the D-460, Olympus tried to eliminate some of the control buttons, placing more of the functions in the main LCD menu.

Camera operation is very straightforward, just point the camera at the subject, halfway press the shutter button to focus, then all the way to shoot. The LEDs next to the viewfinder let you know when the camera is ready and if the orange LED blinks after focusing, it means that the camera recommends using the flash due to low shutter speed. As with most other digicams, the D-460 sets exposure and focus based on what's roughly centered in the frame, but this can be changed by simply moving the camera. All you do is focus the camera on the portion of the subject that you want to base your exposure and focus on and halfway press the shutter button. Then, while continuing to hold down the shutter button, reposition the subject in the viewfinder to the original composition.

The D-460 also 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. It is a helpful feature in low light situations, where the camera's autofocus sometimes has trouble.

Flash
Activating the D-460's flash is simple, just pop it up with the tab and set it to the desired mode via the flash button on the back panel. The camera will indicate if it thinks a flash is needed for the exposure by flashing the orange LED next the optical viewfinder after the focus has been set. It will also display the flash symbol on the LCD monitor, if it's activated. You can choose from six flash modes: Auto (no icon displayed), Red-Eye Reduction (eyeball icon), Fill-in Flash (lightning bolt), Forced Off (lightning bolt with a slash), Slow Shutter Synchronization Auto (lightning bolt with the word "slow" displayed) and Slow Synchronization with Red-Eye Reduction (lightning bolt, "slow" and eyeball icons). Olympus reports this as six flash modes, but in actuality, the Forced Off mode is merely controlled by closing the flash itself, not through the flash button. Remember that if the orange LED continues to blink even though the flash is in the "up" position, the camera is still charging the flash, and isn't ready to fire. Olympus rates the D-460's flash power as having a maximum range of 8.5 feet (2.6 m) in telephoto mode and from eight to 13 feet (0.2 to 4 m) in wide angle mode. In our own tests, we found the flash highly effective all the way out to 14 feet, even in telephoto mode.

Variable ISO
As with the previous D-450 model, the D-460 gives you the benefit of a variable ISO setting, a very useful feature on a digicam. Through the Record menu, you can select from Auto, 125, 250 or 500 ISO settings. The ISO function on digicams works similar to that of film based cameras, meaning a higher ISO usually equates to faster shutter speeds and less light required, but the resulting image may appear grainy or noisy. 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 these images at all is a tremendous benefit. Higher ISO settings are also valuable in action photography, where higher shutter speeds are better at freezing fast-paced action.

Self-Timer
Activated by the Self-Timer button on the back panel, the D-460's self-timer gives you a 12 second countdown before firing the shutter. The operation is pretty much the same as most other digicams. When you enter this mode, the self-timer icon is displayed on the LCD monitor and the small status display panel on top of the camera. Then, all you do is fully press the shutter button to trigger the timer and wait (or run around to get into the picture). A red LED lights on the front of the camera to indicate that it's counting down the time, blinking for the last few seconds before the shutter is tripped. (If you have the beep sounds enabled via the Record menu, the camera also beeps as a warning just prior to the exposure.)

Macro Mode
Macro mode is accessible through the Macro/Digital Telephoto button on the back panel (indicated with the standard flower macro symbol). In this mode, the lens can focus on objects from eight to 31 inches (0.2 to 0.8 m) away. The LCD monitor is automatically activated when you enter this mode and the macro flower icon appears on the display. The mode is just as quickly canceled by pressing the Macro button twice more.

Digital Telephoto
Controlled by the same button as the Macro mode, the D-460's digital telephoto offers an additional 2x zoom (pressing the button twice enters the mode, a third press cancels it). The 2x digital telephoto can be enabled at any zoom setting, but remember that digital enlargement somewhat compromises image quality. It simply crops out the central portion of the camera's sensor array, producing a smaller image. (The D-460 Zoom automatically switches to "SQ" mode whenever you engage the digital telephoto function.

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 slower than 1/30 of a second. 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.)

Panorama
Through the Record menu, the Function option allows you to take panoramic images when a standard Olympus memory card is in the camera. This feature of the camera is the only one that requires an Olympus brand SmartMedia card, all other camera features work just fine with third party cards. In Panorama mode, blue cropping lines appear to help you line up each image of a panorama sequence and you can take as many exposures as you have room on the card for. All the exposure settings are determined by the initial exposure, to make "stitching" easier on the computer later. Panorama mode is canceled by switching it off in the Record menu. The flash is unavailable in this mode and Olympus suggests not moving the zoom lever after shooting the first picture to avoid problems assembling the picture later. They also recommend shooting in SQ (standard quality) mode to save SmartMedia space. Personally, we'd just recommend buying a larger memory card, as you're most likely going to want one anyway.

