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Olympus C-3020 Zoom

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

Review First Posted: 2/16/2002

Click to Buy Now at EPC-Online!
MSRP $599 US


3 megapixel sensor for images to 2048 x 1536 pixels
3x optical zoom lens
Full auto, flexible "scene" modes, or full manual exposure control
Powered by dual AAs or CR-V3 lithium batteries

Manufacturer Overview
Over the past several years, Olympus has been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace. With one of the broadest digital camera lineups in the industry, their models range from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the pro-level E-20 SLR. The Camedia C-3020 Zoom is their entry in the "full-featured, bargain-priced 3 megapixel" field, a category they have surprisingly little competition in. The 3020 replaces the previous C-3000 Zoom, which was one of the best buys in the full-feature three megapixel markeplace throughout its product life.

Relative to Olympus' "high end" three megapixel model, the C-3040 Zoom, the 3020 sports a slightly "slower" lens, lacks an external flash connector, and has no sound recording capability. (Its movies are all "silent" ones.) The result is a very competitively priced three megapixel camera with a full range of exposure modes, including full automatic, flexible "scene" modes for common shooting conditions, and full manual. Overall, it offers a lot of bang for the buck, is easy to use (in full auto mode), yet provides plenty of room to grow as your photographic skills mature. If I'm any judge, this one's going to be a big seller.

High Points

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.

Sporting a new, warmer-toned silvery body, the Olympus Camedia C-3020 updates the Camedia line with a new look and a more affordable price for a camera with a 3.14-megapixel CCD. The C-3020 combines many of the features I like on other Olympus digicams with an attractive lower price (around $500 at retail when this article was written in February, 2002). The C-3020 includes many of the features present on the C-3040, though in the interest of making the camera more affordable, Olympus left out a few options (namely sound recording, an external flash sync, a Video Out jack, and remote control compatibility). Still, the assets of the C-3020 are pretty impressive, with full manual exposure control as well as Program AE and preset Scene modes. The My Image mode allows you to save a set of exposure settings and create a specific exposure mode that can be recalled at any time.

Measuring 4.3 x 3.0 x 2.8 inches (110 x 76 x 70 millimeters), the C-3020 is an average-sized digicam. Though it isn't designed for shirt pockets, the C-3020 could easily find its way into larger coat pockets and purses, and the neck/shoulder strap makes carrying the camera a cinch. (I always recommend picking up a small camera bag though, which is more convenient for carrying the camera and any accessories safely.) The C-3020 weighs approximately 14 ounces (400 grams) with the batteries and SmartMedia card, giving the camera a solid feel despite its plastic body. (The front, top and left side are trimmed with aluminum panels, the handgrip, back, and bottom are rugged plastic.)



Looking at the front of the camera, the lens and hand grip are the dominant features. The lens telescopes outwards when the camera is powered on, extending an additional inch or so from the body. A plastic lens cap protects the lens from any accidental scratches when in place, and tethers to the camera body so that it won't be easily lost. (My eval unit didn't include the lens cap tether itself, but a piece of sturdy thread would serve as well.) The hefty handgrip (created by the battery compartment) facilitates a firm grip on the camera, with a smooth slope on the side to comfortably rest your fingers. Also on the front of the camera is the built-in flash, self-timer lamp, and the front window of the optical viewfinder. At the top of the handgrip, the side edge of the Zoom lever is visible, where it it wraps around the Shutter button.



The right side of the camera, comprised of the bulky handgrip, holds the SmartMedia card slot, protected by a hinged, plastic door that opens from the back panel. Above the card slot is one of the neck strap attachment eyelets.



On the opposite side of the camera is the second strap attachment eyelet, as well as the diopter adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder and the connector jack compartment. The plastic, hinged door covers the DC In and USB connector jacks, and snaps firmly into place (a little too firmly in our opinion, as the door can be difficult to open without nearly breaking a nail).



The Shutter button, Zoom lever, Mode dial, and status display panel are all on the top side of the camera. I always to see a status display LCD like this, as it lets you view camera settings without switching on the LCD monitor, thus saving battery power.



The C-3020's remaining controls are all found on the back panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and LCD monitor. Two LED lamps next to the optical viewfinder report the camera's status, lighting solid or flashing to indicate when focus is set or the flash is ready. At the top of the back panel is a set of navigational arrow buttons, as well as the Flash/Erase and DPOF/Macro/Spot Metering buttons. Lining the right side of the LCD monitor are the OK, Display, and AE Lock/Custom/Protect buttons. A red light next to the SmartMedia compartment door lights whenever the camera is accessing the card (meaning you should wait until the light turns off to open the compartment door).



