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Digital Cameras - Olympus C-2000 Zoom Test Images

(Original test date: 4/25/99)
(Full set of images re-shot with production model posted 5/26/99)

NOTE: Production-model images are much sharper than those from prototype unit tested earlier!

 

Outdoor portrait: (912k) Wow! Exceptional color, exceptional detail! (Sharpness is very, very good, a noticeable improvement over the first prototype we tested!) You'd expect excellent detail from a true 2.1 megapixel digital camera, but the superb color rendition is a real plus. (To really see the resolution capabilities of this camera, look at the rendering of the model's hair, particularly where individual strands stand out against the wall in the background, and compare it with that of other, sub-2 megapixel cameras.) Our main shot (912k) here was taken with the exposure compensation boosted by 0.7 EV units. (The light background on this shot almost invariably results in the cameras' exposure systems underexposing it somewhat.) Even the default exposure (876k) didn't fare too badly though. Shadow detail is very good, but the strong highlights are lost in the model's shirt. Overall, the C-2000 Zoom has the high contrast and "punch" of other Olympus cameras, which delivers snappy pictures with excellent color saturation, but which can also result in lost highlights if you boost the exposure, as we did here. The C-2000 Zoom did an excellent job handling the difficult highly-saturated blues of the flowers and the model's pants: Many cameras tend to load too much red into these colors, resulting in a somewhat purplish cast. (There's still just a touch more red here than we'd like to see, but it's better than most in this respect.) The table below has links to images showing a range of exposures, varying in the 0.3-stop increments the C-2000 provides.

Default,
(912k)
+0.3EV
(908k)
+0.7EV
(912k)
+1.0EV
(916k)

 
Closer portrait: (880k) Detail? Did someone say Detail? In another article on this site, we pointed out that some of the current crop of 1+ megapixel cameras weren't that far from the capabilities of the 2 megapixel units, in terms of resolution. On the other hand, there's no question that the C-2000 Zoom is comfortably ahead of any of the current crop of under-2-megapixel cameras, when it comes to the delicate detail it can record, clearly at the top of the field as of this writing (5/26/99). Some cameras tend to flatten-out the areas of subtle tonal gradation in the model's hair in this shot, due to the effects of JPEG compression. The C-2000 shows no hint of this, and the detail captured in the individual strands of hair is dramatic. We chose a shot with +0.3 EV of exposure compensation as the main shot (880k), for its better handling of the skin tones, even though the shirt was quite blown-out. Mac users with lower-gamma monitors may prefer this version (900k), shot with no exposure compensation.  
Indoor portrait, flash: (796k) This subject is tough for most cameras to achieve good white balance on, due to the very different color temperatures of the ambient lighting (household incandescent) and the onboard flash. (The usual result is very bluish highlights from the flash.) The C-2000 produced a very nicely-balanced image though, with the flash highlights a neutral white, and the background more affected by the ambient lighting. We observed that the C-2000's exposure compensation also appeared to influence the flash exposure, a very nice feature. Our main shot (796k) was taken with the exposure compensation adjusted upward by 0.7 EV, while this shot (780k) shows the effect of an 0.3EV adjustment.

The big story with the C-2000 Zoom relative to reduced-light picture-taking is how well it works with garden-variety external flash units. Thanks to the 1/3 f-stop accuracy in aperture-priority mode, you can control flash exposure pretty precisely. This shot (968k) shows the dramatic improvement an external flash can provide. (Shot with our decidedly plain-vanilla Sunpak Auto 144PC flash unit.) Although we don't have decent pictures to post showing it, we were amazed at the range of control we could achieve over flash exposure, by mixing external and internal flash, using slow-sync mode, varying the flash power (our plain-jane Sunpak has two power settings), playing with the aperture setting, and applying EV compensation, which would affect the ambient-light exposure, but not that from the external flash. Our conclusion: If you're interested in flash photography, the C-2000 Zoom is an incredible creative tool, providing by far the greatest control over flash exposures we've seen to date! (The strong incandescent ambient lighting of our test setup didn't lend itself well to showing-off this capability, and we didn't have the camera long enough to set up decent shots to illustrate the various effects you could achieve. Take our word for it though, the control you can achieve is incredible!)

