Olympus C-3030 Zoom Digicam

After switching to the Super High Quality compression mode a series of shots in a garden park offered close-ups and more inclusive views that were very sharp and revealed a high level of fine detail. This is evidenced in this shot of half inch-sized flowers on stems covered by ultra-fine fuzz barely distinguishable to the eye from just a couple of feet away. The rich magenta to red coloration next to delicate greens were very precisely rendered by the C-3030 Zoom digital camera.
Photos © David B. Brooks, 2000

The digital camera industry seems to be in that adolescent period when growth and maturation is at a feverish weed-like pace. At the forefront is Olympus, now with their Camedia C-3030 Zoom, with 3.34 megapixel resolution and a host of new features making it a more comprehensive and effective picture making device. In addition to producing a larger image file capable of making a 7.5x10" image with a printing resolution of over 200dpi, the C-3030 includes QuickTime movie and sound recording; faster, more convenient USB to computer connection; and new longer lasting CR-V3 batteries. And, as the new leading model in this Olympus series of digital cameras, the C-3030 is no more costly than the previous top of the line at $999.

More Camera Features. There are three shooting modes (Program, Video, and A/S/M) available accessed by a dial at the top of the camera. For easy snapshooting Program mode is the first click. Then there is A/S/M which offers either aperture or shutter priority autoexposure, as well as a full manual mode that supports choosing shutter speed (1/800 to 16 sec) and aperture (f/2.8-f/11). This A/S/M mode also supports Automatic Exposure Bracketing (AEB). In addition to the standard color shooting option, there is also a black and white option, as well as sepia, white board, and black board. Besides the usual on, off, automatic, and forced flash, the flash level relative to the ambient light exposure can be adjusted to provide for a fill ratio, while the range of the built-in camera flash can be extended by the accessory, external FL-40 dedicated Olympus flash.

From my first test photography with the Olympus C-3030 Zoom saved at High Quality compression, the picture results were not as sharply and finely detailed as I anticipated, and enlarged on screen revealed some compression artifacts. Prints of these images reproduced with a full range of well-balanced tones and accurate, saturated colors, however.

Output from the camera can be achieved now with a serial connection or USB, supporting PCs or Apples including the iMac, as well as video out to a TV or through USB to show QuickTime movies recorded with the camera. Olympus also offers two options so the SmartMedia card storage can be accessed directly by a computer via a diskette adapter or a USB card drive adapter. The software support for a direct camera to computer interface and to edit, adjust, and manage images made with the C-3030 has been upgraded in Camedia Version 2.0, supporting PC Windows including Windows 2000 and Macintosh operating systems.

Using The Olympus C-3030 Zoom. Wouldn't you know when the camera arrived from Olympus it was wet and overcast for the next week. On the day the storms began to clear out I headed for the foothills where there were still some remnants of clouds with some sun shining through. It was a good situation with lots of pictures in the scenery along the road proving a favorable opportunity to get acquainted with the camera. With this session I set the camera on Program with all of the default values. When I got back home I immediately used the new USB connection to connect with Camedia Version 2.0 on my Windows 2000 Workstation. Unlike previous digital cameras with a serial connection, with USB the download process is quite rapid, and the new software makes it an even slicker process.

The midway carnival rides and vendor stands at a local fair provided many different and bright manmade colors, lots of detail, and action that required capturing images at just the right moment. The picture results more than established the Olympus digital capture quality in color and detail, as well as its adaptability to making shots easily in any situation.

Once downloaded, I opened the most promising images in Photoshop to check the Histogram and zoom in to examine image quality. I was favorably impressed with exposure accuracy, color fidelity, and every other dimension of image quality, but very taken back by the obvious artifacts from too much JPEG compression. This was with the quality compression level set at High Quality, which made me determined with the rest of my test shooting to set the camera on SHQ (Super High Quality) which produces a file size of 1.5MB compared the HQ's approximately 700KB. This meant I'd only get six to nine images on the 16MB SmartMedia supplied with the camera, so I got on the web to my supply site and ordered a 32MB card for delivery the next day.