The battery compartment and plastic, threaded tripod mount are the sole occupants of the C-3020's flat bottom. The two are much too close together to allow battery changes while the camera is mounted to a tripod, a design feature consistent with many Olympus digicams. Since I use a Camedia C-2020 to do much of my own studio shooting, I always notice this attribute. Still, few consumers are likely to encounter this problem, as I suspect most use of this camera will be without a tripod.

For composing images, the C-3020 offers the choice of a real-image optical viewfinder or 1.8-inch color LCD monitor. The optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but doesn't show the effect of digital zoom, which requires the LCD monitor to be active. An autofocus crosshair is in the center of the viewfinder display, useful for lining up shots, particularly with Spot Metering or Spot AF enabled. A diopter adjustment dial on the side of the eyepiece adjusts the view for eyeglass wearers. I also noticed that the viewfinder eyepiece has a fairly high eyepoint, as I could (just barely) see the entirety of the viewfinder image with the rear element of the viewfinder touching my eyeglass lenses. - I'd like a bit more eye relief, but the 3020 is definitely usable with typical eyeglasses. Two LED lamps on the right side of the eyepiece report the camera's current status. For example, the top LED lamp lights solid orange whenever the flash is charged, or flashes when the flash is still charging and the Shutter button is halfway pressed. The bottom LED lights green whenever focus is set, and flashes to report a problem focusing. I found the optical viewfinder's very to be pretty tight in my testing, showing only 78 percent of the image area with the lens at full wide angle. At full telephoto, the viewfinder showed only 79 percent of the final image area. Overly tight viewfinder displays are a pet peeve of mine, so I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder on the 3020 Zoom. (The very accurate LCD display saves the day, but the 3020's excellent power consumption with the LCD off is compromised by the need to refer to the LCD for accurate framing.)

The 1.8-inch TFT color LCD monitor has approximately 123,000 pixels in its display. The Display button just adjacent to it serves as the monitor's "power" button, turning it on or off. In all record modes, the LCD monitor reports the current camera settings, as well as the shutter speed and aperture values selected. Through the settings menu, you can adjust the overall brightness of the LCD monitor, as well as determine whether or not an image is displayed for a short time immediately after capture. Thanks to the inclusion of the small status display panel on top of the camera, you can pretty well operate without the LCD monitor, using the optical viewfinder for composition (saving a great deal of battery power), but as noted the optical viewfinder isn't terribly accurate. I was impressed with the LCD monitor's frame accuracy, which was approximately 98 percent at both the wide-angle and telephoto lens positions. I like to see LCD monitors with frame accuracy as close to 100% as possible, so the 98 percent the 3020's LCD viewfinder offers is pretty good.

In Playback mode, the LCD monitor reports the quality setting, date, time, and the number of images on the memory card. This display shows up for a few seconds and then disappears. Through the Playback menu, you can change the Info page to include more exposure details. (The Display button serves no function in this mode.) My only complaint with these information displays is the short time the display appears, and that there seems to be no way of extending the display time. That said, I do appreciate the ability to double-check the exposure settings of previously acquired images. The LCD also offers an index display (of 4, 9, or 16 images), as well as an image enlargement tool.

A 3x, 6.5-19.5mm zoom lens is built into the C-3020, the equivalent to a 32-96mm lens on a 35mm camera. This is slightly "wider" overall than most digicam lenses, a help in close quarters, a minor limitation at the telephoto end. (I think I come down on the side of zoom ranges biased slightly toward the wide angle end as being more useful overall.) The lens features a telescoping design, meaning that it extends out from the camera body whenever the camera is placed in any record mode. A plastic lens cap is spring-loaded to fit just inside the lip of the lens, and has a small strap to attach it to the camera and prevent it from being lost. (This strap appeared to be missing from the box my eval unit came in, but I'm pretty sure one is included in the retail units.) The lens aperture setting can be manually or automatically adjusted, with a range from f/2.8 to f/11.0. Focus also features manual or automatic control, and ranges from 0.6 feet (0.2 meters) to infinity (this includes the Macro range). A Macro button on the back of the camera optimizes it for shooting close-up subjects. Though the manual states that the lens should be set to the furthest wide-angle setting, I found the best results by zooming in to about the middle of the lens' focal length range. Macro performance is on the low side of average, as the 3020 captured a slightly larger-than-average minimum macro area, at 4.39 x 3.29 inches (111.47 x 83.6 millimeters). - This would be fine for photographing many small objects for eBay and such, but won't be enough for larger-than-life portraits of bugs, etc.

