DCRP Review: Olympus D-560 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 1, 2003
Last Updated: March 27, 2003

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This review is now final. I have tested a production model camera, and updated the text and product shots accordingly. Also, all sample photos are from the production camera.

The Olympus D-560 Zoom ($299 street price) is a stylish new replacement of the popular D-550Z from last year. As you can see, it has a new, sleeker, smaller body. It also uses the new xD Picture Card format, instead of Smartmedia.

The D-560Z is a point-and-shoot camera that's easy to carry anywhere. It's also in a very crowded field, which makes it a challenge to be the best of the bunch.

How does the D-560Z stack up? Find out now!

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-560Z Zoom has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 3.2 effective Mpixel D-560 Zoom camera
  • 16MB xD Picture Card
  • Two AA batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • 41 page basic manual (printed), fold-out Quick Start guide, plus full manual on CD-ROM

You'll find a 16MB xD Picture Card in the box. It's enough to start with, but you'll definitely want a larger memory card right away. xD cards are available in capacities as large as 256MB.

The D-560Z uses two AA batteries for power. It can also use a CR-V3 lithium battery. Olympus leaves the battery buying to you, as they include non-rechargeable batteries in the box. I recommend a set or two of NiMH rechargeables and a fast charger. You'll save money in the long run, not to mention the environmental benefits of not tossing alkaline batteries into the trash every week.

A built-in lens cover is part of the D-560's stylish design. The cover also doubles as the power switch.

Accessory options are fairly limited on the D-560. You can get an AC adapter ($60) and NiMH charger/battery kit ($50). That' s about it.

Like all of Olympus' recent models, the D-560Z is compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases, you won't even need to install drivers.

The D-560Z includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.1 software. If you've used older versions of this software, you'll be pleasantly surprised with the changes in this one.

The 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.

The software is much more responsive than the previous versions. My only complaint is that the interface is non-standard (doesn't follow human interface guidelines) on both Macs and PCs.

For $20 more (groan), 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.

The D-560Z keeps up Olympus' unfortunate tradition of putting the manual on CD. There's a very basic manual in the box, but for the real dirt on your camera, you'll need to view the PDF file on the CD. Once you actually get there, you'll find the manual a bit confusing, but that's typical of camera manuals.

Look and Feel

The D-560Z has an elegant-looking plastic body. The camera is super easy to hold, and fits in your pocket with ease. Despite being plastic, the body feels well built.

The official dimensions of the camera are 4.2 x 2.2 x 1.6 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 170 grams empty. It's not a super-small camera by any means... "compact" is the word I'd use.

Let's start our tour of the D-560 now:

The D-560 has an F3.0, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. As with most compact cameras, the lens is not threaded.

Right at the top-middle of the camera is the built-in flash. The working range of the flash is approx. 0.2 - 3.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.2 - 2.0 at telephoto. Thank you Olympus for getting rid of the annoying pop-up flash on previous models!

Just below the flash is the self-timer lamp. Sadly, there's no AF illuminator on the D-560Z.

As I mentioned earlier, the plastic door cover doubles as the power switch. I found it a little too easy to accidentally bump, thus turning the camera off.

Here now is the back of the D-560Z. It is nice to see that Olympus did not skimp on the LCD size here. It's a 1.8" model that is bright and fluid, though the resolution is a little lower than I'd like at 85,000 pixels. LCD brightness is adjustable via the setup menu.

Above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is average-sized for a small camera. It does lack a diopter correction knob, but then again, the competition doesn't have it either.

To the right of the LCD are several buttons. The Display button toggles the LCD on and off if you press it once, and enters playback mode if you press it twice rapidly.

Just below that is the four-way switch, using for menus and more. The "more" includes turning on macro mode and the self-timer, and adjusting the flash setting (auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, flash off).

Here is the top of the D-560Z. Up here, you'll find the shutter release button and zoom controller. The lens moves from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.5 seconds. The lens moves at one speed, so being precise can be challenging. The lens motor is fairly quiet.

On this side of the camera, you'll find the I/O ports for video out and DC-in. They're kept under a rubber cover.

And on the other side, behind plastic doors, you'll find the xD card slot as well as the battery compartment. The plastic door for the xD slot is much flimsier than the one for the batteries.

Directly above the xD slot, under another rubber cover, is the USB port.

The included xD card and battery are shown at right.

Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. The only thing down here is a plastic tripod mount. It's neither inline with the lens, nor in the center of the camera.

Using the Olympus D-560 Zoom

Record Mode

It takes a little over 3.5 seconds for the D-560Z to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start shooting. That's about average.

Autofocus speeds were very good in most cases -- the camera took less than one second to focus. At lower light levels, the lack of the AF illuminator becomes apparent, as the camera often couldn't lock the focus.

Shutter lag was not a problem when the shutter speed was fast. As you approaching "I really should be using a tripod" shutter speeds, it becomes noticeable.

Shot-to-shot speed is quite good, assuming you turn off the Rec View feature. That will allow you to quickly take another shot in under two seconds. If you have Rec View on, you can just half-press the shutter release to get ready to shoot again.

The resolution and quality options are very simple on the D-560Z, which is good. The options are:

Quality Resolution # photos on 16MB card (included)
SHQ 2048 x 1536 6
HQ 2048 x 1536 20
SQ1 1024 x 768 76
SQ2 640 x 480 165

Olympus uses one of the better 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, for one year at least). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.

