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DCRP Review: Olympus D-535 Zoom  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 14, 2005
Last Updated: February 13, 2008

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The Olympus D-535 Zoom ($149) is an entry-level point-and-shoot camera. Despite its low price, the camera still packs a 3.2 Megapixel CCD and 3X optical zoom lens. Previously a camera in this price range would have a fixed focal length lens -- but not anymore.

I spend a lot of time reviewing fancy cameras, so how about something for beginners instead? Our review of the D-535Z starts now.

Please note that the D-535Z is called the C-370 Zoom and X-450 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The D-535Z has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 effective Megapixel Olympus D-535Z digital camera
  • Two AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Master software and drivers
  • Basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

With the D-535, Olympus took the internal memory route. That is to say that there's no memory card included, instead relying on 12MB of onboard memory. That won't hold too many photos, so you will want to buy an xD Picture Card at some point to hold more. I'd recommend a 128MB xD card as a good place to start. Do note that xD cards tend to be more expensive than other memory card formats out there, except for maybe Memory Stick.

The D-535Z uses two AA batteries, and Olympus includes alkalines in the box. Unfortunately those won't last long and will end up in the trash. So I recommend buying a four pack of NiMH rechargeables (plus a charger), which gives you a set for the camera plus a spare. Unfortunately Olympus doesn't publish any battery life statistics for the D-535, so I can't give you any exact numbers. It didn't seem any worse than average during my time with it, though.

The D-535 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about. As you can see, it's a pretty small camera as well.

There really aren't any accessories for the D-535Z to speak of, aside from an AC adapter ($40). Olympus does sell some NiMH battery kits, though you can probably find similar items for less elsewhere.

Olympus includes their new Master software with the camera, and I have to say that they've done a great job with it. The first thing you'll probably do with the software is transfer photos from your camera. Once you've done that, you've got a nice thumbnail view that you can organize by date or keywords. A calendar view is also available.

It's easy to change the size of the thumbnails, and everything was snappy on my PowerMac G5.

If you want to edit a photo, that's just a click away. You can rotate, crop, reduce redeye, or do an "instant fix". If you want to adjust the color balance, you can do that as well, as you can see above.

The software can also be used to "stitch" together several photos into one panoramic photo.

Sharing photos is easy: you can print them or e-mail them right in the Master software. Naturally, there's a slideshow feature available as well. And, if you want to archive them to a CD or DVD, that's available too.

Just like with their old Camedia Master software, Olympus has a "Plus" version available for $20 more. The Master Plus software adds movie editing capabilities, more printing options, and the ability to make Video CDs.

While the software has greatly improved, one thing that hasn't changed is Olympus' unwillingness to put a printed and complete camera manual in the box. As usual, you'll get a 39 page "basic manual" in the box, with the full manual on the included CD-ROM. The quality of the manual itself is good -- it's having to load up a PDF file that's the problem.

Look and Feel

The D-535Z is a compact plastic camera. It's pretty small, though its thickness may keep it out of some of your pockets. Despite being made of plastic, it's pretty solid, especially given its price. It doesn't have much of a right hand grip, but I found it easy to hold with just one hand.

The dimensions of the camera are: 87.5 x 62.5 x 38.5 mm / 3.4 x 2.5 x 1.5 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs just 140 grams / 4.8 ounces empty.

With that out of the way, let's begin our tour of the D-535 now.

The D-535 has an F2.9-5.0, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range of the lens is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is not threaded, so you cannot attach a conversion lenses or filters to the camera.

Above the lens is the camera's built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.2 - 3.8 m at wide-angle and 0.5 - 2.2 m at telephoto, which is about average. You cannot attach an external flash to this camera, not surprisingly.

The little circle just to the right of the flash is the self-timer lamp. There is no AF-assist lamp on the camera, unfortunately.

On the back of the D-535Z you'll find a small 1.5" LCD display. Even though it isn't very large, the resolution is high, with 130,000 pixels. The screen is bright, motion is fairly fluid, and everything is nice and sharp. In low light, the screen doesn't "gain up" very much, making it very hard to see.

