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Olympus D-590 Zoom Digital Camera

 

Camera QuickLook
Review Date  4/7/2005
By Dave Etchells & Stephanie Boozer
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
digital camera Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Good, 4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x14s, or 8x10s with some cropping
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
$299.99



Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Specifications
Design
Recommended Accessories
Operation
Sample Pictures
Conclusion
The Olympus D-590 Zoom is one of the latest Olympus digital cameras, in a line that's one of the broadest and oldest in the photo industry. The Olympus D-590 Zoom updates the previous D-580 model with an improved sliding lens cover design, smaller size (thanks the elimination of the optical viewfinder), and a few minor user interface tweaks as well. It offers a nice array of options, with eight preset Scene modes and the same white balance and exposure compensation adjustments. With an expected retail price of $299.99 (and "street" prices lower than that), the Olympus D-590 Zoom is a good basic digital camera at an attractive price.

 

Camera Overview

The D-590 Zoom digital camera is the newest entry into Olympus' popular consumer line of "D" series digital cameras, and presents an interesting variation on a popular Olympus theme. The sliding lens cover has long been an Olympus design favorite, but has often felt a little clunky given its size. The Olympus D590 keeps the convenience of a sliding cover, but reduces the size and bulk of the cover itself, so that it simply slides back and forth across the lens, but inside the front panel. A sliding switch controls the cover and the camera's power, and is much easier to operate. One problem here is that the previous lens covers often made great finger grips, and the Olympus D-590 Zoom really doesn't have much of a grip at all. Still, I like the less cumbersome design -- just plan on utilizing that wrist strap. The D-590 Zoom is small enough for most average shirt pockets, and could easily slip into larger pants 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 Olympus D590 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-590 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 3.5 inches (9.0 centimeters), but disables the flash and zoom. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the D-590 Zoom features as much as 4x digital zoom, increasing its zoom capabilities to 12x. (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-590 Zoom features a 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor. Olympus eliminated the optical viewfinder, presumably in the interest of more accurate framing and a slightly smaller camera size.

Operating under Program Auto exposure control by default, the Olympus D590 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 Exposure Compensation, Image Size, and White Balance 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 1/2 second (extended to four 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-third-step increments. There's also a White Balance setting, for adjusting overall color balance. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent modes. The Olympus D590'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. Eight preset Scene modes are also available through the Scene menu (accessed via the up arrow key), including Portrait, Indoor, Beach / Snow, Cuisine, Landscape + Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, and Self-portrait modes. Portrait mode captures the subject in front of a slightly blurred background, while Indoor mode is better for portraits under indoor (usually incandescent) lighting. Beach / Snow mode balances the exposure for bright scenes, while Cuisine mode boosts saturation, contrast, and sharpness for appealing images of food. Landscape + Portrait mode sets the camera so that the foreground and the background are in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Landscape sets focus to infinity for sharp background photos. Night Scene mode extends the available shutter times to four 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 four shots at the camera's HQ setting, at about one frame per second.) 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 Olympus D590 has a Movie mode that records moving images (with sound) as long as the memory card has room, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.

The Olympus D-590 Zoom stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB card. I strongly suggest buying at least a 128MB card though, so you don't miss any important shots. At full resolution, the 16MB card will only hold about five 2,272 x 1,704 images. A CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master 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. A second CD-ROM features the full instruction manual, as a small basic manual is the only hard copy provided. The camera comes with a single lithium-ion battery pack and charger. I recommend picking up a second battery for backup, and keeping it freshly charged at all times. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such downloading images to a computer. Also included with the Olympus D590 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.
  • 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 eight preset Scene modes.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage.
  • Power supplied by a single rechargeable lithium-ion battery 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 3.5 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 design, 3x optical zoom lens, 4.0-megapixel CCD, hassle-free point-and-shoot operation, and very good picture quality make the Olympus D-590 Zoom an appealing, easy-to-use consumer camera. 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 Olympus D590 is a great entry-level camera with a few 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-590 Zoom presents a new twist on an old Olympus theme. Instead of the hallmark sliding lens cover that typically covered most of the front panel on several previous "D" series cameras, the D-590 Zoom features a sliding lens cover that slides back and forth just inside the front panel, so that it only covers the lens itself when closed. A switch at the bottom of the front panel controls its movement, and also doubles as a power switch. Small and compact, the Olympus D-590 Zoom should find its way into most average shirt pockets with no problem, but it's a good idea to keep the wrist strap on when shooting, given the camera's small size and small finger grip. The D-590 Zoom measures 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.4 inches (100 x 58 x 36 millimeters), with the lens stowed. A molded plastic body keeps the D-590 Zoom's weight down to 5.6 ounces (160 grams) without batteries and card.