The C-3020's autofocus system uses a contrast-detection method to determine focus, based on the center portion of the image. You can opt for Digital ESP or Spot AF area options, with the Digital ESP mode basing focus on a large area in the center of the frame. Though there is no focus lock function, you can manually lock the focus on another part of the subject by simply moving the camera and half-pressing the shutter button. Whatever portion of the subject is in the center of the frame when the Shutter button is halfway pressed will determine the focus. You can just reframe the subject while halfway pressing the Shutter button to keep the focus locked. (The only limitation to this approach is that exposure is also locked at the same time as the focus. This is generally not a problem, but in some circumstances you might want to set exposure separately from focus. - In that case, use the AE lock button on the camera's rear panel.) You can also switch over to Manual Focus, by holding down the OK button until the focus display appears on the LCD monitor. A distance scale appears on the right hand side of monitor, and can be set to report distances in meters or feet. Finally, the Fulltime AF option (accessed through the record settings menu) causes the camera to continually adjust the focus, instead of waiting until the Shutter button is halfway pressed–good for moving subjects.

In common with previous and current cameras in their "compact" series (currently 2040, 3040, 4040), the C-3020 Zoom has a set of threads inside the lip of the raised area around the lens on the camera's body. These accept Olympus' CLA-1 lens thread adapter, which provides a set of 43mm filter threads positioned properly for affixing closeup lenses, filters, and other auxiliary optics (wide angle or telephoto adapters, for example) in front of the camera's own lens. If you're an "enthusiast" shooter, I highly recommend getting a CLA-1 at the same time as you purchase your 3020. (Along with a thread adapter to take the oddball 43mm threads up to some standard size, such as 49, 52, or 55 mm.)

I did notice some distortion from the C-3020's lens during our testing. The most obvious distortion being a moderate amount of corner softness, which in some cases extended down the left side of the frame. (But which didn't extend too far into the frame.) Optical distortion on the C-3020 is low at the wide-angle end, where I measured only about 0.6 percent barrel distortion. (Most digicams I test with 3x zooms come out in at around 0.8% barrel.) The telephoto end showed about 0.3 percent pincushion distortion, slightly above average. Taken as a whole whole, optical distortion on the 3020 seems to be about average among digicams in its price/features category. Chromatic aberration is fairly low, showing about one or two pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Like many of Olympus' Camedia digicams, the C-3020 offers exceptional exposure control. A variety of exposure modes are available, depending on the experience level and needs of the user. Program AE mode places the camera in pretty complete control of the exposure, while the user is free select a variety of other camera settings. Also available are Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and My Image modes. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes both offer limited exposure control, allowing the user to select one variable (either aperture or shutter speed) while the camera chooses the best corresponding one. Manual mode provides complete control over the exposure, as well as a larger shutter speed range. In Program and Aperture Priority modes, the shutter speed ranges from 1/800 to one second. Shutter Priority mode extends the range up to four seconds, and Manual mode offers shutter times as long as 16 seconds. Aperture selections are the same in both Aperture Priority and Manual modes, and range from f/2.8 to f/11. The My Image mode allows you to save a set of custom exposure settings for rapid recall later, a handy feature if you do a lot of shooting under the same lighting and exposure conditions. Pretty much *every* exposure option is available under My Image mode, including shutter speed and aperture, if you've selected the appropriate exposure modes. (Aperture or Shutter Priority or Manual.)

In addition to the main exposure modes, the C-3020 also offers a Scene Program mode, with five available "scene" options: Portrait, Sports, Landscape/Portrait, Night Scene, and Movie. Portrait mode optimizes the camera for capturing portraits of people by setting a larger aperture for a shallow depth of field. This results in a sharply-focused subject in front of a slightly blurred background. Sports mode biases the exposure system to use faster shutter speeds to capture fast-moving subjects, and activates the Fulltime AF function so that the camera constantly adjusts the focus. Landscape/Portrait mode uses a smaller aperture setting and thus a larger depth of field, so that both the foreground and background of an image are in focus. Night Scene uses slower shutter speeds to capture more ambient light in twilight shooting conditions, and a tripod is highly recommended. You can use the Slow-Sync flash modes in conjunction with Night Scene for night portraits. Finally, Movie mode captures moving images without sound.

