Ever since the dawn of the digital camera age Olympus has graced the market with a series of excellent products. Its C-800L may have had a lukewarm reception, but the C-820L soon rectified that.Ever since the dawn of the digital camera age Olympus has graced the market with a series of excellent products. Its C-800L may have had a lukewarm reception, but the C-820L soon rectified that. Soon afterwards, the introduction of the C-1400L the only non-professional digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera we've seen to date raised the quality bar yet again and ever since then, with the C-840L (reviewed issue 11, p84) and C-900 Zoom, Olympus has continued to produce high-quality, good value cameras.
The company's response to the most recent technology advance the two million pixel CCD is its C-2000 Zoom, which follows hot on the heels of Nikon's CoolPix 950 (reviewed issue 22, p92), Sony's CyberShot DSC-55E (reviewed issue 22, p95) and Fujifilm's MX-2700 (reviewed issue 21, p91).
At first glance, the C-2000 Zoom is a bit of a departure for Olympus. It's small, but its serious looks are a long way from the compact camera guise of the 800 series cameras or the pseudo-professional leanings of the C-1400L and its aluminium body gives it a feeling of quality. The integrated sliding lens cap has gone, as have the 'gold' shutter buttons, to be replaced with a now more familiar range of controls. The mode selector, for example, comes in the form of a rotating collar with the power switch set into its centre. The rather small shutter button set just in front of this is also surrounded by a collar, which this time is used to control the 3x, 35-105mm equivalent zoom lens another feature that's becoming increasingly popular on modern digital cameras.
This zoom control also doubles up as a way of changing the view mode when reviewing photographs, allowing you to move from thumbnail view to up-close zoom in a few moments. This, coupled with a four-way pad on the rear and three more buttons, makes the Olympus an extremely intuitive and uncomplicated device to operate. At the same time it's an extremely responsive system too. Unlike the bad old days of digital cameras, when moving between photos on the review screen and processing pictures after shooting took absolutely ages, the C-2000 Zoom feels positively light on its feet.
In terms of features too, the C-2000 Zoom is extremely impressive. It may not be quite on a par with the bewilderingly featured Nikon CoolPix 950, but it does contain all of the most crucial elements. Aperture size or shutter-speed priority settings as well as a fully automatic mode can be selected using the collar around the power switch. ISO sensitivity can be adjusted manually to three settings (100, 200 or 400), you can fiddle with the white balance to match the lighting conditions, and light metering can be toggled between spot and matrix modes. Interestingly, although I have yet to be totally convinced of its real worth, Olympus has also chosen to include an infrared remote control with the C-2000 Zoom. This feature not only allows you to control the shutter without disturbing the camera in its finely adjusted tripod position, but it also allows you to zoom in and out hands-free.
Like all Olympus cameras before it, the C-2000 Zoom uses the waif-like SmartMedia format to store its images. SmartMedia cards don't feel as robust as the CompactFlash alternative used by most other manufacturers, but in operation there's little difference. An 8Mb card comes as standard with this camera and you can choose to store images on it with either varying degrees of JPEG compression or as an uncompressed TIFF. Needless to say, the latter offers the best quality, but since each shot will take up a rather unreasonable 5.49Mb, it's probably wise to stick to the camera's SHQ (super high quality) setting. This gives file sizes of about 930Kb, allowing you to fit eight on the card at any one time.
In fact, following the trend started by the CoolPix 950, if you choose to go with the SHQ setting, you don't lose much at all in terms of image quality. Look really close and you'll see compression artefacts, but these don't mar the overall picture quality in the way that affected the Fujifilm MX-2700 or Kodak's DC-240 (reviewed issue 20, p96). In either mode, the Olympus still can't match Canon's Pro 70 for sheer depth of detail and colour balance, but it's an extremely close-run thing when compared with the Nikon CoolPix 950. If anything, the Nikon edges it by a smidgen, with slightly smoother and fractionally crisper edges, but it's close enough not to make a discernible difference.
Once you've taken your photos, they can be transferred to your desktop PC or notebook using a standard serial connection coupled with Olympus' own TWAIN software, though this can be frustratingly slow, or you can go for the optional floppy disk adaptor. This method, which allows you to plug your SmartMedia card into a floppy disk-shaped unit that in turn can be read by a floppy drive, is much quicker but adds $199 to the price of the camera.
Ultimately, the C-2000 Zoom may not be quite as well featured as the CoolPix 950, or include as impressive a software bundle as Adobe Photoshop 5 LE, but it's marginally cheaper. This, coupled with its superior ease of use and reliable image transfer software, just about sways the argument in favour of the Olympus C-2000 Zoom.
Another quality camera from Olympus. The C-2000 Zoom may not have the advanced features of some of the competition, but it"s cheaper, easier to use and of equivalent image quality.
• Olympus: www.olympus.com
• Price: $2100 (time of review) • Megapixels: 2.1 million pixel • Sensor type: CCD • Max resolution: 1,600 1,200 • Optical zoom: 3x optical zoom equivalent to 35-105mm • Digital zoom: 1.6x, 2x and 2.5x digital zoom • Memory slot: 8Mb SmartMedia card holding up to eight 'SHQ' images or one uncompressed TIFF image • Accessories: infrared remote control • Manufacturer: Olympus • Supplier: R. Gunz Photographics