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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.

Review First Posted: 06/10/2004




MSRP $499 US

 

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6.1-megapixel resolution for 2,826 x 2,112 images.
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3x zoom lens
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Ultra-compact, all metal body.
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Full manual exposure control.
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Full time AF and Noise Reduction

 

Manufacturer Overview

The Olympus C-60 Zoom is one of the latest additions to the broad and highly popular line of Olympus digital cameras, which includes models ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to advanced digital SLRs (Single-Lens Reflexes). With the release of the C-60 Zoom, Olympus breaks new ground in the point and shoot arena, pairing a 6.1-megapixel CCD, true 3x optical zoom lens, and (optional) manual exposure control with a very compact body. Traditionally, compact digicams offer only limited feature sets, but the C-60 Zoom is really a fully-capable model with a wealth of both advanced and novice-oriented features. Besides the extensive manual exposure controls, it also offers a full range of Scene modes to make it easier for novices to handle tricky shooting conditions. Finally, a unique "My Camera" menu lets the user custom-configure a broad range of settings to meet specific needs. With a street price at introduction under $450, the C-60 Zoom is a versatile, affordable, very compact digital camera, with surprisingly fast shutter response and cycle times. Read on for all the details!

 

High Points

 

Executive Overview

The Olympus C-60 Zoom offers both point-and-shoot ease of use and advanced "enthusiast" features in a super-compact, all-metal body design. A 6.1-megapixel CCD delivers high quality images, using Olympus' own TruePic technology to for sharper images, lower noise, and more vivid colors. Though the C-60 offers six preset Scene shooting modes, it also offers a completely automatic mode as well as a full selection of manual and semi-manual exposure modes, unusual exposure flexibility for a compact point & shoot model. A maximum exposure time of eight seconds and unusually sensitive autofocus system makes for great low light capability, and adjustable white balance, ISO, and other image attributes make the C-60 versatile enough for just about any shooting situation.

The C-60's compact body is perfect for pockets and small purses, measuring only 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches (99.5 x 58.5 x 41.5 millimeters), not including minor protrusions. It weighs just 8.2 ounces (233 grams) with the battery and memory card, despite its rugged metal body. A wrist strap helps protect against drops, but the attractive, brushed-metal finish demands the protection of a soft camera case during travel.

A real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but as is usually the case, is less accurate for framing than the 1.8-inch color LCD monitor. In addition to its viewfinder display, the LCD monitor has a detailed information overlay that reports exposure information and a few camera settings. The 7.8-23.4mm, 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/4.8 (wide angle to telephoto). In addition to the C-60's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 4x with the "digital zoom," effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 12x. (Keep in mind though, that digital zoom directly trades off image quality for magnification, because it simply crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the CCD.) The C-60's default image resolution is 2,816 x 2,112 pixels, but lower resolutions of 2,560 x 1,920, 2,272 x 1704, 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include three JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces TIFF images in any of the sizes available for JPEGs.

The C-60 offers an excellent range of exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as one second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in AP or SP modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8 and shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 4 seconds. (Although note that the shutter speed in any automatic mode is restricted to 1/30 second or above if the flash is enabled.) The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as eight seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode, or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night-Scene, and Self-Portrait scene modes for easy capture of what might otherwise be tricky subjects.

The C-60 provides five ISO options (Auto, 64, 100, 200, and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, two metering modes (Center-weighted and Spot), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent settings to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Image contrast and sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu as well. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits, and a Remote Control mode for controlling the shutter with the included remote control unit.

The C-60's Movie mode records QuickTime movies, now with or without sound at the user's option, at 15 frames per second in either SQ (160 x 120 pixels) or HQ (320 x 240 pixels) modes. Actual recording times vary with the resolution and the amount of memory card space, but the C-60's electronics are fast enough that recording time is limited only by memory card capacity. Oddly though, the C-60 forces the zoom lens to its wide angle setting whenever it's placed in movie recording mode. Sequence mode captures multiple images as fast as 1.6 frames per second (depending on file size), with an optional AF Sequence mode that adjusts the focus between each shot, but which slows the capture rate to roughly one frame/second as a result. The C-60 also offers a panoramic mode (enabled only when using Olympus-branded memory cards), and a "2-in-1" capture mode that records two images side-by-side (like a split-screen view). The camera's internal flash unit offers six operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Night Scene, and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction modes), with adjustable flash intensity.

The C-60 ships with a 32MB xD-Picture Card for image storage. Larger capacity cards are available separately, up to the current limit of 512MB. Given the C-60's 6-megapixel resolution, I highly recommend that you purchase a much larger memory card along with the camera. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a USB v1.1 interface to download images, and if you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus also provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Also packaged with the C-60 is a remote control, useful in setting up self-portraits or for preventing camera movement from pressing the Shutter button when using slow shutter speeds. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.2 utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

Olympus' C-series digicams have always proved flexible and high quality, and the C-60 Zoom carries on that tradition very well. Though small, the C-60 doesn't skimp at all on features, offering many of the advanced exposure features found on Olympus' larger models. Full manual exposure control and the range of preset scene modes gives users as much or as little control as they want, while the 6.1-megapixel CCD provides high resolution for sharp enlargements. Overall, the C-60 Zoom is a great camera for anyone wanting a capable, compact digicam, and is one of the very few models available for people wanting full "enthusiast" control in a compact design.

