Digital Cameras - Olympus C-2020 Test Images
(Original test posting: 1/28/2000)
(952k) This is a tough shot for many digicams, due to the extreme tonal
range (which is why we set it up this way!). The trick is to hold highlight
and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy
colors. We shot this image using both the automatic
(1130k) and daylight (1072k) white balance settings.
The automatic version resulted in a slightly greenish cast, so we chose
the daylight setting for our main shot (952k).
Color balance on the C-2020 is very good, particularly in the extremely
difficult blues of the flowers and the model's pants (many digicams have
a tendency to reproduce these blues with a more purple hue). We did notice
some blue tints in the shadow areas, but overall color balance is commendable.
Detail in the shadow areas turned out nicely as well with very little noise.
We only required one exposure compensation adjustment on this shot for our
main image, which managed to get the best exposure without blowing the highlights
in the shirt and flowers. The table below shows the results of a range of
exposure settings from zero to +1.7 EV. (We chose a value of +0.3 EV for
our main shot) .
(1120k) The C-2020 does a good job with this "portrait" shot,
due to its 3x zoom lens. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial
features in close-up shots like this. The availability of longer focal lengths
is a key feature if you're going to be taking many close-up people shots).
As is typical with this closer shot, our main shot
(1120k) here required no exposure compensation at all. Sharpness and detail
are good in both the highlight and shadow areas, with the shadows remaining
relatively noise-free. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure
settings from zero to +1.3 EV.
portrait, flash: (769k) This shot is always tricky because
of the potential differences between the color balance of the flash and
the bright room lighting. Many cameras produce odd bluish highlights here,
which the C-2020 only managed to avoid for the most part. The default
flash exposure setting (769k) did a nice job of illuminating both foreground
and background without over-blowing the highlights, although the result
was rather warm. We played with the camera's slow shutter speed option,
snapping this (770k) nearly identical though
slightly darker image with no exposure compensation and this
(924k) brighter image with a +.7 EV adjustment. We did notice that both
images produced a warm cast. We attached a low-end SunPak external flash
and snapped this (1340k) slightly warm image using
the daylight white balance setting and no EV adjustment. We got the best
results overall using the same external flash and no EV adjustment, but
this time with the automatic white balance (1343k)
setting. Although it's just a bit on the cool side, the color and exposure
were the most accurate. (Looking at this shot vs. those taken with the on-camera
flash, you'll appreciate why we're such big fans of external flash options!)
portrait, no flash: (956k) This shot is a very tough test
of a camera's white balance capabilities, thanks to the strong yellowish
cast of the household incandescent lighting it's shot under. The C-2020
did well with this difficult light source, with the best results achieved
in incandescent white balance mode (956k). This
was a bit of a difficult choice for us, since the incandescent setting appeared
slightly greenish and the auto white balance setting
(951k) produced a slightly pinkish result. In the end, the incandescent
won out, at least to our eyes. We also played around with the various ISO
settings, to gauge the noise level. The ISO 100 setting
(1123k) actually came out the brightest and least noisy, while ISO
200 (987k) produced slightly darker and noisier results and ISO
400 (1294k) maintained close to the same brightness level as 200 but
was the noisiest overall (as you would expect).
The table below shows the results of various exposure compensation settings in the incandescent and automatic white balance settings. (The main shot was taken with an exposure compensation of +1.0 EV units).
Exposure Series, Automatic White Balance:
Exposure Series, Incandescent White Balance:
(990k) NOTE that this is the "new" house shot, a much higher-resolution
poster than we first used in our tests. To compare the image of the C-2020
with previously-tested cameras, here's a shot of the original
house poster (990k).
The C-2020 did the best job here on the automatic white balance (1021k) setting, producing cleaner whites overall than the daylight (212k) option. Resolution and detail are about average for a two megapixel camera but still good, judging by the top tree limbs and the bricks on the house. We detected just a hint of an over-sharpening halo at the edges of light and dark areas, and the roof shingles appeared just a little noisy. Additionally, the image is a little softer in the corners, but not too bad. Overall, the C-2020 performed very well. We snapped one image using the camera's "soft" mode, producing this (1156k) slightly softer image. ("Soft" mode just turns off the C-2020's in-camera sharpening. This is very useful for getting the absolute maximum detail out of an image, by sharpening after the fact using Unsharp Masking in Photoshop(tm).)