My next foray was to photograph in a large public garden to find subjects to test sharpness, color fidelity, and close-up use of the C-3030 Zoom. For a few shots I was rather frustrated because each time I turned the camera off and on again I'd have to reset the picture quality to SHQ from HQ. Finally I found an obscure, one sentence instruction in the manual indicating I needed to turn off the auto reset option; with that done the camera stayed on the SHQ compression setting for the duration of my tests.

Getting back to shooting again, I found I was getting quite comfortable with the handling of the camera. Although the general design configuration of the C-3030 Zoom is similar to previous models in this Olympus series, it offers a better grip and balance, and the location and arrangement of the controls is friendlier. Of course its compact size is appreciated: it's still capable of fitting in a normal pocket. However, I wouldn't mind having a slightly enlarged optical viewfinder--an opinion a couple of my photographer friends voiced when they picked the camera up to check it out.

I kept the garden shoot going until I ran out of light. Once at my computer again, this time downloading with a USB SmartMedia drive to acquire the images directly with the SmartMedia card removed from the camera, I opened them directly in Photoshop on my Mac. The higher quality SHQ compression level did the trick, and satisfied me with sharp, finely detailed images without any trace of compression artifacts even when blown up 200 percent on screen.

Now with renewed enthusiasm about the C-3030, time was running short to write this report plus get all the pictures shot and processed. So I took advantage of a local fair with carnival rides and all the color of a midway for another test subject--one that also required being quick on the shutter to capture just the right moment. shortly my Smartmedia were full again, and just as the sun was going down, so I missed doing the carnival lights at night, darn!

Evaluation And Recommendation. In many ways the Olympus C-3030 Zoom with its higher resolution, faster USB connection access, and a host of useful feature and function options makes its capabilities and performance beyond compromise for even a picky old hack like myself. I could live with this camera without saying to myself, "I wish it had this or that." But going back to the industry adolescence metaphor, the C-3030 has growing pains that are no fault of Olympus. It's unfortunate the makers of removable memory storage have not kept pace with digital camera development. For instance, to take this camera on a typical summer vacation and have sufficient image storage would require a sizeable investment in extra SmartMedia cards, or you'd have to take along a laptop to download your images frequently. But who knows, the way the high tech market goes, by the time you read this maybe the cost of memory will have fallen significantly, or there will be an entirely new solution offered.

Regardless, I meant what I said, I could live very comfortably with this camera. It makes really good 7.5x10" print images on letter-sized paper of files saved at SHQ quality. In addition, it has sufficient options and controllability manually or semiautomatically, to be as adaptable to any subject and picture taking situation most will want to put it. The results are definitely on par if not better than film at the most popular print image sizes. As to value for the money, if you'd take only a fraction as many pictures as I, its higher ticket price over a good quality 35mm camera will soon be equalized not having to pay for film and processing. And, especially for the many who have gotten into the fast growing ranks of digital darkroom users, the Olympus C-3030 Zoom is a great accompaniment.

Technical Specifications

Memory: 3V SmartMedia cards from 2-64MB, one 16MB included
Recording Formats: JPEG, TIFF, QuickTime JPEG, Wave
Imaging Element: 1/1.8 CCD at 3.34 megapixels
Lens: 6.5-19.5mm f/2.8 zoom with eight glass elements in six groups with a 32-96mm 35mm equivalence
Focusing: TTL iESP autofocus by contrast detection, with 8" to infinity range
ISO Speeds: 100, 200, and 400
Digital Zoom: 1 to 2.5x
Metering: Digital ESP with spot metering option
Exposure Control: Programmed, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, and AEB
Manual Shutter Speeds: 1/800 to 16 sec
Manual Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/11
White Balance Modes: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent
Viewfinder: Optical (zoom) and 1.8" LCD panel
Flash Modes: Auto, Off, Fill-in, Redeye reduction
Sequence Mode: 3.3 frames per sec for up to five frames
Connectors: DC input, USB, RS 232C serial, NTSC video, dedicated external flash (FL-40)
Power Supply: Two CR-V3 lithium; four AA Ni-MH; four AA NiCd; or C7AU A/C adapter
Dimensions: 109.5x76.4x66.4mm
Weight: 300 g
Price: $999