 

Design

As the smallest member of Olympus' C-series of digital cameras, the C-60 Zoom has a compact body that's clearly meant to travel. A sliding lens cover (with integral power switch) keeps the front panel sufficiently smooth to be pocket friendly. The silver-toned, all-metal body is very sleek and attractive, yet rugged enough to withstand minor knocks. Despite the camera's small size, it fits the hand well, though you'll definitely want to keep the included strap securely around your wrist in precarious situations (such as leaning over a boat rail or walking in a crowd). External control layout has been shifted around some from the previous C-50 model, with the control dial on the top. The C-60 Zoom has a 6.1-megapixel CCD, which delivers a maximum image size of 2,816 x 2,112 pixels. Using Olympus' own TruePic technology to produce sharper details and smoother, more vibrant color, the C-60 produces images suitable for printing as large as 8x10 inches, even after significant cropping. The C-60 Zoom measures 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches (99.5 x 58.5 x 41.5 millimeters), and weighs only 8.2 ounces (233 grams) with the battery and memory card. The shot inset above right shows the C-60 with one of its xD memory cards, for scale.

The front of the C-60 is mostly flat when the lens cover is closed, with only a minor protrusion from the lens cover itself and the small finger grip on it. With the cover closed, only the mic hole is visible. Opening the lens cover triggers the lens to extend forward about an inch from the camera body. Just above the lens is the optical viewfinder window. To its right (viewed from the back) is the flash, passive autofocus sensor, and self-timer/remote lamp. Lower right of the lens is the Remote control receiver. A slight, vertical ridge on the far side of the lens cover serves as a finger grip, balanced nicely by an indented thumb rest on the back panel for a secure, comfortable hold.

On the right side of the camera, the DC In, USB, and Video Out jacks are protected by a hinged plastic door. Also on this side is the eyelet for the wrist strap.

The opposite side of the camera has only the speaker used for playback of audio notes and sound from videos.

The C-60's top panel has the Shutter button, zoom lever, Mode dial, and power lamp.

Like the rest of the C-series, the C-60's back panel is logically laid out, with all of the control buttons positioned above or to the right of the 1.8-inch LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder eyepiece is located above the left corner of the LCD monitor, with two status LED lamps on the right indicating basic camera status (such as when the autofocus system is set or the flash is ready). A rubber frame surrounds this arrangement. Across the top of the back panel are the Flash / Erase and Macro / Spot / Protect buttons. The four-way Arrow Pad serves multiple functions depending on the camera's operating mode, and is adjacent to the right side of the display. Bottom right of the LCD is the Card access lamp, which lights when the card is being written to or read from.

The bottom of the camera holds the battery / memory card compartment cover and a plastic screw-mount tripod socket. The tripod socket is much too close to the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. (A pet peeve of mine, but I realize that most people don't spend as much time with their digicams locked down to a tripod as I do, especially with ultra-compact models like the C-60.) Inside the battery / memory card compartment, the battery and xD-Picture Card slots line up side-by-side. The hinged, plastic door slides out before opening.

 

Viewfinder

The C-60 Zoom features a real-image optical viewfinder as well as a rear panel, 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD screen for composing images. The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but doesn't reflect any digital zoom, which requires the LCD monitor to be active. A set of black cross hairs in the center of the view marks the autofocus and autoexposure target area. The C-60's optical viewfinder doesn't have a diopter adjustment dial, and has a somewhat low eyepoint, making it less than perfectly suited to eyeglass wearers. (I could see the entire frame while wearing my glasses, but had to press their lenses up against the viewfinder eyepiece to do so.) Two LED lamps directly to the right of the viewfinder indicate autofocus and flash status. The C-60's optical viewfinder proved to be a little tight in my testing, showing between 86 and 89 percent of the final image area.


A detailed information readout on the LCD highlights a number of exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the screen. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value updates continuously to respond to changes in the subject or lighting. The Manual mode displays the selected f/stop and shutter speed values together, while the exposure compensation value reports when a setting would result in over- or underexposure by glowing red. Unlike most cameras, the C-60's information overlay can't be disabled to provided a clearer view of the subject, a feature I'd like to see added. In my testing, I found the LCD's viewfinder display to be fairly accurate, showing 97-98 percent of the final image area. (Great performance, since I like to see LCD monitors as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible.)