By default, the C-3020 employs a Digital ESP metering system to determine exposure. In Digital ESP, the camera reads the center of the subject, as well as a small area around it. You can switch to Spot metering mode by pressing the Macro/Spot button on the back panel, and the camera will meter only a very tiny spot in the center of the frame. In all exposure modes except Manual, the exposure is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. If you aren't' sure about the exposure, an Auto Exposure Bracketing mode (accessed through the "Drive" option of the Camera menu) takes a short series of images, each at a different exposure setting. Through the settings menu, you can specify whether the bracketing series takes three or five exposures, as well as the EV step size that each successive shot will vary by. An AE Lock button on the back panel allows you to lock the exposure setting for a specific portion of the image, useful when shooting high-contrast or off-center subjects. Once pressed, the AE Lock button locks the exposure setting until either the Shutter button is fully pressed or the AE Lock button is pressed again. The AE Lock button can also be customized to change any other exposure variable, assigned through the settings menu.

The C-3020 offers an Auto ISO setting, as well as 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalent settings. A Noise Reduction mode reduces the noise level when shooting longer exposures or with higher ISO settings. I found this setting quite effective during our testing, as it almost entirely removed the "hot pixel" noise in images shot at very low light levels. This mode doubles the time of the exposure because the camera actually takes two exposures. The first captures the image, while the second is shot with the shutter closed, producing an all-black frame. This lets the camera subtract the CCD noise from the first image.

White Balance on the C-3020 is adjustable to one of six settings, including Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent, and Manual. The Manual setting bases the color balance on a white card placed in front of the camera. An adjustment setting allows you to manually "tweak" the color balance by adding either blue or red, an option I found helpful when working with the Manual white balance mode (which tended to leave the images with just a slight greenish tinge to them). For more creative color adjustment, the C-3020 offers an Image Effects menu (labeled "Function" in the camera menu) with options of Sepia, Black and White, Blackboard, and Whiteboard. Sepia and Black and White modes capture images in monotones, with the Sepia setting adding a brownish tint. Blackboard and Whiteboard modes are best for capturing text, either on a white or black background. You can also adjust sharpness and contrast through the settings menu, both in arbitrary units from -5 to +5.

For self-portraits, the C-3020 has a roughly 10-second Self-Timer option, accessed through the Drive selection on the Camera menu.

A built-in flash on the C-3020 operates in one of seven modes, including Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In Flash, First Curtain "Night Scene" Flash, First Curtain with Red-Eye Reduction, and Second Curtain "Night Scene." The Flash button on the back of the camera cycles through the Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, Fill-In, and Slow Sync flash modes. In Auto mode, the camera decides when to fire the flash based on existing light levels and whether or not the subject is backlit. Red-Eye Reduction mode works in the same manner, but fires a small pre-flash before the main exposure to make people's eyes contract, reducing the occurrence of the Red-Eye Effect. Off mode simply turns the flash off, and Fill-In Flash fires the flash with every exposure, regardless of ambient light levels. The three slow sync modes work with slower shutter speeds and with the Night Scene mode, combining the flash with a longer shutter time. When working in slow sync mode, you can choose whether you want the flash to fire at the beginning or end of the exposure, or if you want to use Red-Eye Reduction for night portraits. You can also adjust the flash power through the settings menu, from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third step increments. In my testing, I found that the C-3020's flash maintained good intensity at the default flash power setting as far as 14 feet from our test target.

Continuous Shooting
Two Continuous Shooting modes are available through the Drive setting of the Camera menu. The first captures a rapid series of images as long as the Shutter button is held down. Actual frame rates and the number of consecutive images vary depending on image size and quality settings, as well as the amount of available SmartMedia space. The second mode, called AF Sequential Shooting, adjusts the focus and exposure for each consecutive shot. This lengthens the shot-to-shot cycle time because the camera is constantly readjusting the focus, but is good for situations where the subject is approaching or retreating from the camera during the exposure series. The same rules apply as in standard Continuous Shooting, in that the image size and quality settings will determine the speed of intervals as well as the total number of images captured in a series.

Movie Mode
As one of the Scene Program modes, Movie mode captures moving images without sound. Movies are recorded at the 320 x 240 resolution size, and shutter speeds range from 1/30 to 1/10,000-second. Quality options include High Quality and Standard Quality, selectable through the settings menu. Movies are saved in the Motion JPEG format, and Apple QuickTime accompanies the camera for movie playback. A limited shooting menu is available, allowing you to adjust contrast and sharpness.