Exposure Compensation (EV adjustment)
Exposure compensation is controlled through the Record menu, and is adjustable from -2 to +2 EV in half step increments. (Each full "EV" unit corresponds to a doubling or halving of the exposure.) Press the OK button to confirm the selection. You can cancel the adjustment through the same process or by closing the lens cover to power down the camera. Olympus warns that this setting may not be as effective when shooting with the flash. As with the D-450 model, we'd prefer to see an EV adjustment that doesn't rely on the LCD menu system. If the setting was shown on the top status display panel, it could be changed with fewer button actuations.

Spot Metering Mode
The D-460 offers two metering options: Digital ESP and Spot. Both are accessible through the Record menu. The benefit of spot metering is that most "averaging" metering systems are easily fooled by backlit or high contrast subjects. EV adjustments can help with these situations, but spot metering offers a better solution, since it only looks at a tiny area in the center of the field of view. Using the exposure locking method we talked about earlier, spot metering usually provides a much more accurate exposure.

White Balance
Also accessible through the Record menu, the D-460's white balance system gives you five options: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent and Fluorescent. Hit the OK button to confirm the setting and the designated icon appears in the status display panel. You cancel the setting in the same manner or by closing the lens cover. We found the D-460's white balance system worked quite well under moderate changes in lighting, but had difficulty with the strong yellowish cast of household incandescent lighting.

Sharpness Setting
A new feature on the D-460 is the sharpness setting, which gives you the option of taking pictures with Normal or Soft sharpness. While we greatly appreciate the ability to soften the image a little, we'd also like to see the ability to go in the other direction and boost the in-camera sharpening. Still, the adjustment is a nice addition to the camera's features, very useful when you want to manipulate an image extensively on the computer later. (Heavy in-camera sharpening tends to get in the way somewhat when you're working on images in the computer. You're better off working with an unsharpened image and sharpening it at the end, after you're through with all your manipulations.)

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 allows 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 using a special electronic test setup. The table below shows the times we measured for various camera operations. Startup, shutdown, and record-to-play times were quite fast, and shutter lag was very much on a par with other cameras, even some more expensive ones. Cycle time was slower, but comparable to other cameras in the D-460 Zoom's price range.

D-460 Zoom Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
3.5
Start with lens retracted. Time is delay until first shot captured.
Shutdown
3.0
Time until lens is retracted, camera is powered down. (No pending image processing though.)
Play to Record, first shot
1.7
Time is delay until first shot captured.
Record to play (min/max res)
4.5/7.0
Slower for max res images
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.78
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.22
(Prefocus means half-pressed shutter before shot.)
Cycle time, low/high/TIFF res
3.3/7.3/46.9
 
Cycle time, continuous mode
0.57
(Sequence mode automatically switches to SQ resolution.)

User Interface
We found the user interface on the D-460 simple to understand and navigate, with most of the controls located on the back panel of the camera and a very straightforward LCD menu system. The camera is quickly activated by sliding open the lens cover, and just as quickly deactivated by closing it. The Playback mode is accessed by closing the lens cover and then pressing the Display button once the camera has shut off. One problem we had with the earlier D-450 model was that some of the icons for the buttons were a little tricky to decipher. In the D-460 Zoom, Olympus has taken care of this problem by first of all, removing some of the buttons, and secondly, using the standard icons for each function on the remaining control buttons. Everything else on the camera is just as straightforward, with the SmartMedia slot beneath a hinged plastic door on one side and the digital, video and DC jacks all together beneath another plastic door on the opposite side.


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 when in Record mode.

In Playback mode, pressing the lever towards the "W" or wide angle end activates the index display mode, showing previously captured images as groups of 4, 9, or 16 "thumbnails". Pressing the lever towards the "T" or telephoto end enables the playback zoom feature. (Photos can be enlarged up to 3x on the LCD screen.)


Dioptric Adjustment Dial
Clicks up and down to visually correct the viewfinder image and located to the left of the optical viewfinder.


Flash Button (Delete Button)
Located directly to the right of the optical viewfinder. In Record mode, allows you to select from the following flash settings (Forced Off mode is accessed by simply closing the flash):

In Playback mode (when the lens cover is closed), deletes the image currently displayed on the screen, with an option to cancel.


Self-Timer Button (DPOF Button)
Located to the right of the Flash button. In Record mode, activates the camera's Self-Timer which counts down from 12 seconds before firing the shutter.

In Playback mode, serves as the DPOF button which allows you to designate DPOF printing options for the image displayed. DPOF stands for Digital Print Order Format. It lets you specify the number of prints you want made from each image on a memory card, and a DPOF-compliant printer (with a card slot, of course) can then output your print order automatically.


Macro/Digital Telephoto Button (Protect Button)
Located to the right of the Self-Timer button. In Record mode, this button activates the Macro mode when pressed once and activates the 2x digital telephoto when pressed a second time. Pressing the button a third time puts the camera back into regular Record mode.