When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can zoom in on displayed images and then scroll around the enlarged image using the arrow buttons. This is extremely handy for checking focus, small details, or precise framing. There's also an Index display option, which shows either four, nine, or 16 thumbnail-sized images at a time, selectable via a setup menu option. The C-60 replaces the C-50's "quick view" function (which most users never realized was there) with an explicit "Play" button, which puts the camera into play mode as soon as it's pressed. The image will remain displayed on the LCD until you revert back to Record mode by pressing the Play button again, or by half-pressing the Shutter button. Pressing the OK button then the down arrow button brings up a histogram display and basic information about each frame, with a thumbnail of the image in the upper left corner. Once histogram is selected, it will always appear whenever the full frame view would until it is deselected. (The histogram display doesn't appear in either index or zoomed playback modes.) Pressing the OK button and the left-arrow button puts the playback display in "Info" mode, overlaying detailed exposure information about each image for a few seconds when it first comes up on the screen.

 

Optics

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The Olympus C-60 is equipped with an all-glass zoom lens, with seven elements in six groups. The 3x, 7.8-23.4mm lens provides a focal length range equivalent to a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm film SLR. (That's a moderate wide angle to a normal telephoto, slightly biased toward the telephoto end relative to the 35-105mm zoom range that's most common.) Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, with the maximum aperture setting ranging from f/2.8 to f/4.8 as the lens is zoomed from wide angle to telephoto. The C-60's lens is a true variable-aperture design, as the aperture can be changed in 1/3-stop increments. (Some cameras only provide two fixed apertures, rather than a smoothly varying range, as does the C-60.) Normal focusing distance extends from 1.6 feet (0.5 meters) to infinity. A Macro setting focuses from 0.7 to 1.6 feet (0.2 to 0.5 meters), and a Super Macro mode lets the C-60 focus as close as 1.6 inches (4cm). The Macro / Spot button on the back panel adjusts the focus range for closeup subjects, and includes an option for spot metering in either Macro or normal focusing mode.

The C-60's autofocus system is more sophisticated than most, using a "hybrid" approach to deliver much faster shutter response than the vast majority of consumer digicams. The "hybrid" designation means that focus is determined in two ways. First the distance is gauged with the passive sensors mounted under the flash, which brings the lens into approximate focus. From there, a through-the-lens contrast detection method takes over to refine the focus. A green circle lights solid in the viewfinder display whenever focus is set, and flashes if the camera is having trouble adjusting focus (as does the green LED lamp next to the optical viewfinder). The C-60 doesn't offer a manual focus option, and there's no autofocus-assist light, but it still managed to focus exceptionally well in dim lighting. During my low-light test, the C-60 managed to focus down to the 1/16 foot-candle limit of my test, a light level dark enough that you'd have to watch your footing while walking around. (For comparison, city night scenes under typical street lighting correspond to a light level of about one foot-candle.)

While the C-60's lens provides up to 3x optical zoom, the camera's 4x Digital Zoom increases that magnification to a maximum of 12x (albeit with the usual digital-zoom-induced quality degradations in the resulting images). Digital zoom is enabled through the Record menu and controlled by the Zoom Lever on top of the camera. Since digital zoom just crops out and enlarges the central pixels from the CCD's image, it directly trades resolution for magnification. This will result in very soft images if you're working at the camera's maximum five-megapixel file size, but can be useful if you only need 640 x 480 anyway. (For web or email use.)

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 though, a pretty good performance, better than I'd normally expect from a compact lens design.

 

Exposure

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The C-60 Zoom offers extensive exposure control for a compact camera, featuring Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as a handful of preset scene modes for shooting in specific situations. The Full Auto and Scene modes make the camera easy to use for novices, while the other options provide the flexibility demanded by more advanced users. Almost all capture modes are set by turning the Mode dial on the top panel, which also accesses the My Mode and Movie modes. (My Mode lets you create a custom setup for the camera, including virtually every exposure and operating parameter. Once configured, the My Mode settings can then be selected simply by rotating the Mode Dial to the "My" position.) Several of the SCENE modes have been removed from the dial, and bundled under the SCENE setting: To access Landscape, Landscape portrait, Self-portrait, and Sports scene modes, you must enter the LCD menu system.

In Auto mode, the camera has complete control over the exposure parameters. You have control over options like zoom, image size, and whether to use a remote or self-timer, but no exposure adjustments at all (not even exposure compensation or white balance - this is truly a "point-and-shoot" mode). Program mode leaves the camera in charge of the aperture and shutter speed, while you control the remaining exposure options such as ISO, drive mode, metering mode, and white balance. In Program mode, you also have access to the exposure compensation adjustment, which lets you adjust the camera's automatically determined exposure setting by plus or minus two exposure equivalent (EV) units, in steps of 0.3 EV. (This is important for getting properly exposed photos of beach and snow scenes, where the high overall brightness tricks the camera into underexposing.) Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture from f/2.8-f/4.8 to f/8 (maximum aperture varies from f/2.8 to f/4.8 as the lens is zoomed from wide to telephoto) leaving the camera to automatically determine the appropriate shutter speed. In Shutter Priority, you can select shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 4 seconds, with the camera selecting the corresponding aperture setting. The Manual exposure option lets you control both aperture and shutter speed yourself, and the bottom end of the shutter speed range is extended to eight seconds. An interesting feature of the Manual mode is that, as you scroll through the various exposure settings, the camera indicates whether or not your chosen setting will produce a correct exposure. It does this by showing the f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure differential (the difference between your settings and what the camera's metering system thinks is correct) in green up to a limit of +/- 3.0EV. If you exceed a range of +/- 3 EV from the nominal exposure, the readout numerals turn red and remain at the 3.0 indication. This is a very handy feature that I'd like to see implemented in the manual exposure modes of more cameras.

