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Olympus D-580 Zoom Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date 06/25/04
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10
Availability
May, 2004
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
$279



Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Specifications
Design
Recommended Accessories
Operation
Sample Pictures
Conclusion
The Olympus D-580 Zoom is one of the latest Olympus digital cameras, in a line that's one of both the broadest and oldest in the photo industry. The Olympus D580 updates the previous D-560 Zoom model with a higher resolution imager and a few minor feature and user interface tweaks as well. It offers a nice array of options, with four preset Scene modes and the same white balance and exposure compensation adjustments. Notably missing, which was also missing from the D-560 but is an expected staple of most modern digital cameras, is ISO control. But with an expected retail price of $279 (and "street" prices lower than that), the D-580 Zoom is a good digicam at a very attractive price.

 

Camera Overview

With its sliding lens cover, the D-580 Zoom digicam is the newest entry into Olympus' popular consumer line of "D" series digicams. The D-580 Zoom should fit into average coat pockets and purses with ease, and may slide into larger shirt pockets. A true, 3x optical zoom lens and 4.0-megapixel CCD capture good images, with good quality and detail, suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches. Lower resolution settings are available for snapshot prints and email attachments.

The D-580 Zoom is equipped with a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera). Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 to f/5.2, depending on the zoom setting. In its normal autofocus (AF) mode, the D-580 Zoom focuses from 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity, with a macro setting focusing as close as 8.0 inches (20 centimeters). A Super Macro mode brings you in as close as 2.8 inches (7cm), but disables the flash and zoom. - The resulting minimum macro area of just 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 mm) is impressive, particularly for such an inexpensive camera. The protective lens cover also acts as the power switch, placing the camera into Record mode and extending the lens another 5/8-inch from the camera body when it's opened. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the D-580 Zoom features as much as 3.3x digital zoom, increasing its zoom capabilities to 10x. (As always though, because digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD, image quality suffers in direct proportion to the magnification achieved.) For composing images, the D-580 Zoom features a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.8-inch color LCD monitor.

Operating under Program Auto exposure control by default, the D-580 Zoom has an uncomplicated, straightforward user interface. A multi-page LCD menu system accesses the available settings, although you can adjust flash mode, the self-timer, macro mode, and zoom externally. An initial short-cut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, which accesses the camera's Movie, Image Size, and Mode Reset options instantly, or you can enter the main Record menu. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically determined at all times (and are not reported to the user), with shutter speeds ranging from 1/1,000 to 1 second (extended to two seconds in Night Scene mode). By default, the camera uses a "Digital ESP" metering mode, which analyzes subject contrast and brightness across the entire frame to determine the best exposure. A Spot metering option is available through the Record menu, helpful for high contrast or off-center subjects. The camera's Exposure Compensation adjustment lets you increase or decrease the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-half-step increments. There's also a White Balance setting, for adjusting overall color balance. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent modes. The D-580 Zoom's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced (fill), and Suppressed (off) modes.

Program Auto is the main exposure mode for most normal shooting situations, which handles most normal shooting conditions. Four preset Scene modes are also available through the Record menu, including Portrait, Landscape, Landscape Portrait, Night Scene, and Self Portrait modes. Portrait mode captures the subject in front of a slightly blurred background, while Landscape sets focus to infinity for sharp background photos. Landscape + Portrait mode sets the camera so that the foreground and the background are in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Night Scene mode extends the available shutter times to two seconds, and automatically combines the flash with the slower shutter speed (you can cancel the flash if you want to). Self Portrait mode lets you point the camera at yourself (in-hand), automatically fixes focus at a shorter distance to insure a sharp image. The lens remains locked at the wide-angle setting in Self Portrait mode to make aiming easier and help you get a sharply-focused portrait. (This is a great mode for those "prove you were there" shots.)

Other camera features include a Self-Timer mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. For a motor-drive effect, the Sequential Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images while the Shutter button is held down. The actual number of images depends on the size and quality settings, as well as the amount of memory card space. (You should be able to capture up to three shots at the camera's highest-quality setting, in about 2.5 seconds.) The "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a panorama mode is available only when using special Olympus xD-Picture Cards, that records as many as 10 consecutive images which can be merged into a single panoramic image on your computer with the provided Olympus software. For more creative effects, you can transform your full color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through the camera's Playback menu. Finally, the D-580 Zoom has a Movie mode that records moving images (without sound) as long as the memory card has room, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.

