DCRP Review: Olympus D-510 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, July 11, 2001
Last Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2002

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The Olympus D-510 Zoom ($399) is the latest revision of the very popular Olympus point-and-shoot line. The D-510Z replaces the D-490Z (see our review), adding USB support, a new 3X digital zoom (in addition to the 3X optical zoom), and a new, smaller body. Unfortunately, they also took away some nice features, as I'll detail in this review. Read on, and find out if the D-510Z is still one of the best midrange digicams out there.

The D-510Z is also known as the C-200 Zoom in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-510 Zoom has a decent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.1 Mpixel Olympus D-510 Zoom camera
  • 8MB SmartMedia card
  • 4 AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • 162 page manual (on CD) and 35 page Basic Manual (printed)

I must say I'm a bit disturbed by two recent trends with Olympus cameras. The first is the the manual is no longer included in the box -- it's in PDF format on the CD. Sure there's the 35 page "Basic Manual", but it's just that -- Basic. How much could it possibly cost to print it? As far as quality of the manual, I will say that Olympus' manuals are steadily improving and are much better than they were a year ago.

The second, stranger trend is with the batteries. Last year, Olympus stopped including rechargeable batteries, instead giving you their Long Life Lithium batteries. These CR-V3 batteries last a long time but aren't rechargeable and end up in the trash. On the D-510Z, they've gotten worse: only alkalines are included. These will be gone very quickly, and end up polluting the landfills in your area. What's strange is that the lower end Brio D-100 and D-150Z cameras both included the lithium batteries. My advice (after that long-winded diatribe): buy yourself some NiMH. You'll do your wallet and the environment a big favor.

The design of the D-510Z makes the lens cap obsolete, as you can see above.

One of the big new features on the D-510Z is support for USB connections. If you're using Mac OS 8.6 and above, or Windows 2000/ME, you can take advantage of Olympus' USB AutoConnect feature. What that means is that you won't need to install any drivers. If you've got Windows 98, you'll still have to install them.

The bundled software, Olympus Camedia Master, is just decent. I took a closer look at it in last year's Olympus C-3030Z review.

As far as accessories go, there really aren't any for either the D-400 or D-500 series. If you want a similar camera that can use accessory lens and filters, take a look at the Sony DSC-P50 (see our review).

Look and Feel

If you've used any of the D-400 series cameras before, you'll feel right at home with the D-510Z. In my eyes, the design of the 510Z is actually a step backwards from the D-490Z. I'll explain more about that below.

The 510Z is a small, plastic camera that feels quite solid. It can be used with one hand, though I preferred to use both. Unfortunately, that darn pop-up flash makes it difficult to do so. The dimensions of the 510Z are 4.6 x 1.9 x 2.6 (W x H x D) inches, and it weighs 240 grams empty. By comparison, the D-490Z had dimensions of 5.0 x 2.6 x 2.0, and it weighed 270 grams.

Let's begin our 360 degree tour of the D-510Z now, shall we?

Our first stop is the front of the camera. The 3X optical zoom F2.8 lens is the same lens that was on the D-490Z. It has a focal range of 5.4 - 16.2 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is not threaded. If you need additional zoom power, you can turn on the 3X digital zoom -- but do note that the quality will decrease if you do so.

The pop-up flash is my #2 most irritating change to the D-510Z (I'll save #1 for a bit later). On the D-490Z, it still popped out of the body like that, but only when you lifted it into position. Now, every time you pull open the lens cover, up it pops, and it won't go back down until you close the cover again. I rarely take flash pictures, and I found it very annoying to have the flash right where I want to put my left hand, and not being able to do anything about it. To the powers that be at Olympus: please return the flash to the "only when you want it" style!

Getting back to the facts: the working range of the D-510Z flash is 0.2 m - 4.0m at full wide-angle, and 0.2 m - 2.6 m at full telephoto. The flash strength is not adjustable on the D-510Z.

Now onto the back of the camera. The 1.8" LCD seems a little grainy compared to the D-490Z (though I can't say for sure), but it's still fluid and bright.

The optical viewfinder is good-sized and has diopter correction for those of you with glasses.

To the right of the LCD are several buttons, including the four-way switch, Menu/OK, and Display.

The four-way switch also does other functions, some of which are not so obvious. The "up" button doubles as the Macro/Infinity (Rec) and Protect (Play) button. The "right" button also handles the flash. And at first glance, it looks like "down" handles self-timer and delete. When I couldn't figure out how to put the camera into continuous shooting mode, I opened up the manual and saw that the down button is actually the "drive" button, rather than (just) the self-timer button.

On the top of the camera is my #1 most annoying change on the D-510Z: they got rid of the LCD info display! I find this feature very useful, providing information about remaining shots, flash mode, quality settings, and more. Now, to find this information out, you need to turn on the LCD. It seems like a step backwards to me!

So what will you find on the top of the D-510Z? Just the shutter release button and the zoom control. I'm not a fan of the zoom button's shape, but it works well enough.

On this side of the camera are the I/O ports. The power input is towards the left, while under a rubber cover, you'll find the USB and video out ports. There's no serial support available on the D-510Z.