Six scene modes include Portrait, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night Scene, Sports, and Self-Portrait modes, which set up the camera for specific shooting situations. In Portrait mode, the camera uses a larger lens aperture, reducing depth of field and letting you capture the subject in sharp focus against a slightly soft-focused background. Landscape-Portrait mode uses a smaller lens aperture, to help keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus, while Landscape-Scene mode also keeps foreground and background in focus, but intensifies any blue or green values for more vibrant foliage and sky colors. Night Scene employs a slower shutter speed, allowing more ambient light into the image, and extends the lower shutter speed to four seconds (although only via automatic control). Sports mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds, to help freeze fast-moving subjects. Finally, Self-Portrait mode sets close focusing so you can photograph yourself while holding the camera in front of you. Limited menu options are available in the scene modes, as their purpose is to simplify camera setup for novices. (A multitude of menu choices would only add complication to what are intended to be easy-to-use camera settings.)

The C-60 offers a variable ISO setting, which lets you set the camera's light sensitivity to 64, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents, or to Auto mode, in which the camera will choose the best ISO. The higher sensitivity settings, combined with the camera's eight-second shutter speed, provide good low-light shooting capabilities. In my tests, the C-60 performed pretty well at low light levels, capturing clear images with great color, and moderate noise at the lower ISO levels, but high noise at the higher ISO settings. The higher ISO settings are also helpful when you want faster shutter speeds under normal lighting, to help freeze fast action. As with all digicams, the higher ISO settings produce photos with more image noise, much as higher-ISO film shows more film grain, but the C-60's sensor seems more noise-prone than many when you get to the ISO 400 level. This is an unfortunate consequence of the seemingly unending push for higher pixel counts in small cameras: The smaller pixels that result inevitably produce higher noise levels. In the C-60, image noise really limits the usefulness of its ISO 400 sensitivity setting, as the noise levels there are high enough that I personally wouldn't really considerable it usable. The real catch though, is that the camera's default Auto ISO setting will push the ISO setting up to 400 without your being aware of it, giving grainy-looking pictures when shooting in Auto mode under even moderately dim lighting. For best results under dim light, manually set the ISO to 200. (In fairness to the C-60, pretty much any consumer digicam with an ISO 400 setting is going to produce noisy images at that level, but the combination of small sensor and high pixel count in the C-60 makes it more prone to the problem than many cameras with lower resolution CCDs. - Hence, my focus on the issue here.)

Two metering systems are available on the C-60: Spot and "Digital ESP." Both are accessed through the Spot / Macro / DPOF button on the camera's back panel. (Note that the manual's reference to center-weighted metering is apparently in error: Olympus staff have assured us that the C-60 does indeed still use Olympus' multisegment ESP metering when not explicitly set to spot metering mode.) Digital ESP metering samples exposure information from a number of points across the frame, and then examines the distribution of brightness values, to determine the best exposure based not only on the subject's overall brightness, but its contrast as well.. Spot metering simply reads the exposure from the very center of the image, useful for times when you need to pinpoint the specific area of the photograph you want properly exposed. (Spot metering is very handy when you have a subject that's backlit, or that has a very different brightness--either lighter or darker--than the background.)

A Record View function, enabled through the Record menu, displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen while the image is recorded to the memory card.

In situations where exposure compensation is necessary, simply press either the right or left Arrow buttons (in all exposure modes except Auto or Manual) and the EV value displayed on the LCD will increase or decrease in one-third-step increments, up to a maximum of +/- 2 EV. Or, you can use the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function to automatically bracket an exposure as much as +/- 2 EV in either three or five steps, with increments of 0.3, 0.6, or 1.0 EV units each. The auto bracketing will center its efforts around whatever exposure you've chosen as the starting point, including any exposure compensation adjustments you've made. AEB is really handy for those times when you want to make sure you get just the right exposure for a critical subject, and need to do so quickly.

White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent settings, to accommodate a variety of lighting situations. The C-60 Zoom also offers a 12-second Self-Timer for self-portraits or those occasions when you don't want to risk camera shake on a long exposure by pressing the Shutter button to trip the shutter. You can also use the included infrared remote control to trigger the shutter from a maximum distance of 16.5 feet (5M) in front of the camera. There are also options on the Record menu to set the in-camera image sharpening and contrast.

