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Olympus Camedia D-510 Zoom

Olympus updates its popular 2.1 megapixel D-490 model with a new user interface and improved features.

Review First Posted: 6/18/2001



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MSRP $399 US

 

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2.1 megapixel resolution for 1,600 x 1,200-pixel images
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3x optical zoom lens (35-105mm equivalent) with autofocus
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Variable ISO, 100 to 400
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Spot metering option for difficult lighting conditions
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QuickTime Movie features


Manufacturer Overview
Over the past several years, Olympus has been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace. It boasts one of the broadest digital camera lineups in the industry, with numerous models ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the incredible "near-professional" E-10 SLR. The D-510 Zoom is the company's latest midrange model, featuring a 2.1-megapixel CCD and 3x zoom autofocus lens. The newest upgrade to the D-400 series cameras, the D-510 combines advanced options like variable ISO and spot metering with point-and-shoot simplicity. The real plus is the 3x optical zoom lens, which provides greatly enhanced framing flexibility. We're big believers in the value of zoom lenses for general-use cameras, and the D-510 Zoom combines good quality optics with solid camera performance.


Highlights



Executive Overview
The Olympus Camedia D-510 digital camera is the company's latest update of the popular 2.1-megapixel D-490 Zoom. It features a sturdy polycarbonate body with an attractive metallic silver and gray finish, black telescoping zoom lens, and bright silver detailing. The clamshell style cover and automatic pop-up flash make the D-510 body very compact and portable, with the sliding cover serving as both the power switch and lens protector -- thus eliminating the need for a separate lens cap. Most of the external controls are located on the camera's back panel, with the exception of the shutter button and zoom lever, which are on top. A slight swell on the right side of the back panel provides a natural thumb grip for cradling the camera, while the sliding lens cover (in open position) provides a textured grip plate in front. These features, combined with reasonably lightweight materials (12 ounces with batteries and card), make the camera much easier to shoot one-handed than models sporting larger hand grips.

An Olympus AF 5.4-6.2mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera) offers maximum apertures from f/2.8 to f/4.4, depending on the zoom setting, and focal ranges from 8 to 31 inches (20 to 80cm) in Macro mode and from 31 inches (80cm) to infinity in normal mode. Through-the-Lens (TTL) autofocus is set using an efficient contrast detection system, or you can use a preset Quick Focus mode that locks on distant objects from 4.3 feet to infinity at wide angle and 22 feet to infinity at telephoto. The optical zoom lens is controlled by the Zoom lever next to the Shutter button on top of the camera, and an optional Digital Zoom function is automatically engaged by zooming past the optical zoom range when the Digital Zoom option is activated in the Camera settings menu.

On the back panel, the real-image optical viewfinder features a diopter adjustment dial to accommodate eyeglass wearers. Next to the finder are two LED lights -- one orange and one green -- that indicate flash- and camera-ready status when you depress the shutter button halfway. Below it, the 1.8-inch LCD monitor features a Thin Film Transfer (TFT) color display with a total of 61,000 pixels. The screen is activated by pressing the Monitor power button next to it -- the last in a row of three camera controls stacked vertically along the right side of the monitor. The middle button is a Menu / OK button, which engages the camera's settings menus and confirms selections, with or without the Monitor button turned on. Above the Menu button is a large, four-way Arrow Pad controller with arrow buttons facing in opposite directions. Among other things, these buttons control the Macro, Image Lock, Flash, Self-Timer, and Trash functions.

Since there's no Record / Playback / Movie mode dial on the D-510 (usually integrated with the power control), the camera is automatically put into Record mode when you open the lens cover. In Record mode, the camera's default is Auto exposure, which chooses the aperture and shutter speed based on Digital ESP matrix metering. While you cannot manually select the aperture or shutter speed, you can override the camera's automatic exposure through the Shooting menu. Specific exposure functions include: Digital ESP or Spot metering; Exposure Compensation, which can be adjusted from - 2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-half-step increments; Auto or 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalency settings; and one of five White Balance settings -- Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent light.

The four-way Arrow Pad allows you to scroll through these and other menu functions, which are divided into four submenus: Camera, Picture, Card, and Setup. All of the abovementioned exposure options (except White Balance) are found in the Camera submenu, along with the Panorama shooting mode. White Balance is the first option in the Picture submenu, in additional to Record mode (image quality settings), Sharpness, and Contrast. The Card Setup submenu can be set to erase all files on the SmartMedia card, except write-protected or Locked files, or to Reformat the card, which erases all of the images regardless of whether or not they are Locked. The Setup submenu options include: Record View, which displays the last recorded image while it is being written to the SmartMedia card; File Naming; Clear Settings, which allows you to Hold or Reset stored camera settings when you turn the camera off; Beep Sound On / Off; Date and Time function; and Monitor Brightness adjustment.

Playback mode is activated by pressing the Monitor button on the back panel while the front lens cover is halfway or fully closed, or by pressing the Monitor button rapidly twice in succession while the camera is in Record mode. Captured images are displayed on the LCD monitor one at a time or as multiple index thumbnails. Pressing the Zoom lever on top of the camera toward the wide-angle side brings up the Index display, which can be configured to show 4, 9, or 16 frames simultaneously. Pressing the Zoom lever toward the telephoto side enlarges the displayed image up to 3x, for better inspection of details.

