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Olympus C-3020 Zoom

A bargain-priced, full featured 3 megapixel model from Olympus!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 2/16/2002

Executive Overview
Following on the heels of a number of recent Olympus Camedia releases, the Camedia C-3020 offers the best of the C series at an affordable price. With a full 3.14-megapixel (effective) CCD and the option of full manual exposure control, the C-3020 is a very attractive, capable digicam for under $500. The body style and control setup are very similar to previous Camedia designs, compact enough for travel, yet not too small for a good grip. Though the camera won't fit into a shirt pocket, it should find a home in most larger coat pockets and purses. A neck/shoulder strap accompanies the camera, for more carefree toting.

Both a real-image optical viewfinder and 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor are built into the C-3020 for image composition. The addition of the status display panel on top of the camera means you can work without the LCD monitor enabled, composing images with the optical viewfinder and thus dramatically extending battery life. The C-3020 is equipped with a 3x, 6.5-19.5mm lens, the equivalent of a 32-96mm lens on a 35mm camera. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/11, with automatic or manual control available. Focus also offers manual or automatic control options, with a distance scale readout in meters or feet. A Fulltime AF option continuously adjusts focus, while Digital ESP and Spot AF area modes provide flexible focus options. In addition to the 3x optical zoom, the C-3020 also offers 2.5x digital telephoto, though image quality is compromised by the digital enlargement. (As is the case with all "digital zooms.")

For capturing images, the C-3020 offers a range of exposure modes, as well as five preset "Scene" modes. Scene options include Portrait, Sports, Landscape/Portrait, Night Scene, and Movie modes. Movie files are recorded without sound, at an image size of 320 x 240 pixels, for as long as the memory card has available space. Still image exposure modes include Program AE (full auto), Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and My Image modes. (My Image mode allows users to save specific exposure variables for a customized shooting mode that can be recalled at any time.) Shutter speeds range from 1/800 to 16 seconds, depending on the exposure mode chosen. Two metering modes are available on the C-3020: Digital ESP (a multipoint averaging approach) and Spot. An AE Lock option locks the exposure and provides more accurate metering for off-center or high contrast subjects. You can adjust the overall exposure from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV), in one-third step increments (in all exposure modes except Manual). The Auto Exposure Bracketing mode shoots a series of images (either three or five) at different EV levels, allowing you to pick the best overall exposure.

The C-3020's light sensitivity can be set to Auto, or you can select from 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents. The Noise Reduction feature cuts down the amount of image noise when shooting with longer exposure times (a feature I found very effective). White balance offers Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual modes, as well as a red/blue manual adjustment tool to correct the color balance in any preset white balance mode. Through the settings menu, you can also adjust the image Sharpness and Contrast levels, over a range of -5 to +5 in arbitrary units. An Image Effects menu offers Black and White, Sepia, Whiteboard, and Blackboard shooting modes, for more creative shooting or for capturing text clearly. The 3020 thus offers an unusually wide range of creative control over image tone and color.

The C-3020 features a built-in flash, which operates in either Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, Off, or one of the Slow Sync modes. For longer exposures or special effects, the Slow Sync modes combine the flash with a longer shutter time, synchronizing with either the opening or closing of the shutter. A Red-Eye Reduction option is also available for use with the slow-sync flash mode. Flash power is adjustable through the settings menu, from -2 to +2 EV in one-third step increments.

In addition to the Single Shot and Movie modes, the C-3020 offers Continuous Shooting, Continuous Shooting AF, and Self-Timer modes, through the Drive option of the settings menu. When using Olympus SmartMedia cards, the camera also features a Panorama mode, with framing guidelines to help you line up each shot exactly.

Images can be saved in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF formats to the SmartMedia card, while movie files are saved in the Motion JPEG format. A 16MB SmartMedia card comes with the camera, but upgrades are available separately as large as 128MB. (256 MB SmartMedia cards are expected from third parties by the end of 2002.) Also included with the camera is a USB cable and software CD for downloading images to a PC or Mac. (The camera presents itself as a "storage class" USB device though, so no special driver software is needed on Mac OS 8.6 and higher, or Windows 2000, Me or XP.) The CAMEDIA Master 2.5 software utility provides image downloading, organization, and editing tools, as well as Apple QuickTime for reviewing movies.

The C-3020 is powered by either four AA batteries or two CR-V3 lithium-ion battery packs. Usable AA battery types include alkaline, Ni-MH, Ni-CD, and lithium. (A set of alkaline batteries comes with the camera, but you'll really want to get a couple of sets of good NiMH cells and a charger for them.) An AC adapter is available as a separate accessory.

I've always found the Camedia line of digicams both functional and appealing, and the C-3020 is no exception. The 3.14-megapixel CCD captures clear, sharp images with good color and quality, and the broad level of manual exposure control provides versatile shooting capabilities. Novices can gradually increase their exposure control as they learn, and more advanced users will enjoy the full manual control immediately (though the 1/800 maximum shutter speed is a bit limiting). Still, I'm impressed with the camera's features and performance, and think that the C-3020 will find a lot of happy homes with "enthusiast" shooters on budgets.

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