The Olympus D-580 Zoom is one of the latest Olympus digital cameras, in a line that’s one of both the broadest and oldest in the photo industry. The Olympus D580 updates the previous D-560 Zoom model with a higher resolution imager and a few minor feature and user interface tweaks as well. It offers a nice array of options, with four preset Scene modes and the same white balance and exposure compensation adjustments. Notably missing, which was also missing from the D-560 but is an expected staple of most modern digital cameras, is ISO control. But with an expected retail price of $279 (and “street” prices lower than that), the D-580 Zoom is a good digicam at a very attractive price.
With its sliding lens cover, the D-580 Zoom digicam is the newest entry into Olympus’ popular consumer line of “D” series digicams. The D-580 Zoom should fit into average coat pockets and purses with ease, and may slide into larger shirt pockets. A true, 3x optical zoom lens and 4.0-megapixel CCD capture good images, with good quality and detail, suitable for printing as large as 8×10 inches. Lower resolution settings are available for snapshot prints and email attachments.
The D-580 Zoom is equipped with a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera). Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 to f/5.2, depending on the zoom setting. In its normal autofocus (AF) mode, the D-580 Zoom focuses from 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity, with a macro setting focusing as close as 8.0 inches (20 centimeters). A Super Macro mode brings you in as close as 2.8 inches (7cm), but disables the flash and zoom. – The resulting minimum macro area of just 1.07 x 0.80 inches (27 x 20 mm) is impressive, particularly for such an inexpensive camera. The protective lens cover also acts as the power switch, placing the camera into Record mode and extending the lens another 5/8-inch from the camera body when it’s opened. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the D-580 Zoom features as much as 3.3x digital zoom, increasing its zoom capabilities to 10x. (As always though, because digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD, image quality suffers in direct proportion to the magnification achieved.) For composing images, the D-580 Zoom features a real-image optical viewfinder, as well as a 1.8-inch color LCD monitor.
Operating under Program Auto exposure control by default, the D-580 Zoom has an uncomplicated, straightforward user interface. A multi-page LCD menu system accesses the available settings, although you can adjust flash mode, the self-timer, macro mode, and zoom externally. An initial short-cut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, which accesses the camera’s Movie, Image Size, and Mode Reset options instantly, or you can enter the main Record menu. Aperture and shutter speed are automatically determined at all times (and are not reported to the user), with shutter speeds ranging from 1/1,000 to 1 second (extended to two seconds in Night Scene mode). By default, the camera uses a “Digital ESP” metering mode, which analyzes subject contrast and brightness across the entire frame to determine the best exposure. A Spot metering option is available through the Record menu, helpful for high contrast or off-center subjects. The camera’s Exposure Compensation adjustment lets you increase or decrease the exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-half-step increments. There’s also a White Balance setting, for adjusting overall color balance. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent modes. The D-580 Zoom’s built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced (fill), and Suppressed (off) modes.
Program Auto is the main exposure mode for most normal shooting situations, which handles most normal shooting conditions. Four preset Scene modes are also available through the Record menu, including Portrait, Landscape, Landscape Portrait, Night Scene, and Self Portrait modes. Portrait mode captures the subject in front of a slightly blurred background, while Landscape sets focus to infinity for sharp background photos. Landscape + Portrait mode sets the camera so that the foreground and the background are in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Night Scene mode extends the available shutter times to two seconds, and automatically combines the flash with the slower shutter speed (you can cancel the flash if you want to). Self Portrait mode lets you point the camera at yourself (in-hand), automatically fixes focus at a shorter distance to insure a sharp image. The lens remains locked at the wide-angle setting in Self Portrait mode to make aiming easier and help you get a sharply-focused portrait. (This is a great mode for those “prove you were there” shots.)
Other camera features include a Self-Timer mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. For a motor-drive effect, the Sequential Shooting mode captures a rapid series of images while the Shutter button is held down. The actual number of images depends on the size and quality settings, as well as the amount of memory card space. (You should be able to capture up to three shots at the camera’s highest-quality setting, in about 2.5 seconds.) The “2 in 1” photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a panorama mode is available only when using special Olympus xD-Picture Cards, that records as many as 10 consecutive images which can be merged into a single panoramic image on your computer with the provided Olympus software. For more creative effects, you can transform your full color images to sepia tone or black-and-white pictures through the camera’s Playback menu. Finally, the D-580 Zoom has a Movie mode that records moving images (without sound) as long as the memory card has room, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.