The D-580 Zoom stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB card. I strongly suggest buying at least a 64MB card though, so you don't miss any important shots. At full resolution, the 16MB card will only hold about five to six 2288 x 1712 images. A CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master 4.2 accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools, as well as utilities for organizing images, and even a tool for "stitching together" multiple images into a single large panorama. The camera comes with a set of two single-use AA alkaline batteries, but can also use NiMH, lithium, or NiCd batteries, as well as a single CR-V3 lithium-ion battery pack (all sold as separate accessories). I recommend picking up a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries, keeping the spare set freshly charged at all times. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such downloading images to a computer. Also included with the D-580 Zoom is a video cable for connecting to a television set, and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer.

Basic Features

  • 4.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.8-inch color LCD display.
  • 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 4x Digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control, with five preset Scene modes.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage.
  • Power supplied by two AA batteries, CR-V3 lithium-ion pack or optional AC adapter.
  • Olympus Camedia Master software for both Mac and Windows.

Special Features

  • QuickTime movies (with sound).
  • Sequential Shooting mode.
  • Self-timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Panorama mode for stitching together multiple images.
  • "2 in 1" multi-exposure mode.
  • Black-and-White and Sepia effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens adjustment.
  • Super Macro mode that brings you in as close as 2.8 inches.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Digital ESP (full frame) and Spot metering options.
  • PictBridge compatibility.
  • USB AutoConnect (no driver software needed) and USB cable.
  • Video cable for connection to a television set.

 

Recommendation

A compact, 3x optical zoom lens, 3.3-megapixel CCD, hassle-free point-and-shoot operation, and very good picture quality make the D-580 Zoom another excellent consumer digicam from Olympus. The availability of preset Scene modes helps deliver better pictures in common shooting situations, and the handful of exposure options provides some creative control. Image quality is high enough for making sharp 8x10-inch photographic prints or sending lower-resolution email attachments over the Internet. With its user-friendly interface, travel-worthy design, good ease of use, and low cost, the D-580 Zoom is a great entry-level camera with more than entry-level features. This would be a good camera for a family, easy to use but with enough capability to bring back good-looking photos from a wide range of situations.

 

Design

The D-580 Zoom features Olympus' hallmark sliding lens cover, which serves not only to protect the lens but also as a power switch. Small and compact, the D-580 Zoom should find its way into coat pockets and purses with no problem, and may fit into larger shirt pockets. The D-580 Zoom measures 4.2 x 2.2 x 1.4 inches (108 x 57.5 x 36.5 millimeters). A molded plastic body keeps the D-580 Zoom's weight down to 7.8 ounces (222 grams) with batteries and card. With the included wrist strap attached, the D-580 Zoom is easy to hold and fits the hand well.

Beneath the sliding lens cover on the D-580 Zoom's front panel is the 3x zoom lens, an optical viewfinder window, flash, and a self-timer lamp. The sliding lens cover also controls the power, activating the camera and placing it into Record (Shooting) mode. When opened, the cover provides a sculpted ridge near the right edge of the camera, which serves as a grip for your fingers as they wrap around the camera. Opening the lens cover also signals the lens to extend from the camera body another 5/8-inch, something it does somewhat loudly.

The camera's right side holds the battery and xD-Picture Card compartments, as well as the optional DC in jack and a bar for attaching the wrist strap. The battery compartment door slides down before opening outward to reveal the battery compartment where two AA batteries (alkaline, lithium, or NiMH) or one CR-V3 Lithium battery pack fit. Next to the battery compartment is the xD-Picture Card slot, protected by a hinged, plastic door, which swings open toward the rear panel. A small, rubbery flap protects the DC in jack, which is directly above the memory compartment.

