This page has been formatted to facilitate printout of the review.

Use your browser's "Back" button to return to the previous page, or the links at the top and bottom of this page to navigate to related information. If you have difficulty fitting the text on this page onto your printer output, simply resize your browser window to a narrower width and print again.




Remember us when it's time to buy!

Dave here: Have our reviews been helpful to you? (Is this article you're reading right now useful?) Preparing this level of information on as many products as we do is incredibly hard work, not to mention expensive. Things on the Internet may look like they're free, but they're not. (As a lot of big dot.com companies are finding out these days.) Somewhere, somebody has to pay to produce worthwhile content. YOU can help us though, by remembering us when it comes time to make your purchase. Would you consider coming back to our site and clicking-through to one of our advertisers to make your purchase? Every dollar you spend with one of our advertisers helps us directly (in affiliate fees) or indirectly (the advertiser will keep renewing their ad contract with us). To make it easy for you to support us, here's a URL you can visit, to see all our current advertisers, with links to click on that will register your visit to them as having come from our site. It's up to you where you buy, but Mike, Mike, Kim, Yazmin, Marti and I would be really grateful if you'd help us out by choosing one of our advertisers to purchase from.

Thank you for your support!
Dave Etchells, Founder & Publisher


Visit our "Buy Now" Page:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm





Back to Full Olympus C-3030 Review
Go to Olympus C-3030 Data Sheet
Go to Olympus C-3030 Pictures Page
Up to Imaging Resource Cameras Page


Olympus C-3030

Olympus extends their high-end compact to 3.3 megapixels, adds sound to its movies!

Review First Posted: 5/18/2000



Must-have e-book for this camera -- $20, Click Here!

MSRP $999 US

 

*
3.14 megapixel resolution (3.34 megapixel CCD) for 2048 x 1536 images
*
Multiple exposure modes, including full manual
*
Total of 5 resolution modes, with uncompressed TIFF format available in all
*
Optional manual focus with distance readout on LCD screen
*
Sync connection for external flash unit
*
Movie recording with sound, up to 300 seconds in SQ (160x120) mode
   


Manufacturer Overview
With one of the broadest digicam lineups in the industry, Olympus is a traditional camera manufacturer who's successfully making the transition to the digital era. A little over a year ago (this is being written in May, 2000) they introduced one of the first 2 megapixel digicams on the market, the C-2000 Zoom. It proved to be extremely popular, offering a compelling combination of features and excellent picture quality. They subsequently upgrade it with the C-2020 Zoom, a model offering improved functionality and user interface design. Now, they've extended the same basic (and successful) design to the three megapixel arena, with the C-3030 Zoom. The new model is again evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, but once again, Olympus appears to have listened to customer input and incorporated many of the most-requested features. Overall, the new camera is a very strong entry in the three megapixel arena, and should compete well in that market.
Highlights


Executive Overview
A few months ago (early 2000), Olympus introduced the C2020 as a welcome upgrade to their previous C-2000 Zoom digicam: Olympus obviously listened closely to users, and implemented many of the most-requested features in the new model. Now, they've taken the same basic (successful) design and created the C-3030, giving it a larger, 3.3 megapixel CCD, sound recording capabilities and several other feature additions and user-interface improvements. The net result is very pleasing, certain to appeal to fans of the former models, or to anyone looking for a high-performance "prosumer" digicam. Design-wise, the C-3030 looks much like its predecessor, with the exception of its monotone black body (the C-2020 featured a silver and black design). The C-3030 retains the lightweight portability of its predecessor, easily slipping into a large coat pocket or purse. The only design complaint we have is the lens cap, which doesn't tether to anything and can be easily lost. It's a minor issue, but one we're compelled to harp on just the same: We've lost too many lens caps in our lives, and a tether strap is just too easy to add for manufacturers to have an excuse not to. On the plus side, we were glad to see that Olympus redesigned the previously awkward battery compartment cover. Now, you just slide a lock and then slide the cover open, without needing superhuman hand strength or more fingers than nature gave us.
The C-3030 offers a 3x, 6.5 to 19.5mm lens (equivalent to a 32 to 96mm lens on a 35mm camera) with both auto and manual focus options. This looks like it's physically the same lens as on the C-2020 Zoom, with the difference in focal length resulting from the slightly larger physical dimensions of the CCD. We were very happy to see the continuance of the distance scale that appears on the LCD when using manual focus, as it greatly helps in hard to focus situations. There's now also a handy focus-assist feature, whereby the LCD display zooms to a larger scale whenever you actuate the manual focus adjustment. Apart from the temporary "zoom" while focusing, the 2.5x digital telephoto is activated through the Record menu, preventing you from accidentally sliding into the digital zoom range, a feature we like to see. The C-3030 sports both optical and LCD viewfinders for composing images. As with its predecessors, power consumption is exceptionally low when the LCD is off, meaning you can leave the camera on all day without worrying about draining your batteries.
Exposure-wise, we appreciate the degree of control the C-3030 provides. Although many of the camera's settings rely on the LCD menu system, you can still set the flash, macro and metering options without resorting to the LCD. Unfortunately, changing the exposure compensation or altering other exposure settings requires accessing the LCD menu system. (In general, we prefer to see digicams that permit significant control via the top-panel data readout, rather than the LCD panel. This really helps to conserve battery power!) However, in Playback mode, functions like Delete, Write Protect and Print can now be controlled by pressing a single button (previously requiring use of the menu system). You get as much or as little exposure control as you want with the C-3030, via Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. In all modes except for manual, you have an aperture range from F/2.8 to F/11 and shutter speeds from one to 1/800 seconds. In Manual mode, the shutter speed range extends to 16 to 1/800 seconds, giving you much longer exposure times. We liked the fact that, in all modes except Program AE, the camera indicates whether an exposure is going to be too dark or too light, giving you a chance to alter the exposure settings before snapping the picture. We also really like the on-screen display of the aperture and shutter speeds the camera has chosen.
White balance and exposure compensation offer the traditional settings and you have a choice between Spot and Digital ESP (matrix) exposure metering. Thus far, Olympus digicams haven't offered a "manual" white balance mode, and the C-3030 doesn't either. We really like to see manual white-balance options (also called "preset" or "one-push" white balance by some manufacturers), especially on cameras as advanced as the C-3030 Zoom. The built-in flash provides the standard Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In and Off modes, but can be also combined with slow shutter speeds to achieve various low light exposures through the Slow-Sync setting. In slow sync mode, the flash may be synchronized with either the opening or closing of the shutter. There's also a sync socket for an external flash, which can be used either with or without the built-in flash. You can control flash exposure independently of that for ambient light, via the flash intensity setting, which is adjustable from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Combine this with the variable ISO option (100, 200 or 400) and you get an excellent range of exposure control options, especially in low-light situations.
The Sequence, Auto Bracketing and Panorama shooting modes provide a nice range of exposure options and cater to a number of shooting situations. We also like the Picture Effects menu, which offers Black and White, Sepia, White Board or Black Board shooting modes, helpful in a variety of scenarios. A nice bonus on the C-3030 is the ability to record sound, both with movies and still images. This makes movies a little more interesting and can be really helpful in labeling still images. (The lack of sound recording in its movies was a frequent complaint we heard from owners of the earlier C-2020.) Do note though, that the C-3030 Zoom has no internal speaker, so you'll have to download your movies to a computer to hear the audio track.
The C-3030 offers a range of image resolution sizes, from 2048 x 1536 to 640 x 480 (five sizes in all) with a variety of quality settings. Files are saved as JPEGs with an option for uncompressed TIFF at all image sizes. Images are stored on SmartMedia cards and a 16mb card is packaged with the camera. The C-3030 supports both USB and the standard serial interface, accommodating both PC and Mac users. Additionally, an NTSC video cable means that you can play back movies and captured images on your television set, or even use the TV as an expanded LCD monitor for image composition. (European models come equipped for the PAL video standard.)
Overall, the C-3030 Zoom is a very worthy extension to the previous C-2020 Zoom: Combining lightweight portability, a 3.3 megapixel CCD, wide array of resolution choices, and excellent exposure controls, it's flexible, user-friendly, and high performance. We own a C-2020 Zoom and use it for all our product shots that appear on the web site: We have to confess to being sorely tempted by the new 3 megapixel C-3030 Zoom, even though our C-2020 is less than six months old. (This is an occupational hazard in the digicam world, where there's always something coming out better than the product you acquired just months before...) Whether you're entering the market for the first time, or upgrading from an earlier model though, the C-3030 Zoom presents a wealth of features and capabilities, and excellent image quality in the bargain.
Design
With the C-3030 Zoom, Olympus has kept the familiar lightweight, compact styling of earlier models in the line, but this time with an all black facade. In fact, it incorporates all the features of the C-2020 Zoom, but now with a 3.3 megapixel CCD and sound recording capability (not to mention a wider array of image resolution sizes). The very rugged plastic body gives the camera a low weight of 10.6 ounces (300.5g). Dimension-wise, the camera measures 4.3 x 3.0 x 2.6 inches (107.5 x 76.4 x 66.4mm), so it's easily stashed in a coat pocket or purse. Overall, the design is almost identical to the C-2020 Zoom, with the sole exceptions of a larger handgrip area and a much easier to operate battery compartment lid.


