|*||Affordable 1280×960, w/flash, macro modes|
|*||“Top of class” resolution|
|*||LCD and optical viewfinder|
|*||Removable storage (4 MB std, 8 MB available)|
|*||Panorama mode & video out|
Olympus has been one of the more successful traditional, film-based camera manufacturers making the transition to digital photography. Their first efforts (the D-200L and D-300L digital cameras) enjoyed much critical acclaim and commercial success, and were leaders in image quality and ease-of-use. More recently their D-500L and D-600L SLR (Single Lens Reflex) models generated tremendous excitement and attention. Now, with the D-340L, they bring the 1.4 Megapixel resolution of the D-600L into the basic point & shoot arena, at a very affordable price.
The Olympus D-340L is a compact digital point & shoot camera that fits comfortably in your hand, and provides excellent picture quality and ease of use. A 1/3″, 1,310,000-pixel CCD captures 1280×960 pixel images and stores them in three different “quality” (image compression) modes. It provides both an optical viewfinder and back-panel LCD screen for framing, and includes a high-quality (glass) autofocus lens, built-in multi-mode flash, and useful software. Other than the larger sensor, the D-340L has much the same features as the lower-resolution D-320L. Two marked exceptions are the “digital wide/tele” mode and the significantly improved low-light performance of the D-340L.
Blasting past the magical “megapixel” resolution level, pictures from the D-340L can be printed at surprisingly large sizes without undue artifacts or loss of sharpness. Prints of 4×6 inches from a true continuous-tone printer look sharper than those from many point & shoot film cameras (!), and even full-page 8×10 inch printouts are surprisingly sharp.
Overall, if you’ve seen the D-320L, you’ll know exactly what the D-340L looks like: The only difference is a slightly gold-toned body, and shiny gold buttons, rather than the chrome ones of the earlier units. Shaped very much like a traditional film-based point and shoot camera, the D-340L fits the hand well. At 5 x 2.6 x 1.8 inches (127 x 66 x 46 mm) and 9.4 ounces (266 gm), it is compact enough to fit into an average coat pocket, yet still conveys a solid “feel” during use. The unit has a built-in protective lens cover that also functions as a power switch: Sliding the cover open turns on the camera power, closing it turns the camera off. (As a nice touch, the cover also blocks the viewfinder when in the closed position, so there’s no chance of missing a picture because the camera happens to be turned off when you click the button.)
The D-340L addresses the “optical vs. LCD” viewfinder controversy by providing both. A bright optical viewfinder provides framing marks for both the “normal” and “macro” modes of the camera, and the back-panel LCD screen can be used either as a viewfinder, or to review images already captured. You can turn the LCD viewfinder on or off at any time by pressing the green button on the back of the camera when in “capture” mode. Like all such panels, the LCD on the D-340L is fairly power-hungry, so you’ll want to be judicious in its use to conserve battery life. Fortunately, the D-340L’s optical viewfinder is more than adequate for most picture-taking, and about the only time we really felt a need for the LCD viewer was when doing macro photography.
We did notice one quirk with the D-340L’s LCD viewfinder: When operating “live,” it doesn’t quite show the entire field of view of the image sensor. If you frame a subject exactly using the LCD viewfinder, you’ll discover that the final image includes about another 5-10% of the total image area on the top and bottom of the frame. This took a little getting used to when shooting some of our more analytical subjects (such as the resolution target), which required very precise framing. Most casual shooters should find this no limitation however.
Olympus has always distinguished itself with excellent optics on its consumer film cameras, and their digital cameras are no exception. The D-340L is equipped with a high-quality glass, “aspheric” lens design that undoubtedly contributes to the excellent overall image quality. With a focal length equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm camera, the fast f2.8 lens captures a slightly wider than “normal” field of view. (Moderate wide-angle lenses of this type are the norm for most point and shoot cameras, whether film or digital. In most point and shoot applications, the ability to fit more of the subject into the frame is a decided plus.)