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Epson PhotoPC 3100Z

Epson updates their excellent 3 megapixel digicam with a new user interface, and support for PRINT Image Matching!

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 7/10/2001

From a design standpoint, Epson's 3100Z is very reminiscent of a traditional film-based 35mm camera. It measures 4.3 x 3.5 x 2.6 inches (108 x 89 x 65 mm) with the lens retracted, and weighs 12.6 ounces (358 grams) without the batteries or card installed (17 ounces complete). The body is solidly built, with lightweight metal components and a dark gray anodized metallic finish. A darker gray textured plastic surrounds the hand grip, top, and right edges for a more comfortable hold. The relatively large proportions and telescoping zoom lens effectively eliminate this camera as a "pocket-size" model, but it does come with a sturdy neck strap (among the best we've seen) and a soft neoprene cover for safe, comfortable transport. Despite its large frame, the 3100Z is easy to handle and offers so many great features, we're willing to overlook the extra bulk.

The front of the camera houses the lens, built-in flash, and optical viewfinder window. Next to viewfinder is a red self-timer LED that blinks as it counts down the seconds, speeding up as it approaches the final shutter release. The telescoping zoom lens extends approximately .75 inch from the lens barrel when the camera is powered on and the Mode dial is turned to one of the three capture modes. A spring-loaded plastic lens cap protects the lens when the camera is not in use and comes complete with a small strap to attach it to the camera body. A lens adapter (not shown) is included in the box with the camera, permitting use of standard 49mm accessory lenses with the 3100Z.

The handgrip side of the camera holds the CompactFlash slot, which is covered by a hinged plastic door that snaps securely into place. The interior of the CompactFlash compartment has a black release button that is surrounded by a deep cut-out area, so it's very easy to access with your fingers or thumb. Popping the release button completely ejects the CF card, so you don't have to fumble to remove it (as is the case in many cameras). At the top of the right side is a small metal ring for attaching the neck strap.

The opposite side of the camera is dominated by a flexible rubber flap that covers the USB, AV Out, and DC In connectors. Soft rubber plugs insert into the connectors when the cover is closed. The flap is somewhat awkward in that it doesn't really slide out of the way when opened. Instead, it just flips over on itself, because it's attached at one corner. This makes it a little annoying when trying to plug in cables, since you have to hold the flap out of the way to access the connectors. (It's hard to say whether this flap would stand up to more use than some of the other rubber hinges we've observed, but we worry somewhat that it might eventually snap off.) The diopter adjustment dial for the optical viewfinder is at the top of the left panel. It turns very easily, with a nice range of adjustments. Next to it is the second neck strap ring.

The 3100Z's back panel features the optical viewfinder, microphone, speaker, and Print button down the left side, and Zoom buttons in the upper right corner, under the Mode dial. The LCD display sits in the middle, with eight control buttons surrounding it, including the Menu On / Off in the lower right corner. The LCD monitor is probably one of our favorite design elements on this camera, as it features an ever-present menu along the bottom and right sides of the display, which corresponds to adjacent control buttons. What this means is that you no longer have to take the time to sort through menu screens, you just change the settings as you shoot. We'll go into more detail on this timesaving idea in the Operation and User Interface section of this review.

The camera's top panel includes (left to right): an external flash hot shoe; small Status Display panel; Resolution, Flash, and Self-Timer control buttons; and Mode dial with the Power button in the middle. The Shutter button is on the right hand grip, slightly in front of the top panel.

The bottom of the 3100Z houses a plastic tripod mount and battery compartment door. We're glad to report that the spacing between the battery compartment and the tripod mount is just enough to allow you to change batteries while working with a tripod. Given the amount of studio work we do, we always pay attention to this area. Our only complaint here is that the battery compartment door is a little tough to close. The motion isn't very fluid and it's easy to get the door out of alignment when you're trying to slide it back.

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