On the opposite side of the camera are the USB and Video Out jacks, covered by a rubbery flap that lifts out of the way to reveal the connectors. The top of the strip is attached to the camera, so you don't have to worry about losing the protective cover. Also here is the new microphone for recording sound with videos. No speaker is provided, so on-camera playback is silent.

The top of the D-580 Zoom holds only the Shutter button and the zoom control. The zoom rocker is angled about 40 degrees, making for easy, ergonomic actuation.

The remaining external controls are all located on the camera's rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. Adjacent to the viewfinder eyepiece, on the right side, are two LED lamps that report camera status. (For example, the top lamp flashes orange when the flash is charging, and the bottom, green, lamp indicates when focus is set.) Control buttons on the rear panel include the Five-Way navigation pad (with multi-functional keys), and a Display button. Along the far right side of the rear panel is a gently sculpted recess that accommodates your thumb as you hold the camera in your right hand, providing a secure grip. Overall, though this arrangement is essentially the same as on the earlier D-560 model, but the surfaces are smoother and make for both a better experience and a better look on the D-580.

The D-580 Zoom has a flat bottom panel, which holds the plastic threaded tripod mount. (I'm glad to see side access was given to both the battery and memory compartments, which allows for quick changes when shooting on a tripod.)

 

Camera Operation

Since the D-580 Zoom offers only limited exposure control and a small number of external buttons, learning to use the camera shouldn't take too long, even for relatively inexperienced users. Simply opening the lens cover puts it in Shooting mode. Entering Playback mode is obvious: Just press the Quick View button on the back panel, and the camera will switch to Playback mode if it's in Shooting mode, or turn on and enter Playback mode if it was turned off. A Five-way Arrow pad on the back panel serves several functions, including accessing Macro, Self-Timer, and Flash modes, and navigates through on-screen menus. It also scrolls through captured images in Playback mode. The center "fifth" button is the Menu / OK button which activates menus and confirms menu selections. Pressing this button brings up the "top menu" whose four icons correspond to the four buttons on the Five-way. By default, left adjusts resolution, top sets drive mode, bottom turns the monitor on and off (turning the monitor off is great for saving power on a long trip), and right goes into the multi-tabbed mode menu, with tabs along the left side of the screen. Anyone already familiar with Olympus LCD menu systems should have no trouble, and even novices should get the gist of it after a few minutes.

Record-Mode Display
The D-580 Zoom has but a single record-mode display, shown at right. The display shows the center autofocus area along with currently-selected options for image size/quality, macro and flash mode, white balance, etc, as well as the number of images of the current size and quality that can be stored in the remaining space on the memory card. When focus is achieved a green dot appears in the upper left corner; if the camera cannot focus, the green dot flashes.


Playback-Mode Display
In playback mode, you can use the D-580's zoom control to zoom in or out on an image, with a maximum enlargement of 4x. Zooming out from a full-frame view brings up a thumbnail display of the images on the card, letting you move quickly between them via the arrow keys on the camera's back panel. The screen shot at right shows the progression of playback displays, beginning with the thumbnail index view and ending with a zoomed view at the maximum 4x magnification.

External Controls


Sliding Lens Cover
: Protecting the lens on the front of the camera, this sliding cover also serves as the power switch. Sliding the cover open turns the camera on and places it into Shooting (Record) mode, extending the lens. Likewise, closing the cover turns the camera off and returns to the lens to its closed position. (I like sliding covers of this sort , because they avoid the problem of the always-missing lens cap, and avert the disaster of the lens mechanism extending while in a carrying bag; something that can damage the lens.)


Shutter Button
: The dominant control on the top panel, the Shutter button sets the camera's focus and exposure when halfway depressed. Fully depressing the button fires the shutter.


Zoom Rocker Button
: Directly to the right of the Shutter button, this two-way rocker button controls the optical and digital zoom (when enabled) in Shooting mode. In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images, and also accesses the index display mode.


Five-way Navigation control
: Right of the LCD monitor on the rear panel, each of the four arrows points in a different direction (up, down, left, right). In any mode, the arrow keys navigate through menu options. The center button launches the menu and confirms menu selections.

