Review: Olympus D-550 Zoom
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, July 2, 2002
Tuesday, July 2, 2002
what seems like an eternity, Olympus has finally brought their very
popular D-400/500 series into the 3 Megapixel world. In addition
to its 3 MPixel sensor, the D-550
Zoom ($399) also features a 2.8X optical zoom lens, numerous
scene modes, and a movie feature, all in an easy-to-use small camera.
D-550Z finds itself in a crowded field of 3 Megapixel cameras. Is
it the right one for you? Find out in our review. Along the way,
I'll compare it to the (2 Mpixel) D-520Z, to help those who are
trying to decide between the two.
in the Box?
Olympus D-550 Zoom has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll
3.0 effective Mpixel Olympus D-550 Zoom camera
alkaline AA batteries (non-rechargeable)
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
manual (printed, 43 pages) plus full manual on CD-ROM
has always been pretty skimpy on the bundles, and that continues
with the D-550Z. The 16MB card will get you started, but you're
going to want to buy something larger pretty quickly.
includes four, non-rechargeable alkaline batteries with the D-550Z.
I recommend that you pick up a set or two of NiMH rechargeables,
plus a fast charger. You'll save money, the environment, and NiMH
batteries will last longer than alkalines.
can see how small the D-550Z is
you can see above, the D-550Z has a built-in lens cover (which doubles
as the power switch), so no lens caps are necessary.
D-550, being a point-and-shoot camera, doesn't have any lens or
camera is compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases,
you won't even need to install drivers.
D-550Z includes Olympus' new Camedia Master 4.0 software. This is
a dramatically improved version of their photo viewing/editing software
that they've been including for the last few years.
editing tools included with Camedia Master are impressive. You can
change all kinds of things like brightness, contrast, and color
balance. There are also red-eye reduction and "instant fix" options.
software is much more responsive than the previous versions. My
only complaint is that the interface is non-standard on both Macs
$20 more, Olympus will upgrade you to the "Pro" version
of the software. This adds contact sheet printing, image e-mailing,
HTML albums, panorama stitching, and slide shows.
with recent Olympus tradition (unfortunately), the only printed
manual you get is a "basic" manual. If you want more depth,
you've got to load up the one include on CD. The manuals themselves
are much improved over previous Olympus manuals, but are still not
D-550Z got a little bigger when it went from 2 to 3 Megapixel. It's
larger than the D-520Z and a little nicer looking in my opinion.
One thing that the 550 shares with the 520 is the annoying "always
popped up" flash. Since you do have more room for your left
hand (compared with the 520), it's not that annoying -- but I'd
still prefer that it stay down unless you need to use it.
from that, the D-550Z is very easy to hold. It's pretty light, and
easy to stuff into a pocket. The official dimensions of the camera
are 4.6 x 2.6 x 2.0 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs 240 grams. For
the sake of comparison, the D-520's dimensions are 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.4,
with a mass of 180 grams.
begin our tour of the D-550Z now, beginning with the front of the
D-550 has an F2.9, 2.8X optical zoom lens. The focal range is 5.8
- 16.2 mm, which is equivalent to 36 - 100 mm. The lens is not threaded,
and no conversion lenses are available.
above the lens you'll find the self-timer lamp and optical viewfinder.
Nope, still no autofocus illuminator on any Olympus camera.
the top-right of the photo, you can see the D-550Z's popup flash.
Whenever you open the lens cover, the flash is popped up (much to
my dismay). The working range for the flash is 0.2 - 3.4 m (wideangle)
and 0.8 - 2.3 m (telephoto).
D-550Z has the 1.8" LCD display that the D-520Z used to have
(back when it was the D-510Z). I'm not terribly happy about the
trend towards smaller LCDs, so it was nice to see the decent-sized
one here. The LCD on the 550 is high quality - bright and fluid.
Like all LCDs, it gets hard to use when it's bright outside.
above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is good-sized for
a relatively small camera. There is a diopter correction knob for
those without perfect vision (the D-520Z doesn't have one).
the right of the LCD, you'll find the four-way switch plus two more
buttons (Menu/OK and Display/playback). The display button toggles
the LCD on and off, or if you double-press it, it enters playback
mode. When the lens cover is shut, pressing it once enters playback.
four-way switch is used for menus, plus additional functions.
Macro / Infinite focus
Flash (Auto, Red-eye reduction, fill-in flash, flash off)
are several "scene programs", which can be used to pick
the best settings for different situations. You select them from
a "virtual mode wheel" (which despite their claims, was
not done by Olympus first). These include:
auto (normal setting)
are all pretty self-explanatory. I'll cover the movie mode later
in the review.
not much to see on the top of the camera, other than the shutter
release button and the zoom controls. The zoom is a little slower
than I'd prefer, but it is precise and fairly quiet.
this side of the camera are the I/O ports. There's the DC in port
(for optional AC adapter) plus video out and USB ports (under a
the other side of the camera, opened up. You can see the SmartMedia
slot (just pull the card out to remove it). The camera comes with
a 16MB card, which is not shown here. The plastic door which covers
the slot is on the flimsy side.
the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment
as well as a plastic tripod mount. The D-550Z uses four AA or two
the Olympus D-550 Zoom
camera takes about 3.5 seconds to extend the lens and "boot
up" before you can start taking pictures. When you press the
shutter release button halfway, the camera generally locks focus
in under a second. Despite not having an AF illuminator, the 550
did a fairly good job of focusing in lower light conditions. When
it does so, it will flash a "slow shutter" warning, advising
you to either use the flash, or a tripod.
shutter lag, or time between when the shutter release button is
fully press and the photo taken, varies depending on the available
light. If the camera has adequate light, the shutter lag is minimal.
