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Digital Cameras - Olympus D-540 Zoom Test Images

 

I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for the test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISOsetting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all*that detail, we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested inthe information need wade through it!

 

Outdoor Portrait:

Good resolution and detail, with good color. Contrast is high, limiting highlight and shadow detail.

The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way, and why I shoot it with no fill flash or reflector to open the shadows. The object is to hold both highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the D-540 Zoom did a fairly good job, but its images were overly contrasty, in response to the harsh lighting..

The shot at right was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which results in bright midtones, but very hot highlights. Contrast is high, which limits detail in the strongest highlights and shadows. I chose the Auto white balance setting for the main series, though the Daylight setting also produced good results (just a hint reddish).

Marti's skin tones are natural and believable here, and the blue flowers are hue-accurate but just slightly darker than in real life. (This blue is a difficult one for many digicams to get right, and is in reality a light navy blue with hints of purple in it.) Color looks good throughout the rest of the frame as well, with good saturation. Resolution is high, and detail is strong in the bouquet, as well as in Marti's features. Shadow detail is moderate, as I mentioned earlier, with a moderate noise level as well. A very nice job overall.

To view the entire exposure series from -1.0 to +1.5 EV, see files D54OUTAM2.HTM through D54OUTAP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Closer Portrait:

Stronger detail and higher resolution, contrast is again high.

For this close-up shot, I went with the D-540 Zoom's default exposure setting, though the midtones are just slightly dark. Increasing the exposure compensation to +0.5 EV brightened the midtones, but made the overall image much too bright. The D-540 Zoom's 3x zoom lens helps prevent geometric distortion of Marti's features, important in close-up shots like this. Resolution and detail are stronger in this shot, with excellent definition in the strands of Marti's hair.

To view the entire exposure series from -1.0 to +1.5 EV, see files D54FACM2.HTM through D54FACP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Normal Flash
Default Exposure

Slight underexposure, but good coverage at the default exposure setting. Pretty good color.

The D-540 Zoom's built-in flash illuminated the subject pretty well at the default exposure, though intensity was slightly dim. I preferred the darker image to the harsh exposure obtained with a +0.5 EV exposure compensation adjustment, however. (This is one example of why I wish that Olympus' low-end cameras would let you adjust exposure in 1/3 EV steps, rather than the 1/2 EV steps provided.) There's a bit of an orange cast from the background incandescent lighting, but overall color is still pretty good.

To view the entire exposure series from -0.5 to +1.5 EV, see files D54INFM1.HTM through D54INFP3.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Auto White Balance
Incandescent White Balance

Slight color casts with both white balance options, but good results overall.

This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The D-540's Auto and Incandescent white balance settings both produced good results here, although both left slightly more color cast in the image than I'd personally have preferred. Still, both were well within what I'd consider an acceptable range. I chose minor yellowish cast of the D-540 Zoom's Incandescent white balance setting as the most pleasing to my eye, but other people could just as easily prefer the slight reddish cast of the Auto version. The shot at right was taken with a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment, about the average amount required for this shot. Overall color looks pretty good, though dark. The blue flowers of the bouquet are very dark with purplish tints, a common occurrence with this shot, due to the very warm hue of the room lighting. Image noise is moderate, but not too distracting.

To view the entire exposure series from zero to +2.0 EV, see files D54INTP0.HTM through D54INTP4.HTM on the thumbnail index page.



 

House Shot:
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

High resolution with good detail. A reddish color balance, and a lot of softness in the corners as well.

Though slightly warm and reddish, the D-540 Zoom's Auto white balance setting produced the best overall color here, as the Daylight setting had a stronger yellow cast. Resolution is good for a three-megapixel camera, and detail is strong in the tree limbs and front shrubbery. The brick pattern and other house details are also distinct. Details are fairly sharp throughout most of the frame, the corners of the image are very soft, much more so than I'd like to see.