The Olympus D590's fairly smooth front panel features the 3x zoom lens and sliding lens cover, flash, microphone, self-timer lamp, and sliding Power switch. Care should be used when closing the lens cover, because the door slams into the lens long before it retracts. A tiny, polished, raised strip is the only finger grip the D-590 Zoom provides, which is good reason to take full advantage of the included wrist strap.

The camera's right side holds the connector compartment, covered by a flexible, rubbery flap that remains tethered to the camera. Beneath the flap are the DC In, A/V Out, and USB connector terminals. Also on this side of the camera is the wrist strap eyelet.

The opposite side of the camera is featureless, though you can see the camera's microphone as it angles back from the front panel.

The top of the Olympus D-590 Zoom has only the Shutter button.

The few remaining external controls are all located on the camera's rear panel, along with the 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. In the top right corner is the Zoom rocker control, which also activates the Playback zoom and index display options. The Quick View / Playback and OK / Menu buttons line the right side of the LCD monitor. Dominating the lower right corner of the rear panel is the Four-Way Arrow pad and speaker combination. The four arrow keys not only navigate menu selections, but also control a variety of exposure mode options.

The Olympus D590 has a flat bottom panel, which holds the plastic threaded tripod mount and the memory card / battery compartment. The compartment is much too close to the tripod mount for easy access when shooting with a tripod, something I always pay attention to. However, the D-590 Zoom was clearly intended for on-the-go shooting, and I doubt many users will find this troublesome. The shared battery and memory card compartment is protected by a sliding plastic door, which locks into place with a pressure switch. Inside the compartment, the two slots line up side by side for quick access.

 

Camera Operation

Since the Olympus D-590 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 / Playback 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 Four-way Arrow pad on the back panel serves several functions, including accessing Macro, Self-Timer, Scene, and Flash modes, and navigates through on-screen menus. It also scrolls through captured images in Playback mode. The Menu / OK button off to the side activates menus and confirms menu selections. Pressing this button brings up the "top menu" whose four icons correspond to the four buttons on the Four-Way. By default, left adjusts resolution, top sets exposure compensation, bottom accesses white balance, 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. Because the top of this big four-way array resides where the thumb naturally rests, Olympus put a bar over the top of the Scene (Up) button, which protects the button well from accidental activation while keeping it easy to press.

Record-Mode Display
The Olympus D-590 Zoom has a single record-mode display. 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. Any additional exposure settings such as exposure compensation and white balance also appear in the display.


Playback-Mode Display
In Playback mode, you can use the D590'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. This thumbnail view can be set to display 4, 9, or 16 thumbnails. On the main image display, the camera briefly shows the image resolution and file number, then reverts to the full image display. An Info option on the top-level of the Playback menu expands this display to include basic exposure settings.

External Controls


Power Switch
: Located on the bottom left side of the front panel (when looking from the front), this sliding switch controls the camera's power as well as the sliding lens cover. Sliding the switch to the "On" position moves the cover out of the way, turning on the camera and signaling the lens to extend. Likewise, closing the cover turns the camera off and returns to the lens to its closed position. (I like sliding covers of this kind, 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, which can damage the lens.)


Shutter Button
: The only 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
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, 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.


Four-Way Arrow Pad
: Dominating the lower right corner of the rear panel, each of the four arrows on this pad points in a different direction (up, down, left, right). In any mode, the arrow keys navigate through menu options.

In Record mode, the left arrow cycles through Macro, Super Macro, and the normal AF (autofocus) mode. The up arrow brings up the onscreen Scene menu, which offers Program, Portrait, Indoor, Beach / Snow, Cuisine, Landscape + Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, Self-portrait, and Movie modes. The right arrow button selects Flash modes, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Off. And finally, the down arrow controls the Self-Timer mode.