 

Flash

The C-60 offers a built-in flash, with six operating modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes. Auto mode lets the camera decide when to fire the flash, while the Fill-in mode fires the flash with every shot. (Fill-in is useful for throwing light on backlit subjects, keeping their faces from being obscured in deep shadow.) The two Red-Eye Reduction modes fire a small pre-flash before firing the flash at full power, making the pupils of your subjects' eyes contract, reducing the occurrence of the Red-Eye Effect. Slow Sync combines the flash with a slower shutter speed, allowing more ambient light into the background, producing more natural background lighting behind a flash-illuminated subject. You can also adjust the overall flash intensity from +/-2 EV through the Record menu.

 

Special Exposure Modes

Movie Mode
The C-60's Movie mode is accessible via the Mode dial on the camera's rear panel (marked with a small movie camera symbol). Once in Movie mode, you can record QuickTime movies (without sound) at either 160 x 120- or 320 x 240-pixel resolutions. The length of movie clips depends solely on the space available on the card, with both HQ-mode (320x240) and SQ-mode (160x120) able to record until the card fills. A number indicating the total available minutes and seconds of movie storage remaining on the memory card appears on the LCD monitor whenever you enter Movie Mode. Because the amount of compression can vary depending on the video content, this number is by no means an accurate representation of the time left for recording. Invariably after recording to the end of the estimated time available, there was still a sizeable amount of space left for more recording. For some reason, the lens is set to its maximum wide angle position when you enter Movie Mode, and neither optical nor digital telephoto is available during filming. (Quite often, cameras will disable the optical zoom while actually recording movies with sound, to prevent the noise of the zoom mechanism from affecting the sound track. Usually though, you can zoom the lens however you want before you start movie recording, as the zoom is only disabled during the recording process itself.) Spot metering, macro mode, exposure compensation, focus lock, self-timer, variable ISO, and white balance are also available in Movie mode, all of which are unusual features to find available during Movie recording. Both resolutions record at approximately 15 frames per second. Finally, an unusual "index" option is available while playing back movies, that lets you create an "index print" of a movie file, showing nine separate frames evenly spread throughout the movie. The index image is saved as a separate 640x480 image file on the memory card.

I encountered one issue with the C-60's movie mode, namely that the camera apparently produces a high-pitched "tweedling" noise (from the autofocus mechanism?) that is very clearly audible on a movie's audio track whenever the surroundings are very quiet. It's odd, because I couldn't hear the noise with my ears when the camera was recording, but it's quite obvious even when recording normal conversation.

Panorama Mode
Like most Olympus digicams, the C-60 offers a Panorama exposure mode only when using an Olympus brand, panorama-enabled xD-Picture Cards. In this mode, the exposure and white balance for a series of shots are determined by the first exposure. The Panorama function provides light blue guidelines at the edges of the pictures to help you align successive shots, leaving enough overlap between them for the stitching software to be able to do its job. Up to 10 shots can be taken in a panoramic series. Note that this function is only enabled by the built-in panorama firmware found only on Olympus brand memory cards. (A product decision that I personally think makes little sense for Olympus.) Images are saved individually and then assembled on a computer using the (included) Olympus software after they've been downloaded.

"2-in-1" Mode
Accessed through the Record menu, "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one full resolution image, giving a split-screen effect. As with Panorama mode, a set of guidelines appear in the LCD display, to help you line up shots. This reminds us of the popular Olympus Pen F half-frame 35mm camera of days gone by (1963, to be exact). We're not sure what other purpose 2-in-1 Mode would serve.

Sequence Mode
The C-60 also offers two Sequence modes that mimic the motor drive on a film camera, continually recording images for as long as the Shutter button is held down or until the memory runs out (this varies with the image quality setting and available xD-Picture Card space). Olympus rates the C-60's cycle time as one frame per second, a very conservative figure, since I measured a maximum of 1.6 frames per second in my own testing, regardless of resolution or JPEG quality setting. As is usually the case, the number of frames you can capture quickly is limited by the capacity of the camera's buffer memory at higher resolution settings, but appears to be limited only by the capacity of the memory card itself at the lowest resolution. Even at high resolution, the C-60's buffer memory can store a minimum of shots before the camera has to wait for the memory card to catch up. Sequence mode isn't available at all for the TIFF (uncompressed) image format, and also won't work properly if the flash is enabled, due to the time required to charge the flash between pictures. The AF Sequence mode also captures a rapid series of images, but adjusts focus between each shot, resulting in much slower shot to shot times. (The frame rate in AF Sequence mode will depend somewhat on how easy the subject is to focus on, but I measured it at 0.88 to 1.07 frames/second, depending on the image size/quality setting.)