 

Far-Field Test

High resolution and detail, with good color. Good dynamic range, despite the high contrast.

This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.

This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the D-540 Zoom did very well with it, particularly considering its low price point. The D-540 captures a lot of fine detail throughout the frame, with great clarity in the leaf patterns of the front shrubbery, as well as in tree limbs above the roof. There's some softness in the corners of the frame (particular on the lefthand side), but nowhere near as bad as we saw in the House Poster test above. - The corner softness is apparently much more of a factor with close-in subjects. Helped by a slight underexposure overall, the camera manages to hold onto detail in the bright white paint of the bay window, while also providing decent detail in the shadows near the door. Overall color looks good, and exposure is only slightly dark. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series.

Resolution Series:

Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,048 x 1,536
D54FARLF
D54FARLN
1,600 x 1,200
D54FARMF
-
640 x 480
D54FARSF
-



 

Lens Zoom Range

A typical 3x zoom range.

I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The D-540 Zoom's lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm camera. That corresponds to a moderate wide angle to a moderate telephoto, slightly biased toward the telephoto end, relative to the 35-105mm range that's most common on point & shoot digicams. Following are the results at each zoom setting.

Wide Angle
3x Telephoto
3.3x Digital Telephoto



 

Musicians Poster
Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance

Warm color balances from the blue composition, but high resolution and strong detail.

This shot is often a tough test for digicams, as the abundance of blue in the composition frequently tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The D-540 Zoom's Auto white balance setting had some trouble here, and produced a very strong warm cast. The Daylight setting performed slightly better, though the image is still a bit warm and reddish. In addition to intensifying the models' skin tones, the red cast gives the blue background a purple tint. (The deep shadows of the blue robe are also purplish.) However, resolution is high, and fine detail is strong in the embroidery of the blue robe and red vest.



 

Macro Shot
Super Macro Shot
Standard Macro Shot
Standard Macro w/Flash

A very small area in Super Macro mode. Flash performs well in Standard macro mode, is disabled for Super Macro.

The D-540 Zoom did worse than average in its normal macro mode, capturing a somewhat large minimum area of 5.19 x 3.90 inches (132 x 99 millimeters). However, in Super Macro mode, it turned in a really exceptional performance, with a minimum area of just 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 millimeters). Resolution is high, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Most digicams I test show a lot of softness in the corners of their macro shots, usually the closer the shot, the more softness appears. The D-540 is no exception to this pattern, as its Super Macro shot shows a lot of softness in the corners, extending quite a ways into the frame. Color balance is slightly warm from the Auto white balance, but exposure is about right. The D-540 Zoom's flash throttles down well for the macro area, but is disabled in Super Macro mode because of the very short shooting distance.



 

"Davebox" Test Target

Auto White Balance
Daylight White Balance
A very good job: Good white balance, good color, good exposure. Somewhat high contrast though.

The D-540 Zoom's Auto white balance setting produced a very good color balance, while its Daylight option produced a warm color cast. Exposure is just about right, but the camera's high contrast makes it look a little over-bright to the eye. Despite the high contrast though, the D-540 Zoom distinguishes the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 target well. The colors are generally hue-accurate, and saturation is just about right. The one knock against the camera in this test is that it captured very little detail in the shadows, and what is there is somewhat obscured by image noise.



 

Low-Light Tests

Modest low-light shooting capabilities, but quite capable of handling average city street lighting. Surprisingly good autofocus performance under low-light conditions, too.

The D-540 Zoom produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, which corresponds to about a quarter of the light level of average city street lighting at night. Some detail was visible at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, but the image there is quite dim. Color is just a little warm with the Auto white balance but well within acceptable limits, and image noise is high at the lowest light levels, but once again within the range of what I'd consider acceptable. Note that you need to select the D-540's Night Scene mode to get the best results under low-light conditions, as that mode is the only way to access the camera's 2-second maximum exposure time. The D-540's autofocus system worked down to surprisingly low light levels (to a little below 1/8 foot-candle), provided it had a contrasty subject to focus on, and that the camera was held very steady while it was focusing. (This last is a critical requirement with many cameras - They need to be held with absolutely no movement while they're focusing, or they won't be able to focus at all.) The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera. Overall, a surprisingly good performance for an entry-level camera.