Aside from the monotone body, the C-3030 doesn't look too different from the previous C-2020. The front of the camera is relatively clean, featuring the telescoping lens, built-in flash, optical viewfinder front and the remote control infrared sensor. When fully retracted, the lens only adds about a quarter of an inch protrusion beyond the handgrip to the front of the camera. When the camera is turned on, the lens comes out of hiding and likewise retracts when the camera is switched off. A minor gripe here is that the lens is protected by a removable lens cap that doesn't have a tether or any place to attach one. While this isn't a big deal, lens caps have a habit of disappearing, so we like to see designs that either omit them, or provide some sort of tether.


We're glad to see the continuance of the hefty handgrip on the side of the camera which holds the SmartMedia slot (beneath a snug plastic cover that snaps tightly into place). As noted above, the handgrip on the C-3030 Zoom is a little larger than that on the earlier 2020, making for a bit more secure grip.


On the opposite side of the camera are the digital, AC and video input jacks, also protected by a snug plastic cover. The dioptric adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder and the external flash sync connector (notably, not a standard "PC" sync connector) are also on this side of the camera. Users will want to be careful with the flash sync cover, as it's tiny and can be easily lost.


Up top is a small information display panel, the mode dial, shutter release button and zoom control. The small information display reports many of the camera's exposure settings, but you still need to rely on the LCD for exposure compensation adjustments, aperture, and shutter settings. (Note to Olympus: Black & White readouts are cheap, both in terms of materials cost and battery power: We'd really like to see you make more use of them for routine operating controls!)


Most of the controls are on the back panel of the camera with the LCD monitor in the center. The flash and macro controls, arrow keys, manual focus, display and menu buttons live back here. There's also a small, red LED on the side closest to the SmartMedia slot that lets you know when the card is in use (and therefore not to open the slot).