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
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, 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 button also takes you back to the record mode.


OK / Menu Button
: Below the Quick View / Playback button, this button serves as the "OK" for menu selections, and pulls up the menu display in any camera 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:

  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the exposure from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV step increments.
  • Image Size/Quality: Sets the image resolution and JPEG compression level. Available resolutions are 2,272 x 1,704 (SHQ); 2,272 x 1,704 (HQ); 2,048 x 1,536 (SQ1); and either 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 (SQ2) pixels for still images. Movie resolutions are 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.
  • White Balance: Accesses the camera's white balance setting, with options for Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent lighting.


Mode Menu: Displays the following three-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.
    • Drive: Puts the camera into Single or Sequence shooting modes.
    • Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
    • Microphone: Toggles on or off the automatic recording of audio to accompany each image (four seconds maximum).
    • 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.

  • Card:
    • Format: 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, Spanish, or Portuguese.
    • Power On Setup: Selects among startup screens and sounds, with a volume adjustment.
    • Color: Adjusts the color of the menu bar displays. Options are Normal, Blue, Green, and Pink.
    • Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.

    • Shutter Sound: Sets the sound the shutter makes when opened. Three sound options are available, with volume settings, and an Off setting.
    • 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. Or, you can leave it on Auto, which continues numbering from card to 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.
    • 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 lets you playback the movie, with volume and fast forward/rewind options.
  • 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 or movie file. 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.
    • Microphone (Still pictures only): Records a four-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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • Index (Movie mode only): Creates an index image of a movie file, with nine frames, saved as a separate file.


  • Card:
    • All Erase: Erases all unprotected files on the memory card.
    • Format: Formats the memory card entirely, erasing all files, even protected ones.

  • Setup:
    • All Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
    • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.
    • Power On setup: Selects among startup screens and sounds.
    • Color: Adjusts the color of the menu bar displays. Options are Normal, Blue, Green, and Pink.
    • Volume: Adjusts the playback volume.
    • 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 four, nine, 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-590 Zoom ships with the following items in the box:

  • D-590 Zoom digital camera.
  • Wrist strap.
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • One lithium-ion battery pack.
  • Battery charger.
  • CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master software and drivers.
  • Advanced Manual CD-ROM.
  • Basic instruction manual and registration kit.

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity xD memory card. (These days, 128MB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity.)
  • AC Adapter.
  • Additional lithium-ion battery pack.
  • 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 digital camera 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...

 

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.

 

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy


Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the D-590 Zoom's "pictures" page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus D-590 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: Generally good color, handles incandescent lighting well. The Olympus D-590 Zoom's overall color was very good throughout my testing, and its white balance system also performed well. In most cases, each of the white balance settings tested produced good results, with only slight color casts. It handled the difficult incandescent lighting of my Indoor Portrait test moderately well in Auto mode, and very well with its Incandescent white balance setting. Skin tones were good, if sometimes a little too red. Colors accuracy was better than average, and saturation was generally correct, with only a slight weakness in strong yellows. Overall, a good performance.

  • Exposure: Accurate exposure, but high contrast. The Olympus D590's exposure system was pretty accurate, requiring only the average amount of exposure compensation in shots that required it. Under the deliberately harsh lighting of the "Sunlit" Portrait and in the outdoor house shot, it produced very contrasty images, losing some highlight detail. Shadow detail was typically only moderate, with a moderately high level of image noise obscuring the finer details.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Good resolution, 1,200 lines of "strong detail." The D-590 Zoom performed about average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its four-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in both directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,200 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,500 lines.