As in Record mode, the Playback settings menu is activated by the Menu / OK button. Functions are divided into three submenus: Playback (Play), Card, and Settings (Set). The Playback submenu items include: Automatic Playback, which displays still images in a continuous slide show; Movie Playback, for viewing QuickTime movies; Print Reserve, used to set up images for DPOF-compatible printers; Rotate, which allows you to rotate images 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise; Info, which determines the amount of picture information that will be displayed on-screen with each captured image; and Edit, which enables you to change an image to black-and-white or sepia tone, or to reduce the image to 320 x 240 pixels for e-mailing. The Card submenu can be set to Erase all images on the SmartMedia card except Locked files, or Format the SmartMedia card, which erases all files, even Locked images. The Settings submenu offers: Index Display, which sets the index to show 4, 9, or 16 images; Clear Settings, which allows you to Hold or Reset stored camera settings; Beep Sound On / Off; Date and Time function; and Monitor Brightness adjustment.

Each button on the Arrow pad controls specific shooting functions when the camera is in Record or Playback mode. In Record mode, the top arrow button switches between Auto, Macro, and Quick Focus options. (Quick focus fixes the focus on distant subjects for foolproof focusing on faraway moving targets.) The right arrow button cycles between Auto Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In Flash, No Flash, Night Scenes, and Night Scenes with Red-Eye Reduction. The bottom arrow button controls the shooting mode, with four options: Single frame, Sequence, Self-Timer, and Movie mode. In Playback mode, the Arrow pad is used to scroll through stored images on the SmartMedia card. The right and left arrows scroll forward and backward (respectively) through images one at a time, while the top arrow button jumps back 10 images and the bottom arrow button jumps forward 10 images. If you hold down the arrow buttons for more than one second, the top arrow doubles as an image Lock function to write-protect individual images from accidental erasure, and the bottom arrow Deletes the image currently displayed on screen.

The C-510's 2.1-megapixel interlaced CMY CCD provides a maximum resolution of 1,600 x 1,200 pixels. Images are stored on 3.3V SmartMedia cards (an 8MB card comes with the camera) as uncompressed TIFF files measuring 1,600 x 1,200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 786, or 640 x 480 pixels; Standard High Quality (SHQ); High Quality (HQ); or Standard Quality (SQ) files measuring 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 pixels, with either High or Normal compression ratio. The supplied 8MB card will hold 1 to 82 images, depending on the quality level, resolution, and compression ratio.

Video Out and USB connector ports are housed in a covered compartment on the camera's bottom left side. By plugging in the supplied video cable, you can connect the camera to a television for large-image playback. An AC adapter connector on the outside of the compartment provides a hookup for the optional AC Adapter -- which we highly recommend purchasing for battery conservation during time-consuming tasks, such as downloading images to your computer.

The supplied software CD-ROM includes Camedia Master 2.5 for Macintosh and Windows. This basic program provides image management and manipulation tools -- including panorama-stitching -- plus sample images, template borders for creating image montages, and QuickTime Movie software.



Design
The Camedia D-510 Zoom features a very compact and durable body, with a sliding clamshell lens cover, telescoping zoom lens, and a built-in, pop-up flash. It weighs about 9.4 ounces (240 grams) without the batteries, and measures 4.75 x 2 x 2.5 inches (121 x 51 x 64 mm) with the lens retracted. (When turned on in Record mode, the lens telescopes out an additional 0.5 inch.) The camera's small size and light weight make it very portable, easily fitting into any pocket or purse. The metallic silver front panel has a smooth, brushed aluminum appearance, accented by bright silver detailing, a black lens barrel, and a matte gray back panel. The accompanying wrist strap and recessed hand grip design help to provide a secure hold.



Olympus’ sliding lens cover doubles as the main power mechanism. When the cover slides open, the lens extends into its full operating position, and the flash unit pops open. To shut the camera off, you must partially close the cover and wait for the lens to retract before sliding it completely closed. While this design may provide good protection for the lens, the pause required to let the lens retract is slightly annoying. When opened, the lens cover also obstructs access to the memory card compartment door, so you must turn off the camera completely before switching out SmartMedia cards. (This is probably a useful precaution -- preventing damage to the memory card if you try to remove it while the camera is still writing an image file.) In addition to the sliding lens cover and memory compartment door on the right side, the camera’s front panel also houses the pop-up flash, viewfinder window, and a red Self-Timer countdown lamp.



The Shutter button and Zoom control are the only controls located on top of the camera. The bright silver shutter button and zoom lever just barely protrude above the camera's surface.



The right side of the D-510 is quite plain, with only the covered compartment for the SmartMedia card. (While the majority of the card compartment hatch appears on the front of the camera, you actually access the card slot from the side.)



The Video Out, DC In, and USB Computer connectors are all located on the bottom left side of the camera, with the video and USB jacks protected by a flexible rubber cover that snaps into place. The DC In jack is kept in the open for easy access.



