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DCRP Review: Olympus D-590 Zoom  
   

by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: December 24, 2004
Last Updated: February 13, 2008

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The Olympus D-590 Zoom ($299) is a compact point-and-shoot 4 Megapixel camera. The D-590Z is designed for people who want to pick up a camera and use it without worrying about complex settings. That means it has no manual controls of any kind, but Olympus figures that their target audience won't miss them.

How does the D-590Z perform? Find out in our review!

The camera is known as the C-470Z and X-500 in some countries.

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-590Z has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 effective Megapixel D-590 Zoom camera
  • 16MB xD Picture Card
  • LI-12B lithium-ion rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Master software and drivers
  • Basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

Olympus throws a 16MB xD card in the box with the camera. That doesn't hold too many 4 Megapixel photos, so consider the purchase of a larger card to be mandatory. I'd recommend 128MB at the bare minimum (xD currently tops out at 1GB). xD cards do tend to be more expensive than SD and CompactFlash cards, so you've been warned.

The D-590 uses the familiar LI-12B lithium ion battery (the older and lower power LI-10B also works, in case you have one laying around). The LI-12B packs a modest 4.6 Wh of energy, though that only translates to 150 photos per charge (using the CIPA battery life standard), which isn't great. For the sake of comparison, the Canon PowerShot A85 can take 400 photos (using NiMH batteries), the Fuji FinePix A340 takes 290, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73 takes 420 pictures.

There are some disadvantages to the style of battery used by the D-590Z. For one, they're expensive -- $37 a pop (and I recommend buying a spare). Secondly, if you run out of juice in the field, you can't just drop in some alkaline AAs to get you through the day.

When it's time to recharge the battery just snap it into the included external charger. It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery. This isn't one of those convenient (in my opinion) chargers that plugs right into the wall -- you must use a power cable.

A lens cover is built into the D-590Z so there are no lens caps to worry about. To start up the camera you move the power switch on the front of the camera to the on position, and then lens cover retracts. When you shut off the camera, you move it toward the off position, wait for the lens to retract, and then push the switch to the full off position.

There aren't too many accessories to mention. The only ones I could find are an AC adapter ($37) and various camera cases.

Olympus includes their brand new Master software with the D-590Z, and I have to say that they did 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 print the full camera manual. As usual, you'll get a 27 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 getting to the information that's difficult.

Look and Feel

The D-590Z is a fairly compact camera made of a mixture of high grade plastic and metal. The camera feels very solid, especially consider its price. The camera's important controls are well-placed, and its easy to operate with one hand. While the D-590Z isn't as small as, say, the Stylus Verve, it'll fit into most of your pockets with ease.

The dimensions of the camera are 3.9 × 2.3× 1.4 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs 160 grams empty.

With that out of the way, let's begin our tour of the D-590Z now!

The D-590Z has an F3.1-5.2, 3X optical zoom lens. That maximum aperture range is a bit "slower" than other lenses in this class, which means that the lens doesn't take in as much light as a "faster" lens. The focal range of the lens is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. You cannot attach a conversion lens to this camera.

At the top of the photo is the camera's built-in flash. The flash range is average for this class, with numbers of 0.5 to 3.6 m at wide-angle and 0.5 to 2.0 m at telephoto. You cannot attach an external flash to the D-590Z.

To the upper-right of the lens is the camera's microphone. In between the lens and the Olympus logo is the self-timer lamp. And finally, at the bottom-left of the photo is the on/off switch that I discussed in the previous section.

There is no AF-assist lamp on the D-590Z.

On the back of the camera you'll find a 1.8" LCD display, which is average-sized for a camera in this class. The screen has 134,000 pixels, so everything is nice and sharp. Outdoor visibility is good for the most part. In low light, the screen is difficult to see, since it barely "gains up" in those situations.

As you've probably noticed, there's no optical viewfinder on the D-590. 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.

At the upper-right of the photo is the zoom controller. The controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.9 seconds. With quick presses of the buttons you can make very precise adjustments to the focal length -- a nice change from some other low cost cameras.

The Quick View button to the right of the LCD quickly enters playback mode while you're taking pictures, and if you hold it down while the camera is off, it puts the camera into playback mode without using the power switch. Below that is the menu button.


