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Olympus D-490 Zoom

Olympus updates a popular 1.3 megapixel model to 2 megapixels, with improved features.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 10/28/2000

Executive Overview
Anyone already familiar with Olympus digital cameras will immediately notice the similarities in design between the earlier model D-460 and the new D-490 Zoom. The D-490's silver-gold body features flashy gold detailing and a flat black back panel. Its small size and smooth contours make it very compact and portable. As with the D-460, the built-in lens cover serves as a power switch, thus eliminating any worries about losing the lens cap. All of the main controls are located on the back panel of the camera, with the exception of the shutter button and zoom lever, which are on top. An indentation on the right side of the back panel gives your thumb a natural place to grip the camera, while the sliding lens cover (in open position) offers a textured grip plate in front. These features make the camera easy to shoot one-handed, without the bulkiness of larger camera grips.

The optical viewfinder and LCD monitor are both located on the back of the camera. The viewfinder features a diopter adjustment dial to accommodate eyeglass wearers, and green and orange LED lights to indicate the need for a flash (orange) and the camera's ready status (green), when you depress the shutter button halfway. The LCD monitor is turned on and off with the first in a vertical series of three buttons to the right of the monitor. The 1.8-inch screen features a Thin Film Transfer (TFT) color display with a total of 61,000 pixels.

The Olympus 5.4-6.2mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera) offers a maximum aperture range of f/2.8-f/4.4, depending on the zoom setting. Focus ranges from 8 to 31 inches (20-80cm) in Macro mode and from 31 inches (80cm) to infinity in normal mode. A Through-the-Lens (TTL) autofocus function uses an efficient contrast detection system for precision focusing. For shooting in low-light or other challenging circumstances, the camera offers two "Quick Focus" presets of 8 feet (2.5 meters) and infinity. These are accessed by using the Arrow Pad on the back of the camera, in combination with the camera’s shutter button. The optical zoom lens is controlled by the Zoom lever on top of the camera, and an optional "Digital Zoom" function can be engaged at any focal length by depressing the Macro/Digital Telephoto button twice (located above the Monitor on/off button). The digital zoom is adjustable in (approximate) half-step increments via the Arrow Pad.

Since there's no Record/Playback/Movie mode dial on the D-490 (usually integrated with the on/off control), the camera is automatically in Record mode when you open the lens cover. In Record, the camera defaults to auto-exposure mode, setting the aperture and shutter speeds based on Digital ESP matrix metering. While you cannot manually select the aperture or shutter speed, you can override the automatic exposure through the camera’s Record menu (accessed via the "Menu" button next to the Monitor). Specific exposure functions available in the Record menu are: exposure compensation (EV), white balance (WB), spot meter/ESP, and ISO. The Arrow Pad allows you to scroll through these and other menu functions, which include: quality setting, sequence shooting mode, special function options (movie or panoramic), normal or soft sharpness, file name control, sound on/off settings, and menu set/reset.

A Self-timer button on the back panel doubles as a Print button in Playback mode. When set in Record mode, the Self-timer gives a 12-second delay countdown before the shutter fires. The flash is activated by simply flipping up the flash cover on the front of the camera. It has five operative settings (Auto, Rd-eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Slow Shutter Synchronization, and Slow Shutter Synchronization with Red-Eye Reduction) which are controlled by the Flash/Erase button to the left of the Self-timer. The flash automatically turns off when the flash cover is flipped back down.

The Macro/Digital telephoto button functions as a write-protect button when the camera is in Playback mode. (Write-protection safeguards images from accidental erasure, but does not protect them from the camera’s Format Card function.) White balance is a function of the camera’s Record menu. It offers five settings: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Incandescent, and Fluorescent light. Exposure Compensation (EV) can be adjusted from - 2 to +2 in 0.5 EV (f/stop) units.

The Drive mode allows you to shoot up to 45 sequential images at approximately two frames per second, depending on available memory and image quality. Panorama and QuickTime Movie modes are also available on the D-490, accessible through the Function option. (Note that the Panorama option is only enabled when using Olympus-branded SmartMedia storage cards).

Another big plus is the ability to change the ISO setting on the camera. Through the Record menu, you can select Auto, 100, 200, and 400 (for shooting in low-light situations or fast action photography). While the higher ISO values produce images with more noise in them, they're invaluable for capturing images that would otherwise be impossible.

Images are stored on 3.3V SmartMedia cards (an 8MB card comes with the camera) with Record options of Standard Quality (SQ), Standard Quality - High (SQ-HIGH), High Quality (HQ), Super High Quality (SHQ), and Super High Quality - Non-Compressed TIFF (SHQ-TIFF). An 8MB card will hold 82 SQ and 32 SQ-HIGH 640 x 480-pixel images; and 16 HQ, 5 SHQ, and 1 SHQ-TIFF 1,600 x 1,200-pixel images.

A Video Out cable, located in a covered compartment on the bottom left side, allows you to connect to a television set for image playback. The same compartment also houses the AC adapter connector and computer connector port. (The conversion connector works on serial port equipped Mac computers, but USB-based Mac owners will need to purchase a USB-based card reader to import their photos.) A CD-ROM is supplied with Camedia Master 2.0 software for Macintosh and Windows. The software provides image management and manipulation tools - including panorama-stitching - plus sample images, template borders for creating image montages, and QuickTime Movie software.

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