The majority of the camera controls are on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder, LCD monitor, Arrow Pad, and a recessed thumb grip on the right side. The round Arrow Pad next to the LCD monitor helps navigate through Record and Playback menu options, and scrolls through captured images when the camera is in Playback mode. For reasons of economy, Olympus has also assigned the arrow buttons special functions -- keeping them out of the menu for quicker access, but without cluttering the camera body with a lot of extra buttons and dials. The up arrow button controls Focus settings (Normal, Macro, and Infinity) in Record mode and Image Lock in Playback mode. The right arrow button cycles through Flash settings, which include Auto-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In Flash, No Flash, Night Scenes, and Night Scenes with Red-Eye Reduction. The down arrow button serves as the Drive button, enabling you to choose Single frame capture, Sequence shooting, Self-Timer, and Movie modes. Below the Arrow pad is the Menu / OK button, used to access Shooting and Playback menus and to confirm menu selections. The last button in the row is the Monitor power button, which turns the LCD image display on and off.



The bottom panel is taken up primarily by the battery compartment cover. One small problem we noticed here is that the tripod mount is on the far left side of the camera body. This placement causes the mass of the camera to hang off the edge of the tripod's mounting platform, and places extra stress on the camera's tripod threads, resulting in a less rigid attachment.


Viewfinder
The D-510 features both an optical viewfinder and an LCD color monitor for image composition. The optical viewfinder is on the top left of the back panel and features a diopter adjustment dial to fine-tune viewfinder focus. It has a relatively high eyepoint, so eyeglass wearers should be able to see the full frame without any problem. Centrally located crosshairs inside the viewfinder help lineup shots and set focus. Green and orange LEDs on the side of the viewfinder indicate flash and camera ready status when you depress the shutter button halfway. If both LED lights glow steadily, the camera is focused and the flash is ready to fire. A flashing orange light means that flash is needed to compensate for low light, and a flashing green light means the subject is out of focus. If the green light doesn't stop blinking while you hold the shutter button halfway, try pressing it halfway again or switch to Macro focus for closeup subjects. After you make an exposure, the orange light will flash briefly while the camera processes the image.

The 1.8-inch color LCD monitor is normally inactive when the camera switches on, but it is quickly enabled by pressing the Monitor power button beside it. In Record mode, the monitor has a fairly complete information display, depending on the shooting options that have been selected. Continuous display includes the image file number, and when engaged: Flash, Self-Timer, Digital Zoom, Focus, Spot Metering, Drive, and Exposure Compensation settings, plus White Balance. The remaining battery power is displayed briefly when the monitor is turned on. We found the LCD monitor very bright and easy to see in most situations. It was a little hard to read in very bright sunlight, but that is a common affliction among LCDs.

In our tests, the C-510's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing approximately 90 percent of the image area at wide angle, and about 88 percent at telephoto. We also noticed that framing with the optical viewfinder resulted in a shifted image. Our framing test resulted in the test target being shifted toward the bottom of the image, with a slight slant toward the lower left corner. The LCD viewfinder was much more accurate, showing approximately 95 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 96 percent at telephoto. Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-510's LCD monitor does pretty well.


Optics
The D-510 comes equipped with a 3x, 5.4-16.2mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm 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 (80cm) to infinity and in Macro mode, from 8 to 31 inches (20 to 80cm). The through-the-lens (TTL) autofocus function uses a contrast detection system, which produces sharp, reliable focus in well-lit conditions, but may have problems functioning in low-light situations. A Quick Focus setting is available for maintaining sharp focus on faraway subjects (accessed by pressing the up arrow button until an Infinity symbol appears on the monitor), which is great for fast-action sports photography, where the subject will be changing position minute-by-minute. The camera controls the lens settings automatically, with apertures ranging from f/2.8 - 5.6 at wide angle and f/4.4 - 8 in telephoto mode. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second.

The 3x optical zoom is controlled by a toggle lever on top of the camera, allowing you to zoom fairly seamlessly from wide-angle to telephoto settings. (The zoom lenses on some cameras have certain "preferred" positions, a limitation we didn't observe with the D-510.) An additional 3x Digital Zoom increases the camera's total zoom to 9x, when activated through the Shooting menu, but image quality will deteriorate in direct proportion to the amount of digital enlargement. Digital Zoom kicks in at the maximum optical zoom setting, indicated by a red extension to the white Optical Zoom bar.

Our tests indicated somewhat high optical distortion on the D-510, with the camera showing a 1.0 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end, and but only an 0.25 percent pincushion distortion at full telephoto.The 0.25 percent distortion at telephoto is a bit better than most, but the 1.0 percent barrel distortion is higher than we like to see, with many competing cameras having 0.8 percent or so. The difference between the typical 0.8 percent and the D-510's 1.0 percent isn't actually all that great, but we'd much rather see less than more. Macro performance was quite good, as the camera captured a minimum area of 2.8 x 2.1 inches (70.7 x 53.0 millimeters).

Focus
Camera focus is very straightforward, just point the camera at the subject, depress the shutter button halfway to initiate the autofocus and metering, then press all the way down to shoot. The orange and green LEDs next to the viewfinder let you know when the camera is ready. If the orange LED blinks after metering, it means that the camera recommends using the flash due to slow shutter speed. As with most other digicams, the D-510 sets exposure and focus based on the approximate center of the frame, but this can be changed very easily. Simply center the subject you want properly exposed and focused in the viewfinder, depress the shutter button halfway, and continue to hold the shutter button halfway until you've repositioned the subject in the viewfinder to your original composition. When you fully depress the shutter button, the focus and exposure will remain locked on the area you have chosen. (Keep in mind that this procedure will not work if you significantly change the distance between your camera and subject when you complete the exposure.)