If the "slow shutter" warning is on, expect about 1/2
second of lag before the picture is taken.
speed isn't bad -- about three seconds between photos (SHQ setting).
If you record in TIFF mode, the camera will be locked up for about
13 seconds while the file is written. Not bad, as some other cameras
I've taken can lock up the camera for almost a minute!
a point-and-shoot camera, the D-550Z has a ton of resolution and
quality choices. Here's a look:
photos on 16MB card (included)
x 1312 (3:2)
x 1312 (3:2)
x 1312 (3:2)
you can see, there are many choices. I recommend SHQ if you're making
larger sized prints, and HQ for everyday shooting. TIFF mode really
isn't needed for most people. You can also see why you'll want a
larger SmartMedia card. The 3:2 mode will make your pictures fit
the 4x6 size perfectly.
D-550Z uses the new Olympus menu system, but it's not customizable
like on the higher end cameras. When you first hit the menu button,
you'll be presented with the following choices:
metering choices are ESP (matrix) or spot. Exposure compensation
is the usual -2EV to +2EV in 1/2EV increments. The quality choices
were described in the above chart. Choosing Mode Menu opens up the
(Single shot, continuous shooting, continuous shooting w/AF)
(Auto, 100, 200, 400) - Auto mode will move the ISO up as needed
when the light is low. This increases the noise.
- helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded SmartMedia
in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
(Soft, normal, high)
(Low, normal, high)
(the interesting ones, at least)
reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
naming (Auto, reset) - the files are named with the date as
the first few numbers. E.g. "P6116419.JPG" which was
taken on 6/11.
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
A quick note
about the drive modes. Continuous shooting mode will take up to
11 shots in a row, at 1.2 frames/second. Continuous w/ AF will refocus
the picture each time it takes the shot, which will slow things
chit-chat, let's talk photos now!
D-550Z did a fine job with our macro test. The colors are accurate,
and nicely saturated too. The focal range in macro mode is 20 -
80 cm (7.9 - 31.5 inches).
was a very foggy night when I took the above shot, which gives the
sky a brown cast. The subject itself (SF's City Hall) is pretty
well exposed, though. You can see a bit of noise and grain, but
nothing horrible. If you're good, you can also see a "hot pixel"
towards the upper left. If I had used the pixel mapping feature,
I probably could have eliminated that.
a blowup of my new red-eye test. Even with red-eye reduction turned
on, the D-550Z still exhibits this problem. You can fix this problem
(in most cases) using software.
was quite pleased with the D-550's photo quality. It exposed images
better than its more expensive sibling, the C-720UZ, and with less
chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) to boot. The color was very
nice and saturated as well. But don't just take my (our) word for
it, have a look at our photo gallery
and decide for yourself.
D-550's movie mode is pretty basic. You can record in two resolutions,
320 x 240 (HQ) or 160 x 120 (SQ). Both are recorded at 15 frames/second
and saved in QuickTime format.
are limited to 33 seconds in HQ mode, and 148 seconds in SQ mode.
is not recorded during filming. You can, however, use the optical
zoom during filming.
a sample movie for you:
Click to play movie (2.3MB, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download
D-550Z has a pretty decent playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.
zoom and scroll feature is here too, allowing you to zoom in as
much as 4X into your photo, and then move around in it.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240),
cropping and rotation. You can also convert your images to black
and white or sepia.
can get a bit more information about your photos by turning on the
Info feature, though it won't show the aperture or shutter speed.
550 moves between images quickly -- about 1.5 seconds between high
Does it Compare?
did a nice job bringing their D-400/500 series into the 3 Megapixel
era. The D-550 Zoom is a small point-and-shoot camera that produces
quality pictures, some of which were noticeably better than a more
expensive Olympus camera. The features on the D-550 never cross
into what I'd call "manual", but they are adequate for
most people. On the downside, Olympus has really fallen behind in
the movie mode department, with short and silent movies. Also, the
bundle and manual on CD leaves much to be desired. But for folks
looking to make larger prints (or regain some of the features lost
when the D-510 became the D-520), the D-550Z is a fine choice.
value - 3X zoom, 3 Megapixel for under $400
design is easy to learn
amount of controls for a point-and-shoot
choices for image resolution and quality
Camedia Master software
mapping feature blocks out bad pixels from CCD
I didn't care for:
sound in movie mode
could be better (larger SM card, full printed manual, rechargeable
other (lower cost) 3 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon
PowerShot S30, Kodak
Finecam S3, Nikon
Coolpix 885, Olympus
C-3020Z, Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P5,
and the Toshiba PDR-3300
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the D-550Z and its competitors before you buy!
a look at our photo gallery to see
how the D-550Z's pictures turned out.
a second opinion?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the D-550 Zoom.
welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal
recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.