Scene modes

To the right of those two buttons is the four-way controller, which has the speaker inside it. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, as well as:

  • Up - Scene mode
    • Program auto - for everyday shooting
    • Portrait
    • Indoor - resolution limited to 1280 x 960 or lower!
    • Beach & snow
    • Cuisine
    • Landscape + portrait
    • Landscape
    • Night scene - this is how you take long exposures
    • Self-portrait
    • Movie mode - more on this later
  • Right - Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, flash off)
  • Down - Self-timer (on/off)
  • Left - Macro mode (Off, normal, super) - more on this later

The only thing to see on top of the camera is the shutter release button.

Nothing to see here.

On this side of the D-590Z you'll find the camera's I/O ports. These include DC-in (for the optional AC adapter), A/V out, and USB. They are protected by a plastic cover.

We end our tour with the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the battery and xD memory card slots, as well as a plastic tripod mount. The door that covers the two slots is fairly sturdy, though do not that you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.

The included battery and xD card are shown at right.

Using the Olympus D-590 Zoom

Record Mode

It takes about 2.3 seconds for the D-590 to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- not bad.

Autofocus speeds were about average, with the camera taking about 0.6 - 0.8 seconds to lock focus in most cases (it'll take longer if the AF has to "hunt" a bit). Low light focusing was not great (due to the lack of an AF-assist lamp), but the camera did surprise me a few times.

Shutter lag was quite low, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.

Shot-to-shot speed is very good, with a delay of about 1.5 seconds, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature.

There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You must first enter playback mode.

Now, here's a look at the various image quality choices available on the camera:

Quality Resolution # images on 16MB card
(included)
SHQ 2272 x 1704
(low compression)
5
HQ 2272 x 1704
(from here down,
higher compression)
16
SQ1 2048 x 1536 20
SQ2 1600 x 1200 24
1280 x 960 38
1024 x 768 58
640 x 480 90

There's no RAW or TIFF mode on the D-590, 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 a year). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.

The D-590Z uses the recent Olympus menu system, minus the customizing feature found on their more expensive cameras. When you first hit the menu button, you'll be presented with the following options:

  • Exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments)
  • Mode Menu - see below
  • White balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent) - a custom option would've been nice
  • Image quality (see above chart)

The Mode Menu is where most of the options on the camera are located. Here's what you'll find in this menu:

  • Camera Settings
    • Metering (ESP, spot)
    • Drive (Single-frame, sequential) - see below
    • Digital zoom (on/off) - it's best to keep this off
    • Sound recording (on/off) - add a 4 sec voice clip to each photo
    • Panorama (on/off) - helps you frame panoramic shots; Olympus-brand xD card required (grrr...)
    • 2-in-1 (on/off) - combines two successive pictures into one

  • Card Setup (Format)

  • Setup
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Language (English, French, Spanish, Portuguese)
    • Power on setup - for startup screen
      • Screen (Off, 1-2) - pick up a startup screen
      • Volume (Off, low, high)
    • Menu color (Normal, blue, green, pink)
    • Beep (Off, low, high)
    • Shutter sound (Off, 1-3) - you can set the volume for whichever shutter sound you choose
    • Rec view (on/off) - post-shot review feature
    • File name (Reset, auto)
    • Pixel mapping (on/off) - removes dead pixels that can appear in images
    • Monitor brightness (-7 to +7, 1-step increments)
    • Date/time (set)
    • Video out (NTSC, PAL)

In the sequential shooting mode, you can take up to 4 photos (at SHQ quality) at 1.1 frames/second -- not spectacular. The LCD stays on between shots so you can follow a moving subject -- even some $1000 cameras don't do this!

Aside from that, there really aren't any other features in record mode worth mentioning. This is a 100% point-and-shoot camera, and is not aimed toward enthusiasts!

Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.

I was disappointed with how the macro test shot turned out. The subject is plenty sharp, but the white balance is just all wrong. I tried the two most obvious settings (Auto and tungsten) and the camera just couldn't get figure out my 600W quartz studio lamps. Here's where a custom white balance function comes in handy, but alas, the D-590Z does not have one. Now, this issue only really matters if you plan on shooting under unusual lighting -- most folks don't need to worry about it.

