Olympus has long been a dominant player in the traditional imaging market, with a wide array of consumer, scientific, and industrial products that range from 35mm cameras, to film scanners, microscopes, and even high-powered binoculars. Not surprisingly, Olympus has also made a strong showing in the digicam marketplace, building a diverse line of successful consumer and prosumer cameras, ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the excellent pro-level E-10 SLR. The Camedia D-370 is an entry level digicam, sporting a 1.3-megapixel CCD and fixed-focus, all-glass, wide-angle lens. Designed primarily for the beginning photographer, the D-370 leaves nothing to chance. Its fully automatic system requires very little user intervention and only a handful of creative options, including a QuickTime movie mode. Olympus has also incorporated two new key technologies in this model: a long-life battery circuit for extended battery power (the company claims hundreds of pictures while using the LCD and flash 50 percent of the time), and AutoConnect USB for fast connectivity to late-model computers, without the need for additional driver software. Both of these features are important for the consumer user. The extended battery life provides more hours of continuous performance from one set of batteries, and the automatic USB connection (quickly becoming a standard in the industry) means you can walk up to virtually any computer and immediately download and view your images.
The Camedia D-370 is a compact, easy to use, point-and-shoot digital camera, with a streamlined body design that is long on portability and light on weight (just over 8 ounces with batteries installed). The clamshell sliding lens cover protects the camera’s front elements, making it an ideal design for stashing in deep pockets or a small purse, and toting inconspicuously on vacation, to family outings, or to social events. The focus-free lens is made of high-quality glass with a wide-angle view that is great for small group snapshots, local scenery, landscapes, and indoor activities where space is at a premium. Though it has limited resolution (1.3-megapixels), it’s more than adequate for making 4 x 6-inch prints of the kids’ pool party (to hand out to their friends) or for emailing pictures of Amy’s first birthday to absentee family members. In short, it’s a great “memory maker” for active teens and adults!
The D-370 has a fixed focal length lens, equivalent to a 35mm lens on a 35mm camera. Focus is also fixed, covering a range of approximately 2 feet (0.6 meters) to infinity in normal shooting mode. This is somewhat limiting in people photography, since its wide-angle view causes distortion in close-up shots (an effect you can see in our “Close-Up Portrait” test image). It also prevents you from zooming in on a faraway subject, like individual sports players or nature shots of wild animals. While the D-370 does have a 4x Digital Zoom, we don’t recommend using it often, since it merely enlarges the center pixels of the camera’s CCD, rather than magnifying the image optically, as is the case with a true optical zoom lens. The D-370 does provide a Macro switch next to the lens, which allows you to focus on subjects as close as 10 inches. For snapshots at a low price, the D-370 is fine. If you intend need a zoom lens, plan on spending about $100 more. (See the Olympus D-510 Zoom for a higher-end model with zoom.)
Exposure control on the D-370 is very straightforward, as the camera operates under automatic exposure at all times. Simply opening the clam shell cover turns it on and places it in the shooting mode, so it’s very quick on the draw. It’s focus free lens also means there’s very little shutter lag from the time you press down on the Shutter button to the time the shutter actually fires. The majority of exposure options are controlled through the on-screen menu system, which means you need to navigate three pages of menu items if you want to change quality settings or make exposure adjustments. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically determined, but the user can control the Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center), and Flash modes. The D-370’s built-in flash is effective to approximately eight feet (2.5 meters) from the camera and includes a red-eye setting that reduces the occurrence of red-eye in portraits.
Along with simplicity and portability, the D-370 also offers some interesting (and fun) creative options. For example, you can record QuickTime movies (without sound) — another great method for remembering special moments. A self-timer mode lets you mount the camera on a tripod, trip the shutter button, and zip around front to take your place in a group photo. There’s also a Sequence Shooting option that works much like a motor drive on a professional 35mm SLR. You can capture eight or more high-quality images in quick succession by holding down the shutter button, assuming you have room for them on your memory card. When special Olympus SmartMedia storage cards are used, the D-370 can also record up to 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. After capture, images are downloaded to a computer and “stitched” together with the camera’s bundled software. Finally, You can transform your full color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through the camera’s Playback menu.
The D-370 stores images either in the 2MB internal memory or on a 3.3v SmartMedia card (available as a separate accessory in capacities as large as 128MB). While the internal memory is nice to have as a backup, it can only store one or two high-quality images. We suggest buying at least a 16MB SmartMedia card (or larger) so you don’t miss any important shots. The camera comes with a set of four single-use AA alkaline batteries, but can also use NiMH, lithium, or NiCd batteries, as well as two CR-V3 lithium-ion battery packs (sold as an accessory). Based on our test results, this camera really lives up to its promise of low power drain. Working from high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries, we clocked over three hours of continuous operation in Shooting mode with the LCD on, almost limitless on-time with the LCD off, and more than four hours of continuous playback time. Very nice! Even with these impressive figures, we still recommend picking up an extra set of rechargeable batteries, and keeping a spare set freshly charged at all times. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such downloading images to a computer.