Quick Focus and Macro Focus
In addition to normal focusing, the D-510 features Quick Focus and Macro focus options. Both options are selected by pressing the up arrow button on the Arrow Pad until the Infinity symbol (Quick Focus) or the flower icon (Macro mode) appears on the LCD monitor.

Quick Focus sets the camera focus on distant objects (Infinity), which is especially helpful when photographing moving targets, such as players at sports activities. As long as the subject stays within the depth of field (or range of focus), it will remain in focus as it moves from one point to the next. Depth of field for the Quick Focus mode is approximately 4.3 feet to infinity at wide angle and 22 feet to infinity at telephoto.

Macro focus is used for photographing subjects up close. The focal distance in Macro mode is approximately 8 to 31 inches (20 to 80cm), capturing a minimum area of about 2.8 x 2.1 inches (70.7 x 53.0 millimeters). Unlike the previous D-490 model, the LCD monitor is not automatically activated when you enter the Macro mode. The macro flower icon will come on screen briefly when scrolling through the focus options with the up arrow button, but the monitor will remain off when you take the picture.

Digital Zoom
Digital Zoom provides an additional 3x enlargement when activated through the Shooting menu. The Digital Zoom can only be engaged with the LCD monitor turned on. It appears as a red extension on the white Optical Zoom bar and kicks in when you zoom past the maximum optical telephoto range. Readers should be aware, however, that digital enlargement compromises image quality because it only crops out the central portion of the camera's sensor array, producing a smaller image with fewer, enlarged pixels.


Exposure
The D-510 is great for consumers who want the uncomplicated ease of a point-and-shoot camera. Exposure control is almost entirely automatic, with the camera taking complete control of shutter speed and aperture settings. The user has the option of adjusting exposure by changing exposure compensation, white balance, metering, ISO, and image quality.

Exposure Compensation (EV adjustment)
Exposure compensation is controlled through the Shooting menu (Camera sub-menu), and is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure value equivalents (EV) in one-half-step increments. (Each full EV unit corresponds to a doubling or halving of the exposure.) Once you've chosen the appropriate EV value, 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. (We prefer to see an EV adjustment that doesn't rely on the LCD menu system, as with earlier D-400 models.)

Spot Metering Mode
The D-510 offers two metering options: Digital ESP and Spot metering. Both are accessible through the Shooting menu. The benefit of spot metering is that most metering systems that average the light reading from the entire picture area are easily fooled by backlit or high-contrast scenes. EV adjustments can help with these situations, but spot metering offers a better solution, since it only measures a tiny area in the center of the viewfinder. You can lock the exposure by holding down the shutter release button halfway once you've metered the area you want properly exposed, then move the camera to reframe the image before you fully depress the shutter.

White Balance
White Balance (WB) adjusts an exposure to compensate for differences in color temperatures from various light sources. The five White Balance options (located in the Shooting menu) are: Auto (automatically sets the white balance), Daylight (for sunny, outdoor scenes), Cloudy (for overcast days), Incandescent (for typical household lights), and Fluorescent (for offices or large areas that are illuminated by fluorescent tube lights). Once you've made your selection, press the OK button to confirm the setting, and the designated icon will appear on the LCD monitor. You can cancel the setting by reselecting Auto, or by closing the lens cover. We found the D-510's White Balance system worked quite well under moderate light changes, but had difficulty with the strong yellowish cast of household incandescent lighting.


Flash
The D-510's built-in flash automatically pops up when you slide the lens cover open. The default flash setting is Auto, which automatically triggers the flash if the camera's exposure meter determines that additional light is necessary to illuminate a subject (indicated by a slowly flashing orange LED lamp next to the optical viewfinder when you depress the shutter button halfway). If you want to change the flash setting, you can choose one of six flash modes by pressing the up arrow button on the Arrow Pad: Auto (no icon displayed), Red-Eye Reduction (eyeball icon), Fill-in Flash (lightning bolt), Off (lightning bolt with a slash), Night Scene (star and moon symbol), and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction (star and moon symbol with an eyeball icon). Night Scene is the same as a Slow Synchro (first curtain) flash setting. Olympus rates the D-510's flash power as having a maximum range of 8.5 feet (2.6 meters) in telephoto mode and 13 feet (4 meters) in wide angle mode. In our own tests, we found the flash was brightest at 8 feet and closer, but dimmed only slightly all the way out to 13 feet. We'd therefore say that Olympus' range rating is quite conservative.

Variable ISO
The D-510 provides variable ISO settings through the Shooting menu (Picture sub-menu). Options include: Auto, 100, 200 or 400 ISO settings. (ISO refers to the light sensitivity of the CCD. A higher ISO will enable you to shoot with faster shutter speeds and / or smaller apertures than a lower ISO, but the resulting image may appear grainy or noisy.)

Self-Timer
The Self-Timer is accessed by pressing the down arrow button until the self-timer clock icon appears on the LCD monitor. When you press the shutter button in Self-Timer mode, it activates a 12-second countdown, which is indicated by a glowing red lamp next to the viewfinder window above the camera lens. At two seconds, the red lamp starts flashing until the shutter fires.