(1244k) This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance.
NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house"
shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in
the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and
even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) will vary in this
subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail
in the bricks, shingles, and window detail, and in the tree branches against
the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along
the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat"
areas in the windows
Overall, this shot looks really good. The roof shingles aren't too noisy and detail is about average for a high-end 2 megapixel camera. The C-2020 did a good job with the highlight details in the white paint area of the bay window (a tough area for many digicams since the area was painted with a bright white paint that makes tonal handling very difficult). The in-camera sharpening does a good job, as we don't notice any strong halos between the light and dark areas. We chose auto white balance on this one, which gave us the best color balance overall. The table below shows the full resolution series.
We also shot a range of sensitivity settings, with the results shown in the table below.
||Lens Zoom Range (new): We've
received a number of requests from readers to take shots showing the lens
focal length range of those cameras with zoom lenses. Thus, we're happy
to present you here with the following series of shots, showing the field
of view with respectively, the lens at full wide-angle, the lens at full
telephoto, and the lens at full telephoto with 1.6x, 2x and 2.5x digital
telephoto enabled. All these images are shot at the C-2020's small file
size, to save download times. An interesting feature about the C-2020 is
that it allows the digital telephoto images at any setting to be saved as
large as 1600 x 1200 pixels. We felt the C-2020 did a somewhat better than
average job of interpolating the small images into larger ones. Overall,
the C-2020 performs very well in this category.
poster: (1355k) We shot samples of this using both auto
(202k) and daylight (202k) white balance options,
leading us to choose the daylight setting for our main
shot (1355k) due to the slightly warm cast of the auto setting. Skin
tones looked very good and color saturation turned out nice as well (the
blue of the Oriental model's robe is just about right). The C-2020 also
did well with resolution, judging by the detail of the bird?s wings and
the small silver threads on the Oriental model?s robe. We took advantage
of the camera's "soft" mode on this shot as well, which produced
this (1351k) slightly softer image. The table
below carries links to our standard resolution/quality series.
(409k) The C-2020 performs nicely in the macro category, with a minimum
area of only 3.63 x 2.43 inches (92.09 x 61.66 mm). Good detail, sharpness
and color, although the detail on the brooch seems just a hair soft, possibly
due to a limited depth of field or the raised brooch may be just slightly
out of the focus range. The C-2020's flash did a good a job of throttling
down, producing this (413k) slightly darker image.
(The reflection of the coin often tricks digicams). We unfortunately neglected
to take any macro shots using digital telephoto, so will have to leave those
results to your imagination. (Unlike some cameras though, digital telephoto
on the C-2020 works at any setting of the optical zoom lens.)
test target: (650k) The C-2020 produced excellent color and tonal
results on this test. The only minor criticism we have is that the magenta,
yellow and cyan (the "subtractive primaries") seem just a bit
weak. The C-2020 did a great job of distinguishing the red and magenta color
blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart (where many digicams have trouble).
It also did an excellent job with the subtle tonal variations in the Q60
chart, catching up to the "B" range in the pastels. The usually
difficult shadow area on the briquettes also turned out nicely and without
too much noise. In this test, the daylight (198k)
white balance setting produced a very warm cast, while the auto
(196k) white balance setting resulted in the most accurate tones. Thus,
we used the auto setting for our main shot (650k).
We also shot with the C-2020's "soft" mode, producing this
(539k) softer focus image. The table below shows the usual range of resolution/quality
As CCD sensor technology continues to improve, digicams are getting better and better at low-light shooting. The C-2020 continues this trend, showing very good performance down to surprisingly low light levels. As always, there's a tradeoff between longer exposure times/higher ISO values and image noise, but the bottom line is the C-2020 is usable for picture-taking in most any environment where humans are going to be walking around without bumping into things. It's capable of capturing excellent pictures at light levels of 0.25 foot-candles (~3 lux), and can at least produce something all the way down to the limits of our test setup, at 1/16 of a foot-candle. (Although there's so much noise at that level that most people probably wouldn't consider the images usable.) The variable-ISO feature is very nice, letting you trade an increase in image noise for shutter speeds 4x faster - very useful for available-light photography. (At ISO 400, the camera can use a 1/3 second shutter speed under 1 foot-candle illumination, about the level of lighting for a typical outdoor city scene under street lights.) We did notice a tendency toward a rather reddish cast at the lowest light levels, somewhat exacerbated by use of higher ISO ratings. - This cast was very easily neutralized in Photoshop(tm) though, and PhotoGenetics could easily batch-correct such images. Maximum exposure times are limited to 4 seconds in automatic modes, but extend all the way out to 16 seconds in manual mode.