There are two macro modes on the camera. In normal macro mode, you can get as close as 20 cm to your subject, at both the wide and telephoto ends of the lens. That's not great. To get closer, you can use super macro mode, which lowers that distance to 9 cm (which still isn't that great). Do note that in super macro mode the lens is locked at the telephoto position.

The night shot turned out a bit better, though it's very noisy. This is because the D-590Z has automatic ISO sensitivity, so the camera boosts it when it needs to. Higher ISOs mean more noise, which is what happened here. I much prefer cameras with manual control over ISO. Aside from the noise issue, the camera took in plenty of light, and purple fringing was not a major problem. To take long exposures like this, you must use the night scene mode (which is still automatic).

There's mild barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens. I see no evidence of vignetting (dark corners).

Not surprisingly, there is plenty of redeye on this compact camera. While your results may vary, you can expect to deal with redeye to one extent or another.

Overall the D-590Z's image quality was average. Colors were accurate, as was exposure. Purple fringing was not a major issue. Images did seem overprocessed to me, probably due to the very high levels of in-camera sharpening applied by the camera. You'll notice some jagged edges and soft loss of detail on things like trees and grass. Also, I saw a bit of softness around the edges of the frame. For most people who are taking pictures and making prints 8 x 10 inches or smaller, the image quality will suffice. For those doing larger prints or viewing the images at 100%, you may want to try another camera.

With that in mind, I invite you to check out our photo gallery. Print the photos as if you took them and then decide if the D-590's photo quality meets your needs.

Movie Mode

The D-590 Zoom has an unexciting movie mode. You can record 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 video at 15 frames/second until the memory card is full. Sound is recorded as well. The included 16MB card can hold about 41 seconds worth of video, so you'll want a larger card for longer movies.

You cannot use the zoom lens during filming.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format.

Here's a sample movie for you:


Click to play movie (2.5 MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime
.

Playback Mode

The D-590 has a pretty nice playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll". The camera supports direct printing using the PictBridge system, as well.

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. This feature is fairly snappy on the D-590.

You can rotate images, or resize them to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240. You can also change your color photos to sepia or black & white.

Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode. By going to the menu, you can activate an info screen which displays a few more things, but there's still no exposure info to be found.

The camera moves through photos at an average clip, with a one second delay between each high res picture.

How Does it Compare?

The Olympus D-590 Zoom is a fairly unremarkable point-and-shoot digital camera best suited for outdoor vacation pictures. I say this because low light focusing and LCD visibility weren't great, redeye levels were above average, and the lens is on the slow side (in terms of aperture, or how much light is let in). Photo quality is good for the most part, though there are some issues with "fuzzy" details and soft edges at times. Performance is comparable to other cameras in this class. The D-590Z is easy-to-use, with absolutely zero manual controls. There are some useful scene modes, though an action mode would've bee nice. The bundled Olympus Master software is quite good, especially compared to what the some of the competition throws in the box.

Some other negatives worth mentioning include noisy low light images (due to an auto ISO function), so-so battery life, and the lack of an optical viewfinder. I also had trouble with the white balance for my macro test shot, but this really shouldn't be an issue for most people. The D-590Z's movie mode also leaves something to be desired, but it's comparable with what most of the other cameras in this class offer. And finally, I always have to get in a complaint about the full manual only being on CD.

All-in-all, the D-590Z is decent, but there are better options out there (see below for some suggestions).

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality
  • Fairly compact body; well built for its price
  • Good all-around performance
  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Much improved bundled software

What I didn't care for:

  • Images appear overprocessed; some corner softness
  • Redeye is a problem
  • Mediocre movie and macro modes
  • No optical viewfinder
  • No AF-assist lamp; mediocre low light focusing
  • Some manual controls would've been nice
  • Below average battery life
  • Full manual only on CD

Other cameras in this class that I'd recommend looking at include the Canon PowerShot A85 (my top pick for this class), Fuji FinePix A340 and E500, HP Photosmart R607, Kodak EasyShare DX7440, Nikon Coolpix 4100 and 4200, Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC70, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-P73 and DSC-W1.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the D-590Z and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

See how the photo quality turned out in our gallery!

Want a second opinion?

Read another review at Steve's Digicams.

Buy it now

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.