Olympus D-320L

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by Allyn Fratkin, October, 1997

There are a lot of things to like about the new Olympus D-320L. (And a few things to dislike, too). The D-320L is known as the C-820L outside of North America. See the Olympus America D-320L page or the Olympus Europe site.

There are three resolution/compression modes: SQ (640x480, limited to 66k/image), HQ1 (1024x768, limited to 200k/image), and HQ2 (1024x768, limited to 500k/image). The included 2MB SmartMedia card can store a minimum of 30 images in SQ mode, 10 images in HQ1 mode, and four images in HQ2 mode. Remarkably, the camera can only switch between SQ and a single pre-chosen HQ mode in the field. Only the PC interface (and presumably the Mac interface) can switch between HQ1 and HQ2 mode. The SQ and pre-chosen HQ mode can be switched at any time. Depending on individual image compression, it is possible to store more images than the minimum. For example, we were able to squeeze in 36 SQ images.

Olympus' literature indicates that the D-320L includes a panorama feature that can stitch multiple images together. This functionality is not included with the camera yet but a business reply card is included so that Olympus can send out the finished software.

The included 2MB SmartMedia card is not nearly enough storage. I'm looking forward to getting a couple more cards. A couple of 4MB cards should work out nicely.


  • Overall size and feel of the camera.

  • Large, clear LCD display.

  • Reasonably good exposures.

  • Gets the focus right (i think).

  • SSFDC ``Smart'' media: a bit more expensive now but lighter and easier to carry in the long run. Much cooler looking, too. :-)

  • Flash exposes much better than our Olympus Stylus Zoom. On the Stylus, close-range photos always cause washed-out faces. The D-320L exposes very well with flash.

  • Fast upload speed: about 5-10 Kbytes/second. This means an SQ image (<66K) can be uploaded in about 10 seconds, and an HQ1 image (<200K) in about 18 seconds.

  • Immediate upload of images (typical of digital cameras), no waiting for the 1-hour photo lab to screw up your photos.

  • Ability to delete unwanted images (typical of digital cameras with LCD displays): see the lousy images right away and junk them (and maybe retake them).


  • Image sharpness is a bit less than I was expecting. Could be slow shutter speed but we've been trying to hold the camera steady. I am used to scanning prints on a flatbed scanner and the scanner software automatically sharpens the image. This gives very sharp results.

  • Eats batteries at an alarming rate. We went through two sets of four alkalines on the first day. I was hoping for a smaller battery solution, if not a more efficient one. We definitely will investigate a rechargeable solution.

  • Not being able to choose between all three resolution/compression modes from the camera.

  • This seems petty but the self-timer indicator seems poorly designed. It consists of a lens-like thing that sticks way out on the front of the otherwise nicely curved camera. Ours seems a little loose and it probably could break off.

  • The flash mode isn't ``persistent'': the ``no flash'' and ``fill-flash'' settings change back to Auto-Flash whenever the camera is turned off. No problem, you say, just keep the camera on (with the ``lens cap'' open) as long as you want the flash setting to remain. Surprise, the camera shuts off by itself after 180 seconds of non-use.

  • The plastic flap door that covers the video out, RS-232 and AC jacks seems flimsy.

  • Light gold-colored camera body shows scratches. :-(

  • Lens is close to the edge of the camera and easy to cover with fingers. :-)

  • The D-320L seems to be a better match for right-eyed people (people that look through cameras with their right eye). Left-eyed people will find that their greasy nose gets pressed right onto the LCD display. It turns out my wife is left-eyed. :-(

Don't Cares:

  • NTSC Video out: we tried it but I don't know if we'll ever use it. The european C-820L has PAL output instead of NTSC.

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The text and images shown on these pages are Copyright © 1997-2000 Allyn Fratkin and Teri Fratkin. References and links to other sites are for informational purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement of those sites.