Sequence Mode
The Sequence mode allows you to shoot multiple continuous frames at approximately 1.8 frames per second. The actual number will depend on the image quality chosen and storage space available. (We were able to record seven sequential frames.) Flash is not available in this mode and the shutter speed is fixed to go no slower than 1/30 second. In Sequence mode, the camera will snap pictures one after another as long as you hold down the shutter button.

Panorama
The camera’s Panorama option allows you to take panoramic images when a standard Olympus memory card is used. (This camera feature is the only one that requires an Olympus brand SmartMedia card. All other camera features work just fine with third-party cards.) Panorama mode is accessed through the Shooting menu (Camera sub-menu) with the LCD monitor turned on. As soon as you select the Panorama mode, blue cropping lines appear over the image to help you line up each subsequent image in the sequence. You can take as many exposures as you have room for on the card. All of the exposure settings are determined by the initial exposure to make "stitching" on the computer easier. Flash is not available in this mode and Olympus suggests maintaining the same lens focal length (zoom setting) after shooting the first picture to avoid problems when you assemble the pictures. The company also recommends shooting in SQ (standard quality) mode to save SmartMedia space. We just recommend buying a larger memory card, since you're likely to want one anyway!

QuickTime Movies
The QuickTime Movie feature is accessed by pressing the down arrow button on the Arrow Pad until the movie camera icon appears. When set in Movie mode, the D-510 offers two quality settings: High-Quality (HQ) resolution is 320 x 240-pixels and Standard Quality (SQ) resolution is 160 x 120-pixels. In HQ mode, the recording will last approximately 15 seconds. In SQ mode, it will last approximately 60 seconds, but the quality will be significantly lower than with HQ. To record a QuickTime movie, you select the Movie option with the Drive button (down arrow) and press the shutter button. The LCD monitor will turn on if it is not already activated. The recording will continue until you press the shutter button again or until the designated time is finished, or the memory runs out. The seconds count down on the screen and a green bar shows the movie's progress. To play back the movie, switch to Playback mode, press the Menu / OK button and select the movie camera icon in the Play menu. Press the right arrow button to start the movie.

Sharpness Setting
A Sharpness setting, accessed in the Shooting menu (Picture sub-menu), is identified by a circle with a solid and dotted edge and an "S" in the middle. Sharpness options include: Hard, Normal, and Soft. Olympus suggests using the Soft setting when photographing subjects that will be heavily manipulated on the computer, as in-camera sharpening tends to cause problems when working on images in the computer. (You're better off working with an unsharpened image and sharpening it at the end, after you're finished 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 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 using Imaging Resource proprietary testing. 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-510 Zooms price range.

Olympus D-510Zoom Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Normal Card
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.5
Time is total time from power on to first picture, not just time to telescope lens. Fairly fast for a camera with a telescoping lens.
Shutdown
2.1
Time to retract lens, ready to put away. Quite fast.
Play to Record, first shot
1.7
Time to first shot when switching from playback mode. (Quite fast)
Record to play (max/min res)
1.3-5.3/0.7-2.6
First time is for switch from record to play with no image being processed, second time is measured from shutter press to image ready to display. Again, quite fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.76
Better than average for entry-level cameras, about average for a higher-end model.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.13
Very fast.
Cycle time, large/fine files
2.0/9.7
Shorter time is for first 2 shots, then "buffer" fills. Subsequent times vary widely, longest was 9.7 seconds. Quite fast for first two shots, average for subsequent ones.
Cycle time, small/basic files
2.0
Quite fast. No slowdown due to buffer fill for at least 10 shots.


Overall, the D-510Zoom was a surprisingly fast camera. Higher end models are as fast or faster, but we don't usually see the speed of the D510Zoom in a value-priced product. Quite impressive, and the prefocus shutter lag is particularly so. - This camera would be a good, inexpensive choice for people interested in a camera to take photos of kids' sports, thanks to the fast 2 second cycle time (for the first two shots), and the scant 0.13 second shutter lag when you prefocus by half-pressing and holding the shutter button prior to the shot itself.


Operation & User Interface
We found the user interface on the D-510 fairly simple to understand and easy to navigate, with most of the controls located on the back panel of the camera or within a very straightforward LCD menu system. The camera is quickly activated by sliding open the lens cover, which puts it into Record mode, and just as quickly deactivated by closing it. The Playback mode is accessed by closing the lens cover and depressing the Display button after the camera has shut off, or by pressing it twice in rapid succession when the camera is in Record mode. The LCD menus are navigated with the four-way Arrow Pad next to the monitor. You scroll to the appropriate sub-menu with the up and down arrow buttons, access that sub-menu with the right arrow button, and scroll through the menu options with the up and down buttons. Press the "OK" button to set a selection. Three of the arrow buttons also serve as separate function buttons for Focus / Lock (up arrow), Flash (right arrow), Drive / Delete (down arrow). Additional external controls include: the Menu / OK and Monitor On / Off buttons under the Arrow Pad, Shutter button, and the Zoom lever, located next to the Shutter button.


