Olympus C-211 ZoomHave your cake and eat it too! - 2 megapixels worth of digital photos, and a built-in Polaroid printer!
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Page 3:DesignReview First Posted: 9/25/2000
The broad dimensions of the Olympus C-211 Zoom may keep it out of the "pocket camera" category, but don't let the larger size prevent you from exploring all it has to offer. First and foremost, the C-211's larger size accommodates a self-contained Polaroid print engine. This built-in printing capability allows you to quickly output your digital images on Polaroid 500 film (the same film size used in the Polaroid Joycam and Captiva cameras). In addition to single images, you can create an index print of four or nine images on one piece of film.
Although the camera is significantly larger than other digicams (7 x 5.25 x 2.5 inches or 17.78 x 13.34 x 6.35cm), the C-211 Zoom is lighter than it looks. Fully loaded with batteries, printing media, and a SmartMedia card, it can be handled for extended periods without fatigue, and the accompanying neck strap makes carrying this camera a cinch.
The front of the camera features the lens, shutter button, flash, and Polaroid film loading slot. The lens is protected by a removable plastic lens cap, which is tethered to the camera by a small strap. The film loading slot opens by sliding a small switch on the side of the camera and pulling the compartment forward slightly to remove and replace the used film pack. A large hand grip lies underneath the lens, giving you a nice, firm hold on the camera (thanks to the battery compartment). The extra weight in the grip helps to balance the camera on that pivotal point.
Viewed from the front, the right side of the camera houses a sliding latch to open the Polaroid film compartment, and a hinged plastic door that snaps securely over the camera's video output jack, USB connector, and DC input jack. One of the eyelets for the neck strap is also located on this side of the camera. The opposite side has the other neck strap eyelet and a SmartMedia compartment covered by another hinged, plastic door.
The C-211's top panel features a rectangular plastic door, through which the Polaroid print is ejected. The opening and closing of the door is controlled by the print mechanism, thus preventing light from accidentally exposing the Polaroid film.
All of the camera controls (except for the shutter button) are located on the C-211's back panel. Interestingly, Olympus decided to forego the optical viewfinder and opted instead for an omnipresent LCD monitor. The LCD has a "sunlit" backlight feature, which consists of a white plastic lid on top of the monitor that can be positioned to take advantage of directional light. Controlled by a sliding switch to the right of the LCD monitor, the white monitor lid can be popped open when the sun is behind the camera, and closed when the light source is in front. The result is improved LCD visibility in direct sunlight.
A large dial in the upper right corner of the back panel controls power on/off and camera operating modes, including: Record, Play, Print, and Set-Up. Four function buttons positioned below the monitor control Digital Telephoto, Focus/Info, Flash/Erase, and Menu access. To the right of these buttons is the Zoom lever, with a four-button arrow pad to navigate around the menus. The OK button sets your menu choices, and a Polaroid Digital Print button activates the print mode. The Mode dial is a little tricky, as it is somewhat flat relative to the camera. A finger grip on one side of the dial helps turn it, but it's easy to miss your stop, since the dial doesn't click securely into place at each setting. Just a minor gripe, since it didn't really affect our ability to use the camera.
Finally, the bottom of the C-211 is nice and flat, with only two access pointsthe openings to the removable battery compartment and the plastic tripod mount. The battery compartment is of an interesting design, with a long tray that slides in and out of the compartment and locks into place. Four AA batteries snap into the tray, and a small switch next to the opening releases and locks the tray into place. The battery compartment and tripod mount are well placedfar enough apart from each other to allow quick battery changes while the camera is still mounted on a tripod. We were also pleased to note that the SmartMedia card slot is accessed from the side of the camera rather than on the bottom panel, where the tripod mount would interfere with a quick media change.
Ergonomically, the C-211 is bulky but comfortable to hold. Our one major beef with the design is that the shutter button on our test unit was so @#%! hard to press! A half press set the exposure and white balance very easily, but we had to really bear down on the button to actually snap the picture. In low-light situations, this made it much more likely that we would jiggle the camera and end up with blurry pictures.
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