(Note: If you'd like to use a light meter to check light levels for subjects you might be interested in shooting, a light level of one foot-candle corresponds to a normal exposure of two seconds at f/2.8 and ISO 100.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
Auto
Mode
Click to see D54LL03.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
ISO 187
Click to see D54LL04.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
ISO 200
Click to see D54LL05.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
ISO 200
Click to see D54LL06.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
ISO 200
Click to see D54LL07.JPG
1 sec
f2.9
ISO 200
Night
Scene
Mode
Click to see D54LLNS03.JPG
2 sec
f3.1
ISO 51
Click to see D54LLNS04.JPG
2 sec
f3.1
ISO 118
Click to see D54LLNS05.JPG
2 sec
f3.1
ISO 200
Click to see D54LLNS06.JPG
2 sec
f3.1
ISO 200
Click to see D54LLNS07.JPG
2 sec
f3.1
ISO 200



 

Flash Range Test

Very good flash range, but quite a bit of "ISO cheating" to get there, and unacceptably high image noise.

At first glance, the D-540 Zoom's flash range is quite impressive, but when you look at the images themselves, your excitement will quickly wane. Like many point & shoot digicams on the market, the D-540 quietly boosts its ISO on flash shots as the range to the subject increases. The result is indeed brighter photos, but at the cost of higher image noise. In the case of the D-540 Zoom, the noise levels are really unacceptable at subject distances any greater than 9 feet, and are marginal even at that 8 feet and below. Looking back at the Indoor Portrait tests, it seems that the effect is somewhat mitigated when there's a fair bit of ambient illumination, so the D-540's flash is probably acceptable to use with close-in subjects and when there's already some light in the room. Don't count on it if it's completely dark, and your subject is more than 6 feet or so away from you. Below is the flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see D54FL08.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 183
Click to see D54FL09.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 167
Click to see D54FL10.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 234
Click to see D54FL11.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 256
Click to see D54FL12.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 320
Click to see D54FL13.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 320
Click to see D54FL14.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 320



 

ISO-12233 (WG-18) Resolution Test

Good resolution, 1,050 lines of "strong detail." Very high barrel distortion, about average pincushion.

The D-540 Zoom performed about average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its 3-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600~700 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,050 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,250 lines.

Optical distortion on the D-540 Zoom is very high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.1 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found approximately 0.3 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration is about average, showing about five or six pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines, though the effect is intensified by some corner softness. (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.) The worst distortion I noticed was rather severe softness in the corners of its images penetrating a fair ways into the image, most prominent in the studio images, shot at close range.

Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Wide Angle "Fine"
JPEG
"Normal"
JPEG
2,048 x 1,536
D54RESW2048F
D54RESW2048N
1280 x 960
D54RESW1600E1
-
640 x 480
D54RESW640E2
-


Resolution Test, Telephoto
2,048 x 1,536
(Fine, Tele)
D54REST2048F



 

Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity

A very tight optical viewfinder, but a pretty accurate LCD monitor.

The D-540 Zoom's optical viewfinder is very tight, showing only about 75 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 79 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing about 96 percent accuracy at wide angle. At telephoto, my top measurement lines were cut off in the final frame, but I would estimate frame accuracy to be pretty high (just add a hair of space at the top of the frame). Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the D-540 Zoom's LCD monitor does pretty well, but its optical viewfinder is woefully inadequate. Flash distribution is quite a bit more even than average at wide angle, with just a little falloff in the corners. At telephoto, flash distribution is even more uniform, though with a hot spot in the center of the target.




D-540 Review
D-540 Test Images
D-540 Specifications
D-540 "Picky Details"
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