Shutter Button
Located on the top right side of the camera, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway depressed and completes the exposure when fully depressed. In Self-Timer mode, it activates the Self-Timer countdown.


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 the Record mode. When the Digital Zoom is on, zooming past the maximum telephoto range activates the Digital Zoom.

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


Diopter Adjustment Dial
Located to the left of the viewfinder, this sprocketed dial can be adjusted to visually correct the viewfinder image for eyeglass wearers.


Focus / Lock Button (Up Arrow)
In Record mode, this button cycles between Normal, Macro, and Infinity Focus options. In Normal mode, focus is from 31 inches (80cm) to infinity; in Macro mode, from 8 to 31 inches (20 to 80cm); in Quick Focus mode, the focal range is 4.3 feet to infinity at wide angle and 22 feet to infinity at telephoto.

In Playback mode, this button can be used to "Write Protect" or Lock individual images from accidental erasure. The Lock feature can be engaged on a single image display, or on an index display with the image highlighted, by holding down the up arrow for at least one second. Once protected, the image will display a small key in the upper right corner and cannot be erased unless the card is reformatted with the Card Format function (or the Lock is disengaged).

When the Shooting or Playback menus are engaged, this button allows you to scroll through settings within menus.


Flash Button (Right Arrow)
In Record mode, the Flash button allows you to select from the following flash settings:


In Playback mode, this button scrolls through captured images in single display and index display format. When the Record or Playback menus are engaged, this arrow button allows you to scroll through settings within menus.


Drive / Delete Button (Down Arrow)
In Record mode, the Drive button cycles between Single Frame, Sequence, Self-Timer, and Movie capture modes. Sequence mode captures a short series of continuous images at 1.5 frames per second. Self-Timer mode counts down 12 seconds before firing the shutter. A red LED glows steadily on the front of the camera to indicate that it's counting down the time, then blinks for the last few seconds before the shutter is tripped. Movie mode records QuickTime movies in one of two quality levels: High-Quality (HQ) resolution is 320 x 240-pixels and lasts approximately 15 seconds; Standard Quality (SQ) resolution is 160 x 120-pixels and lasts about 60 seconds.

In Playback mode, this button serves as the Delete function to erase single image files.

When the Shooting or Playback menus are engaged, this button allows you to scroll through settings within menus.


Left Arrow Button
In both Shooting and Playback modes, this button navigates through menu options. In Playback mode, this button scrolls through captured images in single display and index display format. All four arrow buttons allow you to scroll around within an enlarged image when using the Playback Zoom.


Menu Button
In Record mode, this button accesses the Shooting Menu and confirms menu selections and changes.

In Playback mode, the Menu button accesses the Playback Menu and confirms menu selections and changes.


Monitor Display Button
Located below the Menu / OK button, the Monitor Display button turns the LCD monitor on and off while in Record mode. If you quickly press the button twice when the monitor is turned off, it goes directly into Quick Display mode, which displays the last stored image on the memory card. From there, you can scroll through previous captures with the Left and Right arrow buttons.

When the LCD button is depressed in Playback mode, the camera displays the last picture taken. From there, you can access the Playback menu and scroll through captured images via the arrow buttons.


Camera Modes and Menus

Shooting Mode
The Record mode is accessed when the lens cover is opened and sets up the camera for image capture. All images are automatically metered based on existing light conditions. Pressing the Menu / OK button displays the Shooting (Record) menu options:

  • Metering Mode: Sets the camera's metering system to Digital ESP or Spot metering modes. Digital ESP averages readings from the entire image area, while Spot metering measures exposure at the center of the frame.
  • Exposure Compensation (+/-): Sets the exposure compensation (EV adjustment) from -2 to +2 EV in one-half-step increments.
  • ISO: Sets the camera's ISO sensitivity to Auto, 100, 200 or 400.
  • Digital Zoom: Turns the Digital Zoom function on or off.
  • Panorama: Activates the Panorama shooting mode.
  • White Balance (WB): Sets the camera's white balance to Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, or Fluorescent.
  • Quality: Sets the camera's image quality to SQ (Standard Quality), with a choice of 1,280 x 960-, 1,024 x 768-, or 640 x 480-pixel resolution, High or Normal compression ratio; HQ (High Quality); SHQ (Super High Quality); or TIFF (Uncompressed Tiff), with a choice of 1,600 x 1,200-, 1,280 x 960-, 1,024 x 768-, or 640 x 480-pixel resolution.
  • Sharpness: Sets the picture sharpness to Hard, Normal, or Soft.
  • Contrast: Sets the picture contrast to High, Normal, or Low.
  • Card setup: Formats the SmartMedia card, erasing all images, even the write-protected or Locked images.
  • Rec View: Turns Rec View on or off. Rec View displays the picture just taken while it is still being written to the SmartMedia card.
  • File Naming: Lets you choose between Auto or Name Reset.
  • Clear Settings: Allows you to choose between Retain or Reset settings when the camera is turned off.
  • Beep Sound: Turns the camera's beep sound on or off.
  • Date and Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Monitor Adjustment: Adjusts monitor brightness.


