Review: Olympus D-490Z
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, August 21, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2000
are success stories, then there are success stories. For
Olympus, their D-400 series of digital cameras has been a big hit
with consumers. People are instantly drawn to D-400 series, thanks
to their resemblance to regular 35mm point-and-shoot cameras. They've
also taken great pictures and had a 3X optical zoom (where most
lower cost cameras used a digital zoom). With the new $499 D-490
Zoom, Olympus has bumped up the resolution to 2.1 Megapixel,
added Movie mode, as well as a host of features found on much more
expensive cameras. Has Olympus hit this one out of the park too?
in the Box?
D-490Z has an average bundle included with the camera:
2.1 Mpixel Olympus D-490Z camera
CR-3V "long life" lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
cables for Mac and PC
featuring Olympus CamediaMaster software
guides (three languages)
issues I have in this section are just about the only complaints
I have with this camera. And here they go:
only an 8MB card? It couldn't cost that much more for a 16MB card,
could it? Folks, if you buy this camera, you'll want to get a
decent sized cards if you want to take more than 16 HQ photos.
Olympus' long life Li-ion batteries are impressive, they're no
substitute for rechargeables. I'd love to see Olympus include
them here, but since they don't, buy yourself a set of NiMH batteries.
USB support is included. The D-490Z inherited lots of features
from it's more expensive siblings, but USB was not one of them.
Get yourself a card reader to resolve this problem (serial is
way too slow).
can forgive Olympus for the first two, but leaving out USB seems
like a no-no to me. You can resolve all these issues yourself, of
course, with your credit card.
great design of the D-490Z means the lens is always covered when
the camera is not in use. And no messy lens caps, either!
covered Olympus' CamediaMaster v2.0 software in the past, and I
won't rehash it here. Look at our Olympus
C-3030Z vs. Nikon Coolpix 990 review for the scoop on that.
provides three different manuals - one in English, one in French,
and the other in Spanish. Olympus' manuals have been improving in
Olympus D-490Z is exceedingly well-designed. It feels solid, everything
is well-placed, and it's not too hard on the eyes, either. The camera's
dimensions are 5" x 2.6" x 2.1", and it weighs 9.5
ounces when empty. It fits well in the hand, with plenty of room
for the right hand, and some spots for your left hand as well (just
make sure you don't cover the flash). Let's begin our tour with
the back of the camera:
first thing that sticks out on the back of the camera is the 1.8"
LCD display. Well not terribly bright, it's clear and smooth. There
is no way to adjust the LCD brightness in record mode -- you need
to use playback mode to do this. The LCD is off by default, which
saves batteries. Nose smudging will be a problem when you use the
of which, the optical viewfinder includes diopter correction, for
those with less than perfect vision.
the right of the LCD are several buttons, most of which are used
for navigating the menu system. The up and down buttons on the four-way
switch also double as quick focus buttons -- for infinity and 8
feet respectively. The topmost round button turns the LCD on and
off, toggles between record and play mode, and also turns on play
mode when the lens cover is shut.
that button (and a bit hard to see) are buttons that are used in
both record and playback mode. From left to right: Flash, self-timer,
and macro/infinity in record mode, and trash, DPOF, and Protect
in play mode.
the top of the camera now, where it's business as usual. The LCD
info display tells you basic settings about quality, flash, battery
status, and remaining photos. To the right of that is the shutter
release, which gives good tactile feedback. Just right of that is
the zoom lever. While there's a small delay before the lens reacts,
the 3X optical zoom is smooth and accurate.
one side of the camera are ports for DC in, video out, and serial
out. Sure wish there was a USB port here too! The door covering
these ports stays shut, and is well built.
the other side is the SmartMedia slot, with the included 8MB card
shown. While the door is solid, it's easy to open accidentally (though
the card won't fall out). To remove the SmartMedia card, you just
grab it and pull it out.
finally, the bottom of the camera. There you'll find the battery
compartment, as well as a plastic tripod mount.
the Olympus D-490Z
going to discuss record mode (with the movie function) and playback
mode in this section.
takes just about three seconds for the camera to extend the lens
and "boot up" before you can take any pictures. The LCD
display doesn't turn on by default, so you'll want to turn it on
yourself. Keep in mind that using the LCD will drain your batteries
faster than not using it!
is the word when taking photos in record mode
D-490Z is a point-and-shoot camera, so it's easy to use. There isn't
any mode wheel, and there are few confusing options to deal with.
There are no preprogrammed settings on this camera like on some
(Casio most notably) -- just stills and movies, and a few options
time (between shots) is a bit less than 2 seconds -- which means
you can quickly shoot, recompose, and shoot again. The D-490Z seems
to be as fast as the C-2020Z that I use occasionally. There was
no noticeable lag in focusing or releasing the shutter.
menus, while well-designed, have little icons that are a bit confusing
at first glance. Your choices in the menus in record mode are:
compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
(ESP and spot)
(SHQ-TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ-HIGH, SQ)
Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
(single shot, continuous shooting)
shooting (Movie mode, Panorama Mode)
naming and other settings
few notes on some of these. First, SHQ-TIFF is indeed an uncompressed
TIFF mode. You'll only get one of these on that 8MB card though.
Panorama mode only works when you have an Olympus-brand SmartMedia
movie mode, you have your choice of two resolutions: 320 x 240,
or 160 x 120. You can record for up to 15 and 60 seconds in these
modes, respectively. These are silent movies, as no sound is recorded.
One nice in-camera feature is an editing mode, where you can trim
the beginning or end off a movie you've recorded. Below is a short
to play movie (2.2MB, 7 seconds, Quicktime format)
next test is our usual macro test, as you'll see below. The white
balancing wasn't great, under an incandescent light here.
finally, how about not one, but two night shots? The usual spot
at Twin Peaks was fogged in, so I tried St. Ignatius Church at USF.
There's no night scene mode on this camera -- I used slow sync on
the first, and just did a handheld shot on the other one. The sky
seemed awfully black for San Francisco, but there isn't any noise
to be found.
has a pretty good playback mode on the D-490Z. It takes around 3
seconds to move between photos, which is a bit slower than average
these days. You can zoom into your photos up to 3X, and you can
scroll around in them. There's also slideshows, movie viewing, DPOF
printing support, and thumbnail mode.
can delete one photo, or all of them, but not a group. There is
no way to get any extra info about your photos such as exposure
you can see some menu options in playback mode
can adjust the LCD brightness in playback mode, which is strange,
since you can't do it in record mode.
already mentioned the video editing feature, which lets you trim
your videos to get rid of any useless footage.
in all, a typical playback mode -- which is a good thing.
Does it Compare?
can say with confidence that Olympus has another hit on their hands.
They've taken the already popular D-400 series and added a much
needed 2.1 Megapixel CCD, plus some nice features usually not found
on midrange cameras, like an uncompressed TIFF mode. My main gripe
is the lack of USB support, which can be resolved by purchasing
a card reader. If you're looking for a great $500 digital camera,
look no more - the D-490Z is a great choice.
photos day and night
to learn & use
8MB SmartMedia card, no rechargeable batteries
sound in movies
D-490Z is in the pretty busy midrange camera market. Other cameras
to consider are the Olympus
D-460Z (which now costs $399), Canon
PowerShot S10, Casio
DC3400 (review coming soon), and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try these
cameras yourself before you make any purchases.
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion?
out Steve's Digicams review
of the D-490Z.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.