A panoramic shooting mode is available only when using Olympus brand SmartMedia cards, and allows you to capture a series of images to be "stitched" together into one large image, on a computer. The mode offers framing guidelines to help you line up each successive shot, and all exposure settings are locked with the first shot. (All other shooting modes of the camera are available with any brand of SmartMedia cards. The Panorama mode requires firmware instructions only available on Olympus-branded cards though.)

Shutter Lag and Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow 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 almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it with a custom electronic test system of my own design.


Camedia C-3020 Timings
Time (secs)
Power On -> First shot
A bit slower than average among cameras with telescoping lenses.
Also a little on the slow side.
Play to Record, first shot
Quite fast.
Record to play
Also quite fast.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.78 Wide
0.82 Tele
Both times are quite a bit quicker than average.
Shutter lag, continuous autofocus
Surprisingly slow, given that the camera's lens should *always* be in focus. (Perhaps it's only a noticeable help with moving subjects, when the camera would otherwise have to adjust focus over a wider range.)
Shutter lag, manual focus
Average to slightly slower than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Quite a bit faster than average.
Cycle times, single shot mode
1.8/6.5 large
1.6/1.9 small
(29.2 for TIFF)
First times are for large/fine files, second for small/basic. Two shots in a row for large/fine then a pause of 6.5 seconds, indefinite for small files, but some variability in times. TIFF time is for largest image size.
Cycle times, continuous mode
0.93/7.14 (large)
0.60 (small)
Camera snaps two large/fine files quickly, then waits 7.14 seconds to write to memory card. Small/basic captures a large number of shots (up to 70+), one every 0.60 seconds.


Overall, the 3020 is quite a fast camera, its only limitation relative to the more expensive 3040 (in this respect at least) being shorter burst lengths. It can snap two successive shots with an interval of only 1.8 seconds (manual focus mode), but then has to wait 7.1 seconds to write the images to the card. (HQ mode can snap more in rapid sequence without pausing.) In small/basic mode, I captured as many as 75 images in a sequence before having to wait. The best part (IMHO) though, was the shutter delay in full autofocus mode, which was very much on the faster side of average, with shutter lag times of only 0.75 and 0.82 seconds with the lens set to wide angle and telephoto respectively. - Most of the best of its competitors can get to 0.8 seconds or so with the lens set at wide angle, but telephoto focus times stretch to a second or more in many cases. Manual focus and continuous focus times are slower than I'd expect or like to see, but the prefocus shutter delay is exceptionally fast. Although limited a bit by its short burst length (only two exposures), the 3020 would be a good choice for fast-paced action.

Operation and User Interface
The C-3020's user interface has a similar layout to previous Camedia digicams, so I had no problem adjusting to the camera. For users who are not familiar with Olympus' typical control layout, I don't think you'll spend too much downtime learning how to use the camera, as the control layout is very simple, and the menu screens very straightforward. A turn of the Mode dial quickly sets the camera's main operating mode, and a handful of external control buttons change the most basic exposure settings. I liked the inclusion of the Custom button, which lets you assign a frequently used exposure variable to an external button control, helping you avoid fishing through the LCD settings menu to change a frequently-used setting. The status display panel on top of the camera is also useful, as it lets you check on a variety of camera settings and work without the LCD monitor enabled. (This saves a lot of battery power, as the 3020 has very low power consumption when the LCD monitor is turned off.) The multiple funcionts of each of the external control buttons is a plus too (particularly the Custom button), simplifying the interface by not crowding the back panel with too many buttons. The LCD menu system includes four pages of settings, but is pretty straightforward to navigate. Though the printed instruction manual is a little basic, it provides everything you need to know to operate the camera. (More in-depth instructions are included on the software CD.)

Control Enumeration

Zoom Lever
: Encircling and projecting in front of the Shutter button on the camera's top panel, this lever controls the optical and digital zoom in any record mode.

In Playback mode, the zoom lever controls the digital enlargement of captured images. Zooming out past the furthest "W" position calls up an index display page.

Shutter Button
: Resting in the center of the Zoom control, this button sets focus and exposure when halfway pressed, and fires the shutter when fully pressed.

Mode Dial
: Directly behind the Shutter button and Zoom lever, this notched dial controls the camera's operating mode. Settings include Playback, Off, Program AE, A/S/M/My Image, and Scene Program.

Diopter Adjustment
: Hidden on the left side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this notched dial adjusts the focus of the optical viewfinder view to accommodate eyeglass wearers.

