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Olympus' Camedia Brio digital camera. Courtesy of Olympus. Yamada previews Olympus Camedia C-1!
(Saturday, March 10, 2001 - 12:18 EST)

PC Watch tries out the Japanese incarnation of Olympus' newly-announced Camedia Brio D-100...

Yamada Kumio of the excellent Impress PC Watch website in Japan scores another coup; this time he's first to review Olympus' latest digital camera. As you may already know from our previous news item announcing the camera back on Tuesday, it will have different names depending on where in the world you're located; the Camedia Brio D-100 in the US, the Camedia C-1 in Japan, and the digital μ[mju:] Camedia C-1 in Europe.

Yamada already posted 23 sample images from the camera back when it was announced, and has followed this up with a report which features the same 23 samples (although in a different order) along with his own commentary.

Yamada begins by noting that the 1.3 megapixel Camedia C-1 is the latest in a 3.5 year series of cameras from Olympus such as the D-360 and C-820L. The C-1 however inherits styling more reminiscent of of the point'n'shoot μ[mju:] 35mm film cameras. In use, however, he felt the camera handled much like Olympus' C-900 series cameras.

He feels that the plastic body of the camera, whilst it doesn't feel as good as the metallic bodies of cameras like Canon's Powershot S100, is quite understandeable when you consider that the C-1 is not a higher-end ¥70,000 (US$586) model like the S100, but is instead a low-priced model with an MSRP of ¥38,000 (US$318) and an expected street price of about ¥29,800 yen (US$249) including USB connectivity and 8MB of SmartMedia memory.

Yamada next goes on to look at the size of the C-1, noting that whilst it is not quite an ultra-compact camera, the 'caseless'-type body which features a built-in retractable lens cover feels very slim in the hands, thanks in large part to a very compact lens design. He compares the C-1 to its predecessor the C-860L, noting that it is 70 grams lighter, and shaves off 13mm of thickness, 18mm of width and 3mm of height respectively. Photos in this section of the review compare the size of the C-1 to the C-860L, Fuji FinePix 40i and Canon PowerShot S100.

He continues to note that whilst the camera is 23mm wider and 5mm higher than the popular Canon S100, the C-1 is actually lighter by some 25 grams than the metallic Canon camera. It also feels completely different in the hands thanks to the rounded-off corners of the C-1 design, as compared to the very boxy S100 design. He feels overall it fits the hands nicely and is easy to hold.

There is a downside though - even with Yamada noting that he has small hands, he found it easy to get his fingers in the picture because there is no projection to the left of the lens for your fingers to rest against. Unfortunately, if you're using the optical viewfinder you won't even notice that you're blocking the lens with your fingers since the viewfinder uses a separate lens...

A number of different color schemes for the camera on top of the basic silver model have been announced in Japan, but Yamada notes that there are currently no plans to release the black version which will sell in the US market there.

Yamada likes the sliding lens-cover design, which doubles as the power control for the camera (open the cover and the unit powers on; close it and it powers off). The cover slides smoothly and gives a reassuring 'click' when the cover is properly closed. Camera controls have been designed to allow for single-handed use as much as possible, and Yamada seems to think that Olympus have done a good job here. He describes the camera as almost looking too simple until you actually use it, at which point you see that even somebody who's never used the camera before will feel perfectly comfortable with it.

The C-1 starts up relatively quickly, in about two seconds from opening the lens cover. It has a shot to shot time of about two seconds, and a burst mode that will allow for four frames at three frames per second. Focusing is also relatively quick, although Yamada notes that the LCD display does go blank briefly when autofocusing. With a lithium battery, the flash recharges in about 3 seconds.

The C-1 uses a 35mm-equivalent fixed focal length lens, which is fairly bright at F2.8. The 35mm-equivalent focal length is quite convenient for snapshot use...

Yamada next goes on to discuss the LCD display and optical viewfinder. He feels that for normal use the optical viewfinder is very good, but the LCD display was not as good as it could have been. He also felt there should be a way to set the camera to turn the LCD display on immediately when it powers on, where currently you have to press a button every time the camera is powered up if you want to use the LCD display.

Yamada feels that in terms of picture quality, the C-1 performs quite well. He felt that occasionally the pictures needed a little exposure correction, but that overall the color balance and exposure was on-par with what he'd expect from a film camera, and that even though it was possible to adjust exposure compensation and white balance in camera, the fully auto mode usually did well enough and the average user would probably not need to bother with these settings.

Yamada felt that the bright lens, fairly powerful flash and automatic ISO switching from ISO100 to ISO200 would give good low-light performance from the camera, and prevent too many blurred photos. By comparison, Yamada points out that a competitor to the C-1, Fuji's FinePix 1300 has an F4.5 lens and a maximum ISO rating of 125, which would lead to much more change of a blurred photo from the Fuji camera.

Yamada also praises the lens for being able to focus closer-up than many cameras, even in the normal mode. He points out that many cameras can only focus to 70-80cm in normal mode, where the C-1 can focus to 50cm in normal mode. Macro mode takes this down into the range of 10-50cm. This could be useful, since the relatively wide lens will make it hard to get a closeup without moving the camera very close to the subject. At the closest focus, Yamada felt that you could easily fill the screen with a business card...

Next, Yamada discusses resolution. He feels that whilst the market norm is now for 2 and 3 megapixel cameras, 1.3 megapixel which might seem low was still very acceptable for on-screen display on a PC or television. For web use, he felt that images resized down to VGA from the C-1 would look just as good as VGA images created from a 2 megapixel camera. He also noted that for web images of 320 x 240 pixels or smaller, even the lack of a zoom might not really be a problem on the C-1 as you could just crop the relevant part of a photo, and then resize this cropped version down to the final size.

That said, Yamada would prefer to have seen a 2 megapixel CCD in the C-1 body, and hopes that one will appear in the future. His only other concern for the C-1 is that he hopes the software bundle will be improved, since the C-1 doesn't include a good image viewer and its rival the FinePix 1300 does. He also hopes thanks to Olympus' tie-up with Kodak to see good software included for printing images...

To see the sample images from the C-1, visit the PC Watch item...

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