In Record mode, the left arrow brings up the onscreen Shooting Mode dial, which brings up onscreen virtual dial that selects among Program, Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night scene, Self-portrait, and Movie modes. The up arrow accesses Macro shooting mode, or returns to the normal AF (autofocus) mode. The down arrow controls the Self-Timer mode, and the right arrow button selects Flash modes, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Off.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images (and bottom behaves like the right button and the top behaves just like the left). When an image has been enlarged, all four arrows navigate within the view.


Quick View/Playback Button: Just above left the Five-way navigation control, this button switches to Playback mode.

When the lens cover is closed, pressing this button powers on the camera and places it in Playback mode. A second press of the button shuts off the camera (only while the lens cover is closed). If on, pressing this button sends you back to Record mode. Pressing on the shutter also takes you back to the record mode.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Activated by sliding the lens cover open, this mode sets up the camera to take pictures. The following exposure and camera options are available through the Record menu (some options may change depending on the Scene mode selected):

Top Menu:

  • Drive: Selects between single and continuous shooting modes.
  • Image Size/Quality: Sets the image resolution and JPEG compression level. Available resolutions are 2,288 x 1,712 (SHQ); 2,288 x 1,712 (HQ); 1,600 x 1,200 (SQ1); and 640 x 480 (SQ2) pixels for still images. Movie resolutions are 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.
  • Monitor Off/On: Turns monitor off and on in Record mode.


  • Mode Menu: Displays the following four-page menu system:
    • Camera:
      • Metering: Sets the camera's metering system to Spot or ESP (default). Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the frame, handy for backlit subjects, or any time the subject and background have very different brightness levels. Digital ESP metering reads the entire image frame to determine exposure.
      • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2.0 to +2.0 exposure values (EV) in one-half-step increments.
      • Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
      • Microphone: Toggles on or off the automatic recording of audio to accompany each image (4 seconds max.).
      • Super Macro mode: Toggles Super Macro mode off and on. In Super Macro mode, you can take a picture from as close as 2.8 inches, but the flash and zoom are disabled.
      • Panorama: Available only with Olympus special function cards, this mode captures as many as 10 consecutive shots to be stitched together on a computer into one panoramic image. Alignment guidelines appear on the screen to perfectly line up each shot.
      • 2 in 1: Somewhat the opposite of the Panorama mode, this mode lets you capture two vertically-oriented "half" images which are fused together and saved as one file (images are placed side-by-side). Thus, you can capture two individual portraits and have them placed together in the same image, like a split-screen view.

    • Picture:
      • White Balance: Adjusts the overall color balance of the image, based on the light source. Options include: Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, or Fluorescent.

    • Card:
      • Card Setup: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even write-protected ones).

    • Setup:
      • All Reset: Resets all of the camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Portuguese. (secondary screen)
      • Power On/Off setup: Selects among startup screens. (secondary screen)
      • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
      • Record View: Turns the instant image preview on or off. When activated, instant image preview displays the most recently recorded image for several seconds after you trip the shutter.
      • File Name: Resets file number with a new memory card.
      • Pixel Mapping: Checks the CCD and image processing system for any errors.
      • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness level of the LCD monitor display.
      • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar. (secondary screen)
      • Video Out: Specifies PAL or NTSC as the video signal.


Playback Mode: Entered by pressing the Quick View/Playback button whether the lens cover is open or closed, this mode allows you to review captured images. This mode also has it's own shortcut or "top" menu that precedes the Mode Menu. The following playback options are available through the Playback settings menu:

Top Menu:

  • Slide Show: Automates a slide show of all still images on the memory card. (One press of the Menu button cancels the playback.) If a movie file is displayed, this option leads to a short series of sub-menus that let you back the movie, either all at once, or frame by frame.
  • Info: Activates and deactivates a more detailed information display of exposure settings for each captured image, which displays for a few seconds and then disappears.
  • Erase: Erases the currently-displayed image, with an option to cancel.