The table below has links to test images shot with both ISO 100 and 400 settings, at light levels ranging from 1/16 foot-candles to 8 foot-candles.
||Flash Range Test (New)
(This test was added in August 1999, so cameras tested before that time won't have comparison pictures available. As we go forward though, all the new models will have similar tests available). Olympus rates the C-2020's flash out to a maximum of 18.4 feet (5.6m) in normal, wide angle mode (about 12.5 feet or 3.8m in the telephoto setting). We found this to be the case with no real color shift from eight to 14 feet. The table below shows results obtained at a range of distances from eight to 14 feet at both ISO 100 and 400 sensitivity levels.
Flash Range/Distance, ISO 100:
Flash Range/Distance, ISO 400:
||ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target:
This test is a little subjective, when it comes to deciding just where to
say the camera "stops" resolving properly. We've think as a result
we've been a little inconsistent in our judgment of this measure on various
cameras, so encourage our readers to use the Comparometer(tm)
and judge for themselves between cameras they might be considering. Lately,
we've become a little more conservative in our ratings, so feel that the
appropriate resolution numbers to attach to the C-2020 are something on
the order of 600-650 lines per picture height horizontally and 650-700 lines
per picture height vertically. Given that the C-2020 uses the identical
sensor as the earlier C-2000, it should be no surprise that the resolution
figures are virtually identical. Thus, the lower rating we're assigning
the C-2020 is a result of our more-conservative approach these days, rather
than any difference in optical quality.
With the C-2020, Olympus has added a greater range of quality/resolution combinations than their previous cameras have had. Previously, they tended to have single modes that combined variations of both image size and quality. (That is, "SQ" mode produced a smaller file size, but also always a high degree of image compression.) With the C-2020, you now have the option of either "High" or "Normal" quality settings in each of the three resolution sizes, plus the uncompressed option for the largest image size. The tables below show samples of the resolution test for both wide angle and telephoto lens settings, at all combinations of resolution and image size.
Resolution/Quality series, Wide Angle:
Resolution/Quality series, Telephoto:
||Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target:
We found the C-2020's LCD monitor just ever so slightly loose, showing about
96 percent of the final image area in wide angle
(314k) and about 98 percent in telephoto (320k).
This is very close to the 100% accuracy that we like to see in LCD 'finders,
undoubtedly accurate enough for all but the most absurd shooting situations
(like our own resolution tests!) The optical viewfinder tended to be a little
more loose, showing 88 percent in wide angle (317k)
and about 89 percent in telephoto (306k). We also
noticed an emphasis towards the upper left corner when using the optical
viewfinder, as the heavy outline box is quite a bit off center towards the
top of the frame. Digital telephoto wasn't too much different from the LCD
figures, with the 1.6x (281k) showing around 97
percent, 2x (291k) showing 96 percent and 2.5x
(237k) showing about 95 percent. However, viewfinder sharpness quickly became
an issue at 2x and 2.5x, making the target very difficult to frame. We also
found that the LCD view produced an upward shift in digital telephoto modes.
Geometric distortion on the C-2020 is a bit higher than we'd like to see, with the lens showing a .90 percent barrel distortion at the wide angle end. (Half that value or less would be nice.) We measured a moderate pincushion distortion at the telephoto end, about .38 percent. Chromatic aberration is present but very low, we noticed about one pixel of coloration on each side of the black resolution target lines in the corners of the images. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). Flash uniformity is quite good at the telephoto end of the lens range (although only slightly dark), and shows just a little fall-off in the corners at the widest angle setting.
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