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The Three (DigiCam) Musketeers

Last June, three state-of-the-art digital cameras arrived for review within days of each other. It was a unique opportunity to compare the Olympus D600L, the Nikon CoolPix 900, and the Kodak DC 260, all cameras with similar resolutions and prices- but each very different in concept.

Since then, Olympus has announced the D620L and Nikon the CoolPix 900s. The question is whether you really need their new features. If you don't, this may be the ideal time to buy one of the previous models at a bargain price. I'll list the new features at the end of each summary, so you can decide for yourself. Last June, all three were selling for about $850. Check the RESOURCES section for links to the latest prices which have, of course, dropped.

Olympus D600L...A Winner and Still Going Strong

If you're comfortable with SLR cameras, you'll love the D600L, which, though conventional in looks and design, is a really digital powerhouse. It's especially good for portraiture because it balances nicely when shooting verticals and, with the addition of a off-to-the-side pistol grip, you can hold it rock-steady when long exposures are required. It's also the only camera of the three with a 43mm threaded lens mount that can take readily-available auxiliary lenses.

There have probably been more glowing reviews written about the D600L than any other camera in history...conventional or digital. Yet, for all its virtues, it has some small vices: occasionally, under extremely low lighting conditions, its autofocus becomes disoriented and it starts to hunt around like a cruise missile seeking its target. It also takes a few seconds to awaken from it's battery-conserving "sleep mode," which can be annoying if you want to make a quick "grab shot" after it's snoozed off. The contemplative portrait of Gospel Singer Rachel Friar is typical of the outstanding results that the D600L will consistently deliver.

This camera is also notorious for gorging on batteries but rechargeable NiMH's will assuaged its appetite. In Super High Quality (SHQ) mode the D600L's compression ratio of 1:2 is the best of the three but you'll rarely need to choose it since High Quality (HQ) delivers beautiful artifact-free images as well (see Resolution and Compression, below). Still, it's nice to know it's there and, with an 8MB SmartMedia card you'll be able to store 8 SHQ or 24 HQ photographs per card. You cannot use the new 16MB cards, though; you'll have to spend an additional $80 or so to have the camera upgraded to accept them. My advice: Pass on it, because with 8MB cards now selling at 3 for $109, it's just not worth it.

The D600L (and its siblings) comes from house whose optics are second to none, and for that reason it will produce higher quality images than many other cameras at the same resolution and compression settings. If you want to make an easy transition from film to digital photography, this is the camera that will make it painless. The camera comes with a set of regular alkaline batteries, and a 4MB SmartMedia storage card, along with the usual software necessary to download its images.

Step 1

What's New On The Olympus D620L

  • Burst mode: up-to-5 images in 1/3 second intervals, even at highest resolution.
  • Rapid fire capabilities in normal shooting mode, even with flash on.
  • External flash synch connector to allow shooting with studio strobes.
  • Takes 16MB SmartMedia storage cards. (D600L takes 8MB only.)
  • Comes with an extra 8MB SmartMedia card (for a total of 2) until January 31, 1999. (D600L comes with 4Mb only.)
  • Includes 4-NiMH batteries and charger. (None with, D600L.)




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