DCRP Review: Olympus Brio D-100
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Thursday, May 31, 2001
Last Updated: Thursday, May 31, 2001

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With all the talk about high-end digital cameras, we sometimes forget about the "little guys". You know, the entry-level cameras that most first time buyers are buying? Cameras without a lot of bells and whistles are getting a lot better, and the major manufacturers are finally getting into the act. And these aren't those "sign up for Internet service and get a free camera" products either, as Olympus' $349 Brio D-100 can attest to.

Note: The Brio D-100 is known as the C-1 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The D-100 has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 1.3 Mpixel Olympus D-100 camera
  • 8MB SmartMedia card
  • 1 CR-V3 lithium battery (non-rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and full manual
  • 37 page basic manual plus 104 page full manual (PDF format on CD)

Olympus kindly includes an 8MB SmartMedia card with the Brio. Now if we could only get them to include larger cards with their more expensive cameras!

The camera has a built-in cover over the lens, which negates the need for a lens cap.

On the other hand, I wish they'd include rechargeable batteries with their cameras. While the CR-V3 (and only one of them) lasts a long time, they end up polluting landfills and are expensive to replace. My advice: buy a 4 pack of NiMH rechargeables. Since the camera only uses 2 AA-sized batteries, you'll be set.

I have good news and bad news about the manuals included with the D-100. The good news is that they're a vast improvement over earlier Olympus manuals. The bad news is that the main manual is only on CD, in PDF format. For basic use, however, you should be able to get by using the basic manual that's in the box.

I've taken a look at the included Camedia Master software before, and would rank it as average among other products bundled with digital cameras.

One nice thing about the D-100 and other new Olympus cameras is the USB AutoConnect feature. This allows users of modern Macs and PCs to connect the camera without installing any drivers. This also means that the camera is compatible with Mac OS X.

Olympus will reportedly offer an underwater case at some point in the future for the D-100.

Look and Feel

The Brio D-100 is a small and very light plastic camera. It shares the point-and-shoot look of the D-400/500Z series, so you'll know how to use it right when you pick it up. It fits well in the hand, and its size and weight allow you to use it with one hand. The dimensions of the D-100 are 4.3 x 2.4 x 1.3, and it weighs just 165 grams (5.8 oz.).

Beginning our tour with the front of the camera: the F2.8 lens has a focal range of 4.5mm, equivalent to 36mm. There's no optical zoom on the D-100, so you're stuck with a 2X digital zoom. Do note that digital zoom degrades the quality of your photos when used. Olympus recently announced the D-150 Zoom which is similar to the Brio D-100 but includes a 3X optical zoom lens.

The flash on the D-100 has a working range of 0.7 - 9.8 feet.

The back of the camera is pretty sparse. The 1.5" LCD is smaller than your average LCD, but it's just as good as Olympus' other ones.

The optical viewfinder, while good-sized, lacks diopter correction for those of us with glasses.

To the left of the LCD are all the controls you'll find on the Brio D-100. The four-way switch not only moves through the menus, but it also controls several camera functions, including:

  • Flash
  • Zoom in (digitally) [record/playback]
  • Macro
  • Zoom out (digitally) [rec/play]

Above the four-way switch you'll find buttons for invoking the menus (which doubles as the OK button), as well as another for turning the LCD on and off.

Onto the top of the camera... where there's nothing going on. The only thing up here is the shutter release button, which works just fine. There is no LCD info display on the D-100, so you'll need to turn on the LCD to see settings and how many photos are remaining.

On one side of the D-100, you'll find the I/O ports, under a rubber cover. Let's take a look...

It's not the best picture, but you can hopefully see the USB, Video, and power ports.

And here's the other side of the camera, with the 8MB SmartMedia card shown. The door over the slot is solid plastic and won't be coming apart anytime soon. The slot itself is not spring-loaded, so you just yank the card out.

Last but not least, the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment (which holds one CR-V3 or two AAs) as well as a plastic tripod mount.

Using the Olympus Brio D-100

Record Mode

The camera starts up quickly, since there's no lens to extend. It takes about 3 seconds before you can start using it. The LCD does not come on by default so you'll need to hit the Display button to turn it on.

When you depress the shutter release halfway to lock focus, there's a bit of a delay before it happens. There's about a half second wait before the picture is taken, when the button is fully depressed. After taking a shot, you'll have to wait about four seconds before you can take another shot (HQ mode).

The digital zoom is somewhat slow to react -- and as I mention, reduces image quality (see the gallery).

Compared to some other Olympus cameras, the Brio's resolution and quality choices are simple. Here's a chart to explain:

Quality Setting (resolution) 8MB card (included) 32MB card (for reference)
SHQ (1280 x 960) 18 73
HQ (1280 x 960) 36 146
SQ (640 x 480) 122 489

Like with the C-700 Ultra Zoom, Olympus has departed from the traditional menu system of previous cameras. Where the C-700's menus were highly customizable, the D-100's are very basic. Settings are not saved when the camera is shut off, and they're a little slow to navigate.

The choices you'll find in the menus include:

  • Flash (auto, redeye, force, slow synch, off) - you can also set this using the "left" button on the four-way switch
  • Self-timer (on/off)
  • Macro (on/off)
  • Continuous shooting (on/off) - three shots in about 2 seconds
  • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 0.5EV increments)
  • Quality (SHQ, HQ, SQ)
  • White Balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
  • Beep (on/off)
  • Date/time set
  • LCD brightness

As you can see, this is as basic as it gets. Let's take a look at some photos now, shall we?

The macro test came out just so-so. While the colors were pretty accurate, there's a lot of grain in the above shot. The D-100 can shoot between 0.4 inches - 1.6 feet in macro mode.

The D-100 did a pretty good job at our nightshot test, especially considering I couldn't zoom in like I usually do. It took in enough light to make the skyline recognizable, and there's very little noise.

I was pleasantly surprised with the D-100's photo quality -- I wasn't expecting much from an inexpensive camera. But the D-100 delivered, except in shots where the digital zoom was used, but you'll find that issue on all digital zoom equipped cameras. But don't take my word for it -- decide for yourself after looking at our photo gallery.

Playback Mode

The D-100's playback mode is pretty basic. You've got slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, and "zoom and scroll".

The menus in playback mode annoyed me a bit. For example, when you want to delete all photos or format the card, you have to invoke the menu, scroll down, choose "yes", pick between format or erase all, and choose yes again. Perhaps all this is to prevent accidental formatting? Who knows...

You can zoom into your images (up to 2X, no "steps"), and then scroll around in them. To switch between zooming and scrolling you hit the Display button.

The Brio doesn't tell you much about your photos other than when they were taken and the quality. I'd like to know the exposure information, but I'm not sure if the target audience does as well.

The camera moves between HQ quality shots in about a second, which is plenty fast.

How Does it Compare?

For people looking for their first digital camera, I would definitely consider the Olympus Brio D-100. It's inexpensive, very easy to use, small and light, and it takes good quality pictures. My only real complaint is the lack of the zoom lens -- but Olympus has already remedied this with the Brio D-150 Zoom, shipping soon.

What I liked:

  • Small, light, well designed
  • Takes good pictures
  • Good value
  • USB AutoConnect means no drivers

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical zoom
  • No movie mode
  • No rechargeable batteries included

Some other cameras to consider while shopping include the Canon PowerShot A10, Fuji FinePix 1300 and 2300, and the Sony DSC-P30.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Brio D-100 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the D-100. If you're still hungry, check out Imaging Resource's review.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com.

 

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