  • Playback Mode
    Playback Mode is accessible when the lens cover is closed, or when Quick Review mode has been activated by depressing the display button twice from the Record mode. The Playback mode allows you to view saved images, delete unwanted ones, lock images, and format the SmartMedia card. Pressing the Menu button in Playback brings up the Playback menu with the following options:

  • Playback: When a still image is displayed on the monitor, this menu item appears as an Automatic Playback icon (multiple Play arrows). Selecting it starts a slide show of stored images. When a Movie is displayed on the monitor, this menu item appears as a Movie icon. Selecting it pressing the right arrow button starts the movie playback.
  • DPOF function: Sets up images for printing on DPOF-compatible printers.
  • Rotate: Allows you to rotate an image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
  • Info: Allows you to set the image information display to on or off.
  • Edit: Changes images to black-and-white or sepia tone, or resizes image.
  • Card Setup: Allows you to erase all images on the SmartMedia card, except write-protected files, or format the SmartMedia card, erasing all images, even the write-protected or Locked images.
  • Index Display: Allows you to set the index display to 4, 9, or 16 frames.
  • Clear Settings: Allows you to choose between Retain or Reset settings when the camera is turned off.
  • Beep Sound: Turns the camera's beep sound on or off.
  • Date and Time: Sets the camera's internal calendar and clock.
  • Monitor Adjustment: Adjusts monitor brightness.


  • Image Storage and Interface
    The D-510 uses SmartMedia cards to capture and store images. An 8MB 3.3V card comes standard with the camera, but upgrade cards are available in sizes up to 128MB. You can use third-party SmartMedia cards, but Olympus recommends formatting them in the camera immediately before use. Be sure to use only 3.3V cards. SmartMedia from third-party vendors will not support the camera's Panorama shooting mode, but they will operate fine for all other functions. 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.

    Image Capacity vs
    Resolution/Quality
    Uncompressed
    Fine (SHQ)
    High (HQ)
    Normal (SQ - High)
    Economy (SQ)
    High Resolution Images 1 5 16
    N/A
    N/A
    Approx.
    Compression
    1:1 8:1 17:1
    N/A
    N/A
    Standard Resolution Images
    N/A
    N/A
    N/A
    32
    82
    Approx.
    Compression
    N/A
    N/A
    N/A
    4:1
    14:1


    SmartMedia should never be removed from the camera while it 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, except for card formatting. You can protect individual images while in Playback mode by depressing the Lock (up arrow) button on the back of the camera and holding it down for one second. Once depressed, a "lock" key 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.

    Stored images are assigned file numbers from 0001 to 9999. Through the Shooting menu, the File Naming 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 from 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 Drive / Erase (down arrow) button allows you to erase individual images while in Playback mode. To erase all frames, press the Menu button while in Playback mode and select the Card Setup function, then select Erase all frames, represented by the trash can icon. You can also erase the entire card by selecting Format in the Card Setup function, represented by the outline of a SmartMedia card with a hammer in the middle. Format will erase even the write-protected images.

    The D-510 Zoom features USB AutoConnect technology, which allows users to plug the camera directly into any USB-configured computer with a compatible operating system. No drivers or additional software should be required for PCs running the Windows 2000, Windows Me, or Mac OS 8.6 or higher. These computers should mount and recognize the D-510 Zoom automatically. Machines running Windows 98 will need to install the driver software that Olympus provides with the camera. Image downloading via the USB connection is quite speedy. - We clocked the D-510Zoom at only 11.6 seconds to download a full-resolution TIFF file to our PowerMac G4, a transfer rate of 497 KBytes/second. This is very fast, about as fast as any camera we've tested, regardless of price range.

    One of the first things any new digicam owner will need is a larger memory card for their camera: The cards shipped with the units by the manufacturers should really be considered only "starter" cards, you'll definitely want a higher capacity card immediately. - Probably at least a 32 megabyte card for a 1.3 or 2 megapixel camera, 64 megabytes or more for a 3, 4, or 5 megapixel one. (The nice thing about memory cards is you'll be able to use whatever you buy now with your next camera too, whenever you upgrade.) To help you shop for a good deal on memory cards that fit the D-510 Zoom, we've put together a little memory locater, with links to our price-comparison engine: Just click on the "Memory Wizard" button above to go to the Olympus memory finder, select your camera model , and click the shopping cart icon next to the card size you're interested in. You'll see a list of matching entries from the price-comparison database. Pick a vendor & order away! (Pretty cool, huh?)

    Video Out
    The D-510 Zoom comes with a video output connector for viewing images on a television set in the NTSC format. (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 Playback mode menus and options are available. The LCD monitor will automatically turn off once the camera is 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 you print an image directly from the television setup.


    Power
    The D-510 Zoom runs on four rechargeable AA batteries (either NiMH, Li-Ion, alkaline, or NiCd), or two high-capacity CR-V3 non-rechargeable lithium cells. The CR-V3 cells don't lose their charge when not being used, so they make a great backup to bring along in case your rechargeables run out of juice, but their high cost makes them impractical for routine operation. We suggest buying a couple sets of high-capacity NiMH AA cells and a good charger, and stow the included CR-V3 cells in your camera bag.

