Olympus D-580 Zoom
At a Glance
Olympus's $299 D-580 Zoom includes few frills, is easy to operate, and has an appealingly low price. To power up the D-580, you slide open its lens cover; its 3X zoom lens pops out, and you're ready to shoot. You won't be taking too many photos, though, unless you purchase more media. You can capture only five or six shots at this 4-megapixel camera's highest quality setting before the included 16MB XD-Picture Card reaches full capacity.
The D-580's simple control buttons place the most common functions at your fingertips. The camera's more complex controls reside in menus that are fairly easy to navigate. Different menus appear depending on what mode you're in, and sometimes we had trouble remembering exactly where to find everything. You can select any of five simple scene modes from a novel graphical carousel displayed in the LCD; the carousel mimics the rotating dial found on many other cameras. Annoyingly, the display often disappeared before we had decided which mode we wanted to use.
After you take a shot, the result flashes on the screen, but you barely have time to review it before it's gone--and there's no way to lengthen the instant review period. If you don't like a shot, you must change to the "quick view" playback mode and use the menu system to delete it. A total of six button presses are necessary to review a shot, delete it, and return to shooting. (Deleting a series of photos takes four steps for each photo.)
The zoom control is an oddly shaped rocker that sits next to the shutter release on top of the camera. We found stretching our finger to use it almost painful. It's all too easy to slide the lens cover accidentally, turning off the camera, as you grip it with your right hand. And the 1.8-inch LCD screen is a little difficult to see in bright sunlight.
You can record voice notes, either while the camera is processing your shot or after the fact. The D-580 can make a variety of beeps, but it has no proper speaker, so you can't review what you have said until you upload the photos to your PC. Similarly, though you can record 320-by-240-pixel or 160-by-120-pixel movies, you'll have to wait until you get home to hear the soundtrack.
The D-580 earned an average overall score in our image quality tests. Outdoor images showed realistic colors and plenty of detail in areas of shadow. Color accuracy and skin tone quality looked good in our still life test. Our flash portrait shot was somewhat overexposed, however, overhighlighting our model's skin tone. The lowest scores the D-580 received were for image sharpness--a deficiency likely to show up in cropped and enlarged images.
We achieved some nice results from our informal tests. Nevertheless, we were puzzled by how many of the shots came out sloping to the right. Perhaps it is difficult to judge when you are holding this model straight, because we noticed nothing obviously wrong with the camera.
Our biggest gripe with the D-580 relates to its battery life--the shortest in our roundup. Running on two AA alkaline cells, the D-580 lasted for only 127 shots, which translates into just over an hour. That's barely more than half the average battery life of competing cameras. The D-580's saving grace is that it also takes CR-V3 lithium batteries that should last much longer.
The printed manual that comes in the box has a paltry 40 pages of content in English, sharing the little booklet with three other languages. The software CD contains a more complete reference manual in PDF format.
A capable and reasonably priced point-and-click camera, the D-580 Zoom has a few usability blemishes. Its relatively puny battery life makes it a better choice for a now-and-then photographer than for a passionate snapshooter.