DCRP Review: Olympus D-520 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2002
Last Updated: Friday, June 21, 2002

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The review of this camera is now complete. Photos have been re-shot where needed, and all sample photos were taken with a production-level camera.

The Olympus D-520 Zoom comes from a long line of Olympus point-and-shoot cameras, dating back to 1999. That camera was the D-400Z, which led to the D-450, D-460, D-490, and most recently, the D-510Z. Each model is a refined version of the one before. (In case you're wondering why there wasn't a D-500Z, check this out. For old timers, it's a trip down memory lane.)

What's new on the D-520Z?

  • 30% smaller, lighter design.
  • Updated menu system
  • Uses only 2 batteries instead of 4.
  • 2 in 1 image merge perfect for business cards, real estate shots and before and after shots.
  • Self-Portrait Mode.
  • Sequential shooting at 1.8 frames per second (max. 5 frames in HQ).

The D-520Z is attractively priced at $299. The D-520Z is also known as the C-220 Zoom and C-2 Zoom in some countries.

Find out more about this camera in our review!

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-520 Zoom has a decent bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 2.0 effective Mpixel Olympus D-520 Zoom camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • 2 AA alkaline batteries
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • Manual (not included with my pre-production camera)

One change from the D-510Z not mentioned at the beginning of this review was that Olympus now includes a 16MB SmartMedia card instead of an 8MB one. That's good news and is adequate (at least for a 2MP camera) for getting started with digital photography.

The same cannot be said about the batteries though. You get two alkaline batteries, which quickly die. My advice: buy some NiMH batteries instead. Oh, and recycle those alkalines instead of just tossing them in the trash. Almost did not provide any data about battery life, but seemed average in my usage of the camera.

As you can see, the lens cover, which doubles as the power switch, eliminates the need for a lens cap.

Olympus likes to talk about their AutoConnect USB system, which lets you use the camera with a Mac or PC running a modern version of their respective OS -- without installing drivers first. The camera works fine with Mac OS X.

As far as accessories go, don't count on many. This is a point-and-shoot camera, so there won't be any external lens or flash support.

The D-520Z 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.

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 on both Macs and PCs.

For $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.

Keeping with recent Olympus tradition, 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 have been improved over previous Olympus manuals. I'd now rank them as above average.

Look and Feel

The D-520Z is essentially a smaller version of the D-510Z, bringing with it one of the 510's annoyances that I'll comment on below.

The camera is made mostly of plastic, but it feels "high grade" and should survive trips into the wilderness. The camera fits pretty well in your hands, but there isn't a lot of room for your left hand, due to the popup flash.

The official dimensions of the camera are 4.4 x 2.4 x 1.4 inches (WxHxD), and it weighs about 180 grams empty. It easily slides into your pocket.

Here's the front of the camera, with the lens cover pulled back.

The F2.8 lens is the same one that was found on the D-510Z -- a 3X Olympus lens. The focal range is 5 - 15 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. It is not threaded.

Just above the lens you'll find the self-timer lamp and optical viewfinder. Nope, still no AF illuminator!!

Towards the top-right of the photo, you can see the D-520Z's popup flash. My big pet peeve with this on the 510 was that you couldn't put it down after it pops up. It's the same thing here (argh!). The working range of the flash is 0.2 - 3.5 m at wide-angle and 0.2 - 2.6 m at telephoto. Flash strength is not adjustable.

Here's the back of the 520Z. The LCD has shrunk from 1.8 to 1.5 inches compared with the D-510Z. The LCD is bright and generally fluid, though images can be slightly choppy sometimes as you point the camera at different subjects. LCD brightness is adjustable via the menu system.

Just above the LCD is a good-sized optical viewfinder. There's no diopter correction available. Nose smudges on the LCD should not be a problem.

Over to the right, you'll find the four-way switch plus two more buttons. The four way switch is used for menus as well as these other functions:

  • Macro (up)
  • Flash [Auto, forced w/redeye reduction, forced, off, slow syncro, slow syncro w/redeye reduction] (right)
  • Self-timer (down)

The buttons below the four-way switch toggle the LCD and menu system on and off. That LCD button is also used to enter Playback mode.

Here's the top of the D-520Z. Back in the D-510Z review, I complained that they removed the LCD info display that was on the D-490Z. As you can see, it's not coming back. I like these displays because you don't need to use the power hungry main LCD to see shots remaining and basic settings.

What you will find on the top of the camera is the shutter release button and zoom controls. The zoom mechanism is smooth though a bit noisy.

On this side of the camera are the I/O ports, found under that rubber cover. There you'll find USB, Video Out, and DC in ports.

Here's the other side of the camera, opened up. You can see the SmartMedia slot (just pull the card out to remove it), and the included 16MB card.

Finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount. Again, the D-520Z uses only two AA-sized batteries. You can also use CR-V3 batteries for this -- Olympus sells CR-V3 Lithium batteries that you can use. These last longer than alkalines and perhaps NiMH, but are not rechargeable.

