DCRP First Look: Olympus D-380
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, March 25, 2002
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 17, 2002

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This is a "preview" of the Olympus D-380. The camera described here is a pre-production model, and features and look-and-feel are subject to change. When a production model is available, I will update the review and provide a conclusion.

The Olympus D-380 ($199) is the latest fixed focal length camera from Olympus. Their product line can be somewhat confusing, with the Brio D-230 and this camera being quite similar.

The D-380 has the following new features compared with its predecessor, the D-370:

  • Self-portrait Mode - sets up the best conditions to take a great self-portrait.
  • 2 in 1 Image Merge – creates 2 side-by-side photos in one shot.
  • Image Resize feature

Find out more about this camera in our special preview!

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-380 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.0 effective Mpixel Olympus D-380 camera
  • 8MB SmartMedia card
  • 4 AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • Manual (not included with my pre-production camera)

The D-380 includes an 8MB SmartMedia card, which will get you started with digital photography. But if you really want to get serious, you'll need a larger card -- 32MB or better is my recommendation.

Another recommendation is about batteries. Olympus includes four AA alkaline batteries, which end up in the trash (please recycle them if possible!) quickly. My advice: two sets of NiMH rechargeables, which last longer and are much less expensive than throwaway alkalines.

As you can see, the lens cover, which doubles as the power switch, eliminates the need for a lens cap.

Olympus likes to talk about their AutoConnect USB system, which lets you use the camera with a Mac or PC running a modern version of their respective OS -- without installing drivers first. The camera works fine with Mac OS X.

As far as accessories go, don't count on many. This is a point-and-shoot camera, so there won't be any external lens or flash support.

While it wasn't included with my pre-production camera, Olympus has updated their Camedia Master Software to version 4.0, and it sounds better from reading the description. I'll put it to the test when I get it, and will update this review.

There was no manual included with my test camera -- in the past, I've complained about the manual being on CD. We'll see what happens when I get the real thing.

Look and Feel

The D-380 looks similar to the Brio D-230 and the new D-520Z. It's larger than the D-520Z, but is still small enough to slip into a pocket. The body style should be familiar to consumers who have used 35mm point-and-shoot cameras.

The camera is made mostly of plastic, but it feels "high grade" and should survive trips into the wilderness. The camera fits pretty well in your hands -- better, in fact, than the D-520Z since there's no popup flash.

The official dimensions of the camera are 4.8 x 2.6 x 1.8 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs about 190 grams without batteries installed.

Here's the front of the camera, with the lens cover pulled back.

The D-380 uses a 4.5 mm fixed focal length lens, which is equivalent to 35 mm. The switch below the lens puts the camera into macro mode. There are no lens accessories for this camera, as I mentioned.

Towards the top-right of the photo, you can see the D-380's flash. The working range of the flash is 0.25 - 2.5 m. Flash strength is not adjustable. I'm happy to see that the flash isn't the popup variety found on the D-510Z and D-520Z.

One thing I'd like to see on this -- and all Olympus cameras -- is some sort of AF illuminator to aid in low light focusing.

Here's the back of the D-380. The 1.6" LCD is slightly larger than the 1.5" on the D-520Z I just reviewed. The LCD is bright and fluid, which is nice for a low cost camera. LCD brightness is adjustable via the menu system.

Just above the LCD is a decent-sized optical viewfinder. There's no diopter correction available. Nose smudges on the LCD should not be a problem.

Over to the right, you'll find the four-way switch plus two more buttons. The four way switch is used for menus as well as these other functions:

  • Digital zoom in (up)
  • Flash (right)
  • Digital zoom out (down)
  • Self-timer (left)

The buttons below the four-way switch toggle the LCD and menu system on and off. That LCD button is also used to enter Playback mode.

The only thing you'll find on the top of the camera is the shutter release button. I would've liked to see an LCD info display, which saves you a trip to the big LCD on the back to see shots remaining and basic settings. I guessing it got axed to keep the cost of the camera down.

