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Epson PhotoPC 3000Z

Epson's first three-megapixel design boasts great image quality and loads of "enthusiast" features

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 10/01/2000

Executive Overview
The Epson 3000Z packs quite a punch with its tight design and versatile exposure control. While the camera is a little chubby at 4.3 x 3.5 x 2.6 inches (108 x 89 x 65 mm), the its light weight of 12.9 ounces (365 g) and accompanying neck strap make it very portable. The camera features a telescoping lens design, which extends the lens once the camera is powered on (and in a capture mode) and retracts the lens when the camera is shut down. A well thought out combination of control buttons and LCD menus drive the camera, and provide a straightforward user interface.

The 3000Z is equipped with both a real image optical viewfinder (complete with dioptric adjustment dial) and a 1.8 inch color LCD monitor for composing images. The LCD monitor is activated by the mode dial, and features a very efficient menu system. Instead of calling up settings menus and sifting through screen after screen of settings and options, this LCD menu works much more simply. When the LCD is in use, an information display lines the bottom and right sides of the LCD, with features corresponding to adjacent buttons. Through this setup, you can quickly change the white balance or ISO setting and resume shooting with practically no hassle.

A 3x, 7 to 21 mm lens (equivalent to a 34 to 102 mm lens on a 35 mm camera) is built into the camera, with manually or automatically adjustable apertures ranging from f/2.0 to f/8.0. Focus is automatically controlled, although a small selection of preset focal distances is available when in Manual capture mode. In normal shooting mode, focus ranges from 20 inches (50 cm) to infinity, and in macro mode, from 2.36 to 20 inches (5.9 to 50 cm). Lens filter threads and an accompanying lens adapter accommodate a range of accessory lens kits from wide angle to macro. There's also a 2x digital telephoto function, controlled through the LCD on-screen menu, but remember that digital zoom degrades the quality of the image in direct proportion to the magnification achieved.

When it comes to exposure, the 3000Z gives you as much or as little control as you need. The Program capture menu lets you select from a list of exposure presets for a variety of shooting conditions: Normal, Sports, Portrait and Landscape. The Full Automatic mode puts the camera in charge of everything, leaving you only in control of flash, zoom, macro mode, the self-timer, image quality and digital zoom. Finally, the Manual capture mode gives you three levels of exposure control: Auto Exposure, Aperture Priority or Manual Exposure. Under Manual Exposure, you can set the shutter speed from eight to 1/750 seconds and the aperture from f/2.0 to f/8.0. White balance can be set to Auto, "Fix" (5,200 Kelvin, about a typical daylight color) or Custom (manual setting). You also have control over ISO (100, 200 or 400) and metering (Spot or Matrix). Exposure compensation can be adjusted from -2 to +2 in either 1/2 or 1/3 EV increments, depending on the camera's capture mode. The built-in flash operates in five modes: Auto, Forced, Off, Red-Eye Reduction or Slow Synchronized (which features Leading or Trailing shutter options). When you need more flash power, a top mounted hot shoe lets you connect an external flash head, which automatically disables the internal flash.

The 3000Z also allows you to capture up to 25 second movies with sound, at approximately 15 frames per second, with the majority of the exposure controls available. The Continuous Shooting mode lets you capture up to 37 images at up to two frames per second, depending on the image quality setting and the amount of CompactFlash space. There's also an Interval photography mode, which lets you set shutter intervals from 10 seconds to 24 hours, for time-lapse photography. The time-lapse images can be put together as a movie with the QuickTime software. In addition to recording sound for movies, the 3000Z also lets you record short sound clips to accompany captured images. Image sounds can be played back and deleted through the Playback menu, without affecting the captured still image. Additionally, a "panoramic" mode allows you to capture wide/short images, great for landscapes.

Images are stored on CompactFlash cards, and a 16 megabyte card is packaged with the camera. Five image size and quality settings are available: Standard JPEG (640 x 480), Fine JPEG (2048 x 1536), Super Fine JPEG (2048 x 1536), HyPict JPEG (interpolated 2544 x 1904) and Uncompressed TIFF (2048 x 1536). Through the image playback menu, up to nine images can be displayed as thumbnails on the LCD monitor, images can be magnified and played back in a slide show. An NTSC cable comes with US and Japanese 3000Z models (PAL for European models), for connection to a multimedia projector, television set or any other video playback device. Thus, the camera can be used as a presentation tool by combining the playback features with a multimedia projector. An internal program, called Print Mark, lets you set up images for printing on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) device.

A software CD loaded with Sierra Imaging's Image Expert, Epson's Photo!3, Epson File Converter and Epson's Photo! Print2 is compatible with both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. A USB cable, as well as Mac and PC serial cables also accompany the camera. The software packages allow you to download images from the camera and organize them, as well as perform minor image editing and set up images for printing to DPOF devices. The Epson File Converter converts presentation files (such as slides) into a format that the 3000Z can read, for use in presentations with the camera. (This is a handy, seldom-found option.) For power, the 3000Z utilizes four AA NiMH rechargeable batteries, which are included in the package along with a battery charger (four AA lithium or alkaline batteries can also be used). (Big kudos to Epson on this one: You really need rechargeable batteries with digicams, so its nice to find a manufacturer who provides them.) An AC adapter is available as an accessory, and is recommended for tasks such as image playback and downloading.

Overall, we found the 3000Z to be an extremely versatile camera, with flexible exposure control and a large variety of options. With nice image quality from its 3.3 megapixel CCD (which can be interpolated to 4.8 megapixels), the 3000Z exhibited good results in the majority of our testing. It's light weight, portable and loaded with features. Its solid picture quality and extensive feature set place it comfortably in the top echelon of 3 megapixel consumer digicams.

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