Both the locking battery compartment and plastic tripod mount are located on the bottom of the camera. Unfortunately, they are too close to each other to allow quick battery changes when the camera is mounted on a tripod. Frankly though, we don't know how Olympus could have gotten around that problem on this model, as the bottom of the camera body isn't wide enough to allow any leeway in this area and at the same time keep the tripod mount centrally located. We are glad to report that the battery compartment is now much easier to open than the previous design, as you just slide the lock and push the compartment door outwards as it flips open. (The previous model really required both hands to get it open without dropping the camera). A minor quibble on this part of the camera: The C-3030 Zoom uses a plastic tripod socket, albeit a replaceable one. Metal tripod sockets are the exception rather than the rule, but we really like the added durability that metal provides. Accordingly, we try to mention the tripod socket material in our reviews, as an encouragement to digicam makers to use metal more frequently.
We're also glad to see the return of the small infrared remote control which lets you trip the shutter, operate the zoom lens and scroll through recorded images in Playback mode. We really enjoyed this feature and the amount of freedom it gives. (We make continual use of the IR remote on our C-2020 Zoom in all our studio shooting: It's incredibly handy!)
Viewfinder
The C-3030 features both a "real image" optical viewfinder and an LCD monitor for image composition. The optical viewfinder has central autofocus crosshairs to help you line up shots and two small external LEDs that report whether or not the focus and/or flash is ready. There's also a small dioptric adjustment dial on the left side of the optical viewfinder, to assist eyeglass wearers, but the eyepoint is a bit lower than we'd like to see for use with glasses. The viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but naturally doesn't respond to the 2.5x digital telephoto, which is dependent on the LCD monitor.
A 1.8 inch, TFT, color LCD monitor provides detailed feedback about the current exposure settings, showing the currently selected f-stop, shutter speed and exposure compensation in a row of numbers across the top. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the aperture or shutter value appears continuously, along with the exposure compensation setting, while the second, automatically determined exposure value (either shutter speed or f-stop) appears whenever the shutter button is half pressed, triggering the autofocus and autoexposure systems. The same goes for Manual mode, except both values are displayed together. When the LCD monitor is turned on in record mode, some of the camera's exposure settings are listed as well, such as flash, exposure, etc.
When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can actually zoom in on displayed images up to 3x, as shown in the screen shot at right. This is very handy for checking focus, small details or precise framing. When you're zoomed in, the jog dial buttons let you scroll around within the larger image. There's also the index display option, which displays either four, nine or 16 images at a time.
We found the C-3030's optical viewfinder to be a little tight, showing approximately 82 percent frame coverage at wide angle and about 81 percent at telephoto. (Note that we've changed our nomenclature on this to better reflect what you see looking into the viewfinder: We previously would have referred to the C-3030's viewfinder as "loose"...) These numbers are from the 2048 x 1536 resolution size but the smaller 640 x 480 resolution size numbers are similar at 83 percent accuracy for both wide angle and telephoto. We also noticed that the framing here slants just a little to the left vertically, possibly the CCD on our test unit was shifted a little. The LCD monitor proved to be much more accurate, showing about 97 percent frame coverage at wide angle and slightly over 100 percent at the telephoto setting. (The covered area at the telephoto end is just barely inside the darker lines we use to frame the viewfinder accuracy target). As with the optical viewfinder, the smaller, 640 x 480 image sizes weren't too far off from the larger ones (about 96 percent coverage at wide angle and just over 100 percent accuracy at telephoto). We generally like to see the LCD monitor as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the C-3030 does a very good job in that respect. We also shot at the 2x digital telephoto setting (our studio isn't long enough to accommodate the full 2.5x), which probably would have produced close to 100 percent accuracy if framed properly. One problem with the digital telephoto is that framing is difficult because of the softer, slightly distorted image on the LCD. Additionally, the resulting image is somewhat soft, which is a usual side effect of the digital zoom.
Optics
The C-3030 Zoom comes with a 3x, 6.5 to 19.5mm, all glass aspheric lens (equivalent to a 32 to 96mm lens on a 35mm camera) with eight elements in six groups. This appears to be physically the same lens as in the C-2020 Zoom, with the wider-angle coverage being due to the larger size of the 3030's CCD sensor. Further evidence of the tight fit between lens and CCD is the set of small notches cut into the bezel around the lens' front element, to avoid vignetting in the corners of the final images. Despite the cutouts in the lens bezel though, we did notice a slight vignetting (darkness in the corners of the images) when the lens was set to its widest angle. This disappeared fairly quickly as we zoomed toward telephoto settings, but was noticeable in shots of flat-tinted subjects at full wide angle zoom settings. (We confess to being puzzled though, by the smaller f/2.8 maximum aperture of the 3030's lens, compared to the f/2.0 of the 2020.) Apertures can be manually adjusted in both Manual and Aperture Priority mode from F/2.8 to F/11, in 1/3 f-stop increments. The contrast-detect TTL autofocus system covers a range from 31 inches (0.8 m) to infinity in normal mode and from eight to 31 inches (0.2 to 0.8 m) in macro. The green LED next to the optical viewfinder lights solid when the autofocus system achieves a lock on the subject. Low light focusing performance is fairly good, with the camera able to achieve focus down to about 1 footcandle (11 lux, or about the brightness level of a well-lit nighttime street scene). Below that level, you'll need to resort to manual focusing.
A manual focus option is available by simply pressing the MF button on the back panel which displays a small distance readout to help you gauge distance (in meters or feet). The screen shot at right shows the focusing scale in manual focus mode. The up and down arrow buttons adjust the focus along the scale and pressing the MF (or OK) button again cancels the mode. We liked the fact that the distance scale displayed is split into two segments, one ranging from 2.6 feet to infinity, the other from 8 to 31 inches. This provides the necessary resolution to focus accurately, without forcing you to squint and guess at single scale ranging from 8 inches to infinity. One nice feature of the 3030's manual focus operation is that the LCD viewfinder display enlarges by about 2x whenever the manual focus setting is changed. This is very helpful in deciding whether you've achieved good focus or not. (Although it's still difficult to judge critical focus from an LCD panel.) Here's a trick though, for further improving your focus accuracy using the LCD screen: Activate the digital zoom function, to get an additional 2.5x magnification of the subject. Once you're focused, you can back the lens off to frame the picture accordingly. (Actually, we're not certain that the C-3030 Zoom lens doesn't change focus as you zoom it, but this technique seemed to work fairly well for us.)
As with other Olympus cameras in this series (the C-2000 Zoom and C-2020 Zoom), the C-3030 Zoom has body-mounted threads that accept an accessory lens adapter, the CLA-1. This adapter is a small cylinder that gives you a set of 43mm filter threads just flush with the furthest forward extent of the lens when it telescopes out. NOTE though, that we said "just flush" - If you by chance were able to obtain an accessory lens or filter with 43mm threads on it, it wouldn't fit: You need a millimeter or so ahead of the adapter before the glass starts. This usually isn't a problem, since you'd almost always have a thread adapter tacked on the front of the CLA-1 anyway, the 43mm being such an odd size. Still, you can find 43mm accessories out there, so we thought we should at least mention this...
While the C-3030’s lens provides up to 3x optical zoom, an additional 2.5x digital zoom can be activated through the Record menu, albeit with noticeable quality degradation in the resulting images at the larger image sizes. (The "digital zoom" options on all digicams simply crop into the CCD array to reduce the angle of view. They thus directly trade resolution for "magnification.") Note that the digital zoom cannot be used with the uncompressed TIFF mode and is only accessible with the LCD monitor on.
With a measured visual resolution of 850-900 lines per picture height in our resolution tests, the C-3030 Zoom is just a hair off the highest we've seen to date (May, 2000). Olympus deserves credit though, for not trying for a snappier-looking picture by over-sharpening the image in the camera. Our philosophy on image sharpening is that the capture device (camera, scanner, whatever) should do the bare minimum, compensating only for the blurring tendencies of its sensor. Once an image has been over-sharpened, detail is irrevocably lost and objectionable artifacts appear. To our eye, the C-3030 Zoom gets it about right, applying some sharpening, but not too much. Even at that, it offers a "soft" image-sharpening option that provides images without any in-camera sharpening, for those times when you need to perform critical manipulations on the image in Photoshop(tm) or other editing program post-capture.
The lens appears to be of good albeit not unusual quality, turning in fairly typical distortion and aberration numbers for lenses at the higher end of the consumer digicam spectrum: Geometric distortion on the C-3030 was moderate at the wide angle end, as we measured a 0.76 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end showed a smaller, 0.29 percent pincushion distortion. Both numbers are about typical among digicams we've tested, but we do prefer to see lower distortion at the wide angle end. (Just to be clear, roughly 0.8 percent is pretty typical among digicams we've tested, we'd just like to see *all* digicams have lower barrel distortion.) Do note though, that there's an excellent, easy solution to barrel or pincushion distortion available, in the form of the optional "dewarp" plugin for our favorite image tweaker, PhotoGenetics. Read our review of PhotoGenetics for more details. Chromatic aberration was fairly pronounced at wide angle settings, with several pixels of color showing at the edges of elements in the corners of our resolution test target. At the telephoto end of the lens' range though, chromatic aberration was essentially invisible. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target). The chromatic aberration was more severe at the wide angle end than the average for cameras we've tested, while it was much better than average at the telephoto end. We also noticed some slight vignetting of the image in the very corners, at the widest-angle lens setting. This last disappeared pretty quickly though, as we moved the lens out of the wide angle position.