On this side of the camera are the I/O ports, found under that rubber cover. On top is the DC in port (for optional AC adapter) and on the bottom is USB. There is no video out support on the D-380.

Here's the other side of the camera, opened up. You can see the SmartMedia slot (just pull the card out to remove it), and the included 8MB card.

Finally, here's the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount. The D-380 uses four AA-sized batteries versus only two on the D-520Z. You can also use CR-V3 batteries for this -- Olympus sells CR-V3 Lithium batteries that you can use. These last longer than alkalines and perhaps NiMH, but are not rechargeable.

Using the Olympus D-380

Record Mode

Being a fixed focal length camera has its advantages. The camera turns on instantly, and has no lag normally seen on autofocus cameras. There is a tiny bit of shutter lag, but nothing terrible. Shot-to-shot speed is pretty good, with less than a 3 second wait between photos.

The disadvantage of a fixed focus camera is digital zoom. This is no replacement for a true glass optical zoom lens. Digital zoom essentially crops the image and then magnifies that area. Image quality goes down rapidly as you increase the digital zoom.

The resolution and quality options are quite simple on the D-380. Here they are:

Resolution Quality # photos on 8MB card (included)
1608 x 1200 SHQ 5
1600 x 1200 HQ 16
1024 x 768 SQ1 29
640 x 480 SQ2 47

The first thing I want to mention is that the SHQ resolution is not a typo. You get a few extra pixels in that mode, for some reason.

The D-380 uses the newest Olympus menu system, though it's not customizable like on some more expensive cameras. When you first start it, you're presented with four choices:

  • Drive (Single-shot, continuous shooting, movie mode)
  • Mode Menu - see below
  • Function (2-in-1, self-portrait, panorama) - more below
  • Quality - described in chart above

Continuous shooting mode will take a photo at a rate of 1.3 frames/second, for up to 8 shots (in HQ mode).

The function menu has two new features that weren't seen on the D-380. The first is 2-in-1 mode, which lets you take two pictures and put them side-by-side into one. So for before and after pictures, perhaps? There's always a catch, and the catch here is that you can't do this in playback mode. So unless the after happens soon after the before, this won't work for that. Hopefully I'm totally wrong about this, but I can't see any other way to make it work. I'll do a sample photo when I get a production-level camera.

Self-portrait mode lets you turn the camera on yourself and take a picture.

Let's take a look at the Mode Menu now. As you can see, your choices are few.

  • Camera Setup
    • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/2EV increments)
    • Metering (ESP, Spot)
  • Picture Settings
    • White Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
  • Card Setup (erase all, format)
  • Settings
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • LCD brightness
    • Set date/time

Once I get a production model D-380, I will do the usual photo tests. In addition, Olympus has asked me not to post any images from this camera since the image quality is not representative of the final product.

Movie Mode

The D-380 can record Quicktime movies, without sound. You can choose from 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 sizes -- both are recorded at 15 frames/second.

Clips are limited to 15 seconds in HQ (320 x 240) mode and 60 seconds in SQ (160 x 120) mode.

Once I get "the real thing", I'll put up a sample movie.

Playback Mode

The D-380 has a pretty standard playback mode that's easy to use. Basic functions such as slideshows, DPOF print marking, protection, and thumbnail view are available.

The zoom and scroll feature lets you zoom in as close as 3X. You can then use the four-way switch to move around inside the image.

Another nice feature is rotation mode -- unfortunately it's only for viewing on the LCD or the TV, as the image isn't actually re-saved in its rotated position.

The D-380 provides much more information about photos than its predecessor, as you can see above. The camera moves through images almost instantly.

How Does it Compare?

Once I get the production model camera, I will post the usual final thoughts and other cameras to consider.

Photo Gallery

Olympus has requested that I do not post any images from this pre-production model.

Want a second opinion?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the D-380.


Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Please do not ask me for a personal recommendation, or missing software/drivers.

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