Olympus has filled the 3-megapixel gap in its popular D series of digital cameras with the Camedia D-550 Zoom. Novices and shooters who want to step up to higher resolution without losing point-and-shoot simplicity will be well served by this camera. Although it doesn't offer the manual exposure controls that advanced photographers need, it packs plenty of interesting and useful features into its compact body. Weighing in at 12.1 ounces with the batteries and the 16MB SmartMedia card installed, the D-550 fits naturally in the hand and benefits from an attractive and uncluttered design. A sliding lens cover turns on the gray-and-silver camera when opened, and the flash pops up automatically.
|The D-550's flash pops up when you open the sliding lens cover.||Roll your finger over the four-way arrow pad to access common features.|
The Virtual Mode Dial, a convenient and innovative navigation tool, makes it easy to explore different modes.
The D-550 was the first of Olympus's cameras to be endowed with Virtual Mode Dial, just another in a series of improvements that the company has made to its digital-camera user interface. This innovative navigation tool, which is accessed by pressing the clearly marked Scene Programs arrow, presents a circle of icons on the LCD that can be quickly rotated to select one of seven options, including Program Auto, Movie, and any of five different scene modes.
Choose from five preset scene modes.
Sharpness and contrast adjustments, exposure compensation, spot metering, selectable light sensitivity (ISO), and an uncompressed TIFF mode are among the many options available for fine-tuning image quality. For the more adventurous, there's a continuous-shooting mode that refocuses for each shot, a two-in-one picture mode that saves two shots in one frame, and a 3:2 aspect-ratio option.
The D-550's battery life beats the rest.
Shot-to-shot time using the flash and the default high-quality setting averaged about 3 seconds, but, as is typical, uncompressed TIFF images took approximately 16 seconds to save to the SmartMedia card. Those are respectable times on both counts but not record breaking.
Overall, in our tests, the D-550 Zoom produced images with accurate colors and even exposure. The Program Auto setting very capably dealt with difficult lighting situations, from sunsets to a black cat against white curtains. Although the D-550 tended to handle highlights better than deep shadows, we were generally pleased with the camera's ability to capture fine detail. Some noise was visible in our images shot with low light, and upon close inspection, several of our test shots exhibited some purple or light-green halos around the edges of objects shot against strongly contrasting backgrounds. Most images, however, were pleasing and certainly of good quality for a camera of this class.
The 3:2 aspect ratio selection (grayed area) delivers less image on the top and bottom than the standard aspect ratio.
Overall, the images are pleasing.
Purple fringing becomes noticeable in high-contrast scenes.