Epson PhotoPC 3100Z Review
By Movable Type Admin
Epson PhotoPC 3100Z
At first glance the Epson PhotoPC 3100Z is very similar to last year's
PhotoPC 3000Z, in fact very
little has changed externally except the body is now gray in color and there's a blue
"print" button on the back. Internally the camera features the new PRINT Image
Matching Technology and the shutter speed priority mode that was missing from the
3000Z. Possibly the best news is that the PhotoPC 3100Z is priced lower than the
3000Z and carries an MSRP of just $799.
I like this camera because it ISN'T real small. I am not happy with the current trend of digicams getting smaller and smaller. You have probably noticed that the average 35mm SLR camera is about the same size and weight no matter which manufacturer it comes from. You need a certain amount of substance to a camera to prevent blurred pictures due to movement and it must also afford the user a firm and sturdy grip. The PhotoPC 3100Z has a nice large finger grip and feels very "good" in your hand, it can easily be used with just your right hand. It isn't a real heavy camera but it isn't a lightweight and "plastic" feeling camera either, in my opinion it's just right. It's almost impossible to hold a small and lightweight camera steady at shutter speeds slower than 1/40 second.
Epson's PRINT Image Matching Technology is a way for camera manufacturers to specify the colorspace and dynamic range of their cameras and to insure that the colors recorded will be reproduced as closely as possible when output to a printer. This information is stored in the header of the JPEG images created by each camera and can be read by the new line of Epson Photo Inkjet printers that feature the PRINT Image Matching Technology like the Stylus Photo 785EPX. For a more detailed rundown of this technology see this page at the digitalkamera.de website.
The back of the camera looks the same as the 3000Z with the addition of the new Print Button. This button allows you to access the various options of the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF). The user can quickly select image(s) and define how many copies of it should be printed when used with a DPOF-compatible printer. The color LCD is surrounded by "soft" buttons whose functions are determined by labels displayed on the screen. The button's functions change depending on what mode the camera is in. This makes for a more user friendly interface as most digicams have a multitude of dedicated and/or double-function buttons to learn. Whereas most cameras employ a rather complex and multi-level menu system, the 3100Z displays its options whenever the LCD is turned on. In Record and Playback there are two sets of screen overlays that can be enabled for each mode.
On top of the camera are dedicated buttons for image quality and size, flash modes and the selftimer. There is also a monochrome data LCD that lets you see the most important camera settings at a glance. Also located on top is a standard flash hot shoe that lets you use any clip-on flash unit that you desire. The Setup menu lets you select either the internal or external flash, you can not use both at the same time.
The 3100Z can capture up to 25 seconds of QVGA (320x240) motion JPEG with audio thanks to its 16MB internal buffer. You can further extend the recording time to 35 seconds if you disable the audio recording. The audio recording feature can also be used to add 3, 5 or 10 second "audio notes" to still images.
The 3x zoom lens has a fast maximum aperture of F/2.0 which makes it an excellent low light performer. n normal automatic mode the camera will "gain up" the ISO sensitivity to further enhance its low light capability. The macro coverage is excellent, it focuses down to just under 2.5 inches with full autofocus.
The 3100Z takes about 5 seconds to powerup during which time it extends the zoom lens. If shooting in the LCD-assist mode then it requires about 6 seconds to be ready for the first shot. Going from record to playback mode takes about 4 seconds. When the camera goes to "sleep" it does not retract the lens so all it takes is a little half-press of the shutter to wake it up again and it's ready to snap a picture in about 2 seconds. Powering down takes about 5 seconds until the lens is retracted so you can slip on the lens cap.
The PhotoPC 3100Z is a fully-featured, 3-megapixel camera that easily holds its own against the competition. Thanks to the builtin audio capabilities it even jumps ahead of some of the other cameras in functionality. Its ease of use, ergonomics and overall image quality put it right up there with the best digicams available today. Epson includes the lens adapter instead of making it an "optional" accessory I only wish they had continued to include the NiMH batteries and charger with the camera. Thankfully they aren't that expensive and the 3100Z uses standard and readily available AA size cells instead of an expensive proprietary battery.
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