Intro The Olympus D-590 Zoom is one of the latest Olympus digital cameras, in a line that’s one of the broadest and oldest in the photo industry. The Olympus D-590 Zoom updates the previous D-580 model with an improved sliding lens cover design, smaller size (thanks the elimination of the optical viewfinder), and a few minor user interface tweaks as well. It offers a nice array of options, with eight preset Scene modes and the same white balance and exposure compensation adjustments. With an expected retail price of $299.99 (and “street” prices lower than that), the Olympus D-590 Zoom is a good basic digital camera at an attractive price.
The D-590 Zoom digital camera is the newest entry into Olympus’ popular consumer line of “D” series digital cameras, and presents an interesting variation on a popular Olympus theme. The sliding lens cover has long been an Olympus design favorite, but has often felt a little clunky given its size. The Olympus D590 keeps the convenience of a sliding cover, but reduces the size and bulk of the cover itself, so that it simply slides back and forth across the lens, but inside the front panel. A sliding switch controls the cover and the camera’s power, and is much easier to operate. One problem here is that the previous lens covers often made great finger grips, and the Olympus D-590 Zoom really doesn’t have much of a grip at all. Still, I like the less cumbersome design — just plan on utilizing that wrist strap. The D-590 Zoom is small enough for most average shirt pockets, and could easily slip into larger pants 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 Olympus D590 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-590 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 3.5 inches (9.0 centimeters), but disables the flash and zoom. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the D-590 Zoom features as much as 4x digital zoom, increasing its zoom capabilities to 12x. (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-590 Zoom features a 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor. Olympus eliminated the optical viewfinder, presumably in the interest of more accurate framing and a slightly smaller camera size.
Operating under Program Auto exposure control by default, the Olympus D590 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 Exposure Compensation, Image Size, and White Balance 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 1/2 second (extended to four 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-third-step increments. There’s also a White Balance setting, for adjusting overall color balance. Options include Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent modes. The Olympus D590’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. Eight preset Scene modes are also available through the Scene menu (accessed via the up arrow key), including Portrait, Indoor, Beach / Snow, Cuisine, Landscape + Portrait, Landscape, Night scene, and Self-portrait modes. Portrait mode captures the subject in front of a slightly blurred background, while Indoor mode is better for portraits under indoor (usually incandescent) lighting. Beach / Snow mode balances the exposure for bright scenes, while Cuisine mode boosts saturation, contrast, and sharpness for appealing images of food. Landscape + Portrait mode sets the camera so that the foreground and the background are in sharp focus, great for portraits in front of scenery. Landscape sets focus to infinity for sharp background photos. Night Scene mode extends the available shutter times to four 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 four shots at the camera’s HQ setting, at about one frame per second.) 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 Olympus D590 has a Movie mode that records moving images (with sound) as long as the memory card has room, at either 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 pixels.
The Olympus D-590 Zoom stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB card. I strongly suggest buying at least a 128MB card though, so you don’t miss any important shots. At full resolution, the 16MB card will only hold about five 2,272 x 1,704 images. A CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools, as well as utilities for organizing images, and even a tool for “stitching together” multiple images into a single large panorama. A second CD-ROM features the full instruction manual, as a small basic manual is the only hard copy provided. The camera comes with a single lithium-ion battery pack and charger. I recommend picking up a second battery for backup, and keeping it freshly charged at all times. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such downloading images to a computer. Also included with the Olympus D590 is a video cable for connecting to a television set, and a USB cable for downloading images to a computer.