 
Indoor portrait, no flash: (1036k!) This subject is a very tough test of a camera's white-balance capabilities, due to the strong yellow cast of the household incandescent lighting it's shot under. The C-2000's automatic white balance did quite well with this though, producing the nicely-balanced image we used for our main shot (1036k!) at an exposure compensation setting of +0.3 EV. We discovered a rather odd behavior though, as we increased the exposure compensation, the overall color with the "auto" white balance setting shifting to a much warmer balance at compensation settings above +0.7 EV, as shown in this shot (1032k!). We repeated this several times, with similar results. Our guess is that, at the lighting level the image was shot at, the gain for the blue channel maxed-out at a level of +0.3 EV exposure compensation. Beyond that, the other color channels continued to boost their output as more exposure was requested, but the blue didn't have anything left to give. (Actually, upon examining the image's red, green, and blue histograms in Photoshop's "levels" control, we could see that the green channel is also somewhat restricted.) The result is a rather reddish cast in the +0.7EV image. Despite this cast, we found that the image "cleaned up" quite well in Photoshop, as shown here (736k), although the correction process boosted the blue-channel noise along with the brightness of that channel, producing a slight blotchiness in the skin tones. (Blue-channel noise was much better in the production unit than in the earlier prototype we tested.) Although the +1.0 EV image was brighter overall, it had the red channel too saturated to clean up properly.
As with most digital cameras we've tested, the "incandescent" manual white-balance setting on the C-2000 Zoom appears to be optimized for professional studio lighting, with a color temperature of 3200K. When used with the household lighting in our test shot, it produced a very yellowish cast, as shown here (756k). Somewhat surprisingly, we thought the image captured with the incandescent setting cleaned up a bit better in Photoshop than the "auto" mode one, although we still ended up with a bit of a yellowish cast. Here's the cleaned-up incandescent version. (627K)
 
House shot: (664k) Our standard House poster is one of our toughest tests of camera resolution, due to the very high level of detail it contains. The production model of the C-2000 Zoom performed very well here (664k), much sharper than the prototype we'd tested, clearly at the top of the current (5/99) scale for sub-$1K digicams. We also tested the "daylight" white-balance setting on this shot, and found that it produced a rather warm cast. (In hindsight, "Daylight" would have been a good choice for our outdoor shots, which tended slightly to the blue side.)
For this test, we include links in the table below to images shot at each of the camera's resolution settings, with both auto and daylight white balance settings.
Auto White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(664k)
HQ, Normal
(440k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(184k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(68k)
SHQ, Soft
(592k)
HQ, Soft
(416k)
SQ,
1024x768
Soft
(172k)
SQ,
640x480
Soft
(56k)

Daylight White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(672k)
HQ, Normal
(444k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(184k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(68k)


We also include for your perusal an uncompressed TIFF-formatted image. Click here (5,636k!) to download it. (NOTE that this link is NOT an HTML page, or even a JPEG file, but rather a raw TIFF image: Your browser won't know what to do with it, but should give you the option to just save the file to disk. Note too, that this is a huge, 5.6 megabyte file!)
 
 
Far-Field shot: (704k) 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.
Although it varies with the seasons, this shot is the strongest test of camera resolution of any we do. The C-2000 Zoom came through here with flying colors: Exceptional detail, sharpness, and excellent color! Again, we include in the table below a full range of images shot at the various resolution and compression settings the camera supports, including the uncompressed TIFF option.

