DCRP Review: Olympus Brio D-150 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Friday, July 20, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, July 20, 2001

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Olympus continues to expand their entry level line with the Brio D-150 Zoom. This is in addition to the 1.3 Megapixel Brio D-100 and new C-370 cameras. The D-150 Zoom is the same as the D-100, but with a 3X optical zoom lens. If the content of this review seems familiar, it's because it's largely based on the D-100 review.

The $350 D-150Z costs an extra $100 than the D-100. What's even more interesting is that the 2.1 Megapixel D-510Z costs just $50 more. I'd think most people would spend the extra $50 for more Megapixels, but that's another story.

Note: The Brio D-150 Zoom is known as the C-1 Zoom in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The D-150Z has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 1.3 Mpixel Olympus D-150 Zoom 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 108 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-150Z. 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. There is a "basic" manual that's included, but it's just that -- basic.

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-150Z 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.

Look and Feel

The Brio D-150Z is a small and light plastic camera. It's also very small, and can easily fit in your pocket. The camera can be held without trouble with one or two hands. While the camera is made out of plastic, it doesn't have that "cheap" feel that some other cameras have. The dimensions of the D-150Z are 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.4, and it weighs just 185 grams (6.5 oz.). For those of you playing along at home, that makes it slightly bigger and heavier than the D-100.

Beginning our tour with the front of the camera: the F2.4 lens has a focal range of 5 - 15mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded so don;'t expect any accessories lenses for the D-150.

Like the D-510Z, the D-150 has the annoying pop-up flash, which takes up valuable space for your left hand. You can't put the flash down until you close the camera, either. The flash on the D-150Z has a working range of 0.2 - 3.5 m.

The back of the camera is pretty sparse. The 1.5" LCD is smaller than your average LCD, and seemed a bit dark at times. You can adjust the brightness via the onscreen menus.

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

To the right of the LCD are all the controls you'll find on the Brio D-150Z. The four-way switch not only moves through the menus, but it also controls several camera functions, including macro and flash settings.

Below 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. That button (Display) also puts the camera in playback mode. Hit it once when the camera is off, or "double-click" it while it's on.

On the top of the camera, you'll find the shutter release button, as well as the zoom controls. There is no LCD info display on the D-150Z, so you'll need to turn on the LCD to see current settings and how many photos are remaining.

On one side of the D-150Z, you'll find the I/O ports, under a rubber cover. They include USB, Video Out, and power in. There's no serial support available on the 150.

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. To the right is the CR-V3 Long Life Lithium battery.

Using the Olympus Brio D-150Z

Record Mode

The camera takes about 5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. The LCD does not come on by default so you'll need to hit the Display button to turn it on. Depressing the shutter release halfway results in focus lock in under a second. There's slight shutter lag when you press the button all the way, but it's minor. Shot-to-shot speed is about average -- you'll wait about 4 seconds before you can take another shot (HQ mode). The zoom lens is fairly responsive and accurate.

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) 8 35
HQ (1280 x 960) 24 99
SQ (640 x 480) 82 331

The D-150Z has a different menu system than all the other cameras, with the obvious exception of the D-100. 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
  • Drive (single, continuous, self-timer)
  • Macro (on/off)
  • Digital zoom (on/off)
  • 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

The continuous shooting mode allows you to take several photos in a row (four in HQ mode) at about 2 frames/second.

Let's take a look at some photos now, shall we?

The camera did a good job at our macro test shot, with little noise and accurate colors. The D-150Z can shoot between 0.2 - 0.5 meters in macro mode.

The D-150 did fairly well at the low-light test as well. It didn't take in as much light as I was hoping, but for a cheap camera it's fine.

For an inexpensive 1.3 Megapixel camera, the Brio D-150Z takes very good photos. Color and sharpness are very good in almost every situation. But don't take my word for it -- decide for yourself after looking at our photo gallery.

Playback Mode

The D-150Z'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. Scrolling around is a bit on the slow side.

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. It will take a little longer to move between SHQ photos, as you might guess.

How Does it Compare?

If you want an inexpensive camera that's good at taking shots for web pages and e-mailing photos, check out the Olympus Brio D-150 Zoom. I'd definitely pay the extra bucks for this model, over the zoomless D-100. At the same time, I'd encourage shoppers to pay a little more for the D-510Z, which has more features, 2.1 Megapixel resolution, and movie modes. Either way, it's not a bad deal.

What I liked:

  • Small, light, well designed
  • Takes good pictures
  • Good value for 3X zoom camera
  • USB AutoConnect means no drivers

What I didn't care for:

  • Sluggish, clumsy menus
  • No movie mode
  • No rechargeable batteries included

Some other cameras to consider while shopping include the Canon PowerShot A10 and A20, Fuji FinePix 2400, Olympus D-510Z, and the Sony DSC-P30 and P50.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the Brio D-150Z 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-150Z. If you're still hungry, check out Imaging Resource's review.

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, I cannot make personal camera recommendations via e-mail.

 

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