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Same but different
The D-510 Zoom retains some characteristics of its older sibling--the same basic body design, 3X optical zoom, 2.1 megapixel count, and clear, bright LCD--but the new model offers more control over image capture. This may not make much difference to the average point-and-shoot photographer, but if you want to fine-tune your images, the D-510 Zoom's additional features provide enough tweaking capability to see a noticeable improvement.
In addition to more resolution options (1,600x1,200 to 640x480), which allow you to easily adjust the image quality to your taste, the D-510 Zoom also has three sharpness settings (Hard, Normal, and Soft), as well as a new contrast-adjustment feature (High, Normal, and Low) to compensate for tricky lighting situations. Accessing and changing these and other settings on the D-510 Zoom is easier than with earlier models, with the addition of easy-to-decipher abbreviations such as PIC, CAM, and so forth to the formerly pictograph-only menu. The controls on the back of the camera have also been pared down and simplified for easier operation of the jog-dial menu buttons.
Perhaps the most significant improvement--and it's about time for this one--is the USB connection. And we're not talking just any old USB connection: the D-510 Zoom incorporates USB Auto Connect technology. So if you're using Windows XP, 2000, or Me or Mac OS 8.6 or higher, you won't need to install a driver or restart your computer to view your images. (Drivers, which are included with the camera software, would need to be installed for older operating systems.) Another nice bonus is that, unlike previous low-end Olympus models that would max out with 16MB and 32MB card capacity, the D-510 accepts high-capacity, 128MB SmartMedia cards, so you can shoot to your heart's content. However, the D-510 Zoom comes with only an 8MB card, so out-of-the-box shooting capacity is somewhat limited.
Seeing is believing
Camera features don't mean much of anything if the image quality isn't up to par. On the D-510 Zoom, the overall image quality is good, with improved saturation compared to the slightly muted colors of the D-490 Zoom. CNET Labs' jury tests found that there was little to no purple fringing (the strange purple outlines common in digital photos and often found in images from 2.1-megapixel cameras). The auto exposure is accurate, though high-contrast scenes can benefit from using the contrast-adjustment feature, which will help avoid burned-out highlights and blocked shadows. And while the sharpness adjustment helped, the images were not quite as crisp as we had expected.
Although the camera's images may not be stellar, the flash coverage is good, and for the most part, the images we shot indoors were evenly and properly exposed. The built-in flash automatically pops up when you slide open the protective lens barrier, which is a welcome new feature, freeing you from the bother of manually snapping the flash into its ready position. But until you get some new, preferably lithium-ion or nickel-metal-hydride batteries to replace the short-lived AA alkalines that come with the camera, you're better off limiting your use of the flash.
|Jury results: image quality|
Results based on a poll of CNET staff, who rate image quality on a scale of 1 to 10; longer bars equal better performance.
|The Olympus D-510 Zoom did reasonably well for a budget digicam, but it failed to truly impress our jury. Its indoor photos were slightly muted in color and were less than sharp. The outdoor photos taken with the D-510 Zoom showed a bit more detail and color saturation but suffered from some of the same problems as the indoor photos.|