Steve's Digicams

AGFA

ePhoto CL50 User Review



Agfa ePhoto CL50

The latest Agfa digital camera is the ePhoto CL50, a 1.3 megapixel (1280x960) CCD imager that is interpolated up to 1600x1200 by the PhotoWise PhotoGenie software. The CL50 features a 3x optical zoom lens, 2-inch color LCD with the patented SuncatcherTM illumination.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

Housed in a rounded-corner, silver plastic body that is just slightly shorter in length than the Nikon 950 and about the same weight. It's too big to be called a "pocket" camera but is by no means a large camera. You could easily carry it around all day without fatigue.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

The view from the top showing the overall "rounded" styling of the camera. There is no positive fingergrip area except for a small rubberized strip on the front for your fingertips. I tended to always be semi-dropping it if not held firmly, be sure to use the wrist strap!


Agfa ePhoto CL50

The status display on top tells you the usual things, pictures remaining, image quality, flash mode, macro mode, battery power remaining. You'll note the four unmarked buttons along the top. They are (left to right): Macro/selftimer, QuickReview, Flash mode and Image Resolution.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

On the back are the other user controls. The zoom switch is on the top. In the center is the Mode switch for On/Off, Record and Playback. The bottom group is for bringing up the menus and navigating through them.

The top buttons are easy to press but the buttons on the back of the camera are heavily recessed and difficult. I found it next to impossible to press the button enough to access the delete function during review.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

The CL50 lets you record audio notes with your pictures using its builtin microphone. The optical viewfinder is large and bright but it does not have any kind of diopter adjustment. Next to the eyepiece is the LED that is green when the camera is on and turns red and blinks when it is saving a picture. The LCD switch enables or disables the color LCD display.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

This is the most unique feature of the CL50, it's called the "Suncatcher." It is a small door that opens up on top of the LCD and lets daylight illuminate the screen rather than a DC-powered backlight. It makes the LCD much more readable in bright sunlight and when the door is open the backlight is turned off saving battery power.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

Here's the access door to insert and remove the SmartMedia card. Unlike most of the other cameras using Smartmedia, the card does not "pop out" to be removed. There is only a small fingergrip area and it is not easy for someone like me with large fingers, I have to use needlenose pliars (sigh!)

Agfa should follow the lead of Fuji, Olympus and others and use the "press in and pop out" type of Smartmedia slot.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

Battery access is on the bottom and due to the inline design it makes changing the batteries very simple. Open the door and tilt the camera and all four cells slide right out and can be replaced almost as quickly.

Unlike the ePhoto 1280 and 1680 which came with a set of NiMH rechargeable batteries, Agfa only packs regular alkaline batteries with the CL50. Be sure to get a couple of sets of NiMH batteries and a good charger, the Suncatcher LCD helps but this camera still eats batteries like all the rest.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

This is the RECord mode screen with all the info turned on. The partial checkerboard indicates the 1280x960 mode, flash is on, filename, battery condition, time and date and the current image number and total number of images.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

This is the Advanced Options menu, it includes:

  • Focus -
    • Macro
    • 1m
    • 2m
    • 5m
    • Infinity
  • Exposure
    • Aperture - Large, Small, Automatic
    • Manual - adjust EV compensation via slider bar onscreen
    • Automatic
  • Metering -
    • Center-weighted default
    • Matrix
    • Spot
  • White Point - Manually set the white balance
  • Ext Flash -
    • Small aperture and 1/200s
    • Large and 1/200s
    • Small and 1/100s
    • Large and 1/100s.
  • Preferences -
    • Keep advanced settings
  • Date and Time - set them
  • Automatic - All settings back to auto


Agfa ePhoto CL50

If you have the QuickReview option enabled this is the screen that is displayed immediately after taking a picture. You can Discard the current image without storing it. Enabling Share keeps the picture on the screen as long as you want. Voice Memo allows you to record up to 10 seconds of WAV audio to annotate the picture.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

If you want to override the autoexposure system you can do it onscreen in realtime using a slider bar.


Agfa ePhoto CL50

The usual 9-thumbnail playback option to quickly select a desired picture from the memory card for fullscreen playback.

And of course, all the usual playback options for a slideshow, delete individual images or all the images or format the memory card.







Steve's Conclusion

The Agfa ePhoto CL50 is the first digital camera I have tested so far with the new sunlight-illuminated LCD screen and I'm happy to report that they work quite well. I only wish I was as positive about the rest of the camera but alas, I am not!

The CL50 has the worst shutter lag of any camera I have ever used, it averages about 2 seconds. To make it worse there is no feedback to the user as to whether the camera is focused or not unless you're watching the LCD and even then it isn't what I would call "obvious."

After pressing the shutter the only indication that it took the shot is a red LED blinking. The first couple of shots I took were completely misframed because I was already moving the camera before it had even snapped the shutter.   No green "focus OK" light, no audible beep, nothing.

The first thing I wanted to see in action was the Suncatcher LCD display and it does work. When you flip the little trap door open the camera turns off the DC-powered backlight and uses the available sunlight to light up the LCD from the back side. I won't say that I would want to use it all the time but it is nice when doing macro shots of flowers out in the bright sunlight.

Overall the picture quality is totally optimized for video out display to a TV set, on the computer screen images were consistently dark. All of my CL50 sample pics have been run through the Agfa PhotoWise software and were PhotoGenie enhanced to remove JPG artifacts and most all of them were "quick fix'd" to brighten them up.

The CL50's real resolution is 1280x960 pixels but they claim 1.9 megapixel (1600x1200) by way of PhotoGenie which is considerably more than simple interpolation but it's still "software magic" and not real CCD imager resolution.