    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 is lower than average among cameras we've tested, and (like other Olympus models), 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
    (@ 6.5v)
    Approximate
    Run Time
    (1500mAh AAs)
    Capture Mode, w/LCD
    400 mA
    120 minutes
    Capture Mode, no LCD
    <10 mA
    (Days)
    Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
    400 mA
    120 minutes
    Half-pressed w/o LCD
    260 mA
    250 minutes
    Memory Write (transient)
    220 mA
    n/a
    Flash Recharge (transient)
    910 mA
    n/a
    Image Playback
    300 mA
    220 minutes



    Looking at the results above, we can say that besides being fast, the D-510Zoom is also quite thrifty with its battery power. Like most Olympus digicams, when the LCD screen is turned off, power consumption drops to almost zero. - You can easily leave the camera on and ready to shoot all day long without the least impact on battery life. Even with the LCD on in capture mode, you should get upwards of two hours of continuous operation off a set of fully charged, high-capacity AA NiMH cells. (Our run time estimates are based on slightly derated cells marked 1600mAh or better, providing 1500 mAh of actual power at the camera's consumption levels.) We still highly recommend buying more than one set of batteries and a good charger. (With some emphasis on the charger: We're partial to the Maha C-204 model.) Still though, if you stay away from the LCD display, you could easily take a full day's photos on a single set of batteries.

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


    Included Software
    A USB cable and software CD accompany the D-510, allowing you to quickly connect to a computer and download images. The CD contains Olympus' own software, Camedia Master 2.5, compatible with Windows 95/98/98SE/Me/2000/NT4.0 and Mac OS 8.6-9.0.4. USB drivers for both platforms are also included for those computers that do not support USB AutoConnect. Camedia Master allows you to download and organize images, as well as perform minor image correction and enhancement functions (such as adjusting contrast, sharpness, and color balance). A complete printing utility works with the DPOF settings, allowing you to print images directly to Olympus or other DPOF-compliant photo printers.


    Test Results
    As always in our reviews, we strongly encourage you to view the sample pictures we shot with the D-510 Zoom. 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-510 Zoom sample photo page, and compare them with ones shot under similar conditions by other cameras, in the Comparometer(tm). Download images 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 predecessors, the Olympus D-510 Zoom offers a simple user interface with fewer external buttons, while providing improved image quality in virtually every area. Most colors are brighter and more accurate (although greens are a little subdued), color saturation is correct in more instances, and the lens seems sharper as well. Providing 2.1 megapixels of resolution, a true 3x optical zoom lens, and excellent exposure control, the D-510 is a strong entry in the middle range of the current (June 2001) digicam market. Apart from slightly weak green hues, color accuracy is very good, and images are sharp with excellent contrast. One consequence of the higher contrast (and snappy-looking pictures) though, is that the D-510 tends to lose detail in strong highlights and shadows, as you'll observe in our outdoor portrait test. However, we felt it offered a subtle improvement in detail relative to its immediate predecessor, the D-490. 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-510 turned in a pretty typical performance for a 2-megapixel digicam, showing visual resolution of about 500 lines per picture height before aliasing set in. You can still distinguish the target lines quite a bit beyond that point though, reaching past 850 lines vertically and 800 horizontally.

    The D-510 also did a very good job in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 2.78 x 2.09 inches (70.7 x 53.0 millimeters). Color balance and detail look great, with just a hint of softness. The D-510's built-in flash does a pretty good job of throttling down for the macro area, though it's just a little tricked by the shiny coin.

    The D-510 turned in an adequate if not outstanding low light performance, capturing bright, usable images at light levels as low as one foot-candle (11 lux) at the 400 ISO setting. As the camera's ISO sensitivity setting decreased, so did its low-light shooting capability. At 200 ISO, we only obtained a reasonably bright image at the two foot-candle (22 lux) light level, and at 100 ISO, images were bright only as low as four foot-candles (44 lux). The D-510 does a good job with noise level, as noise is moderately low at the 100 ISO setting, and increases only to a moderately high level at the 400 ISO setting. To put the D-510's low-light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, so darker shooting situations will require the camera's built-in flash, particularly at lower ISO settings. (The availability of variable ISO in a relatively inexpensive digicam is laudable though: We wish more manufacturers would incorporate this capability at the lower end of their product lines.)

    The D-510's optical viewfinder is a little tight, showing approximately 90 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 88 percent at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder are slanted a little toward the lower left corner, and shifted toward the upper left corner in position. Still, the D-510's optical viewfinder is more accurate than many we've seen in the past. The LCD monitor fares a bit better, showing approximately 95 percent of the image area at wide angle setting, and approximately 96 percent at telephoto. Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the D-510 performs fairly well in this respect. Flash distribution is fairly even at the center of the target in wide angle, with some falloff at the corners of the frame. At the telephoto setting, flash distribution is more even, with a tiny reflection in the center of the target.

    Optical distortion on the D-510 is fairly high at the wide angle end, where we measured an approximate 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as we measured a .25 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration varies from low in the upper left-hand corner to moderate in the lower right. (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.) We'd like to see less geometric distortion in the lens, but it turns in a good performance otherwise.

    Overall, the D-510Zoom offers good value in the "easy to use but full-featured" 2 megapixel camera category, with good image quality and a useful range of exposure options at an affordable price.


    Conclusion
    Overall, we found the D-510 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-510 Zoom's low price, nice assortment of features, and good image quality make it a great solution for those who want a good digicam that'll go just about anywhere.

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