  • Mode Menu: Displays the following four-page menu:
    • Play:
      • Protect: Write-protects (or removes protection) from the currently displayed image. Write-protection locks the image file so you can't accidentally erase it or change the file in any way (except by formatting the card).
      • Rotate (Still pictures only): Rotates the displayed image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
      • DPOF (Still pictures only): Marks the displayed image, or all images on the card, for printing on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible printer. You can also establish the number of prints, whether or not the date and time are printed over the image, or remove the print mark. Note that this setting is only available for images saved on the memory card. (secondary screen)
      • Microphone (Still pictures only): Records a 4 second message and associates with the currently displayed image.

    • Edit:
      • Black & White (Still pictures only): Converts the displayed image to black-and-white and saves it as a new file. (secondary screen)
      • Sepia (Still pictures only): Converts the displayed image to sepia tone, giving it the appearance of an old-fashioned picture, and saves the converted image as a new file. (secondary screen)
      • Resize (Still pictures only): Allows you to resize the displayed image to a smaller resolution (320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixels) perfect for emailing. (secondary screen)
      • Index (Movie mode only): Creates an index image of a movie file, with nine frames.
      • Edit (Movie mode only): Lets you trim a segment from the middle of an existing movie file, either saving the result on the memory card as a new file, or overwriting the original one.


    • Card:
      • Card Setup: Erases all files on the memory card (except for write-protected ones), or formats the memory card entirely. Both options can be canceled.



    • Setup:
      (Sorry, no separate screen shots for the Playback-mode setup menu. :-(
      • All Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Portugese.
      • Power On/Off setup: Selects among startup screens.
      • Screen Setup: Allows user to pick one of their photos as a startup screen that is saved into the camera's internal memory.
      • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
      • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness level of the LCD monitor display.
      • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
      • Video Out: Specifies PAL or NTSC as the video signal.
      • Index Display: Determines whether 4, 9, or 16 images are displayed on the Index Display screen.


Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

In the Box

The D-580 Zoom ships with the following items in the box:

  • D-580 Zoom digital camera.
  • Wrist strap.
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • Two AA alkaline batteries (or one CR-V3 lithium battery).
  • CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master 4.2 software and drivers.
  • Instruction manual and registration kit.

 

Recommended Accessories

  • (at least 64MB).
  • AC Adapter.
  • Two sets of rechargeable AA batteries and charger. (Click here to read about the recommended charger.)
  • Small camera case for outdoor protection.

 

Recommended Software: Rescue your images!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. I get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

About Batteries
Over the years, I've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that I now insert a standard notice in my reviews of AA-powered cameras: 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. 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. Buy two sets of batteries too, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Check out my Battery Shootout page for the latest in actual, measured performance of various AA batteries. - Read my review of the Maha C-204F charger, to learn why it's my longtime favorite.

 

Sample Pictures

See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo.

Outdoor
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 


"Gallery" Photos

For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos, here's a link to a gallery of more random shots snapped with the D-580. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Shawn Barnett. Thanks Shawn!)

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the D-580 Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the D-580 Zoom's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the D-580 Zoom with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Good to very good color, better than average white balance system. Overall, the D-580 Zoom produced very pleasing color, under a wide range of shooting conditions. On the difficult Indoor Portrait shots, the D-580's auto white balance setting did a much better than average job with the very warm-hued incandescent room lighting, unusual among digicams in any price range, let alone the entry-level bracket where the D-580 lives. Skin tones tended to be a bit on the pink side, but I expect that most consumers would find the net result pleasing, and most colors were bright and appopriately saturated. There was a slight oversaturation in strong reds and blues, but I'd still rate the D-580's overall color as very good.

  • Exposure: Good exposure accuracy, but somewhat high contrast. The D-580 Zoom's exposure system had a tendency to slightly underexpose some shots, but it did better than most on the Outdoor Portrait shot. It did lose the strongest highlight detail on that shot, but shadow detail was moderate with low image noise and the midtones were reasonably well exposed. On my "Davebox" test, the D-580 Zoom had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, but it did lose some detail in deep shadows. The indoor portraits required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, as did the outdoor portrait, and the camera's photos do tend to get rather contrasty under harsh lighting. Overall, though, a good job, better than I'd normally expect for its price bracket.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,100 - 1,150 lines of "strong detail." The D-580 Zoom performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 700 lines per picture height vertically, and around 650 lines horizontally. I found "strong detail" out to at about 1,150 lines vertically, 1,100 lines horizontally. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,400 lines.

