By Bryan Young
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Olympus set the standard for consumer-priced SLR digital cameras with the introduction of the D-600L. They improved on that camera with the D-620L and have once again raised the bar with their new C-2500L. The only other true SLR digicams priced under $3500 (as of Nov 99) are the Sony CyberShot D700 and the newer model D770, both are 1.5 megapixel cameras and sell for about $600 more than the 2.5 megapixel C-2500L.
I liked the look and feel of the D-600L but was disappointed by its quirky autofocus system. Olympus improved it when they released the D-620L but this camera was still lacking any kind of manual controls. I'm happy to report that the C-2500L has a significantly improved autofocus system. Improved to the point that it has no trouble focusing in the dark. Add the dedicated Olympus FL-40 clipon flash to the C-2500L and you can shoot (and focus) up to 30 feet in the dark!
The C-2500L lets the user select either a fully open or a fully closed aperture and then precisely matches a shutter speed (1/10,000 to 1/2 sec) for the proper exposure. In manual mode the user can select any shutter speed from 1/10,000 to 8 seconds. Metering can be center-weighted averaging or the extremely accurate spot metering option for strongly backlit subjects.
And talk about innovation -- the C-2500L is the world's first digicam to be able to accept both SmartMedia and CompactFlash memory cards at the same time. There's a slot for each type of card and a button on the back of the camera marked "SM/CF" that lets you quickly switch back and forth between the two cards. Olympus has signed an OEM agreement with Lexar Media and will be offering a 32MB and 64MB JumpShot CF/USB card as an option for their C-2500L cameras.
The C-2500L feels great in your hand, its weight is very evenly distributed and the oversized grip affords the user a steady and secure handhold to insure sharp and non-blurry images. Thankfully the power on/off switch and command dial are now positioned on the back of the camera. I don't know how many times I have switched off my C-2000Z by pressing the on/off switch instead of the shutter button. If you do a lot of outdoor action type shots then you'll love the C-2500L, you can't beat a SLR for following rapid moving subjects.
Using a 16MB internal buffer, the C-2500L can capture up to five shots at any resolution in less than three seconds if you're shooting with the flash off and have preset the focus. The camera powers up within 3-4 seconds, saves a 1712x1368 SHQ image in about 7 seconds but due to the buffer you don't have to wait while it's processing the last image you shot. You can go from Record to Play mode and see the last shot you took on the LCD in about 3-4 seconds. It's safe to say that the C-2500L is a fast camera!
The C-2500's image quality is superb under most all lighting conditions. White balance seldomly needs to be on any setting other than automatic to produce properly saturated and true to life colors. Image sharpness is on the same level as that of the Nikon 950 which has pretty much set the standard by which others are judged. There are some problems seen in shadow areas that I believe are related to the CCD imagers used by all the 2-megapixel and higher digicams. I've done a little experimenting and have put together a page dealing with this CCD noise problem.
So far my only real complaint is a lack of live video out during recording, same as with the D-500, D-600 and D-620, the C-2500L does not allow the use of the color LCD as a viewfinder. This is too bad as I'm sure it would get used in the studio a lot more if it had the capability to be hooked up to an external monitor. It would also make the camera much more versatile when doing tabletop macro shots where it isn't exactly "handy" to put your eye up to the viewfinder.
I also would have liked to have seen a real, manual focusing lens, the kind where you grab a ring and turn it. Manual focusing on the C-2500L is accomplished by dialing in a preset distance on the LCD. The SLR viewfinder does not have a split prism or a fresnel type of focusing spot, you either "guesstimate" by dialing in a distance or let the camera do it automatically in autofocus mode.
As with the C-2000Z, the C-2500L comes with an infrared remote control to trip the shutter, operate the zoom or control the camera during playback. This is an incredibly useful device that really adds value to the overall package. If you're into shooting macro or closeups with a tripod, you'll love the remote! All manufacturers should add a wireless remote control to their cameras, when's the last time you saw even the cheapest camcorder that didn't include a remote?
Bottom Line is ... this is a great camera. Sure, something better will come along, doesn't it always? At the time of this writing (Oct 1999,) the C-2500L represents some of the best digicam engineering currently available. I hope the next generation of SLRs will offer us interchangable lenses as well as higher resolution and of course, lower cost.
If you're looking for a high resolution 2-megapixel digicam that's fast and looks and feels like a 35mm film camera -- the Olympus C-2500L is it!
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