SHQ
(704k)
HQ
(440k)
SQ,
1024x768
(180k)
SQ,
640x480
(68k)

One of the C-2000 Zoom's more unique capabilities is it's variable-ISO feature. Our main shots were taken with the ISO set to 100, and show virtually no image noise. As expected, boosting the ISO rating increases light sensitivity (shortening exposure times or decreasing lens apertures), but at the cost of higher image noise, as seen in these samples shot at ISO 200 (700k) and ISO 400 (732k).

We also used this shot to play with the 1.7x teleconverter that Olympus sent along with the C-2000 Zoom production unit. This is an impressive hunk of glass, going *way* beyond the bargain cheapies popular in the digicam market: This is a serious lens! This image (44k) is a series of clips from full-frame photos, showing the range from wide-angle, to normal 3x tele to tele plus 1.7x teleconverter (a total of a 5.1x telephoto range). (The secret is finally revealed: That's a "Lobster Crossing" sign in the upstairs window!)

 

For this shot, we've also included a link to an uncompressed TIFF file. (5,636k!) (NOTE that this link is NOT an HTML page, or even a JPEG file, but rather a raw TIFF image: Your browser won't know what to do with it, but should give you the option to just save the file to disk. Note too, that this is a huge, 5.6 megabyte file!)

 
"Musicians" poster: (1032k!) The C-2000 Zoom produced very good detail on this image, with very good color and tonal balance as well. Our main shot here (1032k!) was taken with the white balance set to "auto", producing a slightly cool tone, while the "daylight" setting produced this (952k) somewhat warm result. To our eyes, the optimum color balance is somewhere between these two settings, although both looked fine when we printed them out on our inkjet printer. (On the inkjet prints, the "daylight" color balance actually looked the best.) Once again, we're posting samples of this image shot with both white balance settings, and all resolution options the camera supports.
Auto White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(1032k!)
HQ, Normal
(432k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(164k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(64k)
SHQ, Soft
(832k)
HQ, Soft
(396k)
SQ,
1024x768
Soft
(168k)
SQ,
640x480
Soft

(60k)

Daylight White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(952k)
HQ, Normal
(412k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(164k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(64k)


We also include for your perusal an uncompressed TIFF-formatted image. Click here (5,636k!) to download it. (NOTE that this link is NOT an HTML page, or even a JPEG file, but rather a raw TIFF image: Your browser won't know what to do with it, but should give you the option to just save the file to disk. Note too, that this is a huge, 5.6 megabyte file!)
 
Macro shot: (728k) - The C-2000 Zoom has a good built-in macro capability, focusing down to 8 inches, and producing this shot (728k) at that distance. The minimum area captured at this distance is 2.25 x 3.0 inches (57 x 76 mm). Although we didn't think to shoot any samples with the digital telephoto option engaged, it would reduce the capture proportionately (by 1.6, 2.0, or 2.5x). The flash worked quite well close-up, producing this shot (636k), successfully throttling-back its output. For some reason though, the color balance on the flash-illuminated shot was rather yellowish, when we expected it to have a cooler cast.
As mentioned above under the "Far" shot, in our second go-round of testing the C-2000, with the production unit, Olympus shipped along the adapter ring that screws onto the body threads and allows you to mount accessory lenses on the front of the lens. We used this to test macro capabilities with a set of multi-element close-up lenses. (Made by another mfr, to remain nameless: Olympus' own adapters are excellent, not to be confused with the single-element cheapies at your local discount store.) The results take the C-2000 Zoom well into the "micro" closeup range, as shown in this shot (608K), taken with just the closeup lenses alone, and in this one (56K), with the 2.5x digital telephoto engaged. Very impressive! (Olympus should really ship the lens-adapter ring with every camera!)
 
