Olympus C-2100 ZoomWow! A superb 10X, optically stabilized zoom lens on a high-quality 2 megapixel camera!
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C-2100 Zoom Test ImagesReview First Posted: 10/18/2000
|We've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated
index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of
information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression
setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail,
we're posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information
need wade through it! ;)
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why we set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom's white balance system handles the challenge fairly well, but its high contrast tends to lose details in the highlights when exposure is set to produce normal midtones. We shot samples of this image in both the automatic (1182k) and daylight (1177k) white balance modes, choosing the automatic setting for our main series (the daylight setting produced slightly warm results, particularly noticeable in the house siding). Color balance looks great throughout the image, although the blue flowers appear somewhat purplish. These blues are somewhat difficult for many digicams to reproduce correctly, and we did notice that the flowers are just a shade dark, with some purplish tints in areas. Still, the skin tones and hair color look very accurate, and the red flower isn't too bright or over-saturated (another common problem). The image looks good and crisp, with a lot of fine detail visible throughout. The shadow areas also show excellent detail, with very fine-grained noise, and relatively little of it to boot. Our main image was taken with a +0.3 EV exposure adjustment, which we felt did the best job of adequately exposing the shadow areas without losing too much detail in the highlights. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings from zero to +1.3 EV in the automatic white balance mode.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
Excellent detail for a 2 megapixel camera! The C-2100 did an excellent job with this closer, portrait shot, with its 10x lens contributing to a very natural-looking portrait shot. (Shorter focal length lenses tend to distort facial features in close-up shots like this and the availability of longer focal lengths is a key feature if you're going to be shooting close-up portrait shots.) Continuing with the automatic white balance setting, we shot our main image with no exposure compensation adjustment. (This close-up shot generally requires less exposure compensation than the wider Outdoor Portrait.) Resolution and detail look much sharper and crisper, especially in the strands of the model's hair, where you can easily see the subtly varying shades of her blonde hair. Noise level remains very low and fine grained in the shadows. The table below shows the results of a range of exposure settings on the C-2100, from zero to +1.0 EV.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
Portrait, Flash: (1037k)
The C-2100's built-in flash does an excellent job of illuminating the subject while maintaining a nice color balance, and the variable flash intensity setting is a great bonus. The flash appears to be particularly well matched to incandescent room illumination, meaning that the flash and room lighting blend very well, without harsh contrast or color shifts. For our first series, we shot with several of the flash intensity settings, which range from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Among these, we found the best exposure at the normal (1039k) flash setting, though each of the images resulted in a slightly warm, magenta cast. Boosting the flash level to +0.3 EV (1041k) did significantly brighten the image, but produced bluish highlights on the face and overexposed the highlight areas of the shirt slightly. As the flash exposure level increased, the magenta cast did fade slightly, but the highlight areas became overexposed. We next shot with the flash level set at +0.7 and the normal exposure compensation adjusted to +0.3 EV, which produced this (1037k) more softly lit image. In this shot, the highlight areas are in check, although the warm, magenta cast is still present. Next, we shot with the camera's Night Scene exposure mode and adjusted the flash intensity setting, which produced interesting results. With the flash set to +0.7 EV (1030k), the color balance is much more accurate (though slightly bluish), but the light level is a little dim. However, when we increased the flash exposure adjustment to +1.0 EV (1057k), the warm, magenta cast returns, but much stronger than before. We also snapped an image with the Red-Eye Reduction (1023k) flash mode, which effectively eliminates the Red-Eye Effect, as well as the bright, white glare from the flash on the eyes. The color balance remains very magenta however, since we didn't undertake any unusual exposure-compensation adjustments. The table below shows a range of flash exposures from zero to +1.0 EV, with the main exposure compensation adjustment remaining at zero.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
portrait, no flash: (1062k)
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting, and the C-2100's white balance system does a great job. We tested the automatic (1061k) and incandescent (1067k) white balance settings, choosing the automatic setting for our main series. The incandescent setting did a pretty good job of interpreting the lighting, but produced a slight warmer, magenta cast throughout the image. It was a close call though, and we could as easily have chosen the incandescent setting for our main series. Color balance looks good under the automatic white balance setting, though the blue flowers show a deep purple hue. Still, the skin tones and the other flowers appear reasonably accurate, albeit just slightly muted. For our main shot, we chose a +0.7 EV adjustment, as that seemed to produce the best combination of exposure and color balance. A moderate noise level is present throughout the image, most visible in the model's hair and in the shadows, although overall we felt it was very acceptable. We also tested the camera's variable ISO settings, shooting at the 100 (1074k), 200 (1236k) and 400 (1366k) ISO equivalents. We found that as the level of sensitivity increased, the color balance seemed to weaken. We also noticed that noise levels increased a good bit, and became much more obvious with the higher ISO settings. (As usual, the blue channel showed the most noise, but we were surprised to find the red channel the lowest. All noise was fairly fine-grained though, which reduced its visible impact.) The table below shows a range of exposure adjustments from zero to +1.7 EV using the C-2100's automatic white balance setting.
Exposure Compensation Settings:
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-2100 with previously tested cameras, here's a shot of the original house poster in the automatic white balance setting.