My Mode
Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the "My" position, this mode lets you save customized settings and then access them simply by turning the Mode Dial. For example, if you consistently shoot in the same environment, you could save the exposure settings for those specific shooting conditions, so that they can be instantly recalled. (I can imagine this option being very handy for situations where you might have to switch quickly between two different environments. Think of a wedding reception, for instance: Use standard "program" mode for outside shots on the lawn, etc, but a custom setup in My Mode to shoot the indoor scenes under incandescent lighting.) My Mode even lets you edit the Shortcut menu items, which appear when the Menu button is pressed, to reflect often-changed settings. The My Mode is very flexible, letting you preset the following camera parameters (see the subsequent section on camera modes and menus for explanations of any settings which might not be obvious from the list below):



Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for 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 rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Olympus C-60:

Olympus C-60 Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
3.8-8.0
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. The startup time seems to vary widely, depending on what the camera happens to be pointing at. When it's facing nearby subjects, it seems to start up about twice as fast as when it's pointed at faraway objects. I've never seen this behavior before, can only conclude that the passive autofocus system tries to rough-focus the lens on power up to give better shutter lag when the first shot is taken. The shorter end of this delay range is about average, the longer end is a good bit slower than average.
Shutdown
3.5 - 95
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Average for lens retraction, very long for buffer clearing (but then, the worst-case buffer clearing is for TIFF files, and very few consumer digicams, regardless of size, offer any buffering of uncompressed file formats).
Play to Record, first shot
1.2
Time until first shot is captured. Pretty fast.
Record to play
8.7 / 1.9
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. Slow for the first time, fairly fast for the second.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.36/0.30
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. Very fast, one of the best shutter responses of any consumer model on the market.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.094
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Also very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

1.48 / 1.88 /1.48

First number is for TIFF files, second number is for large/fine files, third number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. In TIFF mode, shoots three shots this fast, then slows to 30 seconds per shot and clears the buffer in 92 seconds. In large/fine mode, shoots five shots this fast, then slows to 5.9 seconds per shot, and clears the buffer in 24 seconds. In TV mode, the buffer never fills, and clears in a second. Pretty fast cycle times, a generous buffer memory, and very surprising to find a compact digicam buffering TIFF files at all.
Cycle Time, continuous High mode, max/min resolution 0.61 / 0.61
(1.64 fps)

Times are the same for large/fine files and "TV" size images. Times are averages. Shooting stops when the buffer fills with four large/fine files, and it clears in 25 seconds. The buffer never fills with TV size files, and clears in a second. Very fast, particularly for a compact digicam.

Cycle Time, Continuous AF mode, max/min resolution 1.13 / 0.94
(0.88 / 1.07 fps)
In this mode, the camera focuses for each frame. First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for small/basic images. Times are averages. Shooting stops when the buffer fills with four large/fine files, and it clears in 20 seconds. The buffer never fills with TV size files, and clears in a second. Still quite fast, considering that the camera is adjusting focus before each shot.

I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by the C-60's shutter response. Poor autofocus speed and the slow shutter response that results are the bane of the entire digicam market, and are areas 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. Not only that, but the C-60's buffer memory even works when shooting in TIFF mode, a very rare capability, regardless of a camera's price range. Very impressive!

 

Operation and User Interface

The C-60's user interface is similar to that of other recent Olympus C-series digicams, so it didn't take long for me to get familiar with the camera. Even for users new to Olympus, the menu layouts are quite straightforward with multi-functional controls. A handful of external control buttons change the camera's basic settings, and a Mode dial on the top panel switches capture modes quickly. When you do have to call up the LCD menu, a shortcut screen appears first, with quick links to the image quality, self-timer/remote, Mode Menu, and Monitor on/off settings. (You can also edit two of the shortcut selections through the Setup menu, to link to a variety of camera functions of your choice.) Once you get into the actual Record menu, options are organized by subject, accessed by a series of tabs down the left side of the screen. This layout lets you quickly skip to the options you need without scrolling through pages of menu items. In any of the manual exposure modes, aperture and/or shutter speed is adjusted via external controls, as is exposure compensation. Once you get the hang of things, the control layout is quite intuitive and efficient.

Control Enumeration


Zoom Lever
: On top of the camera, right of the Shutter button, the Zoom Lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes, and the Digital Zoom when enabled through the Record menu. Very small, and reacting to slight movements with good speed, this little control proves that less is more.

In Playback mode, the lever switches between Index view, normal image display, and playback zoom.


Shutter Button
: Located between the mode dial and zoom control, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure when pressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully pressed.



Mode Dial
: On the top panel, the Mode dial controls the camera's operating mode. Choices are Auto, Portrait, Night Scene, SCENE, Movie, My Mode, and Program / Aperture / Shutter Speed / Manual (P/A/S/M) modes.



Flash / Erase Button
: Located to the right of the optical viewfinder on the rear panel, this button controls the Flash mode in all still capture modes. Pressing it cycles through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes.

In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the current image.