Flash/Erase Button
: Situated on the right side of the viewfinder eyepiece, this button cycles through the main flash modes in any record mode (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Off, and Fill-In).

In Playback mode, this button displays the Erase menu, allowing you to delete the currently displayed image.

Macro/Spot Metering/DPOF Button
: Just below the Flash/Erase button, this button accesses the Macro and Spot Metering modes in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button displays the DPOF settings menu, allowing you to mark an image for printing. You can also specify the number of copies to be printed, whether or not the date is imprinted onto the image, or you can crop the frame.

Four Way Arrow Keypad
: This keypad of four buttons features an arrow in each direction and is located at the top of the camera's back panel. These arrows navigate through settings menus to select menu options.

In all exposure modes except for Manual, the right and left buttons control the exposure compensation. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the up and down arrows change the aperture and shutter speed settings, respectively. In Manual mode, the right and left arrows adjust the shutter speed. When Manual Focus is enabled, the up and down arrows change the focus distance.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images and movies. When a captured image has been digitally enlarged, all four arrows navigate within the enlarged view.

OK/Menu Button
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button brings up the settings menu in any camera mode. It also acts as the "OK" button to confirm menu selections.

In any record mode, pressing and holding this button displays the focus control menu, which allows you to select auto or manual focusing. A distance scale appears when manually adjusting focus.

Display Button
: Beneath the OK / Menu button, this button turns the LCD display on or off in any record mode.

AE Lock/Custom/Protect Button
: The final button on the back panel, this can be set to control either AE Lock or another function when in any record mode. When set to AE Lock, this button locks the exposure until the Shutter button is fully pressed or the AE Lock button is pressed again. Through the settings menu, this button can be set to control any other menu function.

In Playback mode, this button marks the currently displayed image for write-protection. It also removes write-protection.

Camera Modes and Menus

Scene Program: The furthest position on the Mode dial, this option offers a variety of preset "scenes" to choose from, depending on the type of subject. Pressing the Menu button displays the following menu options:

A/S/M/My Image Mode: This mode accesses all of the manual and semi-manual adjustment modes. Pressing the Menu button displays a similar menu to the Scene Program mode, only the first page shown has a shortcut menu to three specific menu settings (Quality, Drive, and White Balance). Activating the "Mode Menu" option from this initial screen displays all of the available settings, arranged on four sub-menu screens:

Playback Mode: The final position on the Mode dial, this mode plays back captured images and movies. Images can be write-protected, set up for printing, and erased, among other functions. Pressing the Menu button displays the following options:

Image Storage and Interface
The C-3020 saves its images and movies on SmartMedia cards, and a 16MB card comes with the camera. Accessory cards are available separately with capacities as large as 128MB. Though you can use any third-party SmartMedia memory cards with the C-3020, the camera's Panorama shooting mode is only available when an Olympus brand card is inserted. SmartMedia cards can be write-protected by placing a small sticker in the designated area on the card, and a set of stickers is included with each memory card. Stickers can only be used once, as they must be clean to be effective. You can write-protect individual images on the card via the Protect button on the back of the camera. Write-protection of individual images prevents them from being manipulated or erased (except through card formatting, which erases the entire card).

Five image sizes are available for still images, including 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480 pixels. Files can be saved as uncompressed TIFFs or as JPEGs with high or normal compression ratios. Movie files are saved as Motion JPEGs, at a resolution of 320 x 240 pixels.

The table below outlines the approximate number of images that can be stored to a 16MB SmartMedia card, as well as their approximate compression levels.

Image Capacity vs
16MB Memory Card
(Avg size)
1:1 5:1 12:1
(Avg size)
2 8MB 12
1:1 4:1 12:1
Standard Resolution
(Avg size)
4 4MB
(Avg size)
6 2.5MB
(Avg size)


The C-3020 comes with a USB cable for connecting to a computer, and a software CD contains drivers and interface software for downloading images. Download time for a 9.5MB file took 21.9 seconds, at a transfer rate of about 432KB per second. This is on the fast side of average among USB-connected cameras I've tested.

Video Out
The C-3020 is not equipped with a Video Out connector jack.