Another annoying thing is the heavily recessed buttons on the back. If you have the QuickReview function turned on your picture is displayed on the LCD while being processed and stored. If you're quick enough you can press one of the buttons about 4 times to get to the "delete the picture" option but I never could, it always stored the picture just before I got to the option. The zoom lens button is the same way but because of where the buttons are located, it seems to not be as much of a problem as the other rear buttons.

Speaking of buttons, there's four across the top with no labels at all. So unless you have memorized what they do you have to watch the top info display to see what the heck you're changing. It isn't impossible but it's certainly annoying.

I thought the camera had done just about everything possible to agitate me and then I went to remove the SmartMedia card. If you have tiny fingers or incredibly long fingernails then you're OK, if not then be sure to carry a pair of needlenose pliars around with you. Agfa needs to take a lesson from Fuji, Olympus and the others using SmartMedia that have the kind of card slot that you press in and it pops the card part way out.

As with the ePhoto 1280 and 1680 cameras, the CL50 has a range of manual settings available in the Advanced Options menu. You can manually select a large or small aperture for depth of field control. Onscreen, realtime EV compensation. The focus is manually settable and you can use an external slave flash with four different combinations of shutter speed and aperture. Exposure Metering is center-weighted by default but can also be matrix or spot. And finally the white balance can be manually set using a known white value such as a card or color chart.

The CL50 can also record voice annotations using its builtin microphone. Audio "notes" are saved as standard WAV files and can be played back using the PhotoWise software, the Windows Media Player or my favorite program, ThumbsPlus. Audio files are saved immediately after shooting a picture using the QuickReview options to record sound. The WAV file is saved with the same filename as the picture taken except of course it has a .WAV extension. And the audio quality is quite good too!


Agfa ePhoto CL50

It doesn't come with NiMH rechargeable batteries like the e1280 and e1680 but it does come with a very nice carrying case with a pocket for a second set of batteries, it has a belt clip or you can attach the shoulder strap.

There are some positives here, really! I bought the camera (tried to get a loaner from Agfa but they said no twice -- guess now I know why) for only $525 from www.ubid.com and there's a $100 mail-in rebate for U.S. buyers until August 31, 1999.   $425 for a brand new and fully warrantied 1.3 megapixel camera with a 3x optical zoom and 2-inch LCD ain't bad.

I would have to recommend that most people spend a little more and get the ePhoto 1680 instead, it just works better.



Steve's ePhoto CL50 Sample Pics







Product ePhoto CL50 Specifications
 

Resolution:

Four resolution modes:
1600 x 1200 (1.9 million pixels) with PhotoGenie technology,
1280 x 960 pixels,
640 x 480 pixels (VGA), and
text (1280 x 960 b/w)

Removable Storage:

8 MB (3.3V) SSFDC SmartMedia™ memory card
compatible up to 32 MB SmartMedia memory

CCD resolution:

1.3 M (1343 x 972) pixels

Screen:

2" high resolution color LCD display (110,000 pixels) for reviewing or capturing images; plus optical viewfinder

Lens:

Auto and manual focus with macro

- Lens aperture range: F/2.8 (wide) - 4.7 (telephoto)
- Lens focal length: 34 -102 mm (35 mm equivalent)
- Lens focal range: normal: 80 cm - infinity macro: 20 cm - 80 cm

- Auto focus 3x continuous optical zoom with macro (38 - 114 mm); plus 2x digital zoom in VGA mode

Flash:

4 flash modes:
- Auto
- Fill-in
- Red eye reduction
- Off
External flash synchronization

Shutter Speed:

1/2 - 1/500 of a second

Processing Speed:

4 - 8.5 seconds, depending on resolution

Color depth of sensor:

30 bit capture/24 bit output

Image format:

JPEG

Timer:

5 and 10 second self timer

Interface:

Serial cable for PC (included)
Serial cable adapter for Macintosh (included)
Video cable for TV (PAL and NTSC)

Video out:

NTSC or PAL (one or the other, not both)

Number of pictures per 8MB SmartMedia card:

12 - 96 images depending on capture mode:

12 images in 1600 x 1200 mode,
24 images in 1280 x 960 mode
24 images in 1280 x 960 Text mode
96 images in 640 x 480 (VGA) mode

Mount:

Standard tripod mount

Dimensions:

72.2mm H x 131mm W x 55.5mm D

Weight:

300 g or 10.6 oz (excluding batteries)

Battery:

Includes 4 AA alkaline batteries (also works with NiMH and lithium or 6.5V AC adapter)

Software:
(included)

Agfa PhotoWise® software with PhotoGenie technology (stand-alone application for Mac and Windows 98, 95, NT or higher; TWAIN driver for PC; Photoshop plug-in for PC or Mac)

Box Contents:

- ePhoto® CL50 digital camera
- 8 MB (3.3V) SSFDC SmartMedia™ memory card
- 4 AA batteries
- Soft case, Wrist strap
- Agfa PhotoWise® software with PhotoGenie™ technology for managing and enhancing digital images and for creating panoramas. Twain driver for PC, Adobe® PhotoShop™ plug-in for Mac
- Serial cable for PC; Mac adapter cable
- A/V cable for TV output
- Manual in printed and electronic (pdf) format (6 languages)

Available Accessories:

AC adapter; Memory Kit (8 MB SSFDC batteries, NiMH); Cable Pack; Batteries (4x NiMH); PCMCIA adapter card; FlashPath floppy adapter

Minimum system requirements for PC and Mac:

- At least 16 MB of RAM
- 50 MB of available hard disk space
- VGA monitor with at least 256 colors
- 2x or faster CD-ROM
- RS-232 serial port

PC system requirements:

- Microsoft Windows 98, 95, NT or higher
- Pentium processor or higher

Macintosh system requirements:

- System 7.5.3 or higher
- PowerPC® processor

Year 2000 Readiness:

Click here for status





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