Olympus C-3030 Zoom
By Bryan Young
Typical playback screen with the normal overlay data displayed. Battery condition,
image quality (SHQ), date, time and frame number.
This is the exposure information that is displayed when the "info" option
is enabled. Besides the exposure data, the current folder and picture number is
Typical of all digicams, the C-3030 can display small thumbnails of the images stored on the SmartMedia card. You can select to display 9 small thumbnails or 4 larger thumbnails in the setup options.
You can also see that picture number 6 has been protected against deletion, note
the little green key icon.
To check critical focus, exposure or subject matter you can use the zoomed playback
mode. By toggling the zoom lever you can enlarge the picture from 1x to 3x and
then scroll around inside using the 4-way jog switch.
Pressing the menu button during playback mode brings up the following two
menu screens. The first option starts the slideshow playback mode. The "Info"
option enables or disables the display of the extended exposure data. The
microphone icon enables the playback of the 4 second sound clips.
Card setup is for deleting images or formatting the memory card.
Choosing the Mode setup option brings up the following menu screen.
Here you can
select the number of thumbnail images to display and change the brightness of
the LCD's backlight.
The C-3030 Zoom represents a significant upgrade to Olympus' popular C-2020 Zoom. The first difference you'll notice is the new, all-black body and larger finger grip but other than that it looks a lot like the C-2020 Zoom. Inside is an updated 3.34 megapixel imager and robust processing firmware. The C-2020 Zoom was one of the cameras that we recommended without hesitation last year, the C-3030 Zoom will be in that elite group this year. No matter what you want in the way of features this camera has got you covered -- from point and shoot simplicity to full metered manual. It's small enough to take with you wherever you go and light enough to hang around your neck all day.
A common statement made by folks seeing it for the first time was, "It doesn't look like a digital camera." Hearing that I would turn it around and show them the picture I just took on the color LCD. Even my semi-pro photography buddies were impressed with the C-3030's features and image quality. Cameras like this when used with the new Epson 870 and 1270 photo printers will definitely put digital on the same level as film for consumers who want to do it all at home.
The C-3030's larger finger grip gives it a more secure and stable feel in your hand. The major controls like the mode/power dial, zoom lever and shutter button are ergonomically placed and easy to operate. Particularly useful is the new Custom Mode option where you can "dial in" your favorite combination of image size, quality, operational mode, lens startup position, EV compensation, flash mode, and most every other camera option available. This can be your startup default when you turn the camera on which is very handy from power on to power off or during battery or memory card changes.
Recording options are plentiful with a myriad of different combinations of still image capture sizes (2048x1536, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 1024x768, 640x480) and quality/compression settings (uncompressed TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ1 high, SQ1 normal, SQ2 high, SQ2 normal). There's also the 320x240 and 160x120 QuickTime movie modes at 15fps with sound. Movie recording time is limited only by the capacity of the SmartMedia card you're using. The movies are sharp and clear but unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom. Digital zoom is available but using it results in a not so nice, pixelly looking picture.
Drive modes include: Single, Burst, AF Burst, AE Bracketing (3-5 frames with +/- 0.3, 0.6 or 1.0 stop increments), Selftimer and Remote. Burst mode is good for around 3fps up to five JPEG-compressed pictures, it is not useable in TIFF mode. When using an Olympus brand SmartMedia card there is also a special Panorama mode available. As with previous models, Olympus has again included that handy infrared remote control. You can operate the zoom and snap a picture in record mode or control the camera during playback on the TV from the other side of the room.
Exposure options include Programmed Automatic, a point and shoot mode where the camera chooses the best combination of shutter speed and aperture. If you want more control, you can pick from Aperture-priority (F2.8-F11), Shutter-priority (1-1/800 sec) or full Manual. These modes must be chosen from the setup menu and take effect when you switch the mode dial to the "A/S/M" position. When in Manual mode there is a digital light meter displayed on the LCD screen to let you know if your combination of shutter speed and aperture will yield a properly exposed picture.
The C-3030's sensitivity by default will change automatically to suit the conditions or you can manually lock it in at ISO 100, 200 or 400. Using ISO 200 or 400 with shutter speeds longer than 1/8 of a second will result in varying amounts of CCD noise that will appear as speckles and Christmas lights (red, green and blue hot pixels.)