  • Image Noise: Average image noise for its four-megapixel class. Most of today's cameras with CCDs of four megapixels and larger are showing more image noise than earlier, lower-resolution models. That said, while I would have commented on the D-580's image noise levels as being slightly on the high side a year ago, this time around, they're unfortunately average.

  • Closeups: Excellent macro performance, though the flash has some trouble up close. The D-580 Zoom did a surprisingly good job here for a budget digicam (excellent, really), capturing a minimum area of only 2.39 x 1.79 inches (61 x 45 millimeters) in the normal macro mode. In Super Macro mode, the camera performed even better, capturing a minimum area of just 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with great detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. (The coins and brooch were soft in the Super Macro shot due to the very short shooting distance, but that's just an optical fact of life, and not the fault of the camera at all.) Some softness was present in all four corners of the frame, but strongest in the lower left corner. (Another very common failing in digicam macro modes.) The D-580 Zoom's flash actually throttled down too well for the macro area, underexposing the shot. (Plan on external lighting for your closest shooting with the D-580.)

  • Night Shots: Limited low-light capabilities, just sensitive enough for average city street-lighting at night. The D-580 Zoom produced clear, bright, usable images only down to the one foot-candle (11 lux) light level. You could arguably use the image taken at 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), but the exposure was a bit dim. Still, this is good enough for city night scenes, since typical street lighting produces a light level of about one foot-candle. Color was pretty good, if slightly warm, and noise was moderately high.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but very accurate LCD monitor. The D-580 Zoom's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only about 78 percent of the final frame at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor performed much better, showing roughly 99 percent of the final image area at both zoom settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the D-580 Zoom's LCD monitor did an excellent job here, but its optical viewfinder could really use some help.

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion, though very low pincushion. Optical distortion on the D-580 Zoom is slightly higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. (Average is 0.8 percent, which is still too high, in my opinion.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only one pixel of pincushion distortion (about 0.04 percent). Chromatic aberration is a about average for this class of camera, showing about six or seven pixels of moderate coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Shutter lag on the slow side of average, cycle times good for an inexpensive camera. With full-autofocus shutter lag times that ranged from 1.00 to 1.07 seconds, the D-580 Zoom is on the slow side of average for that parameter. Its shot to shot cycle time of only 2.1 seconds (for three SHQ images) is quite respectable for this class of camera though. Not a first choice for sports shooting, but no worse than most other cameras in its price bracket.

  • Battery Life: Good battery life, particularly for a camera running on only two AA cells. Like most Olympus cameras I've tested, the D-580 Zoom showed pretty good battery life, particularly for a compact model, and most especially when the LCD was left off in capture mode. I still strongly recommend purchasing a couple of spare sets of batteries when you buy the camera, as Murphy's law definitely applies to digicam battery capacity (they always run out of juice at the worst possible moment), but the D-580 Zoom does better than most compact digicams in this area. The one fly in the ointment is that the D-580's optical viewfinder is less accurate than most, which will force you to use the LCD more often than you otherwise might have to. Click here to read my "battery shootout" page to see which batteries currently on the market are best, or here for my review of the Maha C-204F charger, my longtime favorite.

 

Conclusion

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The D-580 Zoom is the next generation of Olympus' user-friendly "D" series digicams. With its available Scene shooting modes, 4-megapixel CCD, and 3x optical zoom lens, the D-580 Zoom is flexible, convenient, and easy to use. The point-and-shoot style will put novices at ease, while a handful of exposure and capture modes keeps the camera fun. The D-580 Zoom's compact size and fully-covered lens assembly is perfect for travel as well. With an "official" street price at introduction of $299, but actual street prices quite a bit lower than that, the D-580 Zoom is an affordable option for any consumer looking to step into digital photography without making a large investment. It's also relatively handsome. Finally, its easy "pocketability" makes the D-580 Zoom a good second camera for more experienced enthusiasts. Overall, a very nice "all around" digicam, with good features and good color, all at an attractive price.

 

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