As you've probably noticed, there's no optical viewfinder on the D-535Z. Whether that's a problem is your decision. Olympus is going LCD-only on their lower-end cameras, and personally I'm not a big fan of that idea. This is especially a problem in low light when the LCD screen is so dark that you can't see your subject.

At the upper-right of the photo is the zoom controller. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. I counted 8 steps throughout the zoom range.

To the lower-right of the zoom controller is the mode dial, which has the following options:

  • Program / Auto record
  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Night Scene
  • Self-portrait
  • Movie mode

I'll have more on all those later.

To the left of the mode dial are the buttons for switching between record and playback mode. Next to that is the four-way controller, used for menu navigation as well as:

  • Up - Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Down - Reset - back to camera defaults
  • Left - Self-timer (on/off)
  • Right - Macro (Off, normal, super) - more on this later

The last things to see here are located below the LCD. These include buttons for deleting a photo, entering the menu, or adjusting the flash setting (auto, auto w/redeye reduction, flash on, flash off).

The only things to see up here are the power and shutter release buttons.

On this side of the D-535Z you'll find the I/O ports, which are kept under a rubber cover. They include video out, USB, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter).

There's nothing to see on the other side of the camera.

On the bottom of the camera you'll find the battery compartment, xD memory card slot, and plastic tripod mount. The battery and memory card slots are protected by a plastic door of questionable quality. You cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod, as you can see.

Using the Olympus D-535 Zoom

Record Mode

It takes about 2.7 seconds for the D-535 to extends its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- pretty average.

Autofocus speeds were also average, with the camera taking about 0.6 - 0.8 seconds to lock focus in most cases. If the camera has to "hunt" to lock the focus, the times can be over a second. Low light focusing was poor.

When you fully press the shutter release you will notice a bit of lag before the photo is actually taken. The D-535Z is a little slower in this regard than other recent Olympus cameras I've tested.

Shot-to-shot speed was not impressive. You'll have to wait for over four seconds before you can take another picture. It seems that the camera won't let you do anything until the last photo is saved to the memory card or internal memory.

There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken.

Now, here's a look at the various image quality choices available on the camera (there aren't many):

Quality Resolution # images on 12MB built-in memory # images on 128MB xD card
(optional)
SHQ 2048 x 1536
(low compression, higher quality)
5 52
HQ 2048 x 1536
(more compression, lower quality)
14 156
SQ1 1600 x 1200 18 192
SQ2 640 x 480 68 549

There's no RAW or TIFF mode on the D-535, nor would I expect one.

Olympus uses one of the more sensible file numbering systems that I've seen. Files are named Pmdd####.jpg, where m is the month (1-9, A-C), d is the day, and #### is 0001-9999. This way your file numbers are always unique (well, at least for a year). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.

The D-535 uses a different menu system than Olympus cameras. This one is very simple and straightforward, with very few options. Those options include:

  • Image quality (see chart)
  • Backup - copies images from the internal memory to an optional xD card
  • Date/time (set)
  • Language (English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Portuguese)
  • Sleep (30 sec, 1, 3, 10 mins)
  • Video out (NTSC, PAL)
  • Memory / card format
  • Pixel mapping - removes "hot pixels" from the CCD

And that's it! The D-535 is the definition of a point-and-shoot camera. There isn't even a setup menu!

Let's move onto our photo tests now.

What do you get when you cross a camera without any white balance options with 600W quartz studio lamps? Yellow pictures! It's one thing to not offer manual controls, but leaving out white balance controls gets a big thumbs down from me. You can try to save this image in Photoshop, but it's not easy. If you do a lot of shooting under artificial light (even standard tungsten bulbs), this is NOT a camera you want -- the auto white balance does not do the job in my opinion. It's too bad, as the picture could've been pretty nice otherwise.

There are two macro modes on the camera. In normal macro mode, you can get as close to your subject as 20 cm at wide-angle and 50 cm at telephoto -- pretty lousy. To get closer, you can use super macro mode, which lowers that distance to just 2 cm. Do note that in super macro mode the lens is locked at the wide-angle position.