We shot samples of this image with the automatic,
daylight and fluorescent
white balance modes, eventually choosing the fluorescent setting (!?)
as the most accurate. We were surprised to find that the automatic setting
produced warm, yellowish results. Daylight also produced slightly warm
results, but with more emphasis on the reds and less yellow. Oddly enough,
the fluorescent setting seemed to be more in tune to our studio lighting
(which is supposed to be a pretty nominal daylight), although we detected
just the slightest pink tint, which is just barely visible in the highlights.
Resolution looks very good for a 2 megapixel digicam, with a lot of fine
detail visible in the tree limbs, shrubbery and bricks. We detected just
a hint of softness in the corners of the image, but the overall appearance
is very crisp indeed. A minimal amount of noise shows in the roof shingles,
and the in-camera sharpening seems pretty well controlled (we just picked
up maybe a pixel or so of a halo effect around the light and dark edges
of the white trim along the roof line). The table below shows the full
range of resolution and quality settings for the C-2100, all in the fluorescent
white balance mode.
We also shot with the camera's variable sharpness adjustments, which also had a significant impact on image contrast as well, with higher sharpness corresponding to significantly higher contrast. The Hard image does appear somewhat sharper, but is significantly brighter than the Soft image.
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.
We shot this image using the automatic white balance mode, as it produced
a very accurate white value, with great color rendition throughout the
image. This shot is a strong test of detail, given the practically infinite
range of fine detail visible in a natural scene shot from a distance like
this. The image looks crisp and clear throughout, evidenced by the detail
visible in the pine needles and tree branches against the sky, as well
as in the bricks and shrubbery. Again, we picked up a small amount of
softness and blurring around the corners of the image, albeit less than
we're accustomed to seeing. We also judge a camera's dynamic range in
this shot, comparing how well the camera holds detail in both the shadow
and highlight areas. The C-2100 does a reasonably good job here, though
it loses some of the detail in the very bright bay window area. The dark
shadow beneath the cherry tree on the right side of the house also shows
some loss of detail. A moderate amount of noise is visible in the roof
shingles as well. We also snapped images at the 100
(1218k), 200 (1383k)
and 400 (1256k) ISO
settings, again noticing that as the ISO increased, the contrast seemed
to decrease and the colors flattened a little. Noise also became more
pronounced with the higher sensitivity settings. The table below shows
the full resolution and quality series in the automatic white balance
The camera's variable sharpness settings again seemed to alter the contrast of the image while increasing or decreasing the sharpness. Still, we appreciated that the neither of the optional sharpness settings overdo the effect, instead providing a very moderate, useful level of adjustment.
||Lens Zoom Range
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 the lens at full wide angle, the lens at full 10x telephoto and the lens at full telephoto with 2.7x digital telephoto enabled.
WOW, this is an incredible lens! The wide angle shot looks nice and crisp,
without any visible distortion, while the 10x telephoto gets incredibly
close, with increased resolution and visibility of fine detail. We were
very impressed with the 2.7x digital telephoto, which does an excellent
job of getting an even tighter shot without decreasing the resolution
too much. Though the resulting image is slightly softer, noise is under
control and there's a good bit of fine detail visible. Overall, the lens
is very sharp and distortion-free across its range: We expeted to see
obvious distortion (both geometric and chromatic) at the full 10x position,
but the image there is remarkably sharp, clear, and distortion-free: If
you do a lot of telephoto shooting, this camera would be an excellent
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (499k), daylight (498k) and fluorescent (504k) white balance settings, this time choosing the automatic setting as the most accurate overall. The daylight setting produced slightly warm results, while the fluorescent setting produced a slightly magenta image. (The large amount of blue in this target often tricks digicams into overcompensating, so the C-2100 does an excellent job here.) Color balance looks quite accurate throughout the image, judging by the skin tones. The blue of the Oriental model's robe is also nearly accurate (ahother common problem area for digicams, as it's a hard blue to reproduce correctly). Resolution is very good as well, with a lot of detail visible in the bird wings and silver threads on the blue robe, including the subtle color gradations on the wings. Likewise, the flower garland, violin strings and beaded necklaces show crisp detail. A moderate amount of noise is visible in the blue background, much of which could be coming from the poster itself. Below is our standard resolution and quality series in the C-2100's automatic white balance setting.
We again shot with each of the C-2100's sharpness adjustments, finding similar results as in our other tests. We also noticed that the noise pattern became much more visible with the Hard sharpness setting.
||Macro Shot (1257k)
The C-2100 performs very well in the macro category, capturing an impressive minimum area of 2.44 x 1.83 inches (61.93 x 46.45 mm). Color balance appears slightly warm and magenta, but detail and resolution are both excellent, and the C-2100's lens gives a comfortable working distance. The C-2100's built-in flash (1270k) does a great job of throttling down for the macro area, with just a little reflection from the shiny coin and a small sparkle on the brooch.