Exposure
Exposure control is similar to the setup of the C-2020 Zoom, with an LCD menu system that controls most of the camera's settings. Four exposure modes are accessible through the mode dial: Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual. Shutter speeds in all modes except Manual range from one to 1/800 seconds. The range broadens under the Manual setting to 16 to 1/800 seconds. A useful added feature relative to the previous model is that as you scroll through the various aperture/shutter settings in manual mode, the camera's exposure system remains "live". The camera tells you how it judges the exposure setting you've chosen, showing not only whether it thinks you're high or low, but by how much. It does this by displaying what it believes the over- or under-exposure to be using the digits on the LCD screen that normally indicate exposure compensation in automatic exposure modes. If you're more than plus or minus 3 EV units away from the correct exposure, the digits light up red, showing just +/- 3EV. This is really very helpful as it gives you a good idea of what the exposure will be like before snapping the shutter. (Other manufacturers take note: This is a nice feature, and shouldn't be too hard to add, if a camera already has a manual exposure mode.)
Exposure compensation is adjustable in 1/3 EV increments from -2 to +2, in all exposure modes except for Manual, by pressing the right and left arrow buttons. Additionally, the auto exposure bracketing function ensures you'll get a correct exposure by automatically bracketing up to -/+ 2 EV in steps ranging from 1/3 to 1 EV unit. This feature lets you select either 3 or 5 shots in the series, and steps of 0.3, 0.6, or 1.0 EV units. Thus, the bracketing range could be as small as +/1 0.3EV, or as great as +/- 2EV. Once set, you just hold down the shutter button until all 3 or 5 exposures are captured. Very slick!
ISO is also adjustable, with available settings of Auto, 100, 200 and 400. The more sensitive settings do produce noisier images, but they provide welcome exposure flexibility. The default setting in Program exposure mode is Auto, whereas Aperture, Shutter, or Manual exposure modes force you to choose one of the explicit ISO settings. In Auto ISO mode, the camera will normally shoot at ISO 100, but will gradually increment the ISO setting in very dim conditions, trying achieve the best tradeoff between shutter speed and image noise. We're not sure what the thresholds are for increasing the ISO rating in Auto mode, but it does seem to be pretty conservative about it: In some brief experimentation, it arrived at a shutter speed of 1/2 second (pretty slow) in a dimly lit interior scene, yet still only bumped the ISO up to 200. "Automatic" systems like this are always a compromise, but we felt the C-3030 Zoom was doing about what we would have most of the time. It's also interesting to note that the Auto ISO settings aren't restricted to the 100/200/400 available manually - At least one of our experimental shots showed an ISO setting of 180 in the playback picture-info display.
The C-3030 Zoom provides two choices for exposure metering, Spot or the default Digital ESP metering system. Digital ESP is Olympus' name for matrix metering, but we don't know the specifics of it, how many segments it uses, etc. - For those of you unfamiliar with the term "matrix metering", it refers to a sophisticated exposure-metering technique that samples the brightness from multiple points across the image, and then applies some intelligence to set the exposure so as to not blow out highlights, plug shadows, etc.
The C-3030 offers a 12 second self-timer. You can also use the infrared remote to trigger the camera from a distance, which decreases the time delay to only three seconds. (This is one of our few quibbles with the otherwise excellent IR remote unit: Why are we forced to wait three seconds when using the remote? We'd greatly prefer relatively instantaneous triggering of the camera!) White balance can be set to Auto, Clear, Cloudy, Tungsten or Fluorescent to accommodate a variety of lighting situations. White balance is another area where we have a request to make of Olympus: So-called "manual" white balance options are becoming more and more common on high-end digicams, and (properly implemented) they're very useful. Manual white balance options generally let you set the camera's white balance by pointing it at a white card and clicking the shutter (after appropriate menu setup, etc.) This usually provides a more accurate white balance than the automatic or preset options. The C-3030 Zoom is a sufficiently advanced camera that we'd expect to see a feature like this on it. Not a crippling omission by any means, but one that we think would be appreciated by the 3030's targeted audience of enthusiast-photographers.
The C-3030 Zoom incorporates a few entertaining options on the Picture Effect menu, enabling you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone. There are also White and Black Board settings for capturing text on light or dark backgrounds. These could be useful if you needed to grab meeting or lecture notes in a hurry. Oddly though, the resulting images, while purely black and white, are stored as RGB JPEGs, taking about the same amount of memory space as normal full-color images. This is rather odd: Overall, we'd strongly suggest just leaving the camera in color mode, and using a program like Pixid's White Board Photo to clean up the images later. (See our review of White Board Photo for more info on this unique program.)
Flash
The built-in flash on the C-3030 Zoom offers four main modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In and Off. According to Olympus' specs, the flash is effective out to 18.4 feet (5.6m) in wide angle and to about 12.5 feet (3.8 m) in telephoto. The internal flash provides good coverage in all but the widest-angle lens position: It's angle of coverage appears to correspond to a lens focal length more on the order of 35mm than the 32mm equivalent of the 3030. (Another holdover from the C-2020 Zoom?) You can adjust the flash intensity setting from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Any of the flash modes can be combined with the Slow Sync setting, which allows the ambient lighting to make a greater contribution to the final exposure of the image. You can also produce shots which combine a motion blur on the subject (from the long ambient light exposure) with a sharp initial or final image (caught by the flash exposure). The C-3030 supports both "front curtain" and "rear curtain" triggering in Slow Sync mode, firing the flash at either the beginning of the exposure or at the end. So-called rear curtain sync is necessary to produce motion blurs on moving objects that trail the sharp, flash-exposed image, rather than precede it. A plus with the design of the C-3030 is the inclusion of an external flash sync socket, giving you even more exposure flexibility. It's important to note though, that the sync socket on the C-3030 is a proprietary design, set up for use with Olympus' FL-40 flash unit. Olympus apparently offers an accessory grip/cable combination that serves as an adapter for third-party flashes, but we don't know the model number or details on its availability.
To use an external FL-40 flash unit, the camera should be set to Aperture Priority or Manual exposure mode to control the amount of flash illumination reaching the CCD via the lens aperture setting (standard operating procedure for film cameras as well). The camera will attempt to produce a good exposure with its automatic settings, whether involving its own flash or not. Thus, if you've disabled its internal flash, you'll get a rather long exposure time in Aperture Priority mode, rather like the Slow Sync mode, whether you want that or not. Use Manual exposure mode with faster shutter speeds selected to avoid this problem. The C-3030 Zoom is unusual in that when you couple it to the FL-40 external flash, you have the option of using the internal and external flashes together. - This could be a bit of a help when you're really reaching for a distant subject, or for interesting bounce/direct flash lighting. The FL-40 also cooperates with the camera by allowing its power level to be controlled by the camera's flash exposure adjustment, mentioned above.
The manual is a bit unclear on using the 3030 with flash units other than the FL-40. To use any external flash (FL-40 or other unit), you do apparently need both the optional flash holder and flash cable. Info in the manual about third-party flashes is confusing and contradictory: In one place, it says the external flash must be used with the internal all the time. In another place, though, it says the external flash will always fire, regardless of whether flash is enabled in the camera or not. We'll seek clarification from Olympus, but here's what we think the case is: 1) The external flash will always fire, as the sync contacts are linked to the shutter, and not affected by the internal flash status. 2) Third-party flashes won't accept flash-metering information from the camera, meaning that you'll have to regulate the light either by running the flash in Auto mode and making whatever adjustments it provides onboard, or by essentially operating the flash in "manual" mode, controlling the exposure via the camera's lens aperture.
A few caveats about external flashes with the C-3030 Zoom, or digicams in general for that matter: 1) Some external strobes have the polarity reversed on their sync connectors, and won't fire. (Cameras these days use SCRs to trigger strobes, rather than mechanical contacts, and SCRs are polarity sensitive.) 2) Some flashes put their full voltage on the sync connector, which is virtually guaranteed to blow the inner circuitry of the camera. (!) Always check the voltage on your sync connector before plugging a non-manufacturer flash into your digicam! - If you find more than a few volts there, save yourself an expensive repair, and buy a flash with a lower trigger voltage. (Studio strobe packs are particularly prone to this: Use extreme caution before attaching one to your digicam!) 3) If you're going to be shooting at wide angle, make sure your flash will cover a field of view equivalent to a 32mm lens on a 35mm camera. (Most will, some won't.) 4) If you get unexpectedly dim shots when operating at full flash power (distant subjects or small apertures), it may be that your flash is producing a light pulse longer than 1/200 of a second (Olympus' spec), so not all the light from the flash may be contributing to the exposure.
We didn't test the FL-40 with the C-3030 Zoom, but did have an opportunity to use one earlier, when we reviewed the Olympus C-2500L SLR camera. You can read our review of the C-2500L for more info on how it worked with the flash: We suspect the story with the C-3030 would be much the same. (To save you clicking the link, the short of it was that we liked the FL-40 very much indeed, and found it worked exceptionally well with the C-2500L's internal flash.)
Sequence Shooting Mode
The C-3030 offers a Sequence mode that mimics a motor drive, letting you capture between six and 12 separate pictures (depending on the complexity of the image, selected image size/quality, and the available SmartMedia space) at approximately 1.4 frames per second. In our own measurements, we indeed measured a frame rate of 1.39 frames per second at all resolutions, in autofocus mode. We discovered though, that the non-autofocus mode increased the frame rate to 3.17 frames per second (!), since the camera didn't have to wait for the lens to focus each time. The manual states that the maximum shutter speed in sequence shooting mode is 1/30 of a second, to avoid blurring. (Seems odd, we suspect it has more to do with managing the timing of the shots, rather than a concern over camera shake.) It also notes that the mode is available with all compression levels except for uncompressed TIFF. One obvious limitation of sequence mode is that the camera's internal flash may not be used with it. (The flash can't cycle at nearly 1.4 frames per second.) However, if you have an external flash capable of cycling at the 1.4 frame per second rate and shoot in aperture priority mode, you can use a flash with this mode.
Movies and Sound
The C-3030 continues the ability to record short movies, now extended to include sound. Movie mode is entered as a separate option on the main command dial. Movies may be recorded in either HQ (320 x 240) or SQ (160 x 120) resolution modes. Thanks to the C-3030 Zoom's huge buffer memory, the maximum recording time is limited only by memory card capacity, apparently up to a 32 megabyte limit. (The manual lists maximum seconds of recording time as a function of card size, but just lists "Larger than 32 megabytes" as the highest category, implying that large cards convey no additional recording time. - This makes sense, given that 32 megabytes is the size of the RAM buffer memory the C-3030 Zoom carries on board.) Here's a copy of the recording-time table from the manual:

Recording Mode
Resolution
Memory Card Capacity
2MB
4MB
8MB
16MB
Over 32MB
HQ
320x240
(15 frames/sec)
5
11
23
46
75
SQ
160x120
(15 frames/sec)
22
45
92
186
300


The available seconds of recording time appear in the status display panel (and in the LCD monitor if activated), based on the quality mode selected and space remaining on the card. You can use the zoom control while recording movies, but the motion of the zoom is somewhat slower than in still recording, and the zoom is apparently only a digital zoom. (Not an issue though, given the large difference between the CCD resolution and movi recording resolutions - This means that digital zoom in movie mode has the same effect as optical zoom in normal still photography, in that no image degradation should be visible as a result of using the zoom.) Manual focus, exposure compensation, focus lock, the self-timer, ISO setting, white balance and picture effects are also available while in Movie mode.
A first among cameras we've tested (May, 2000), the C-3030 even offers in-camera "editing" of movies in Playback mode. This capability is accessed via the Function->Movie Edit option on the playback menu. In this mode (see screen shot above), you can scroll forward and backward in the movie, and set cut points at the beginning and end of the sequence. Movie content between the two cut points will be preserved, the rest discarded. In a nice touch though, Olympus allows you to choose whether to modify the original movie file, or just save a new copy of it, reflecting the effect of the edit you've made. A very nice feature that we're surprised we haven't seen before. (Kudos to Olympus for thinking of it first.)
You can also record small "sound bites" to accompany images (both in Record and Playback modes). You get approximately eight seconds of record time for each image, assuming of course that there's enough space left on the memory card. This is a handy feature for "labeling" photos.
The only quibble we have with Olympus' implementation of Movie mode on the C-3030 Zoom (and it's a significant one) is that you don't get to hear the movies you've recorded when playing them back on the camera. Adding sound recording is a big feature improvement relative to the C-2020 Zoom, but it sure would be nice to at least be able to hear what you've recorded during playback. (The camera can output both video and sound to a TV or VCR via the included A/V cable, making that an effective playback mode if you have a TV handly. Still, it would be preferable to have some ability to hear a movie's soundtrack without resorting to external equipment.)
Panorama Mode
As with most Olympus digicams, the C-3030 offers a Panorama exposure mode when operating with Olympus' own panorama-enabling SmartMedia memory cards. In this mode, the exposure and white balance for a series of shots are determined by the first one taken. Images are saved individually and can then be assembled on a computer after they’ve been downloaded. While Panorama mode provides a useful function, it's less of an issue on cameras like the C-3030, which offer full manual exposure control. True, the panorama mode does lock the white balance in addition to the exposure, and does provide outline guides on the LCD screen to help align successive images, but doesn't offer the "ghost" images provided by some cameras to further assist image alignment. (Cameras with this feature retain a small portion of the previous image each time, moved to the other side of the LCD display, to help you line up objects in the scene with those in the frame you just captured.) The C-3030's Panorama mode also limits you to 10 exposures in the series before resetting the white balance and exposure values. Ten pictures is plenty for most situations, but almost certainly not enough if you're interested in stitching full 360 degree panoramas. For those, use Manual exposure mode, and a fixed white balance preset, such as "daylight." Overall, Panorama mode on the C-3030 Zoom is handy, but less useful than it could be, and in our mind largely obviated by the camera's manual mode.
Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, we now routinely measure it.
While the C-3030 Zoom is a very fast camera in other respects (see below), it's shutter lag in full autofocus mode is at the slower end of the range: We measured shutter delay at 1.40 seconds using full autofocus. The manual focus option brought the delay down to 0.48 seconds, and prefocusing by half-pressing the shutter button before the exposure dropped the delay to only 0.15 seconds. The camera does have a continuous autofocus mode, which we expected to decrease the shutter delay considerably, since the lens should more or less always be in focus at the time of the exposure. Unfortunately, this turned out not to be the case, with shutter delays in continuous autofocus mode being on the order of 1.15 seconds (varying from 0.9 to as high as 1.3 seconds: 1.15 seconds seemed to be typical of most shots.) The C-3030 Zoom's autofocus delay is longer than most cameras we've tested, manual focus delay is about average (among camera that offer a manual focus option), and the prefocus delay is shorter than average. (Do note though, that for sports shooting, the impact of the long autofocus delay may be considerably offset by the availability of a very fast continuous-shooting mode - see below.)
Thanks to an enormous 32 megabyte RAM buffer memory, the C-3030 Zoom is an unusually fast camera from shot to shot. We've heard claims that it can capture a shot every second, but our own evaluations fell a little short of that mark. The fastest single-shot (that is, non-continuous mode) shot to shot time we measured was with manual focus selected. In that mode, the C3030 Zoom could capture an image every 1.75 seconds in its lowest resolution mode, and every 2.2 seconds in high resolution (non-TIFF) mode. It's possible there may be some additional delay if you ever managed to fill up the buffer, but we never encountered this while using the 16 MB SmartMedia card supplied with our test unit. (We filled up the memory card in a about 16.3 seconds, capturing a total of 8 shots at maximum resolution.) In autofocus mode, the lens-focusing delay increased the cycle time by about 0.9 seconds, to 2.65 and 3.1 seconds, for the low and high resolution images respectively.
We mentioned the C-3030's high speed in continuous or "sequence" mode earlier. Sequence mode has two options, normal and autofocus. In normal sequence mode, the camera focuses and calculates exposure and white balance once, as soon as the shutter button is pressed. These settings are then held for the entire series of five rapid-fire shots. In our tests, that series of five shots happened very quickly indeed, clocked at a frame rate of 3.17 frames per second. This is seriously fast for full-resolution images! In autofocus sequence mode, the camera focuses and calculates exposure and white balance for each shot in the series. This doesn't slow it down as much as you might expect though, as the camera apparently only has to make minor adjustments to the focus from one shot to the next. The end result is a frame rate of 1.74 frames per second, a very respectable performance.
Operation and User Interface
The user interface on the C-3030 Zoom relies heavily on the LCD monitor for menu selections and feedback on current settings during use. The resulting interface will be pretty clear to most users, but we do wish there were an "advanced" mode that would make greater use of the top-panel LCD data readout. The camera's non-LCD power consumption is so low that it's a shame to spoil it by requiring the LCD to be used for all but the simplest option selections. The top-panel data readout does display status information for a wide range of camera functions (see the scan below, taken from the manual), but changing most of them requires returning to the rear-panel LCD display. Her's an illustration showing the various elements of the top-panel LCD readout, courtesy of Olympus:


As with the C-2000 and C-2020, we liked the user interface of the C-3030 a great deal. We generally prefer mode dial interfaces like the C-3030's, as they greatly simplify the menu structure and allow faster operation. One of our favorite user interface features is that the camera tells you what aperture and shutter speed it's selected whenever the shutter button is half pressed. For photographers accustomed to knowing what their camera is doing, this sort of feedback is invaluable, and present on very few digicams we've tested. We also especially like the distance display employed in the manual focus option: Too many digicams with manual focus options give you no feedback as to the actual distance the focus is set to. In situations where there's too little light to see the subject well (or when the subject perhaps isn't in position yet), an actual distance readout is invaluable. We also liked the way the manual focus indicator has two ranges, one running from 2.6 feet to infinity, the other from 8 to 31 inches. This makes it much easier to set the focal distance accurately.
As mentioned earlier, we really like the tiny infrared remote control provided with the C-3030 Zoom, as it greatly reduces any disturbance of the camera when taking long exposures on a tripod. (This IR remote has been a feature in the Olympus line since the original C-2000 Zoom, and we've used it heavily in our own studio work, taking product shots for use on our web site.) The remote also allows you to change the exposure compensation setting or zoom the lens in and out. In Playback mode, you can scroll between pictures and move in or out of thumbnail and zoom playback modes (also helpful when viewing images on a television screen). Olympus states the range of the remote as five meters (16.4 feet) when aimed at the camera from straight ahead, and three meters (9.8 feet) when aimed from an angle of 15 degrees to either side of center. These range numbers may be correct in outdoor conditions, with lots of stray IR from the sun bouncing around: In practice, under studio conditions, we've had great luck at what seem to be greater distances, even bouncing the IR signal from the remote off the subject. A very, very handy gadget in the studio, perhaps even more so for those photographers working with children or other subjects requiring a lot of hands-on interaction. (You could connect the camera to a video monitor as a "remote viewfinder", and control most of the picture-taking from the remote.)
Control Enumeration

Power / Mode Dial
Located on the top of the camera, this dial selects the various camera operating modes (Playback, Off, Program, Aperture/Shutter Speed/Manual and Movie). As on the C-2020 Zoom, this dial also controls power, eliminating the frequent confusion between the power button and shutter release that plagued owners of the original C-2000 Zoom camera.

Shutter Button
Located in the center of the optical zoom control lever, the shutter button sets focus and exposure settings when halfway pressed and triggers the shutter button when fully pressed. In Playback mode, the shutter button works in conjunction with the printing function to select the number of prints to make.
Zoom Lever
Located on top of the camera, surrounding the shutter button (see photo above), the zoom lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes. In Playback mode, the lever switches back and forth between index view, normal image display and playback zoom.

Flash / Erase Button
Located at the top of the back panel, this button controls the flash mode in all exposure modes. Pressed sequentially, it cycles through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In and Off modes. In Playback mode, this button pulls up the Erase menu which allows you to erase the current image displayed or all images.

Macro / Spot Metering / Print Button
Directly beneath the Flash / Erase button on the back panel is the Macro / Spot Metering / Print button. In all exposure modes, this button cycles between Macro, Spot and Digital ESP metering modes. In Playback mode, it accesses the Print screen, which allows you to set up the individual images for printing. (While we haven't reported on it, the print-setup function on the C-3030 Zoom is much more powerful than we've seen in other cameras to date (May, 2000), even allowing you to specify cropping for each picture!)

Four Way Jog Dial
Not really a "dial", but rather a set of four pushbuttons, arranged in a circular layout. Olympus moved to the four buttons on the C-2020 Zoom, from the rocker-button design of the C-2000 Zoom. The four buttons are much more sure-footed to navigate than the earlier toggle design, in that you never have problems of inadvertently actuating more than one direction control at a time. Also located on the top of the back panel, a lot of the camera's operation revolves around this control. In all capture modes except Manual, a left/right actuation increases or decreases the exposure compensation setting (provided the LCD view screen is active). In Aperture or Shutter priority exposure modes, up/down actuation of the jog dial adjusts the setting of the lens aperture or shutter speed, depending on the mode you're in. In Manual mode, the up and down arrows control shutter speed while the left and right control aperture. In Playback mode, left/right actuation moves forward or back among the pictures in memory, or scrolls around the expanded image in zoomed playback mode. In the LCD menu system, the jog control steps between menus and selects settings.

OK / MF Button
Located on the back panel, on the right side of the LCD monitor, this button confirms selected menu settings when in the LCD menu screen. If pressed when not in the menu, it activates the manual focus option, which pulls up a distance scale on the LCD to assist in focusing. In Playback mode, this button write protects individual images from being accidentally erased. (Note though, that "protected" images aren't preserved if the memory card is formatted!)

Display Button
Located beneath the OK button, this turns the LCD monitor on or off.

Menu Button
Located directly beneath the Display button, this activates the menu system on the rear panel LCD monitor (it also activates the LCD monitor if it was disabled).

Dioptric Adjustment Dial: Located on the left side of the optical viewfinder, this dial alters the optical viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers.
Camera Modes and Menus

Movie Mode
Accessed by turning the mode dial to the movie camera symbol, this mode allows you to capture up to 60 second SQ movies and up to 15 second HQ movies with sound. Shutter speed is automatically set anywhere from 1/30 to 1/10,000 seconds.