"Davebox" test target: (644k) Really excellent color and tonal range in this shot, although the very deepest shadows lose detail, and the bright yellow swatch on the MacBeth target is just slightly weak. Despite the high contrast we'd noted for this camera on other shots, the highlight detail here is very well preserved. The camera distinguishes tonal differences all the way down to step 18 on the large Kodak gray scale. Even in the deep shadows, noise performance is very good. As before, we're including a full set of images of this target, shot with both auto and daylight white-balance settings, and taken with all resolution options. (Apologies for the slightly cockeyed pictures: We didn't pay attention to our tripod level when we shot these!)
Auto White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(644k)
HQ, Normal
(344k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(132k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(52k)

Daylight White Balance
SHQ, Normal
(652k)
HQ, Normal
(336k)
SQ,
1024x768
Normal
(136k)
SQ,
640x480
Normal
(52k)

Also as before, here's a raw TIFF-format version, (5,636k!) to see what the image looks like without the effects of JPEG compression.

 
  Low-Light Tests (NEW!)
After a number of requests for a more quantitative measure of cameras' low-light capabilities, we've instituted an official low-light test, using the Davebox target, a single flood, neutral-density gels, and an accurate light meter to test camera performance under a range of dim lighting. (If it sounds like a pain in the neck, that's because it is!) Because this test is relatively new in our line-up (~March, 1999), cameras tested previously won't have these images available for comparison. From this point on though, all new tests will include the low-light targets
As mentioned in the main review, the C-2000 Zoom's auto exposure and normal user interface only supports exposure times down to 1/2 of a second. At that level, the low-light capability is good, but not outstanding, relative to other cameras on the market. There's a "hidden" capability to shoot time-exposures all the way out to 16 seconds though, and we exercised it in this test. (Note though, that it's entirely possible that this feature won't appear in final production units.) We shot a series of test exposures, running from EV10, all the way down to EV5, with the (pretty extraordinary) results you see here. We also experimented with the ISO adjustment capability of the camera, and found that it did indeed reduce the exposure time required at any given illumination level, but didn't extend the low-light capability in any absolute sense. (In other words, a 2-second exposure at ISO400 looked about the same as an 8-second one at ISO100. Increasing the exposure at ISO400 to 4 seconds only increased the image noise.
We did find that higher ISO values helped the low-light focusing somewhat, apparently giving the contrast-detect circuitry more signal to work with. - Like other advanced cameras using contrast-detect focusing without an assist light, we found the C-2000's low-light focusing capability somewhat limited: Below about EV9, you'll really want to use one of the preset focus distances
The table below contains links to images shot at a variety of light levels, with various ISO settings. Overall, we found that we could get fairly good-looking (albeit marginally focused) images down to about EV7. Below that level, the color saturation dropped dramatically, although somewhat less so than other cameras we've tested at such low light levels. We felt that even the image shot at EV5 would be usable in some circumstances, and that light level is so low that we practically need a flashlight to get around the studio! Using only the autoexposure system (limited to a maximum exposure time of 1/2 second), the minimum usable light level was about EV8. EV7 level is pretty doggone dark to get such good shots at, and EV 5 is pushing into the arena of nighttime surveillance photography!

Low
Light
Tests
EV 10
EV 9
EV 8
EV 7
EV 6
EV 5
ISO
100
0.5 Sec
(584k)
0.5 Sec
(588k)
0.5 Sec
(728k)
1 Sec
(932k)
4 Sec
(784k)
8 Sec
(784k)
ISO
400
   
0.5 Sec
(960k)
0.5 Sec
(700k)
1 Sec
(800k)
4 Sec
(800k)

- All these "theoretical" shots are fine, but what about "real" shooting conditions? We were curious how the C-2000 Zoom did under more typical, non-laboratory conditions, so took it to the local mall for a little night shooting, with the results shown below (click on the thumbnails for full-sized images.) WOW - This is a typical mall parking lot, with illumination from street lights, and some incandescent spill from the store interior. Overall illumination was about EV7, but the second shot on the darker side of the store was only about EV6, less in places. VERY impressive! (The second shot in particular, is much brighter than the scene appeared to our eyes. - There's a little noise in there, but overall exceptionally clean!)

