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Olympus know a thing or two about camera design and their undoubted expertise has been put to good use on this covetable little compact digital still model called the C2020 ZOOM



Digital still camera design has gone through some amazing contortions over the past three or four years but now there’s a distinct move back to towards traditional shapes and layouts. Unlike quite a few other DSC manufacturers Olympus has a very long and honourable history in still camera design, and it shows on the C2020 Zoom, which looks and feels pretty much like a 35mm compact. It’s designed to appeal to semi-serious enthusiasts, prosumers, call them what you will, but the key features are a high performance 2.1 megapixel CCD image sensor, zoom lens and plenty of manual exposure options, more about those in a moment.


The only obvious clues to it being a digital camera -- as opposed to a 35mm compact -- is the off-centre lens and the 1.8-inch LCD screen on the back, otherwise the controls optical viewfinder and function display are all more or less where you would expect to find them. At switch on the lens barrel extends, the optical viewfinder is linked to the zoom lens, so you can use it to frame the shot to save battery power. There’s the usual assortment of shooting modes, plus a movie capture feature that allows you to make QuickTime motion JPEG video recordings lasting up to 60 seconds on a standard 8Mb SmartCard. The quality is suitable for PC and web based applications, so don’t get too excited.


Of course the C2020 can be used in full auto mode with the electronic minions taking care of focus, exposure and white balance but if you want to take control there’s plenty of manual options. They include – deep breath -- shutter and aperture priority modes, auto bracketing, manual focus, exposure compensation, preset colour balance (daylight overcast, tungsten or fluorescent), four picture effects (sepia, black and white, blackboard & whiteboard), fill-in flash and red-eye reduction. In fact there’s more than enough adjustments and tweaks to satisfy most users with photographic leanings.


Three quality settings determine the number of images that can be stored on a memory card. SQ or standard quality covers resolutions of 640 x 480 and 1024 x 768 with four JPEG compression settings, allowing between 13 and 82 shots per 8Mb card. The HQ (high quality) and SHQ (super high quality) settings increase resolution to 1600 x 1200 with high and low levels of JPEG compression, or no compression at all (TIFF format). SHQ decreases capacity dramatically with a 8Mb card holding 16 shots (HQ high compression), 5 shots (SHQ low compression) and 1 shot (no compression).


Operationally it’s not too bad thought the menu driven on-screen displays could have been a lot better and it’s sometime necessary to refer to the instructions to decipher what the icons mean, or how to carry out a seemingly straightforward function. Incidentally the instructions are truly horrible, functions are barely explained and unless you’re a bit of a camera buff you’ll feel as though you’ve been thrown in at the deep end. The screen is hopeless in direct light, so it’s just as well it has a proper viewfinder. All of the connections to the outside world are on the left side of the camera body, concealed by a little hinged flap. In addition to the DC in and serial data out there’s a useful PAL video out socket and the outfit includes a connection cable. Also in the box there’s the world’s smallest remote control, for operating the shutter and setting the zoom. Power comes from four AA batteries; Olympus optimistically claim a set of alkalines or NiMh rechargeables are good for up to 100 shots… In their dreams, in the real world, with normal use of the zoom and LCD and a spot of downloading you’ll get 20 to 30 shots tops!


The camera comes with a download archive and print utility and Olympus Camedia suite of photo & AVI editing software. It is all reasonably easy to use, however downloading from the camera to the PC is deathly slow (we were using a new 450MHz Pentium III with 64Mb RAM and tons of free hard disc space), there is literally enough time to make and drink a cup of tea in the time it takes to process half a dozen shots.


All is forgiven image quality is superb. On a good day, with the wind in the right direction and using a decent 4-colour inkjet printer we suspect a typically happy snapper would be unable to tell a 6 x 4-inch SHQ print made using this camera from one shot on a 35mm compact. The real clinchers though are the manual adjustments and the zoom lens. In the scheme of things the price is fair and at the risk of sounding a wee bit patronising, it it’s just like real camera!



Make/model                  Olympus C2020 Zoom

Price                             £650

Features                       lens: f2.0, 6.5 – 19.5mm, (35mm equivalent 35 – 105mm), 3x optical 2.5x digital zoom, 2.1 million pixel CCD, 8Mb SmartMedia card, 1.8-in LCD monitor, auto/manual focus, manual exposure, shutter or aperture priority, exposure compensation, manual/auto white balance, spot metering, macro mode, picture effects (black & white sepia, blackboard & whiteboard), flash with red-eye reduction, date/time/index stamp, self timer, optical zoom-linked viewfinder with dioptre adjustment, TIFF & JPEG file formats with 1/5/13/16/32/38/82 images on 8Mb card (dependent on compression level/file format)

Supplied accessories: PC/Mac serial cable, PC/Mac software & Camedia Suite, 4 x AA alkaline cells, remote control, video cable, strap


System requirements Pentium or higher, 24Mb RAM, at least 30Mb free hard disc space, Windows 95/98/NT or Power Mac 32Mb RAM, at least 30Mb hard disc space, OS 7.6.1 or higher


Resolution                     640 x 480/1024 x 768/1600 x 1200 pixels (VGX/SQ/SHQ/TIFF shooting modes)

Dimensions                   107.5 x 73.8 x 66.4mm

Weight              350g

Distributor                     Olympus 020 7253 2772



What Camcorder Rating  8/10




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2203




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