On the other side of the camera is the SmartMedia slot. The slot is not spring-loaded but the card is easy to remove. The 510Z supports cards as large as 128MB.

Finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount.

Using the Olympus D-510 Zoom

Record Mode

The camera takes five seconds to extend the lens and "boot up" before you can start taking pictures. When you depress the shutter release halfway, focusing takes less than a second. Fully depressing the button results in a picture with minimal delay. Shot-to-shot speed is very good: you'll wait about 2-3 seconds between shots, depending on the quality setting. The zoom controls are a bit slow, but accurate.

There are a few resolution and quality choices on the D-510Z:

Resolution Quality # photos on 8MB card (included) # photos on 32MB card (for reference)
1600 x 1200 TIFF 1 5
SHQ 5 11
HQ 16 64
640 x 480 SQ - HIGH 32 132
SQ - NORMAL 82 331

Both the TIFF and SQ modes can be set to different resolutions, including 1600 x 1200 (TIFF only), 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, and 640 x 480.

Unlike most cameras, thankfully, the D-510Z only locks up the camera for about 12-13 seconds after you take a TIFF. Some other cameras take up to a minute!

Let's take a look at the menu choices available on the D-510Z now:

  • Camera Setup
    • Spot Metering (ESP, Spot)
    • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/2EV increments)
    • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
    • Digital zoom (on/off)
    • Panorama helper - only works with Olympus-branded SmartMedia cards
  • Picture Settings
    • White Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
    • Record mode (TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ)
    • Sharpness (Hard, normal, soft)
    • Contract (High, normal, low)
  • Card Setup (erase all, format)
  • Settings
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • File Naming (reset, auto file)
    • Clear settings (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Set date/time
    • LCD brightness

In addition to these, there are a few other options only accessible via the buttons on the back of the camera:

  • Flash (Auto, redeye reduction, fill-in flash, no flash, night scenes, night scenes + redeye reduction)
  • Self-timer (12 sec)
  • Sequential (continuous) shooting - speed not published, but I'd imagine it's around 2 frames/second, maybe a bit less. You can record up to 45 SQ shots in a row. TIFF mode not supported.

Okay, I've blabbed enough about menus, now let's talk about photos!

The D-510Z did quite well in our usual macro test. It handled the strange lighting in the "lab" just fine, which seems to be a rarity these days. You can get as close as 20 cm (8") in macro mode.

The camera did OK on the night shot test, but not wondrous. It didn't let let in as much light as I would've liked, and there's a fair amount of noise. Since you can't manually set the shutter speed or aperture, there's not much you can do about it. You might want to compare this shot to that from the similar Sony DSC-P50, which I took on the same night from the same location.

Just like with its predecessors, the D-510's photo quality has been excellent for a low-cost camera. Don't just take my word for it -- take a glance at our photo gallery and decide for yourself.

Movie Mode

I was disappointed that when Olympus upgraded the D-490Z, they didn't add sound recording to their movie mode. Oh well, can't have everything I guess.

All movies are recorded at 15 frames/second. There are two quality modes, described below:

Resolution Quality Total seconds on 8MB card Total seconds on 32MB card
320 x 240 HQ 23 96
160 x 120 SQ 105 424

In actuality, you can record up to 16 seconds per clip in HQ mode, and 70 seconds in SQ mode.

One nice thing which seems uncommon these days is the ability to use the optical zoom during filming. Thank you, Olympus!

Keeping with tradition of late, here's a boring sample movie:


Click to play movie - 1.5MB - QuickTime format

Playback Mode

The D-510Z has a pretty complete playback mode that's easy to use. Basic functions such as slideshows, DPOF print marking, protection, and thumbnail view is available. So is "zoom & scroll" and rotation.

The zoom and scroll feature uses the main zoom controls to 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 camera provides very limited information on your photo, such as quality, filename, and date. While I'm not asking for a histogram, it would be nice to see the shutter speed and aperture used.

The D-510Z moves through images very quickly -- about a second delay between SHQ photos.

How Does it Compare?

As a low-cost, point-and-shoot camera, the Olympus D-510Z should be near the top of your list. As features and photo quality go, it's excellent. What I don't understand is some of the nice features that were removed or changed between this model and its predecessor, the D-490Z. That includes the loss of the LCD info display, and the annoying new "always popup" flash. I'd also like to see sound recording added to movie mode. If those concerns don't bother you, then it's a great choice. If they do, you might want to consider some other cameras, or maybe even the old D-490Z!

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Lots of features for under $400
  • Familiar point-and-shoot body easy to learn
  • USB AutoConnect means no drivers
  • Fast processing speeds
  • Optical zoom works in movie mode

What I didn't care for:

  • Loss of LCD info display; addition of "always popup" flash
  • No sound in movie mode

Some other low cost, 2 Megapixel zoom cameras you'll want to consider include the Canon PowerShot A20, S110, and S300, Fuji FinePix 2400 Zoom, Nikon Coolpix 775, Olympus C-2040Z and D-490Z, Sony DSC-P50, and the Toshiba PDR-M61.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the D-510 Zoom 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-510 Zoom. If that's not enough, Imaging Resource has one too!

Feedback

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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