Metering can be center-weighted averaging or spot. White balance options are: Automatic, daylight, cloudy, incandescent and flourescent but no manual preset. The builtin speedlight's output can be controlled (+/- 2.0 in 0.3 increments) and offers Auto-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in or Off modes. Its working range is excellent from macro out to about ten feet and with little to no redeye problems. There is a 5-pin connector for full TTL control of the optional Olympus FL-40 speedlight. Using this external speedlight gives you much greater working range as well as off-camera bounce for more natural looking flash pictures.
The all glass, 3X optical zoom lens covers a focal range of 32-96mm (35mm equivalent) and is not only fast but very sharp. It exhibits the usual amount of barrel distortion in full wideangle and a moderate amount of pincushioning at full telephoto. The motorized zoom mechanism is smooth and positive although it often seemed a little too fast. The focus range is from 30 inches to infinity in normal mode and 8 inches to 30 inches in macro mode.
Autofocus is TTL using a contrast detection system or you can switch to manual focus with 130 steps from 8 inches to infinity. When manual focusing, a slider scale is overlayed on the color LCD and the display is zoomed as you adjust the distance. The autofocus is accurate and usually performs its job in a second or less even in macro mode and works well down into dim lighting conditions.
Filters or add-on lenses can be attached to the C-3030 using the Olympus CLA-1 adapter. Tiffen also makes an adapter that can be used on the C-3030, C-2020 and C-2000 cameras. I did use the EagleEye OpticZoom on the C-3030 but it vignettes at anything other than wide open aperture (F2.8), you can see some sample images by following the link above.
The 1.8-inch color LCD is one of the new "Wideview" displays and is much easier to see from the side than earlier LCDs. It has excellent resolution and the backlight can be adjusted to suit a wide range of viewing conditions. The refresh rate is realtime so there is no herky-jerky display even when fast panning. It does tend to streak a bit when used outdoors and the sun gets in the frame but this is something we see with most digicams. Screen visibility is good in all but direct sunlight where you should be using the optical viewfinder unless you need to access the menus. I found it quite easy to shield the screen by cupping my hand around it when I had to change settings in the great outdoors.
Speaking of optical vewfinders ... the C-3030 uses the same eyelevel, coupled optical viewfinder as the C-2020. There is a diopter adjustment knob on the side and it is a large and bright viewfinder so even those wearing glasses will have no problems using it. It shows slightly less than 90% of the final image. The LCD if used as a viewfinder shows about 98% of the capture area. I did notice that the optical viewfinder is offset from the actual captured image.
I received an email from Alan Chaffee asking me if the C-3030 had the same optical viewfinder problem as the C-2020. So I performed the following (non-scientific) experiment. I shot a picture with the viewfinder crosshairs on an easily identifiable portion of the picture (indicated by the red vertical and horizontal lines) and then checked the captured image's center. I sent the picture to Alan who brought it into Corel PhotoPaint, made this screen capture and determined that the camera shifted the photo to the left (by 28 pixels) and up (by 22 pixels). This amounts to a 9% (8.75) shift to the left and a 9% (9.17) shift upwards.
One of the first exterior improvements I noticed was the new battery door (thank you, thank you, thank you!) With the C-2000 and the C-2020, the user had to be ambidextrous to the max to say the least. The new battery door closes easily and logically and then stays closed with a sliding security latch. Be forewarned -- there is no electronic interlock so if you forget to flip the security latch the camera still works and all it takes is a good bump and that door pops open.
Unfortunately Olympus decided not to package a set of NiMH batteries and charger this time. They did include two of their new lithium 3v battery packs that take the place of the four AA type batteries. They work fine but they are not rechargeable so you'll end up buying a set or two of NiMH batteries and a charger to complete this otherwise excellent camera system. My only other complaint is the lack of any kind of lens cap keeper. Even Nikon finally gave us a lens cap string with the new Coolpix 990.
Bottom Line is that this is an excellent camera. As I said at the beginning, it will be one of the cameras that I'll recommend without hesitation to those seeking the "best" of the Y2K consumer digicams.
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