  • Image Noise: Low noise in bright lighting, high noise in dim lighting, and particularly in long-range flash shots. Shots taken in all but rather dark conditions with the Olympus D-590 looked pretty "clean," and there was actually relatively little evidence of detail being lost to anti-noise processing. Shooting under rather dim conditions in Night Scene mode did produce rather noisy images, but you'd more or less expect that to be the case. What bothered us the most was that the D-590 cranks up its light sensitivity in flash mode, when shooting distant subjects. This makes flash shots at more than 10 feet or so very noisy.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with good detail, with very good results in Super Macro mode. Flash works reasonably well up close. The D-590 Zoom performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 2.26 x 1.69 inches (57 x 43 millimeters) in the normal macro mode. In Super Macro mode, the minimum area measured about 1.09 x 0.82 inches (28 x 21 millimeters). Resolution was high in both shots, showing a lot of fine detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Details were softer on the coins and brooch in the Super Macro shot, due to the close shooting range, but definition was still good. Details softened very slightly toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp throughout the center of the frame. (Most digital cameras produce images with soft corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The D-590 Zoom's flash throttled down a little too much for the macro area, and underexposed the shot, almost certainly due to the bright reflection from the brooch though. Much better than average Macro flash exposure.

  • Night Shots: Good low-light performance, though noise is high and color balance is warm. Autofocus system good to a bit darker than 1/4 foot-candle, fine for average city night scenes. The D-590 Zoom produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/8 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, with warm color from the Auto white balance setting. You could still see the target at the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) light level, but the exposure was quite dark. Noise was high, and the camera's autofocus system had a little trouble at the lower light levels. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the D-590 Zoom can capture bright images at slightly darker light levels, but you'll likely need the flash for much darker settings. (And as noted above, watch out for very high image noise if your flash subject is more than about 10 feet from the camera.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: An accurate LCD monitor. The D-590 Zoom's LCD monitor proved to be fairly accurate, showing about 97 percent accuracy at wide angle, and about 98 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the D-590 Zoom's LCD monitor performed fairly well here.

  • Optical Distortion: Average barrel distortion at wide angle. Average barrel distortion at wide angle, no distortion at telephoto. Low chromatic aberration, particularly at telephoto, good sharpness in the corners. Geometric distortion on the D-590 Zoom was about average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.8 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I couldn't find a single pixel of pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was relatively low, as I measured about five pixels of faint coloration. (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.)

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Average performance for both shutter lag and cycle time. The word that best describes the Olympus D-590's performance is "average." It's solidly in the middle of the range for most parameters, with a shutter lag that ranges from 0.84-0.88 second in full autofocus mode, and cycle times on the order of two seconds. Startup and shutdown times are also typical of cameras in its class.

  • Battery Life: Generally good battery life. With a worst-case run time of just over two hours in capture mode, the Olympus D-590 does better than most compact digital cameras. If you plan on any extended outings with it, I do still recommend purchasing a second battery, but for casual use, the included battery will probably be sufficient.

  • Print Quality: Slightly soft but usable prints at 11x14, sharp at 8x10. Flash shots at long range are very noisy, even at 4x6 print sizes. Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See our Canon i9900 review for details on that model.) Prints from the Olympus D-590 looked very good up to about 11x14 inches. At that size, the prints were a little soft, but looked fine on the wall. 8x10 prints were quite sharp at any viewing distance. In all cases, we saw very little evidence of lost detail due to anti-noise processing, something we appreciate in a camera. Images shot under low-light conditions were rather noisy looking when printed at 8x10 and larger, but looked fine at print sizes of 5x7 and below. A notable exception though, were flash shots with the subject more than 10 feet or so from the camera - Our flash test shot at 14 feet was very noisy, even when printed at only 4x6 inches.

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Good color
  • White balance handles incandescent lighting fairly well
  • Nice build quality
  • All-metal case
  • Built-in lens cover
  • Ease of use
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent macro ability
  • Accurate LCD viewfinder
  • Noisy images in dim lighting
  • Flash shots at longer range are very noisy
  • High contrast, has trouble with harsh lighting
  • No optical viewfinder

 

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The D-590 Zoom is the next generation of Olympus' user-friendly "D" series digital cameras. With its available Scene shooting modes, 4.0-megapixel CCD, and 3x optical zoom lens, the Olympus D-590 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 handles a range of shooting conditions. The D-590 Zoom's compact size and fully-covered lens assembly makes it well-suited for travel as well. The D-590 has more of a high-quality feel than its predecessor, and it cuts a smaller profile as well. Easy "pocketability" and a very friendly interface makes the Olympus D-590 Zoom a good second camera for more experienced enthusiasts, while the attractive price lets novices jump into the digital arena without a large investment.


 

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