Test Target (971k)
We shot samples of this target using the automatic (432k) daylight (418k) and fluorescent (432k) white balance settings, choosing the fluorescent setting for our main series. As we found with the house poster, the automatic and daylight settings produced relatively warm results. The fluorescent setting produced the most accurate white value, but we still notice a slight magenta cast throughout the image. The large cyan, magenta and yellow color blocks look reasonably accurate, albeit slightly undersaturated. The C-2100 is able to distinguish between the red and magenta color blocks on the middle, horizontal color chart, a problem area for some digicams. Exposure also looks good, as the subtle tonal variations of the Q60 chart are visible up to the "B" range (another common problem area for digicams). We did notice that the tonal gradations of the vertical grayscales seemed to blend together more towards the black squares, althought the C-2100 did manage to successfully resolve the difference between the two lowest density steps. The shadow area of the briquettes shows a fair amount of detail, with very little noise, and most of the details in the white gauze area are fully visible as well. Overall, a very good performance. Below is our standard resolution and quality series, using the fluorescent white balance setting.
We again shot with the variable sharpness adjustments, still noticing the shift in contrast that accompanies each adjustment. Interestingly enough, the Hard setting seems to improve the magenta color cast, causing the white of the small resolution target to look slightly more accurate. We also noticed a slightly higher, more visible noise level with the Hard sharpness setting.
The C-2100 did a superb job in the low-light category, as we were able to obtain bright, useable images at light levels as low as 1/16 of a foot candle (0.67 lux). At the eight and four foot candle light levels (88 to 44 lux), we were able to use the camera's night shooting mode. Below that, we switched to shutter priority, with our longest shutter time being 16 seconds. At the slower shutter speeds, we did encounter higher noise levels, but they were still very low. We also shot at each light level with the camera's three ISO settings (100, 200 and 400), finding that noise level increased slightly with each higher sensitivity level. We were surprised though, to find the noise quite tolerable, even at the 400 ISO setting at 1/16 of a foot candle (0.67 lux). This is one of the best low-light performances we've seen to date from a digicam, an impressive accomplishment! To put the C-2100's low light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot candle.
One big strike against the C2100 in the low light arena is that its eyelevel LCD viewfinder really isn't usable below about 1/4 of a foot-candle, which is quite a bit above the minimum light level the camera can take a picture at. Below this level, you'll be reduced to guessing, or sighting along the lens barrel like a gunsight. To its credit though, we were surprised that the LCD viewfinder on the 2100 worked under conditions as dim as it did: It seems the camera boosts the CCD sensitivity quite a bit under low light conditions just at the moment you half-press the shutter button. This lets you frame a shot a good two f-stops darker than you would be able to otherwise. Another big plus on the C2100 (although not for candid shots) is the very bright autofocus-assist illuminator LED, which does a good job of throwing enough light on the scene to let you shoot in complete darkness and still get sharply focused pictures. (At least, it did in our own testing: We'd like to see the results of a lot broader range of shooting with the camera before we'd want to make a sweeping generalization. Still, the C-2100 did a much better job of focusing under low/no light conditions than most other cameras we've tested.) Overall, we were very impressed with the C-2100's low light results, and rank it among one of the top performers we've seen in that category.
The table below shows the best exposure we were able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels, at each of the available ISO settings. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
||Flash Range Test
(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-2100's flash as effective from 11.8 inches to 13 feet (0.29 to 4.0 m), which differed slightly from our test results. While the flash was reasonably effective all the way out to 14 feet, the eight foot mark was the clearly brightest shot. The flash intensity steadily decreased from there, becoming quite dim by the 14 foot mark. We'd rate the flash as effective to perhaps 10 feet, rather than the 13 feet claimed by Olympus. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
(WG-18) Resolution Test (1033k)
The C-2100 UltraZoom produced a sharp, clear image on our resolution target tests. We called the resolution as 650 lines per picture height in both horizontal and vertical directions, although detail was visible out as far as 800 lines in both directions. Some aliasing was visible as low as 550 lines per picture height in both directions, somewhat more pronounced in the vertical direction, but not too objectionable in either. We also shot image samples with various sharpness settings, again finding that the "hard" sharpness option significantly boosts the overall brightness of the image. The tables below hold links to our usual resolution/quality series.
Resolution/Quality series, Wide Angle
Sharpness Series, Wide Angle
Resolution/Quality series, Telephoto
Sharpness Series, Telephoto
||Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
We found the C-2100's LCD viewfinder to be very accurate, showing approximately 98 percent of the final image area at wide angle (409k), and about 99 percent at telephoto (402k) (at all four image sizes). Since we generally like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, we are very pleased with the C-2100's performance.
Optical distortion on the C-2100 is on the low side of what we'd call "moderate" at the wide angle end of the lens' range, as we measured 0.5 percent barrel distortion there. The telephoto end fared much better, showing only about one pixel of pincushion distortion, an almost unmeasurable result. Chromatic aberration is also relatively low, showing about one or two pixels of coloration on each side of the black target lines. (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.) Overall, performance of this lens is exceptionally good, particularly given the long 10x zoom ratio. (Few 3x zoom lenses perform this well.) Flash distribution looks good at the wide angle end, with just a little falloff in the corners (the light from the flash was much too dim at the 10x telephoto setting, so we shot with our studio lights).
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