In Playback mode, this button protects individual images from accidental erasure (except from card formatting).


Display Button
In Record mode (lens cover is open), the Display button 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 previously captured images with the arrow buttons.

In Playback mode (lens cover is closed), when the LCD button is pressed, the camera checks the card and displays the last picture taken. From here, you can access the Playback menu and scroll through captured images via the arrow buttons.


Menu Button
In Record mode, this button accesses the Recording Menu.

In Playback mode, the Menu button accesses the Playback Menu.


Up Arrow Button (Infinity Quick Focus Button)
One of the four arrow buttons which are located in the bottom right of the back panel. In Capture mode, the up arrow button allows you to change settings within menus. If pressed at the same time that the shutter button is halfway pressed, it serves as the Infinity Quick Focus button, useful when quick shooting is required.

In Playback mode, this button also navigates through the Playback menu.

Down Arrow Button (2.5/8ft Quick Focus Button)
One of the four arrow buttons which are located in the bottom right of the back panel. In Capture mode, the down arrow button allows you to change menu settings within menus. If pressed at the same time that the shutter button is halfway pressed, it serves as the 2.5/8ft Quick Focus button, useful when quick shooting is required.

In Playback mode, this button also navigates through the Playback menu.

Right and Left Arrow Buttons
In both Record and Playback modes, these buttons navigate through menu options. In Record mode, when digital telephoto is enabled, these buttons zoom in and out of 2x digital enlargement.

In Playback mode, these buttons scroll through captured images in single display and index display format. All four arrow keys allow you to scroll around within an enlarged image when using playback zoom.


OK Button
In any mode, the OK button confirms menu selections and changes.

Camera Modes and Menus

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


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 menu with the following options:


Self-Timer Mode
This mode is accessed via the Self-Timer button on the back panel and makes the camera 12 seconds before taking a picture. 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 LED. If the camera beep sound is enabled, the camera will beep when the LED flashes, to let you know the exposure is imminent. 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 selecting the Function option while in the Record menu.

Image Storage and Interface
The D-460 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 third-party SmartMedia cards, but Olympus 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
Standard Resolution
Images
Approx. Compression
Images
Approx. Compression
Uncompressed Quality
2
1:1
N/A
N/A
Fine Quality (SHQ)
18
8:1
N/A
N/A
High Quality (HQ)
36
17:1
N/A
N/A
Normal Quality (SQ 2)
N/A
N/A
32
4:1
Economy Quality (SQ 1)
N/A
N/A
122
14:1



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 firmly 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 from card formatting. You can protect individual images while in Playback mode by pressing the Protect button. 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.

Photos are stored on SmartMedia and assigned file numbers from 0001 to 9999. Through the Record menu, 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.

We didn't measure the D-460Zoom's image transfer time to the host computer, but it'll be relatively slow since the camera uses the older RS-232 serial connection protocol, rather than the much faster USB which is now showing up on many cameras: Accordingly, we strongly recommend an accessory card reader for getting pictures into your computer, if you plan to do any serious picture-taking.

Video Out
The D-460 comes with a video output connector for viewing images on a television set in the NTSC format only. (European versions of the camera presumably use the PAL timing standard.) 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-460 Zoom runs on four rechargeable AA batteries, either nickel metal hydride, lithium, alkaline or NiCd. 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. Overall power consumption was pretty typical for digicams we've tested, but (similar to other Olympus digicams), is exceptionally low in capture mode with the LCD turned off. This means that you could comfortably leave the camera in the "on" position all day without having to worry about draining your batteries. The table below details power consumption in various operating modes:



Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
570 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
10 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
570 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
310 mA
Memory Write (transient, LCD/not)
440/220 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
n/a
Image Playback
450 mA


Included Software
A software CD comes packaged with the D-460, containing Olympus Camedia Master 1.2 and QuickTime 4.0 for Windows 95/98/NT 4.0 and Macintosh OS 7.6 and later. Olympus notes that the iMac is not compatible with this image transfer system because of the lack of a USB connection on the camera. iMac users will need to purchase a USB-based card reader to import their photos.

Camedia Master 1.2 allows you to transfer images from the camera to the computer once connected. You can also retouch and enhance images, take advantage of greeting card and calendar templates, produce slide shows, visual presentations and screen savers. The software also incorporates Olympus' Quick Stitch program, which joins together the images taken in Panorama mode, turning them into one complete image.

Test Results
As always in our reviews, we strongly encourage you to view the sample pictures we shot with the D-460Zoom. If you're shopping for a camera, there's simply no substitute for looking at and directly comparing images from various cameras you may be considering. What makes a "good" picture is almost entirely subjective, and it's ultimately up to each person to decide what makes them happy. (Kinda like life, that way... ;-) View the pictures on the D-460Zoom sample photo page, and compare them with ones shot under similar conditions by other cameras, in the Comparometer(tm). Download them and print them out on your printer, since appearances on-screen can be deceiving. Then make your decision, based on what you see!