Aperture Priority: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the A/S/M symbol, and then selecting the "A" option from the A/S/M Mode setup submenu, this mode allows the user to select the desired lens aperture as the camera adjusts the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure. If the required shutter speed is beyond the camera's capabilities, the aperture status number in the LCD will flash and an arrow will indicate if under or over exposed.

Shutter Priority: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the A/S/M symbol, and then selecting the "S" option from the A/S/M Mode setup submenu, this mode allows the user to select the desired shutter speed while the camera adjusts the aperture to achieve the correct exposure. If the required aperture is beyond the camera's capabilities, the shutter speed status number in the LCD will flash and an arrow will indicate whether it's over or under exposed.

Manual Mode: Also accessed via the A/S/M setting on the mode dial, and then selecting the "M" option from the A/S/M Mode setup submenu, Manual mode allows the user to select both the desired aperture (F/2.8 to F/11) and shutter speed (16 to 1/800 seconds, depending on the ISO setting). As noted earlier, the camera tells you what it thinks of the exposure setting you've chosen, showing not only whether it thinks you're high or low, but by how much. It does this by displaying what it believes the over- or under-exposure to be using the digits on the LCD screen that normally indicate exposure compensation in automatic exposure modes. If you're more than plus or minus 3 EV units away from the correct exposure, the digits light up red, showing just +/- 3EV.

Programmed Exposure: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the P, this mode lets the camera select both shutter speed and lens aperture, but does so in a fairly intelligent manner, opting for faster shutter speeds when the lens is in the telephoto position than when it's working in wide angle mode.

Playback Mode: Accessed by turning the mode dial to the playback symbol, this mode allows the user to view previously captured images. Here, the jog dial advances between successive frames stored in memory. The zoom toggle switches the display to an index mode when moved in the wide angle direction and zooms in on the currently displayed image by 3x when moved in the telephoto direction. When zoomed in on an image, the jog control can be used to move the enlarged view around the full image area, letting you inspect all parts of it.
Capture Mode Menu

Mode Setup sub-menu (Capture Modes)

Playback Menu

Image Storage and Interface
The C-3030 uses SmartMedia memory cards and comes packaged with a 16 megabyte card. You can upgrade to sizes as large as 64 megabytes. (From third parties, anyway: As of this writing in May, 2000, the largest card sold by Olympus themselves was a 32 meg unit. SmartMedia cards as large as 128 megabytes are planned by the end of 2000.) We like the C-3030's file naming protocol, which optionally numbers each image shot with the camera progressively, also including the month and day at the beginning of the file name. (This last is really handy for those of us who are organizationally-challenged: You can immediately tell when your photos were taken, even if you never took time to organize them by date or event.)
Entire SmartMedia cards can be write protected by placing a write protection sticker over a specific spot on the card. Stickers can only be used once and must be clean to be effective. (We're not wildly enthusiastic about the write-protect capabilities of SmartMedia cards.) Additionally, the C-3030 allows you to write protect individual images by pressing the MF/OK button on the back panel while in Playback mode. It's important to note that write-protecting individual images does not prevent them from being deleted when the card is reformatted, though.
The C-3030 comes with interface software and cables for both Mac and Windows computers, namely, a cable for the super-speedy USB interface, as well as a standard serial cable.
Following are the approximate resolution/quality and compression ratios for an 8MB card (compression numbers based on our own computations):

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
Uncompressed
SHQ
Fine
Normal
2048 x 1536 Images 0 3 10 N/A
Approx.
Compression
0:0 4:1 12:1 N/A
1600 x 1200 Images 1 N/A 5 16
Approx.
Compression
1:1 N/A 4:1 12:1
1280 x
960
Images 2 N/A 8 24
Approx.
Compression
1:1 N/A 4:1 11:1
1024 x
768
Images 3 N/A 13 38
Approx.
Compression
1:1 N/A 4:1 11:1
640
x
480
Images 8 N/A 32 82
Approx.
Compression
1:1 N/A 4:1 9:1


And here's a more comprehensive list, showing capacities of different-sized cards. (Extracted from the C-3030 Zoom's manual.

Number of Still Pictures that can be Taken (without sound)
Recording Mode Number of
Pixels
File Memory Capacity
2MB
4MB 8MB 16MB 32MB 64MB
TIFF 2048 X 1536 TIFF 0 0 0 1 3 6
1600 X 1200 0 0 1 2 5 11
1280 x 960 0 1 2 4 8 17
1024 x 768 0 1 3 6 13 27
640 x 480 2 4 8 17 34 68
SHQ 2048 X 1536 JPEG 0 1 3 6 13 27
HQ 2048 X 1536 2 4 10 20 40 81
SQ1 HIGH (quality) 1600 X 1200 1 2 5 11 22 45
NORMAL 3 7 16 31 64 128
HIGH (quality) 1280 X 960 2 4 8 17 34 70
NORMAL 5 12 24 49 99 199
SQ2 HIGH (quality) 1024 X 768 3 6 13 26 53 107
NORMAL 9 18 37 76 153 306
HIGH (quality) 640 X 480 7 16 32 66 132 266
NORMAL 20 40 82 165 331 665



Video Out
The C-3030 has a video-out port which supports the NTSC timing format on US and Japanese models (we assume that the PAL standard is supported on European models). The video output can be used for reviewing previously shot images or running slide shows from the camera, but also shows all the LCD menu screens as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder. Combined with the very flexible infrared remote control we mentioned earlier, the availability of a live viewfinder display via the video signal opens interesting possibilities for portrait photography, using a video monitor as a remote viewfinder.
Actually, the output cable is a true A/V cable, as it fans out into two RCA jacks, one for video, and one for audio. As noted above, this is the only way to hear the sounds you've recorded directly from the camera, since there's no internal speaker. Plugged into any video monitor (or TV with direct video and audio inputs), the audio capabilities of the C-3030 Zoom make for an unusually effective portable presentation device.
Power
The C-3030 is powered by four internal AA Ni-Mh, Ni-Cd, alkaline or lithium batteries or two CR-V3 (Olympus LB-01) batteries. The camera ships with two of the new CR-V3 batteries in the box, but no rechargeable batteries. Do yourself a favor, and don't even use the CR-V3s in the camera, but instead put them immediately into your camera bag as a backup power source for such time as your rechargeable batteries (inevitably) are dead when just when you need them the most. Go out and buy a couple of sets of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable AA cells and a good-quality charger, and plan to use these for the main power source of the camera. The CR-3V lithium cells provide great battery life, and more or less indefinite shelf life (something like 5 years or so) in your camera bag. They thus make an absolutely excellent backup power source that'll always be ready when you need it. For routine use though, they're just too expensive, at something like $10 apiece. (A pair? - no matter, still way too pricey, IOHO.)
Earlier cameras in this series from Olympus (the C-2000 Zoom and C-2020 Zoom) were surprisingly efficient in their battery usage, particularly if you kept the LCD display screen turned off. The C-3030 Zoom continues this happy tradition: It's "idling" power in capture mode with the display off is almost nil, meaning you can comfortably leave the camera on all day, so it'll always be ready whenever you want to take a picture. This is a very nice feature, and really increases its usefulness. Despite this thrifty battery usage, we still strongly recommend that you pick up a couple extra sets of high-capacity rechargeable batteries and a decent charger. Here's a table showing the C-3030's power consumption in a variety of operating modes. (Overall, it has very good power efficiency for a three megapixel camera: A good set of NiMH AA cells should easily last for a full day's shooting, if you can just avoid the temptation to ogle your pictures on the LCD monitor.)

