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Olympus C-2000 Zoom Digital Camera -
"Executive Overview"

 

(Initial review date: 14 February, 1999, Full review posted 25 April, 1999)

 

 

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1,600 x 1,200 pixel resolution

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3X optical zoom, + 2.5X digital

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Optical and LCD viewfinder

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Spot or Average light metering

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Program, shutter-, aperture-priority exposure modes, in 1/3-stop increments(!) FULL external-flash support! (with 1/3 stop aperture control)

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Large RAM buffer for rapid shot-to-shot cycling, for up to 10 full-resolution images.

 

"Executive Overview" (Click here for full review)
(Beginning with this review, we're going to create "Executive Overviews" of each camera, to give a concise synopsis of their capabilities, for those wanting to get the basic information before committing to reading our (ridiculously detailed) full reviews. - Publishers/Webmasters: Contact us for information on licensing our review material for your own photography site!)
The Olympus C-2000 Zoom is a compact (5 x 2.6 x 2.1 inches, 107.5 x 73.5 x 66.4 mm) 2.1 megapixel digital camera, with a solid, "chunky" feel, yet a surprisingly light weight (9.5 oz, 272 grams w/o batteries). It's rather squat profile fits the hand and eye very well, but prevents it from passing the "shirt pocket" test for portability. Still, it's so compact, it should find its way along on many trips where a more bulky camera would be left behind.
Our first impression on handling the C-2000 Zoom was how much thought had obviously gone into the user interface. (The Olympus engineers must have been reading our reviews, in which we have regularly called for greater camera control without resorting to the LCD-based menu system!) For all its capability, the camera is not only remarkably easy to control, but also lets you know what it's doing at any given moment: If you choose to have the LCD screen active when shooting, the exposure time, aperture value, and exposure compensation settings are all displayed on a real-time basis. - No more wondering what shutter speed the camera might be using, or what aperture (and therefore what depth of field) you might have!
As noted in the preface, you can choose either full-program, shutter-, or aperture-priority autoexposure algorithms, and either averaging or spot-metering exposure evaluation. Couple this level of control with very rapid shot-to-shot cycle times, and you have a digital camera that finally gives you both the level of control and the "feel" of a high-end autofocus rangefinder camera. (Actually, you'd be hard-pressed to find this level of control without going to an SLR-style camera in the 35mm world.) Particularly useful for studio environments, a tiny infrared remote is provided, that lets you control not only the shutter, but the zoom lens and exposure compensation adjustment as well.
The basic image size captured by the C-2000 Zoom is 1600x1200 pixels, but lower resolutions of 1024x768 and even 640x480 are available as menu options. Likewise, there are several image-compression options, including an uncompressed mode producing full-resolution TIFF images for those times when you really need the absolute maximum image quality the camera is capable of delivering. The lens is a 3x optical zoom, ranging from equivalent focal lengths of 35 to 105mm, and a multi-step digital telephoto is also provided, with ratios of 1.6, 2.0, and 2.5 available. Normal focusing is from 31 inches (0.8 m) to infinity, while a macro option allows focusing as close as 8 inches (0.2 m). Lens apertures range from f/2.0 - f/2.8 (tele/wide) to f/11.0 (tele and wide). Shutter speed runs from 1/2 second to 1/800 second, and an undocumented time-exposure mode extends this to 16 seconds. An unusual feature is the provision for manually setting the camera's effective ISO speed (light sensitivity), to values of 100 (the default), 200, and 400. Five white balance settings are provided, including "auto."
Both optical and LCD viewfinders are provided, the LCD being particularly accurate, and the optical viewfinder incorporating dioptric correction for eyeglass wearers. The built-in 4-mode flash has a range of up to 13 feet (4 meters), and also has the added capability for "slow-sync" operation, with both "front curtain" and "rear curtain" options. An external flash sync connector is provided, with the 1/3 f-stop aperture setting accuracy allowing very precise flash exposures. The unit ships with an 8 Meg SmartMedia memory card, connects to the computer via an RS-232 serial interface, and has a video output as well. Images may be captured and stored at several sizes and compression levels, including an uncompressed mode for maximum image quality. Software shipped with the unit includes a basic camera interface package, plus the extraordinary "QuickStitch" panorama-stitching application.
We found the C-2000 Zoom to be an exceptionally flexible digital camera, offering greater creative control than we're accustomed to, combined with one of the best user interfaces we've yet encountered. Image quality was first-rate, in both color and resolution. Sound interesting? - Read the full review for all the details, or check out the index and analysis of the sample pictures!

 

Product Photos/External Controls:
The following product shots show some of the external controls and functions of the C-2000 Zoom, as well as a quick look at the options available to control the picture-taking process.