The C-3020 utilizes either four AA batteries (alkaline, Ni-MH, Ni-CD, or lithium) or two CR-V3 lithium-ion battery packs. The camera ships with four AA alkaline batteries, but I strongly recommend picking up a set or two of high-capacity rechargeable batteries and keeping them freshly charged. The camera has a DC-In jack for connecting the optional power adapter, handy for more time-consuming tasks such as reviewing and downloading images. (In most situations though, just having a good set of rechargeable batteries will eliminate any need for the AC adapter.) The C-3020 doesn't give you any indication of the amount of available battery power until the batteries become low. At that point, a battery icon flashes in the LCD monitor and status display panel. The camera will go to "sleep" after a period of inactivity, after which you can "wake it up" by pressing the Shutter button. The inclusion of the status display panel on top of the camera allows you to save battery power by working without the LCD monitor, as the display panel reports a variety of camera settings.

Operating Mode
Power Drain
(@ 6.5 v)
Estimated Minutes
(1600mAh, 4.8v
4 Ni-MH Cells)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
490 mA
Capture Mode, no LCD
10 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
490 mA
Half-pressed w/o LCD
340 mA
Memory Write (transient)
600 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
950 mA
Image Playback
280 mA


Power consumption and battery life are a bit better than average i most operating modes, with a projected runtime of better than two hours in the worst-case operating mode. (Capture mode with the LCD illuminated.) The real news about battery life on the 3020 though, is that it consumes almost no power when it's powered up in capture mode with the LCD monitor turned off. You can easily just leave the camera turned on all day in this mode and be ready to shoot a picture whenever the urge strikes, without worrying about depleting your batteries. (Most Olympus cameras share this trait, which I highly applaud.) Unfortunately, the 3020's optical viewfinder is rather tight, showing a bit under 80% of the final image area, so if you need accurate framing,, you'll have to resort to using the LCD monitor, negating some of the benefits of the 3020's extremely low non-LCD power drain.

About Batteries
Time for my standard battery tirade: I've gotten so many emails about power issues for digicams, that I'm now inserting this standard notice in the reviews of all AA-powered cameras on our site: Don't even *think* about using alkaline AA batteries in a digicam! Despite their being packed in the box with many cameras, they simply don't have the juice to handle typical digicam demands. (Even the "high power" ones the battery manufacturers say are designed for devices like digital cameras.) Spend the $35-40 or so it takes to get a set (or two) of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a good charger! The few dollars up front will save you literally hundreds of dollars in the long run, not to mention the hassle of wimpy batteries running out in the middle of the action. I suggest you buy two sets of batteries, so one can always be in the charger, ready to go, and so have two sets available for longer excursions. Good brands of batteries include Maha (my favorite, particularly their new 1800 mAh cells), GP, Kodak, and Sanyo. Also, buy the highest capacity AAs the manufacturer makes, the few extra dollars for the extra capacity are usually well worth it. Getting a good charger is critical though, almost more so than buying good batteries. I routinely recommend the Maha C-204F (see the photo at right), the charger I use the most in our studio. - Read my review of it for all the details. Or, just click here to buy one, you won't regret it. (Be sure to buy an extra set of batteries to accompany it though: Even though the 3020 has pretty good battery life, you'll really want to have an extra set to pack along with you on extended outings.)

Included Software
A software CD accompanies the C-3020, loaded with an electronic copy of the reference manual (with more detail than the printed version), USB drivers, and Olympus' CAMEDIA Master 2.5 software. The CAMEDIA interface software is compatible with Windows 98/Me/2000 systems as well as Macintosh OS versions 8.6 through 9.1. CAMEDIA Master provides image downloading utilities as well as organization and editing tools. Also included is a copy of Apple QuickTime, for playing back captured movie files.

In the Box
Included in the box with the C-3020 are the following items:

Test Results
In keeping with my standard policy, my comments here are rather condensed, summarizing the key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-3020's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource camera tests, I 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 C-3020 performed, and how its images compare to other cameras you may be considering buying.

Overall, the C-3020 performed very well during my testing, with great color and image quality in most shots. The camera's White Balance system handled most of the test lighting well, though I often noticed a warm cast with the Auto setting and a greenish/bluish cast with the Manual adjustment. I found that I typically had to add a smidgen red to the Manual setting, through the White Balance adjustment tool, to get a more accurate color balance. (I really liked the ability to manually tweak the white balance settings, and also the ability to adjust the camera's contrast setting.) Once adjusted, I usually picked the Manual setting as the most accurate. Both the Incandescent and Auto white balance settings had trouble with the incandescent lighting of our Indoor Portrait (without flash), resulting in very warm shots. (This is unfortunately a very common fault among digicams I've tested.) The Manual setting interpreted the lighting more accurately, but I noticed that as I increased the exposure compensation, the slight greenish cast increased as well. Saturation looked about right on the Davebox test target, particularly in the large color blocks, and color accuracy was pretty good as well. The C-3020 had no trouble distinguishing the tough tonal variations of the Davebox, specifically those of the Q60 target. However, I did feel that the contrast in this shot was somewhat high, which deepened the shadows and brightened the highlights. Skin tones were slightly magenta in the Indoor Portraits, though they looked about right in the Musicians shot and on the outdoor portrait tests.