Operating Mode
Power Drain
Capture Mode, w/LCD
610 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
< 10 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
620 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
340 mA
Memory Write (transient)
590 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
(not measured)
Image Playback
460 mA


Memory Retention
We don't normally comment about memory retention in digicams (clock/calendar, settings, etc), but at least one other internet reviewer has knocked the C-3030 Zoom for losing its memory if the batteries are removed for more than an hour or so. So much has been made of this in various discussion forums and newsgroups that we felt compelled to comment. While it is certainly convenient for cameras to have a separate lithium battery to provide backup power to the clock/calendar chip and settings memory, the C-3030 is by no means unique in lacking that feature. The earlier C-2000 had a backup battery, but the C-2020 did not. More to the point, the Nikon Coolpix 990 (with which the C-3030 directly competes) does not either, meaning that it will lose its date/time setting at least as fast as the C-3030 Zoom will. True, the Canon Powershot S-20 does have a clock backup battery, but we don't feel it's fair to single out the C-3030 Zoom on the basis of this one deficiency. For our part, we invariably leave one set of our NiMH batteries in our digicams all the time anyway. It's true that NiMH cells have a relatively short shelf life, but not nearly to the extent that other authors have represented: Some have claimed that NiMH cells lose 5% of their charge per day: While some cells may show this level of self-discharge, we've more often heard quoted a figure of 1% per day, and this matches our own (non-quantitative) experience more closely. Thus, while we would clearly like to see a lithium clock-backup battery in the C-3030 Zoom, we don't feel it deserves any special condemnation for its lack thereof.
Included Software
Learn what the manual left out -
How to *use* your camera.

Camera manuals are (sometimes) fine for knowing which button does what, but where do you go to learn how and when to use the various features? Dennis Curtin's "Shortcourses" books and CDs are the answer. (Cheap for what you get, too.) Order the Shortcourses manual for the camera reviewed in this article.

The C-3030 comes with a very nice complement of software on an included CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by an updated version of Olympus' own Camedia software package (version 2.0) which allows you to download and save images to your hard drive, and provides rudimentary organization capabilities. We confess to slightly mixed feelings on the other half of the package though: On the downside, we were chagrined to see that the excellent panorama-making program QuickStitch (from Enroute Software) is no longer included in the software bundle. On the upside though, the even more useful (at least to the majority of users) Photoshop LE version 5.0 is included. (Even better, all software packages provided are fully functional on both Mac and PC.) While there are many other image-processing programs out there, Photoshop is consistently our favorite, thanks to the level of control and features it provides. The "LE" version of Photoshop lacks only a few of the features of the full-retail version (notably color management tools and support for non-RGB color spaces), and is entirely suitable for use by the serious digicam owner. Adobe recently began selling Photoshop LE on the open market (previously, it was only available in software bundles like this), and its $99 retail price is a very valid representation of its value. Thus, if you don't already own Photoshop, buying a C-3030 Zoom could end up saving you a very real $99 relative to where you'd likely end up anyways. So, while we miss the incredible QuickStitch panorama-maker, including Photoshop LE is a huge plus.
Test Results
In keeping with our standard policy, our comments here are rather condensed, summarizing our key findings: For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-3030 Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, we encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the devices performed: Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how well the C-3030 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the C-3030 Zoom produced exceptional images, befitting its status as a top-of-the-line 3.3 megapixel digicam. Color accuracy was good, although our shots of the MacBeth(tm) chart showed a somewhat warm cast with all white balance settings, and the bright yellow patch had slightly lower color saturation. (A common digicam problem.) Overall, we felt the color was quite good,however.

The Olympus C-3030 performed toward the top of the current range of 3.3 megapixel digicams in the resolution department, with a resolution that we "called" as between 850 and 900 lines per picture height in both the horizontal and vertical directions. While just a hair off from the sharpest performance we've seen to date, the 3030 deserves credit for not applying heavy-handed in-camera sharpening in an attempt to boost the apparent resolution.

As did the 2 megapixel C-2020 Zoom before it, the C-3030 Zoom offers excellent exposure control, with choices of matrix or spot metering, full aperture and shutter control, including an optional manual mode, and ISO speeds ranging from 100 to 400. The C3030 Zoom performed very well in our low light tests, producing very usable images down to light levels of 1/8 of a foot-candle. (We're chiding ourselves for not having gone down to 1/16 of a foot-candle, since it's our guess that we would have obtained usable if not somewhat dim pictures at that level as well.) At these low light levels, with exposure times of 2 to 10 seconds, there is a moderate amount of noise present in the images. (We direct readers to Mike Chaney's excellent Qimage Pro program, for a tool with an amazing ability to remove image noise without significantly affecting detail.) To put the C3030's low light performance in perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about 1 foot-candle.

We found the C-3030's optical viewfinder to be a little tight, showing approximately 82 percent accuracy at wide angle and about 81 percent at telephoto. (Note that we've changed our nomenclature on this to better reflect what you see looking into the viewfinder: We previously would have referred to the C-3030's viewfinder as "loose"...) These numbers are from the 2048 x 1536 resolution size but the smaller, 640 x 480 resolution size numbers are similar at 83 percent accuracy for both wide angle and telephoto. We also noticed that the framing here slants just a little to the left vertically, possibly the CCD on our test model was shifted a little. The LCD monitor proved to be quite accurate, showing about 97 percent frame coverage at wide angle and slightly over 100 percent accuracy at the telephoto setting. (The covered area is just barely inside the darker lines we use to frame the viewfinder accuracy target). As with the optical viewfinder, the smaller, 640 x 480 image sizes weren't too far off from the larger ones (about 96 percent accuracy at wide angle and over 100 percent accuracy at telephoto). We generally like to see the LCD monitor as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, so the C-3030 does a pretty good job in that respect.

The C-3030 does pretty good job in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of 3.35 x 2.52 inches (85.21 x 63.91 mm). This is about an average minimum coverage area among digicams we've tested, but the body threads of the C-3030 in conjunction with Olympus' CLA-1 filter adapter permit the addition of external macro lenses for much tighter focusing.

Overall, we found the C-3030 Zoom to be a very worthy contender at the upper end of the current (May 2000) digicam spectrum. Image quality, resolution, and sharpness are all very good, and the camera provides excellent exposure control as well as very good low light capability: An impressive performance!


Conclusion
Well, from our previous review of it, it's probably pretty clear that we really liked the previous Olympus C-2020 Zoom. (We like it well enough in fact that it's the camera we use to do all our studio photography with.) The C-3030 Zoom is a very worthy upgrade, bringing not only increased resolution but numerous feature and user-interface enhancements as well. It's probably safe to say that if you liked the C-2020 Zoom, you'll love the C-3030 Zoom. All in all, another great digcam from Olympus, and one that we think competes very strongly at the upper end of the current "prosumer" digicam spectrum.

<<C-3030 Test Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this product? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about the Olympus C-3030, or add comments of your own!



Site Map | About Us | | Advertising | Privacy Policy | Usage Policy | Home

Imaging Resource © 1998 - 2014. Material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used without the prior written consent of .