Illumination ~ EV7 overall. ISO400
1/3 sec. exposure, f/2.8
(1080K)
Illumination ~ EV6.5 overall. ISO400
1.0 sec. exposure, f/2.8
(Manual time-exposure override)
(1008K)

 
ISO 12233 ("WG-18") resolution target: (796k) (Technoids only) Visual resolution in this test approaches 750-800 lines per picture height (l/ph) horizontally, and 800 lines vertically, although the image is a bit "soft", as we noted earlier. Again, we attribute this to a lack of in-camera sharpening, as the images sharpen-up quite well in Photoshop, using the unsharp masking operator. As is frequently the case, the lens is sharpest at its wide-angle setting, slightly less so at the telephoto end of its range. We haven't previously been reporting on this characteristic, but will from here on in: Some chromatic aberration is evident at the wide-angle end of the lens' focal length range, appearing as a greenish fringe on the outer edges of objects at the edges of the frame, and a reddish fringe on the inside edges. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, the chromatic aberration virtually disappears. (It is sometimes the case that optical aberrations such as this only appear at the very extreme end of a zoom lens' focal length range, but we unfortunately only ran this test at the extreme settings: It's possible that the aberration disappears fairly quickly as the lens is zoomed away from the wide-angle setting, or it may diminish gradually as the telephoto setting is approached. At it's most severe, it's not the worst we've encountered, but is noticeable, and so we've commented on it. Numerically, at it's most extreme it's about 2 pixels vertically, out of 1200, or an error of only about 0.16%)
As with other shots, we've provided a full series of images of this target, shot at both telephoto and wide-angle settings, and all resolution modes the camera supports.
Wide Angle
SHQ
(796k)
HQ
(372k)
SQ,
1024x768
(144k)
SQ,
640x480
(60k)

Telephoto
SHQ
(744k)
HQ
(348k)
SQ,
1024x768
(140k)
SQ,
640x480
(56k)

Also as before, here's a raw TIFF-format version, (5,636k!) to see what the image looks like without the effects of JPEG compression.

Digital Telephoto
We tested the digital telephoto function at all three magnification settings (1.6x, 2.0x, 2.5x), all with the lens at the maximum optical tele setting. We noticed on this shot the viewfinder accuracy tests that the digital tele resulted in an image displacement in the LCD viewfinder: A rather strange result, given that it's all electronic, and one would expect the image could be aligned any way you'd like on the LCD...
1.6x
(48k)
2.0x
(48k)
2.5x
(48k)

 
Viewfinder accuracy/flash uniformity target: The optical viewfinder on the C-2000 Zoom is somewhat more accurate than most, showing about 91% of the final image area, at all zoom settings. On our prototype eval unit, the view through the optical viewfinder was rotated about 2 degrees relative to that captured by the sensor. We've found this to be a surprisingly common problem on prototype cameras, apparently due to looser tolerances on the preproduction assembly jigs, as compared to the production assembly line. So far, we've yet to see a production camera that had this problem, and can't imagine that it won't be corrected in Olympus' final production models. The LCD viewfinder is DEADLY accurate at all optical zoom levels, showing as near to 100% of the final image area as we can measure. As noted in our analysis of the resolution target though, in the digital telephoto mode, the LCD viewfinder shows an image shifted noticeably downward from that the CCD sensor ultimately captures. (We unfortunately didn't shoot the viewfinder accuracy target in digital tele mode though, so you'll need to refer to the res target shots above to evaluate the camera's accuracy in this mode.)
Flash uniformity was excellent at the telephoto end of the lens' range, and very good at the wide angle end, showing only slight falloff in the corners of the frame. The table below shows viewfinder accuracy samples shot at both wide-angle and telephoto lens settings, and taken with both optical and LCD viewfinders.
 
1600x1200
1024x768
640x480
Tele/Optical
(240k)
(79k)
(34k)
Tele/LCD
(240k)
(78k)
(33k)
Wide/Optical
(234k)
(84k)
(36k)
Wide/LCD
(240k)
(80k)
(34k)

 

 

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