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Olympus Camedia C-60 Zoom

Olympus packs a 6.1-megapixel CCD into an ultra-compact body, with a host of advanced features too.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 06/10/2004

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-60's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how C-60's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the C-60 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

  • Color: Good color, but a slight tendency towards warm color casts. The C-60's color was quite good throughout my testing, but it did have a tendency to produce slight yellow or reddish tints in many of my shots. This showed in Marti's skin tones in the Outdoor Portrait test, which were slightly more ruddy than in real life, but at the same time, the camera avoided the usual problems of too much purple in the blue flowers there. Indoors, the Incandescent white balance setting did a really excellent job under household incandescent lighting, a very common light source for point & shoot photography, and one that many cameras have a hard time with. Overall, apart from the slight tendency toward yellow or reddish casts, color was quite hue-accurate, and saturation was just about right as well, although strong reds were slightly oversaturated. All in all, I'd call the C-60's color a B+ to A- performance.

  • Exposure: Good exposure accuracy. A contrasty tone curve, but very effective contrast-adjustment option. Using its default settings, the C-60 tended to produce slightly bright exposures, and its high native contrast meant that it tended to lose detail in strong highlights. High contrast is a fairly common attribute of consumer digicams, as the "snappy" looking pictures that result tend to appeal to consumers more than more technically "correct" renderings. For those who care more about highlight detail than "snappy" photos though, the C-60's contrast adjustment works quite a bit better than most, doing a good job of controlling hot highlights, while simultaneously bringing up the shadows. (The net is a slight underexposure, but with moderate amounts of adjustment, this just about counteracts the camera's tendency toward overexposure.) I'd like to see the C-60's default exposures just slightly darker (probably about 0.2-0.3 EV), and its native contrast a bit lower, but the available controls make it easy to adjust the contrast and exposure to suit your personal preferences.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very good resolution, 1,400 lines of "strong detail." The C-60 performed moderately well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, though I noticed jaggies in the lines starting at 600 lines in the horizontal direction. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,400 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,800 lines. Looking at "real" images, the C-60 captures a lot of detail, but it's important to set your expectations relative to the class that the camera is competing in. That is, while it does a good job for a compact digicam, don't expect its resolution and image sharpness to match that of a 6-megapixel d-SLR. Relative to professional 6-megapixel models, details in the C-60's images will be a little coarser-looking. Still, pretty good for a compact model.

  • Image Noise: Reasonable noise at low ISO, objectionable at high ISO - Watch out for Auto ISO mode under dim lighting! Higher image noise is an unavoidable consequence of the ongoing practice of cramming ever-more pixels onto the same size sensor chips, so it's no surprise that the C-60's 6-megapixel sensor has a hard time at high ISO settings. Noise is actually surprisingly low at ISO 64 and 100, but becomes noticeable at ISO 200 and pretty objectionable at ISO 400. This is more or less what you'd expect, but the caution for casual shooters is to watch out when you're shooting under dim lighting, as the default "Auto" ISO setting will crank up the ISO fairly quickly, producing very noisy images. If you plan on doing a lot of shooting under dim lighting without flash, I wouldn't recommend the C-60. (Or any other high-megapixel consumer digicam, for that matter. If available light shooting is important to you, look for a good 3-4 megapixel consumer model, or better yet, take the plunge on a d-SLR.)

  • Closeups: Average performance in normal macro mode, but very good results in Super mode. Flash throttles down quite well also. The C-60 performed about average in the macro category with its normal macro setting, capturing a minimum area of 4.43 x 3.32 inches (113 x 84 millimeters). However, in Super Macro mode, the minimum area was a tiny 1.68 x 1.26 inches (43 x 32 millimeters). Resolution was very high, and fine detail was strong in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch (though the details were soft in the coins and brooch in the Super Macro mode, from the limited depth of field and closer shooting range). There was some softness in all four corners of the frame, but strongest on the left side. (This is a common failing of digicam macro modes, caused by curvature of field in the optics.) The C-60's flash throttled down well for the macro area in normal mode (the shooting distance is too close for the flash to be used in Super mode), though the brooch catches a reflection. All in all, the C-60 is a really excellent macro performer!

  • Night Shots: About average low-light performance, with good color. Plenty sensitive for average city street lighting at night. Excellent low-light focusing. The C-60 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test only at the 400 ISO setting (though this shot was a little dim, it was still usable). At ISO 64, images were bright only down to 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), though at ISO 100 and 200 images were bright down to 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux). (You could arguably use the shot taken at 1/8 foot-candle, 1.3 lux, at the ISO 200 setting.) Color was pretty good in the brighter shots, but took on a warm cast as the exposure dimmed. The camera's Noise Reduction system did a pretty good job of decreasing the amount of visible image noise. While noise levels were lower with the system on, a few pixels were oddly brighter and more visible. Most surprising about the C-60's low light performance though, was its autofocus system: It easily focused accurately down to the limit of my test. (1/16 foot-candle, a really low light level.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: An accurate LCD monitor, but somewhat tight optical viewfinder. The C-60's optical viewfinder was a little tight, showing about 89 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 86 percent at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder were also slightly off-center in the final frame. The LCD monitor was much more accurate, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 98 percent at telephoto. Since I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-60's LCD monitor has only a little room for improvement. The optical viewfinder accuracy is about average for point and shoot digicams, but I'd personally like to see the average improved a fair bit.

