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Olympus Camedia E-100 Rapid Shot

Olympus unleashes a 1.5 megapixel speed demon: By FAR the fastest digicam we've tested to date!

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 1/18/2001

Executive Overview
Clearly the fastest digital camera in its class, the Olympus Camedia E-100 Rapid Shot commands an amazing 15-frames-per-second sequential shooting rate -- enough speed to freeze every turn of a gymnast through the parallel bars, or every stride of a football player into the end-zone. (Interestingly, at 15 frames per second, the E-100RS is not only faster than any other digicam we've tested, but outstrips even high-end professional 35mm film-based SLRs.) Combine this exceptional speed with a sharp, 10x Stabilizer Zoom lens, a fast f/2.8-3.5 maximum aperture, and file sizes up to 4MB, and you've got a versatile, feature-rich camera that is perfect for shooters who are ready to get out and stop some action. The E-100RS has the look and feel of a midrange 35mm SLR, with features likened to a professional-quality, news camera with a motorized drive. At 4.7 x 3.4 x 6 inches and 1.3 pounds, it won't fit in your pocket, but it'll be the perfect tool for capturing some great photography.

The E-100RS features a large, 1.8-inch, color LCD monitor for composing and reviewing images, as well as a smaller 0.55-inch "optical" Electronic ViewFinder (EVF) that functions as a miniaturized version of the LCD. For those of us who appreciate the control provided by the LCD monitor, but miss the familiarity of SLR viewfinder, the EVF offers a very comfortable compromise. You can view all of the settings you normally see on-screen, and still follow your subject with the camera held up to your eye. (EVFs have downsides too though, including an inability to work in low light shooting conditions, and difficulty in following fast-moving action, even though the refresh rate on the E-100's EVF is quite high.) A Display button on the back panel controls whether the EVF or larger LCD monitor are engaged. The 7-70mm aspherical glass lens (equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera) can be used in Macro or Infinity shooting modes, with a number of through-the-lens focusing and metering options. The Image Stabilization feature helps reduce blurring caused by camera shake, a problem frequently associated with increased zoom capabilities, and a separate, 2.7x digital zoom increases the E-100RS' zoom capabilities to 27x (but also results in a lower-quality image, since it merely enlarges the center portion of the CCD image).

The E-100RS offers varying levels of exposure control, with Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and Scene Program modes. The Scene Program mode provides specific scene presets, including Portrait, Action/Sports, Landscape, Night, and Custom Program. Shutter speeds range from 1/10,000 to two seconds in Shutter Priority mode, and from 1/10,000 (!) to 16 seconds in Manual mode. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8 in wide-angle mode, and f/3.5 to f/8 in telephoto. Exposure Compensation is adjustable from -2 to +2 exposure equivalents (EV) in one-third-step increments in all modes except Manual.

There are four metering modes: Standard (digital ESP), Center-Weighted, and Spot. A Multi-Metering function bases the exposure on an average of up to eight spot-meter readings from different parts of an image. Each reading is locked with the AE Lock (AEL) button to average in a specific area of the scene. White balance options include standard Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent settings, as well as a Manual adjustment. Light sensitivity can be set to Auto, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents. A Sharpness adjustment provides Hard, Normal, and Soft edges around your subjects.

The camera's built-in, pop-up flash operates in Auto Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-In, and two Slow Synchronization modes. Slow 1 fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure and Slow 2 fires it at the end of the exposure. A flash intensity setting adjusts the flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-stop increments. Adjacent to the built-in flash, a five-pin external flash socket accommodates the Olympus FL-40 external flash, in addition to several other manufacturers' external flash units.

The E-100RS offers several special-capture modes, all controlled through the Drive button on the top panel. The Sequential Shooting mode captures a series of images at 3-, 5-, 7.5-, or 15-frames-per-second, for as long as the shutter button is held down (actual frame rates vary depending on user settings and image quality). An AF Sequential Shooting mode captures images at a much slower rate, as it adjusts focus, exposure, and white balance with each shot. Auto Bracketing captures a series of three or five images with varying exposure compensation and/or white balance levels. Pre-Capture mode begins recording images at the specified sequential shooting rate as soon as you press the shutter button halfway. The camera cycles the images through its memory buffer until the shutter button is fully depressed, when the desired number of images is recorded to the memory card. Finally, the 10-second Self-Timer is also controlled through the Drive button as well as the accompanying RM-1 Remote control.

Two Movie capture modes record moving images and sound (via the camera's internal microphone or an external connection) at up to 30 frames-per-second. You can also record four-second sound clips to accompany still images. A special Function option in the Record menu allows you to switch to monochrome black-and-white capture.

The E-100RS accommodates both SmartMedia and CompactFlash (Type I and II) cards, with dual slots in its memory card compartment (not compatible with the IBM Microdrive, eve though the CF slot is physically large enough to accommodate it - possibly a power limitation?). An 8MB SmartMedia card comes with the camera, and upgrades are available separately up to 64MB. Additionally, a USB cable and three software CDs are also packaged with the camera. Software includes the Olympus Camedia Master 2.5 utility package, Adobe Photoshop 5.0 LE, and Altamira Genuine Fractals 2.0 (for both Windows and Macintosh systems). An NTSC audio/video cable connects the camera to a television set for remote playback (we assume that European models come equipped for PAL timing).

Power is provided by four AA alkaline, NiMH, NiCd, or lithium batteries, or two CR-V3 lithium battery packs. A set of NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger accompany the camera, and an AC adapter is available as a separate accessory (highly recommended).

Overall, we enjoyed shooting with the E-100RS. Its flexible exposure controls handled even our most difficult testing situations, and it delivered great image quality and color. Certainly, the 10x image-stabilizer optical zoom, multiple recording modes, and quick 15-frames-per-second sequential shooting capabilities make this digicam an outstanding member of the 1.5-megapixel digicam class.

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