Spot / Macro / Protect Button
: Directly to the right of the Flash / Erase button on the back panel is the Spot / Macro / Protect button. In all Record modes, this button cycles between normal metering (Center weighted), Spot metering, Macro (Closeup) mode, and Macro with Spot Metering modes.

In Playback mode, this button either write-protects the displayed image, or removes protection if it's already protected. Once protected, files cannot be erased or manipulated in any way, except through card formatting. (Note that reformatting the memory card erases all images, protected or not.)



Four-Way Arrow Pad and OK / Menu Button
: Made up of four buttons arranged in a circle around a single "OK" button, the Arrow Pad controls many of the camera's operations. In all capture modes except Manual, the left and right arrow buttons increase or decrease the exposure compensation setting (provided the LCD monitor is active). In Aperture or Shutter Priority exposure modes, the up and down arrow buttons adjust the lens aperture or shutter speed settings, depending on which mode you've selected. In Manual mode, the up and down Arrows control shutter speed, while the left and right Arrows control aperture.

In Playback mode, the left and right Arrows move forward or backward through the pictures stored on the card, or scroll around portions of the expanded image in Zoom Playback mode.

In the LCD menu system, the Arrow buttons navigate through menu screens and select settings. The OK / Menu button in the center of the pad displays the settings menu in any camera mode, and also confirms menu selections.



Playback Button
: Next to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, puts the camera in playback mode, calling up the most recently-captured image. Exit playback mode by pressing this button again, or half-pressing the shutter button. (Note that this button no longer turns the LCD on or off, as it did on the C-50: That function has now been moved to the shortcut menu.)

Pressing and holding this button when the camera is powered off turns it on and activates Playback mode.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Movie Mode: Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the movie camera symbol, Movie mode lets you capture movies (without sound) for as long as the memory card has available space. Shutter speed is set automatically from 1/8,000 to 1/30 second, depending on light levels.

My Mode: Configures the camera based on a set of user-defined camera settings, specific to shooting conditions. Exposure variables such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. can all be saved. You can even save the lens zoom position. My Mode settings are made through the Setup menu.

Programmed Exposure Mode: Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, letting you adjust other variables such as white balance, exposure compensation, etc.

Aperture Priority Exposure Mode: Aperture Priority exposure mode lets you set the lens aperture, and then the camera chooses the corresponding shutter speed to produce the best exposure. Available pertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, the wider end depending on the zoom setting. You can still adjust other variables such as white balance, exposure compensation, etc.

Shutter Priority Exposure Mode: The opposite of Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority mode lets you choose the shutter speed, while the camera picks the lens aperture that will give the best exposures. Available shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 4 seconds. You can still adjust other variables such as white balance, exposure compensation, etc.

Full Manual Exposure Mode: Manual mode is just that: It offers full user control over both aperture and shutter speed. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, the wider end depending on the zoom setting. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 8 seconds in Manual mode. You can adjust white balance, but there's no exposure compensation, since there's no automatically-determined exposure setting to adjust away from.

Auto Mode: This mode puts the camera in charge of everything, except zoom, flash mode, image size, and drive mode. This is a true "point & shoot" mode, requiring almost no input from the user apart from a press of the Shutter button.

Portrait Mode: Optimizes the camera for capturing portraits. A larger aperture is used, decreasing depth of field so that the subject is sharply focused in front of a slightly soft background.

Night Scene Mode: This mode is best for capturing night portraits or night scenery, such as cityscapes. A slower shutter speed (maximum time of four seconds) lets more ambient light into the image, and the white balance is fixed, preserving color in neon signs or sunsets.

Landscape / Scene Mode: Accessed in the SCENE position on the Mode dial, and like Landscape / Portrait mode, this mode is for capturing wide views of scenery, with both the foreground and background in focus. However, this mode also enhances any blue or green values in the image, for more vibrant trees, water, and skies.

Landscape / Portrait Mode: Also accessed in the SCENE position on the Mode dial, this mode is best for capturing wide views of scenery or shots of people in front of landscapes. The camera uses a smaller aperture setting, which increases the depth of field to capture both the foreground and background in sharp focus.

Self-Portrait Mode: Also accessed in the SCENE position, this mode is for handheld self-portraits (where you hold the camera out in front of yourself and take a picture). Focus remains fixed on you.

Sports Mode: The final mode under the SCENE Mode dial position The camera's exposure system is biased toward faster shutter speeds to freeze action with moving subjects.


Shortcut Menus: In every camera mode, when you first press the OK/Menu button, a "Shortcut" menu appears first. This offers up to four quick options, arranged in a circle, that can be selected by pressing the corresponding arrow key. The options presented vary depending on the mode you're in, but all are handy for quickly accessing frequently-used functions. The Shortcut menu for Still Capture/Programmed Exposure mode can even be edited to select two of the functions you use the most yourself to appear. Its default configuration is shown above right as an example.