Using the Olympus D-520 Zoom

Record Mode

The camera takes about four seconds to extend the lens and "boot up" before you can start taking pictures. When you depress the shutter release halfway, focusing takes around one second. When you press the button all the way, there's noticeable (but brief) shutter lag before the photo is taken. Shot-to-shot speed is just average -- you'll wait nearly four seconds before you can take another photo (at the HQ setting).

The resolution and quality options have been simplified on the D-520Z. Here they are:

Resolution Quality # photos on 16MB card (included)
1608 x 1200 SHQ 11
1600 x 1200 HQ 33
1024 x 768 SQ1 58
640 x 480 SQ2 99

The first thing I want to mention is that the SHQ resolution is not a typo. You get a few extra pixels in that mode, for some reason. The second thing, which is starting to be a trend (not just on Olympus cameras) is that the TIFF mode is going the way of the dodo bird. It's gone!

The D-520Z uses the newest Olympus menu system, though it's not customizable like on some more expensive cameras. When you first start it, you're presented with four choices:

  • Drive (Single-shot, continuous shooting, movie mode)
  • Mode Menu - see below
  • Function (2-in-1, self-portrait, panorama) - more below
  • Quality - described in chart above

Continuous shooting mode will take a photo at a rate of 1.2 frames/second.

The function menu has two new features that weren't seen on the D-510Z. The first is 2-in-1 mode, which lets you take two pictures and put them side-by-side into one. So for before and after pictures, perhaps? There's always a catch, and the catch here is that you can't do this in playback mode. So unless the after happens soon after the before, this won't work for that. Hopefully I'm totally wrong about this, but I can't see any other way to make it work.

Self-portrait mode lets you turn the camera on yourself and take a picture. The lens is locked at the wide-angle position.

Let's take a look at the Mode Menu now. Another big change from the D-510Z -- fewer menu options!

  • Camera Setup
    • Exposure compensation (-2.0EV to +2.0EV in 1/2EV increments)
    • Digital zoom (on/off)
    • Metering (ESP, Spot)
  • Picture Settings
    • White Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent)
  • Card Setup (erase all, format)
  • Settings
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • LCD brightness
    • Set date/time

If you go back and look at our D-510Z review, you can see how items like ISO, contrast, and sharpness have disappeared on this "improved" model!

Though it's not as sharp as I would've liked, the D-520Z did a fair job with our standard macro test. The colors on the figure are spot-on. The focal range in macro mode is 20 - 50 cm.

I was pleased to see that the D-520Z, despite its lack of manual controls, could still take a good low light shot. There is a lot of "salt and pepper" noise, though, but overall, not bad for a point-and-shoot.

On the whole, the D-520Z's photo quality was right up there with the best 2 Megapixel cameras. The color is nice and saturated, and chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) is at a minimum. But don't take my word for it, check out the photo gallery and judge for yourself.

Movie Mode

The D-520Z can record Quicktime movies, without sound. You can choose from 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 sizes -- both are recorded at 15 frames/second.

You cannot use the zoom lens -- at all -- in movie mode. Not even before you start filming.

Clips are limited to 15 seconds in HQ (320 x 240) mode and 60 seconds in SQ (160 x 120) mode.

Here's a sample movie:

Click to play movie (2.2MB, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The D-520Z has a pretty standard playback mode that's easy to use. Basic functions such as slide shows, DPOF print marking, protection, and thumbnail view are available.

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.

A new feature on the D-520Z is the ability to resize your images. You can choose either 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 resolutions, both of which are great for e-mailing. The original photo is saved, don't worry.

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 D-520Z provides much more information about photos than its predecessor, as you can see above. The camera moves through images in about 1.5 seconds.

How Does it Compare?

Despite a few annoyances, the Olympus D-520Z remains a good choice for those looking for a small and inexpensive 2 Megapixel camera. Those annoyances include the popup flash, reduction of features from the previous model, no sound in movie mode, and the lack of an AF illuminator. The D-520Z takes good photos in most situations, and is very easy to use. The Camedia Master software has also been greatly improved over the previous version. If you like the D-520Z but want more pixels, check out the new 3 Megapixel D-550Z.

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality
  • Small, familiar body style
  • Easy to use
  • USB AutoConnect means no drivers
  • Improved Camedia Master software
  • Uses only two batteries

What I didn't care for:

  • Fewer features than predecessor
  • No LCD info display
  • Flash always popped up; gets in the way
  • No sound or zoom in movie mode

Some other low cost, 2 Megapixel zoom cameras you'll want to consider include the Canon PowerShot A40 and S330, Fuji FinePix 2600 and 2800 (which has a 6X zoom), Minolta DiMAGE X, Nikon Coolpix 2000 and 2500, Sony DSC-P51 and DSC-P71, and the Toshiba PDR-M25.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the D-520 Zoom and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

It's smaller than normal, but our photo gallery should help you rate the photo quality of the D-520Z.

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the D-520 Zoom. If that's not enough, Imaging Resource has one too!


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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