In testing the hundreds of cameras that I do, I've observed preferences and biases in various manufacturers for different sorts of color and tonal rendition. Olympus cameras tend to produce very snappy, vibrant images, but this also means that they have rather high contrast, and so tend to lose detail in highlights and shadows. Recently though, Olympus has begun including menu options by which you can adjust the camera's contrast to suit your own preferences, a very welcome feature that I'd like to see more manufacturers adopt. In the case of the 3020, I found that shooting with the contrast adjustment routinely set to -3 or -4 resulted in images matching my personal preferences more closely. The point of this comment here is that you should take this contrast adjustment capability into account if you're considering buying a 3020: I really think it could make the difference in deciding whether to buy the camera or not...

It started showing (slight) artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as high as 600 lines per picture height vertically and horizontally, but I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at about 1,250 lines.

Optical distortion on the C-3020 was relatively low at the wide-angle end, where I measured only about 0.6 percent barrel distortion. (Most digicams with 3x zooms that I test come out in at around 0.8% barrel.) The telephoto end showed about 0.3 percent pincushion distortion. Chromatic aberration is fairly low, showing about one or two pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)

Boasting a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, the C-3020 produced great results in the low-light test. The camera easily captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) when shooting at ISO 200 and 400, and as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) when shooting at ISO 100. (Average city street lighting at night is about one foot-candle, or 11 lux, so the camera should handle even darker situations quite well.) The camera's white balance system had some trouble with the low lighting, and produced a magenta cast at the lower light levels, but white balance was overall better than I'm accustomed to seeing at light levels that low. Shooting without Noise Reduction enabled resulted in very noisy images, but I found much better results when I activated that feature. That said, I still noticed moderate noise at the ISO 400 setting, at the 1/16 foot-candle light level.

The C-3020's optical viewfinder proved to be quite tight, showing only 78 percent frame accuracy at wide-angle, and about 79 percent accuracy at telephoto. The LCD monitor produced much better results, showing approximately 98 percent of the frame at both wide angle and telephoto. Since I prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, I was impressed with the C-3020's performance here, but really wish manufacturers would make the optical viewfinders more accurate.

Capturing a minimum macro area of 4.39 x 3.29 inches (111.5 x 83.6 millimeters), the C-3020 performed a bit below average. That said, I saw high resolution, with great detail in the coins and dollar bill. Though slightly warm, color looked about right. In addition to corner softness, I also noticed that the entire left side of the frame was soft. (This might have been due to a misalignment between the target and the camera, but I do think that they were set up properly.) The C-3020's flash performed very well in this category, throttling down for the macro area and illuminating the subject well. I noticed only a hint of falloff in flash power at the corners of the frame.

Overall, I was very pleased with the C-3020's performance. Though the Manual white balance setting requires a little "tweaking" to get the most accurate color balance, the camera does a nice job with color overall. Image quality is good with very high resolution. Low-light capabilities are well above average, and the (optinal) availability of full manual exposure control ensures that the camera can handle just about any shooting situation.

Packed with features, optional full manual exposure control, and a generous 3.2-megapixel CCD (3.14 megapixels effective), the C-3020 offers the best of Olympus' Camedia digicams at a very affordable price (list price os around $500 as of initial shipments in early 2002). Color balance requires a little adjustment cases, but the camera overall produced nice color and image quality. (And it's a big plus that you can tweak the color balance at all, a feature offered by very few cameras in the marketplace.) Resolution and detail are very good, and the camera shoots well under a variety of lighting conditions. With varying levels of exposure control ranging from full auto to full manual, the C-3020 is perfect for novice users who want to gradually increase control as they learn more about photography. The preset Scene modes make shooting in common situations a breeze, eliminating many worries over exposure decisions. I was a big fan of the earlier C-3000 Zoom, feeling it was one of the best bargains in the market for "enthusiast" shooters on a budget. The 3020 carries that same tradition forward, with evolutionary improvements along the way.

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