The night shot turned out better, though it's on the noisy side. The buildings are sharp, the camera took in enough light, and there's very little purple fringing to see. For long exposures like this you'll need to use the night scene mode. There's no way to set the ISO sensitivity to minimize noise on the D-535Z, nor is there a way to manually select a shutter speed.

Our distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. Like with the macro shot, the white balance issue turned this photo yellow instead of white.

There's a fair amount of redeye on the D-535, which isn't surprising, considering the proximity of the flash to the lens.

Overall, the photo quality on the D-535 was a mixed bag. Outdoor results were generally good, though photos were a little on the soft side, with some muddy details. Noise and purple fringing levels were low, which is a good thing, and colors were accurate. Indoors is another story -- the white balance problem really rears its ugly head, unless you're using the flash. Thus, the D-535Z is best suited for taking outdoor pictures.

Don't just take my word for it, though. Look at the photo gallery and then decide if the photo quality meets your expectations.

Movie Mode

The D-535Z isn't going to win any awards for its movie mode. You can record silent movies at 320 x 240 (15 fps) until the memory card or internal memory is full. A lower resolution 160 x 120 mode is also available. Filling up the internal memory takes just 36 seconds at the higher quality setting.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming, despite the fact that the camera does not record sound.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format.

A sample movie is not available in this review. I apologize for the inconvenience.

Playback Mode

The D-535Z's playback mode is quite basic. Features include DPOF print marking, image protection, thumbnail mode, and slideshows. The camera is PictBridge-enabled for direct printing to compatible photo printers.

The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 4X into your photo (in 0.5X steps), and then move around in it.

Other features include image rotation and the ability to copy files from internal memory to an xD card.

The D-535Z doesn't tell you anything terribly useful about your photos, like what shutter speed or aperture was used. Then again, the typical buyer of this camera may not care.

Playback speeds are exceedingly slow. It takes 2.5 seconds to move from one photo to the next, regardless of whether you're using the xD card or internal memory.

How Does it Compare?

I had high hopes for the Olympus D-535 Zoom. I was hoping that Olympus wouldn't skimp on features to keep the price down. The results are mixed. Olympus did manage to put a 3X optical zoom lens and high resolution (but small) LCD display on the camera. At the same time, they took out useful features like white balance and an optical viewfinder, making the camera more frustrating to use than fun.

The D-535 is a point-and-shoot camera -- perhaps too much so. The menus are stripped down with nearly no options. The biggest omission is white balance controls; indoor photos will not turn out well since the auto white balance doesn't do a great job. Outdoors, the photo quality is decent but not spectacular. Photos are a little soft, with some muddy details. Redeye was also a bit of a problem.

The camera features a 3X optical zoom lens, a nice treat considering the camera's $150 price tag. Something else that's nice is the build quality of the D-535 -- it doesn't feel cheap. The camera has a 1.5" LCD display with good resolution; a larger screen would've been nice, but I don't think there is room on this compact camera's body. In addition, there's no optical viewfinder, which bothers some people (like me) and not others. Low light shooting isn't easy, as the screen doesn't "gain up" much in those situations, and the camera does not focus well. Camera performance is below par, with noticeable shutter lag, long shot-to-shot times, and sluggish image playback. And finally, the camera's silent movie mode isn't terribly exciting.

The bottom line is that I wasn't thrilled with the D-535 Zoom. If the camera had white balance controls I would've been a lot more positive, but alas it does not. My advice is to spend a little more money to get a more capable camera. I've listed some of them below.

What I liked:

  • Compact body doesn't feel cheap for the price
  • 3.2MP, 3X zoom for $150 is a good value
  • Decent outdoor photo quality
  • Get as close as 2 cm in super macro mode
  • Much improved bundled software

What I didn't care for:

  • Sluggish performance
  • Soft photos with fuzzy details
  • Redeye
  • LCD hard to see in low light
  • Poor low light focusing; no AF-assist lamp
  • No control over white balance
  • No optical viewfinder
  • Unexciting movie mode
  • Full manual only on CD

Other entry level cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot A400 and A510, Fuji FinePix A330, Kodak EasyShare CX7330, Nikon Coolpix 3200, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC50, Pentax Optio 30, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the C-535Z and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality turned out in our gallery!

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Feedback & Discussion

If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.