The D-560Z uses Olympus' newer menu system, but it's not customizable like on their higher-end models. When you first press the menu button, you are presented with four choices: Movie/Photo mode (depending on which mode you're in), Quality, Mode Menu, and Mode Reset.

Speaking of the mode menu, let's take a look at the menu options found there:

  • Camera Setup
    • Scene select (Program auto, portrait, landscape, night scene, self portrait)
    • Metering (ESP, spot)
    • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV in 1/2EV increments)
    • Drive (Single-frame, sequential) - the latter takes up to 11 shots at 1.5 frames/sec
    • Digital zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce the quality of your images
    • Panorama - helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded memory card
    • 2 in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
  • Picture Settings
    • White balance (Auto, sunlight, overcast, tungsten, fluorescent)
  • Card Setup (Format)

  • Setup (the interesting ones, at least)
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Language (English, French, German, Spanish)
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • File naming (Auto, reset)
    • Pixel mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
    • Monitor brightness
    • Video output (NTSC, PAL)

There are no manual controls of any kind on the D-560Z. It is strictly a point-and-shoot camera.

Are you as tired of menus as I am? Then here are the photo tests:

The D-560Z did a very good job with the macro test. The red is a little too saturated, but the color colors, as well as the sharpness of the subject, are fine. The focal range in macro mode is 20 - 50 cm.

With Twin Peaks closed during the "orange alert", I've been trying to seek out other night shots. This one, taken from Dolores Park, would've been a lot nicer had the D-560Z been able to do a longer exposure (a faster lens wouldn't hurt, either). In normal program auto mode, the slowest speed it 1/2 second. To go a little longer (2 sec max), you need to use night scene mode, which is what I did here.

One good thing about night scene mode is that it uses a noise reduction filter. This noticeably slows down the shot-to-shot speed, but you do get a relatively noise-free image.

When Olympus got rid of the pop-up flash, they made redeye more of a problem. In general, the closer the flash is to the lens, the more of a problem it will be. And it's quite noticeable here in the test shot. It can be removed in software, including Camedia Master. Redeye is almost a given with smaller cameras.

The distortion test is used to illustrate barrel distortion, which you'll usually notice when taking pictures inside small rooms, or of objects with straight edges. The distortion here doesn't seem too bad. Another thing this test often shows is vignetting, or darkened corners. Thankfully I don't see any of that.

At first I was a bit concerned about how the D-560's photo quality would turn out. The reason for that concern was that the 560 has an automatic ISO sensitivity system, similar to the Nikon Coolpix 3100 I just reviewed. Such a system usually leads to higher noise levels.

Thankfully, the D-560 was more conservative about using higher ISO levels, which kept the noise down. There is still some there, but it's acceptable in my opinion. Images have Olympus' trademark sharpness, and colors look accurate as well. My only real complaint is that the camera blew out the highlights on a few images (see photos #1 and 10 in the gallery). Aside from that, I think the image quality is comparable to the other models in the D-560's class.

As I always say, don't take my word for it. Take a look at our photo gallery and judge for yourself. I realize that I'm missing some of the "usual" shots in this gallery and I apologize for that. I just wasn't able to get out there this week.

Movie Mode

The D-560Z's movie mode is very basic, especially when compared to those on Canon and Sony cameras. Clips are limited to just 15 seconds at 320 x 240, or 60 seconds at 160 x 120. Sound is not recorded.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format. You can use the zoom lens during filming.

Here is a sample movie for you. I'm not sure why there's a reddish cast to it.


Click to play movie (3.1MB, QuickTime format)

Can't view it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The D-560Z has a very good playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.

The 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.

Two other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240) and rotation. You can convert images to black and white or sepia as well.

Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode. Turn on "info" in the menus and you'll get more stats, but no histogram.

How Does it Compare?

The Olympus D-560Z does what it's intended to do: take good photos with point-and-shoot ease-of-use (that's a lot of hyphens). That makes it a fairly average camera in the low cost 3 Megapixel arena (being the the Canon PowerShot A70, Nikon Coolpix 3100, and Sony DSC-P72). Photo quality is competitive, as is the performance. The movie mode is probably the worst of the bunch. I would've really liked to see some longer shutter speeds, control over ISO sensitivity, and manual white balance. An AF illuminator wouldn't hurt either.

Right now, the only camera in the crowd to offer full manual controls, a nice movie mode, and an AF illuminator is the Canon A70, which remains my top pick. But for folks who just want a point-and-shoot camera without a lot of bells and whistles, the D-560 Zoom is certainly worth a look.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality
  • Good value (3MP for $300)
  • Robust performance
  • Camedia Master software much improved over earlier versions
  • Easy-to-use

What I didn't care for:

  • Redeye
  • No manual controls of any kind
  • Poor movie mode
  • No AF illuminator
  • Bundle could be better

Other 3 Megapixel cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot A70 and S230, Casio Exilim EX-Z3 and QV-R3, Fuji FinePix A303, HP Photosmart 735, Kodak EasyShare DX4330, DX6340 and LS633, Kyocera Finecam S3L, Minolta DiMAGE Xi, Nikon Coolpix 3100 and 3500, Olympus Stylus 300, Pentax Optio 33L and S, Sony DSC-P72 and -P8, and the Toshiba PDR-3310.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the D-560 Zoom and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out our sample photos to decide if the D-560Z's photo quality works for you!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

None yet.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.

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