  • Optical Distortion: Higher than average barrel distortion at wide angle, but low distortion at telephoto. Some softness at telephoto focal lengths, chromatic aberration at wide angle, but overall better than average for a compact digicam. Geometric distortion on the C-60 was fairly high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only 0.1 percent barrel distortion there. The C-60's images were surprisingly sharp from corner to corner at wide and medium focal lengths, but somewhat soft there at telephoto focal lengths, and there was quite a bit of chromatic aberration at the wide angle setting, with fairly bright red/green fringes around the target objects in the corners of the frame. (This distortion is visible as slight colored fringes around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Overall, a pretty good performance, better than I'd normally expect from a compact lens design.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Very(!) good performance, particularly for a compact model. Poor autofocus speed and slow shutter response is the bane of the entire digicam market, and is an area in which compact digicams generally lag behind their larger brethren. Thanks to a "hybrid" autofocus system though, the C-60 is very responsive to the shutter button. Its shutter lag times of 0.30 - 0.36 seconds put it in the top rank of all consumer-level digicams currently on the market, whether compact or full-sized. It's also quite fast from shot to shot, with cycle times on the order of 1.5-1.9 seconds, and a buffer memory that can hold five or more large/fine JPEG images. Very impressive!

  • Battery Life: Somewhat better than average battery life for a compact digicam. Most compact digicams suffer from short battery life, but the C-60 seems to do a bit better than most, thanks to a higher-capacity battery than that used in its predecessor, the C-50, that roughly balances the higher power drain of the C-60's larger sensor and faster electronics. With a worst-case run time of a bit less than two hours (108 minutes) in capture mode with the LCD turned on, and roughly two and three-quarters hours (165 minutes) with the LCD off, you should have enough battery power for most events. Playback time is a very good 224 minutes. I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera, but at least the C-60's battery life isn't as drastically short as that of many compact models.

 

Conclusion

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I admit to being a little torn over the C-60 Zoom. Here's a summary of my impressions:

What I liked:

  • Attractive, rugged all-metal body
  • Very compact, yet easy-to-use controls
  • Good auto operation (a good collection of scene modes), yet plenty of manual control as well
  • A lens with a true variable aperture, with 1/3 f-stop adjustments
  • A really fast autofocus system that works well even in very dim lighting
  • Great cycle times for a compact digicam, especially for TIFF files
  • Good exposure accuracy and color
  • A very effective contrast adjustment, something I'd like to see on a lot more cameras
  • An optional histogram display in both record and playback modes
  • Excellent macro performance
  • Good resolution
  • Decent battery life for a compact model
  • A quick, responsive zoom controller (I liked this, some other reviewers didn't)
  • Surprisingly little softening in the corners of the frame, at least at wide and "normal" focal lengths

What I was less crazy about:

  • Slightly soft images, particularly in the corners at telephoto focal lengths
  • Noticeable image noise at ISO 200, nasty noise at ISO 400
  • Image noise may "surprise" users shooting in auto mode (a trait common to most point & shoot digicams though)
  • A fair bit of chromatic aberration in the corners when shooting at the wide angle end of the zoom's range
  • Focus mechanism noise audible in movie soundtracks
  • No manual white balance option (once rare in compact models, but now fairly commonplace)
  • No manual focus option (also once rare in compacts, now more common)
  • Printed manual is condensed, full manual is only available as a PDF file on the CD

On the whole, I think the C-60's positives more than outweigh its negatives, but how you feel about them will depend a lot on the sort of shooting you intend to do, and how you intend to use your images. If you need to shoot at high ISOs a lot and make large prints (larger than 8x10) with the results, the C-60's image noise could be a factor. On the other hand, point and shoot users mainly making 4x6 prints probably won't be aware of it. (But then, those users really don't need 6 megapixels of resolution, either.) If you're looking for a camera with a fast enough shutter response to capture the antics of the new baby, sports action, or other fast-moving subjects, the C-60 makes an excellent choice. It's very stylish, as well as very easy to use in its auto or scene modes, so it should appeal to style-conscious, casual shooters. At the same time, it has enough manual controls (except a manual white balance option) to attract advanced users who like to exercise full control over their picture taking. With this combination, it could make a great "family" camera, as it could satisfy the needs of both the photographer of the family and the less-techie "significant other" as well. Overall, a slightly qualified "Dave's Pick" - I'd like to see a good bit less image noise at high ISO, but other than that it's a fine little digicam.

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