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Epson PhotoPC 3100Z

Epson updates their excellent 3 megapixel digicam with a new user interface, and support for PRINT Image Matching!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 7/10/2001

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 3100Z'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 3100Z performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the 3100Z produced good photos, with great color balance under most shooting conditions. Colors are rich and accurate, the only problems we saw being a slight weakness in bright yellows, and a tendency for the always-difficult blue flowers in our Outdoor Portrait test to go purple. Tonal range and shadow noise were excellent, even when the camera's ISO value (light sensitivity) was boosted to 200 and 400. (There was noise there, but our impression was that there was less of it at ISO 400 than we're used to seeing in cameras in this price/function range.)

The 3100Z's automatic white balance system did well under "average" conditions, but had some trouble with the strong yellowish cast the household incandescent lighting of our Indoor Portrait test. Fortunately the Manual white balance option handled even this extreme color cast with aplomb.

Resolution on the 3100Z is very good, with a slight softness to the images, but a lot of detail present nonetheless. (Applying unsharp masking in Photoshop(tm) brings out a good bit more detail than you'll see in the photos at first glance.) We see the first artifacts creeping into our resolution test target at about 600 lines per picture height, but strong detail is present to 1000 lines per picture height, and "extinction" of our test target patterns didn't occur until nearly 1300 lines. Chromatic aberration is quite good, and geometric distortion (barrel and pincushion distortion) is about average among high-end prosumer cameras. Overall, a very good performance.

The 3100Z offers excellent exposure control, from a full manual mode to a manually adjustable white balance setting and control over ISO and metering options. The camera performed extremely well in our low light tests, producing bright, usable images as low as 1/16 foot candles (0.63 lux) at the 200 ISO setting (1/8 foot-candles, 1.3 lux at ISO 100), with amazingly little noise. To put the 3100Z's low light performance into perspective, an average city night scene under modern street lighting corresponds to a light level of about one foot candle.

We found the 3100Z's optical viewfinder to be a bit tight, showing approximately 84 percent of the final image area at both wide angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor turned in a much more accurate performance, showing approximately 98 percent accuracy. Since we generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the 3000Z does a very good job.

The 3100Z performs very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of just 3.14 x 2.25 inches (79.7 x 59.8 millimeters). This is a slightly better than average performance among the digicams we've tested, and the filter threads and lens adapter allow you to capture even smaller areas with the accessory macro kit.

Overall, the 3100Z performs quite well for its 3.3 megapixel class, providing excellent exposure control and nice image quality. It's images are a bit softer than the sharpest 3 megapixel cameras we've tested, but all the detail seems to be there - The softness just looks like a bit understated in-camera sharpening.


Conclusion
Epson's done a lot right with this camera, including all the standard "high-end" features, including flexible exposure modes and even a flash hot shoe. Its full auto setting though, means you can hand it to a non-techie with confidence. Nice image quality and a quick, timesaving (if not a little unusual) user interface give this camera an edge over many in its 3.3 megapixel class. There's also the benefit of an uncompressed TIFF mode and an interpolated 4.8-megapixel CCD that produces 2,544 x 1,904-pixel images capable of making prints as large as 11 x 17 inches. If you have a compatible printer , the 3100Z's inclusion of PRINT Image Matching will offer significant improvements in the quality of your prints. (At this writing, Epson's own Stylus Photo 875EPX is the only supporting printer, but PRINT Image Matching drivers are promised soon for the 780 and 1280) To our eye, the improvements from PRINT Image Matching are worth buying an Epson printer for, undoubtedly exactly what Epson intended. With Epson known more for its printers than its cameras, it would be easy for this camera to be overlooked in the marketplace. That would be a shame, as it's a genuinely excellent digicam.


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