A worthy update to its predecessor (the D-450Zoom), the Olympus D-460Zoom offers a simple user interface with fewer external buttons, while providing improved image quality in virtually every area: Colors are brighter and more accurate, color saturation is more correct in more instances, and the lens seems sharper as well. Providing 1.3 megapixels of resolution, a true 3x optical zoom lens, and excellent exposure control, it is a powerful entry in the middle range of the current (June, 2000) digicam market. Color accuracy is very good, and images sharp and contrasty. One consequence of the higher contrast (and snappy-looking pictures) though, is the D-460 tends to lose detail in strong highlights and shadows, as on our outdoor portrait test. Detail was very good, we felt it offered a noticeable improvement in this area relative to the D-450. Part of this excellent detail is that the camera seems to do a just-right job with the in-camera sharpening, making edges nice and crisp but showing no evidence of the "halo effect" produced by over-sharpening.

In our laboratory resolution test, the D-460Zoom scored about in the middle of the 1280x960 pixel pack, with a visual resolution of 600 lines per picture height in the horizontal direction, and 550 in the vertical, both numbers measured with the lens at its wide angle setting. Telephoto resolution measures about the same, but the images is slightly softer, a typical behavior among digicam zoom lenses we've tested. (Oddly, in this "laboratory" resolution test, the D460 didn't perform as well relative to the earlier D450 as it did with "natural" subjects. It appears there's a bit more in-camera sharpening applied by the D-460Zoom, which may increase the apparent detail on natural subjects, but interfere with the finest target elements on our resolution target. This discrepancy between the "objective" test target and the natural subjects is another example of why we use both in our evaluations.)

The D-460Zoom also did pretty well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.89 x 2.17 inches (73.41 x 55.06 mm) at the furthest telephoto setting.

Although superior to it's predecessor in most respects, the D460 slipped slightly in the low-light category. While the C-450 could work reasonably well all the way down to light levels of 1/2 of a foot-candle (5.5 lux), the D-460 really only goes down to about 1 foot-candle (11 lux). Still, this is quite adequate for a wide range of uses, since a typical city night scene under average street-lighting corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle.

We found the D-460's optical viewfinder to be a little "tight", showing about 88 percent of the final image area in wide angleand about 87 percent of the final view at telephoto(the smaller image size, 640 x 480, produced the same level of accuracy). (Note this is a change in our nomenclature: Previously we would have called this viewfinder behavior "loose", but have switched to better reflect what the user sees when actually looking through the viewfinder.) We also noticed that the optical viewfinder produced a slightly rotated final image, possibly due to a shifted CCD sensor. The LCD monitor was only slightly more accurate, showing about 89 percent of the final image area in wide angle and about 90 percent accuracy at telephoto.(As with the optical viewfinder, the percentage stayed the same with the smaller image size.) We generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible: Many digicams show about 90-95% of the final image on their LCD displays, so the D-460's LCD monitor is toward the lower end of the typical range. The upside though, is that the optical and LCD viewfinders agree with each other unusually well, making it easier to switch between the two without having to rethink your framing choices.

Geometric distortion on the D-460Zoom was is moderate to high, with the lens showing a 0.8 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end although only a 0.3 percent pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. (This is actually a very typical range among consumer digicams, even a bit lower distortion than average on the telephoto end. We'd really like to see less barrel distortion at the wide angle end of the lenses' range, so have begun to judge cameras a little more harshly in that area. Thus, we report the D-460Zoom's barrel distortion as being "moderate to high", even though most cameras it competes with show about the same amount of distortion. Hopefully our critical attitude towards this characteristic will encourage manufacturers to reduce this distortion in their lens designs.) Chromatic aberration ranges from moderate at wide angle (we caught about two pixels of coloration on each side of the corner elements in our resolution test target), to quite good at the telephoto lens setting. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash distribution looks good, with just a little falloff at the corners at the wide angle setting.

In summary, as we stated at the outset, we were quite impressed with the D-460Zoom's image quality, and feel it is a very solid performer in the midrange digicam category.



Conclusion
Overall, we found the D-460 Zoom an excellent camera for consumers accustomed to the point and shoot style. There are some manual controls available, but the majority of the exposure settings are automatically selected. The straightforward user interface and the uncomplicated LCD menu system mean you won't spend too much time flipping through the manual. We still find the need to pause as you shut the camera down annoying, but the resulting smooth, pocket friendly contours make up for it. Compact and very portable, the D-460 Zoom's low price, nice assortment of features, and excellent image quality make it a great solution for those wanting a good digicam that'll go just about anywhere.

<<D-460 Sample Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

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