 

Still Picture Shooting Menu: The main menu for still capture mode has four sub-menus, accessed via a tabbed interface. You can navigate up and down the tabs with the up/down arrow keys, and enter each sub-menu by pressing the right-arrow key. Once in a sub-menu, you can navigate up and down with the up/down arrows again, choosing an option you wish to set by pressing the right arrow key again. Pressing the left arrow key backs out of the menu system to progressively higher levels. (Note that, within the sub-menus, the available options will change depending on capture mode you happen to be in.)







 

Playback Menu

 


Image Storage and Interface

The C-60 uses xD-Picture Cards for memory storage, and comes equipped with a 32MB card. Larger card capacities are available up to 512MB separately.

The C-60 can store images in both uncompressed TIFF and compressed JPEG file formats. JPEG compression levels include Super High Quality (SHQ), High Quality (HQ), and Standard Quality (SQ). No less than six resolutions are available, with a variety at the Standard Quality setting. Resolutions include 2,816 x 2,112, 2,560 x 1,920, 2,272 x 1,704, 2,048 x 1,536, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, or 640 x 480 pixels.

The C-60's file naming protocol includes the month and day at the beginning of the file name, and provides the option of numbering images progressively from one card to the next, or of resetting the naming sequence for each card. The camera lets you write-protect individual images from accidental erasure through the Playback menu (though individually protected images can still be erased by a card format operation).

The table below summarizes the compression ratios and number of images which can be stored on the included 32MB xD-Picture Card with each size/quality combination.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
32 MB Memory Card
TIFF Fine
Normal
2,816 x 2,112 Images
(Avg size)
1
18.1 MB
7
4.4 MB
21
1.5 MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
2,560 x 1,920 Images
(Avg size)
2
16 MB
8
3.7 MB
26
1.2 MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
2,272 x 1,704 Images
(Avg size)
2
11.6 MB
11
2.8 MB
33
962 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1
12:1
2,048 x 1,536
Images
(Avg size)
3
9.8 MB
13
2.3 MB
40
785 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1
12:1
1,600 x 1,200 Images
(Avg size)
n/a 22
1.4 MB
66
481 KB
Approx.
Compression
  4:1 12:1
1,280 x 960
Images
(Avg size)
n/a 35
901 KB
105
305 KB
Approx.
Compression
  4:1
12:1
1,024 x 768 Images
(Avg size)
n/a 55
579 KB
133
208 KB
Approx.
Compression
  4:1
11:1
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
n/a 142
225 KB
399
80 KB
Approx.
Compression
  4:1
11:1

The Olympus C-60 connects to a host computer via a USB interface. Downloading files to my Sony desktop running Windows XP (Pentium IV, 2.4 GHz), I clocked it at 501 KBytes/second. This is pretty good performance for a camera with a USB v1.1 interface, but slower than many current cameras with USB v2.0 connections routinely manage. (Cameras with slow USB interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.)

 

Video Out

The C-60 has a Video Out port for reviewing previously captured images and movies, or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all of the LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder. (This last means that you could use a TV monitor as a "remote viewfinder" if you wanted to.) Combined with the included remote control, this feature turns the C-60 into a useful self-portrait tool. Through the Setup menu, you can set the Video Out signal timing to NTSC or PAL.



Power

The Olympus C-60 uses a custom rechargeable LiIon battery for power, Olympus part number LI-12B. At 3.7 volts and 1230 mAh capacity, it's roughly 13% more powerful than the battery that powered the C-60's predecessor, the C-50. The improved battery capacity is balanced by the C-60's somewhat higher power drain though, so the overall run times are nearly the same as those of the C-50. The table below shows the results of my power measurements of the C-60 in various operating modes, and projected run times based on the stated capacity of the LI-12B pack:

Operating Mode
Power
(@3.4 volts on the external power terminal)
Est. Minutes
(LI-12B battery pack)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
526 mA
108
Capture Mode, no LCD
344 mA
165
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
523 mA
109
Half-pressed w/o LCD
334 mA
170
Memory Write (transient)
604 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
1240 mA
n/a
Image Playback
254 mA
224

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.

While these power consumption figures are better than average, I still highly recommend purchasing a second battery when you buy the camera, to charge up and hold in reserve as a spare. Murphy's Law applies in spades to digicam batteries, which always run out of juice at the worst possible moment.

 

Included Software

The C-60 comes with a nice complement of software on the supplied CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by Olympus' Camedia Master software package (Version 4.2) for both Mac and Windows platforms (Macintosh OS 8.6-9.2/OS X, Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000 Pro/XP). USB drivers for both platforms and an Apple QuickTime reader are also included.

Camedia Master lets you download and organize images, as well as perform minor image correction and enhancement functions (such as adjusting contrast, sharpness, and color balance). For panoramic images, Camedia Master supplies a "stitching" utility to piece together shots vertically or horizontally. A complete printing utility works with the DPOF settings and allows you to print images directly to Olympus or other DPOF-compliant photo printers.

 

In the Box

The following items are included in the box:

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!

 

Conclusion

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
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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:

What I was less crazy about:

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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