Olympus focuses on value
- By Dan Carney
- Nov 07, 2000
The Olympus D-460 Zoom camera is a compact, instamatic-style point-and-shoot
camera, placing it squarely in the low end of digital camera types. Unlike
many such cameras, however, the D-460 offers high-quality images at 1,280-by-960,
1.3 megapixel resolution.
The 3X power zoom lens gives the D-460 the equivalent of a 35-105mm
lens on a 35mm camera. It retracts into the camera for protection when the
camera is turned off. The protective slide that covers the lens serves as
the D-460's on/off switch.
The flash has five modes: automatic, red-eye reducing, fill-in, slow
shutter synchronization, and a combined red-eye reducing/slow shutter synchronization
mode. The automatic, anti-red eye and fill flash modes are self-explanatory,
but the latter modes could use some elaboration. The slow shutter speed
synchronization mode is for taking pictures in poor light using a tripod.
The flash will fire during the first half of the shutter exposure, leaving
the ambient light to fill in the details. The combined red-eye reduction/slow
shutter mode fires the anti-red-eye series of flashes before firing the
main flash during the first half of a shutter exposure.
Shooting pictures in dim light would have been crazy with earlier digital
cameras, which had the light sensitivity of slow 100 ASA film. That is great
for taking pictures at the beach, but it's not so good for darker locations.
The D-460 offers sensitivity settings equivalent to 125, 250 and 500 ASA,
enabling it to shoot with fairly quick shutter speeds in dim situations.
The D-460's white balance looked good when set to automatic, but for
better results under different conditions, Olympus provides quick settings
for incandescent and fluorescent indoor lighting and for sunny and cloudy
outdoor lighting. This avoids the excessive blueness that's seen in the
outdoor pictures taken on a sunny day with Epson America Inc.'s PhotoPC 850Z.
One particularly unique feature of the D-460 is a true panoramic mode.
Many cameras offer a panoramic mode that simply crops the top and bottom
off pictures, creating a wide image. But that doesn't expand the width of
the picture. The Olympus does. It lets users assemble multiple pictures
by projecting lines on the display showing which parts of the sides of a
photo need to line up with sides of the photo that will be mated to it.
The camera can connect as many as 10 pictures together to create a panorama.
Another unique feature is the ability of the D-460 to shoot and store
uncompressed TIFF images when the user can tolerate absolutely no degradation
from compression. The standard 8M memory card holds only two pictures in
this mode, but users can add capacity by downloading the pictures frequently
to a portable computer or they can buy a 64M card that will hold 16 uncompressed
Using standard JPEG compression, the 8M card holds 18 images of 1,280
pixel-by-960 pixel resolution with minimum compression and as many as 122
images with 640 pixel-by-480 pixel resolution with standard compression.
The D-460 has 10 buttons on the back and has a poor interface for using
them. Three of the buttons serve double duty, performing different tasks
depending on what mode the camera is in. The others switch the display on
and off, call up the menu, enter selections or navigate through the menu.
Even navigation through the menu isn't as simple as it should be because
to select settings such as the uncompressed TIFF photo mode requires
the user to hold the arrow button to that selection for a couple seconds,
rather than simply point at it.
This is unnecessarily difficult, but the worst useability failure on
this camera is the switch that controls the zoom lens. There is a small
toggle mounted near the shutter release button that seems to have a fairly
obvious function: Press it forward to zoom in simulating moving forward or pull back to zoom out. Alas, that isn't how it works. Instead, the
user must press forward to zoom out and pull back to get closer. It is the
most inexplicable ergonomic flaw in any product I have reviewed.
The D-460 relies on an old, slow serial connection to download pictures
to a PC. For presentation purposes, the D-460 also features an NTSC TV output
port and cable, so the camera can display images on a television.
Olympus supplies Camedia Master 1.2 software with the D-460, which unifies
photo importation and editing into one program. It works easily in both
roles, though some users may prefer to use an editing program they already
have, such as Adobe Systems Inc.'s PhotoShop.
The Olympus D-460 isn't the easiest digital camera to use, nor does
it offer the most features or highest resolutions. But the D-460 does offer
a lot of value per dollar.