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Olympus C-3030

Olympus extends their high-end compact to 3.3 megapixels, adds sound to its movies!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 5/18/2000

Executive Overview
A few months ago (early 2000), Olympus introduced the C2020 as a welcome upgrade to their previous C-2000 Zoom digicam: Olympus obviously listened closely to users, and implemented many of the most-requested features in the new model. Now, they've taken the same basic (successful) design and created the C-3030, giving it a larger, 3.3 megapixel CCD, sound recording capabilities and several other feature additions and user-interface improvements. The net result is very pleasing, certain to appeal to fans of the former models, or to anyone looking for a high-performance "prosumer" digicam. Design-wise, the C-3030 looks much like its predecessor, with the exception of its monotone black body (the C-2020 featured a silver and black design). The C-3030 retains the lightweight portability of its predecessor, easily slipping into a large coat pocket or purse. The only design complaint we have is the lens cap, which doesn't tether to anything and can be easily lost. It's a minor issue, but one we're compelled to harp on just the same: We've lost too many lens caps in our lives, and a tether strap is just too easy to add for manufacturers to have an excuse not to. On the plus side, we were glad to see that Olympus redesigned the previously awkward battery compartment cover. Now, you just slide a lock and then slide the cover open, without needing superhuman hand strength or more fingers than nature gave us.
The C-3030 offers a 3x, 6.5 to 19.5mm lens (equivalent to a 32 to 96mm lens on a 35mm camera) with both auto and manual focus options. This looks like it's physically the same lens as on the C-2020 Zoom, with the difference in focal length resulting from the slightly larger physical dimensions of the CCD. We were very happy to see the continuance of the distance scale that appears on the LCD when using manual focus, as it greatly helps in hard to focus situations. There's now also a handy focus-assist feature, whereby the LCD display zooms to a larger scale whenever you actuate the manual focus adjustment. Apart from the temporary "zoom" while focusing, the 2.5x digital telephoto is activated through the Record menu, preventing you from accidentally sliding into the digital zoom range, a feature we like to see. The C-3030 sports both optical and LCD viewfinders for composing images. As with its predecessors, power consumption is exceptionally low when the LCD is off, meaning you can leave the camera on all day without worrying about draining your batteries.
Exposure-wise, we appreciate the degree of control the C-3030 provides. Although many of the camera's settings rely on the LCD menu system, you can still set the flash, macro and metering options without resorting to the LCD. Unfortunately, changing the exposure compensation or altering other exposure settings requires accessing the LCD menu system. (In general, we prefer to see digicams that permit significant control via the top-panel data readout, rather than the LCD panel. This really helps to conserve battery power!) However, in Playback mode, functions like Delete, Write Protect and Print can now be controlled by pressing a single button (previously requiring use of the menu system). You get as much or as little exposure control as you want with the C-3030, via Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority and Manual exposure modes. In all modes except for manual, you have an aperture range from F/2.8 to F/11 and shutter speeds from one to 1/800 seconds. In Manual mode, the shutter speed range extends to 16 to 1/800 seconds, giving you much longer exposure times. We liked the fact that, in all modes except Program AE, the camera indicates whether an exposure is going to be too dark or too light, giving you a chance to alter the exposure settings before snapping the picture. We also really like the on-screen display of the aperture and shutter speeds the camera has chosen.
White balance and exposure compensation offer the traditional settings and you have a choice between Spot and Digital ESP (matrix) exposure metering. Thus far, Olympus digicams haven't offered a "manual" white balance mode, and the C-3030 doesn't either. We really like to see manual white-balance options (also called "preset" or "one-push" white balance by some manufacturers), especially on cameras as advanced as the C-3030 Zoom. The built-in flash provides the standard Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In and Off modes, but can be also combined with slow shutter speeds to achieve various low light exposures through the Slow-Sync setting. In slow sync mode, the flash may be synchronized with either the opening or closing of the shutter. There's also a sync socket for an external flash, which can be used either with or without the built-in flash. You can control flash exposure independently of that for ambient light, via the flash intensity setting, which is adjustable from -2 to +2 in 1/3 EV increments. Combine this with the variable ISO option (100, 200 or 400) and you get an excellent range of exposure control options, especially in low-light situations.
The Sequence, Auto Bracketing and Panorama shooting modes provide a nice range of exposure options and cater to a number of shooting situations. We also like the Picture Effects menu, which offers Black and White, Sepia, White Board or Black Board shooting modes, helpful in a variety of scenarios. A nice bonus on the C-3030 is the ability to record sound, both with movies and still images. This makes movies a little more interesting and can be really helpful in labeling still images. (The lack of sound recording in its movies was a frequent complaint we heard from owners of the earlier C-2020.) Do note though, that the C-3030 Zoom has no internal speaker, so you'll have to download your movies to a computer to hear the audio track.
The C-3030 offers a range of image resolution sizes, from 2048 x 1536 to 640 x 480 (five sizes in all) with a variety of quality settings. Files are saved as JPEGs with an option for uncompressed TIFF at all image sizes. Images are stored on SmartMedia cards and a 16mb card is packaged with the camera. The C-3030 supports both USB and the standard serial interface, accommodating both PC and Mac users. Additionally, an NTSC video cable means that you can play back movies and captured images on your television set, or even use the TV as an expanded LCD monitor for image composition. (European models come equipped for the PAL video standard.)
Overall, the C-3030 Zoom is a very worthy extension to the previous C-2020 Zoom: Combining lightweight portability, a 3.3 megapixel CCD, wide array of resolution choices, and excellent exposure controls, it's flexible, user-friendly, and high performance. We own a C-2020 Zoom and use it for all our product shots that appear on the web site: We have to confess to being sorely tempted by the new 3 megapixel C-3030 Zoom, even though our C-2020 is less than six months old. (This is an occupational hazard in the digicam world, where there's always something coming out better than the product you acquired just months before...) Whether you're entering the market for the first time, or upgrading from an earlier model though, the C-3030 Zoom presents a wealth of features and capabilities, and excellent image quality in the bargain.

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