This 3/4 view  of the C-2000 Zoom shows the lens in the extended position.The accessory threads shown earlier are contained in the plastic ring at the base of the lens, from which the lens barrel extends. In this shot, the toggle control for the zoom lens is at upper left, the dioptric adjustment for the optical viewfinder at upper right, and the PC connector for external flash connection at lower right.
A rear view of the C-2000 Zoom: Despite the relative paucity of control buttons, we found the user interface very easy to navigate. LCD screen is at bottom (obviously), the door on the right hides the SmartMedia card.

A close-up of the rear-panel controls: The upper-middle button turns the LCD display on or off, while the lower button enables the menu system. Most routine camera control is accomplished with the 4-way rocker button at upper right. We liked the way we could control either aperture or shutter speed (depending on exposure mode) with up/down actuation, and EV compensation with left/right actions, without resorting to the menu system.

Top-panel controls: Most functions you'd use the LCD menu system for are mirrored on the top-mounted LCD display. This makes for great power savings, while still providing full camera control. The rotary function dial on the right has positions for shutter-priority, aperture-priority, program-mode exposure, playback, and setup/PC connnection. The control at upper right has the shutter release in the center, with the zoom toggle control projecting to the front.

 

 

Screen Shots/LCD Menu System:
The following screen shots should give a fairly good idea of the controls available on the C-2000 Zoom:

This is the first screen of the main setup menu. As you might guess, the highlighted entry resets all settings to their default values. The second entry appears to be for image sharpness, with settings of "Normal" and "Soft." The SHQ Setup option lets you choose either low-compression JPEG or uncompressed TIFF file formats for the "SHQ" image-quality setting. Likewise, SQ Setup gives you options for the SQ quality setting to correspond to either 640x480 or 1024x768 pixel images. The last menu item controls the annunciator sounds the camera makes as you actuate various controls.
The second screen of the main setup menu. Rec View (selected) turns the LCD screen on for a brief period after each shot, to let you verify the image you just captured. Card Setup controls SmartMedia formatting. The grid entry with "9" next to it is used to set how many thumbnails are displayed on-screen in thumbnail review mode: 4, 9, or 16. The screen with the -...+ scale next to it adjusts LCD brightness. (A neat enhancement: The C-2000 Zoom displays a set of grayscale steps while you're setting the screen brightness, giving you an objective reference for the brightness level you've selected.) The last entry sets the date & time as well as its display format.
The first screen of the Record-Mode Setup Menu. The top entry (selected) chooses between averaging or spot metering modes. The second controls flash modes. The third was never active on our prototype unit: It apparently selects a special slow-sync flash mode, with a longer shutter speed to allow more ambient light to enter the image. The AF option selects between standard autofocus, macro focus, and two fixed focus settings (8 feet/2.5m and infinity). The last option controls the self-timer and remote triggering via the infrared controller, which we didn't have access to for our preliminary tests. (You can apparently control all camera functions via a handheld remote control unit -- very handy for portrait work with kids!)
The second screen of the record-mode setup menu. The top item controls "special functions" enabled by Olympus-brand SmartMedia cards. The display shown offers choices between rapid-sequence mode (2 frame per second shooting) and panorama mode. The next menu entry selects digital zoom ratio, with settings of 1x (no zoom), 1.25, 1.6, 2.0, and 2.5x. The third entry lets you choose between 5 different white-balance settings. Next is the ISO selector, with options of ISO 100, 200, and 400, all user-selectable. Finally, the image-quality selector provides options of SQ, HQ, and SHQ, with the options for SQ and SHQ being determined by the corresponding settings in the main setup menu shown earlier.
As a parting shot, here's what the display looks like when taking a picture in aperture-priority mode. (We had the camera pointed at a blank wall so you could see the readouts clearly: Normally, this display would be overlaid on an image of your subject.) At left is the aperture opening we've selected, by rocking the 4-way toggle pad up and down. At right is the EV compensation we've selected, by rocking the 4-way control from left to right. In the middle is the shutter speed (1/3 of a second) that the camera has chosen in response to our aperture and EV compensation settings, and the light falling on the subject. - We really liked both the level of control the C-2000 Zoom gave us, and the way it kept us informed of its current choice for shutter speed and aperture size.

Phew! That's a lot of functionality, packed into a pretty small package. While the screen shots above give some idea of how the camera works, they don't really convey how smoothly the whole user interface works: You can get to the various camera functions with an absolute minimum of button-pushing, yet you have an exceptional level of control over the picture-taking process. Overall, a very nice user-interface design...


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For More Info:

View the Imaging Resource Data Sheet for the C-2000 Zoom
See the Full Review of the C-2000 Zoom
View the Sample Pictures from the C-2000 Zoom

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