Epson PhotoPC 3000Z Review
In auto or aperture priority exposure modes the 3000Z allows a slowest exposure limit of 1/2 second (which is considerably lower than most.. Kudos). Switching to Manual Exposure mode we can take up to 8 second exposures. Four samples below taken at gradually longer shutter speeds, measured light was 3.4 EV (about 1/4s @ F2.0 @ ISO 100), camera settings: ISO 100, Macro, Self-timer. Ambient temperature was around 23 degrees Celsius, read about the effects of temperature on CCD noise) .
|Exposure: 1 second, F3.4|
|Exposure: 2 seconds, F4.8|
|Exposure: 4 seconds, F6.7|
|Exposure: 8 seconds, F9.8|
Noise, as we expected reared its head around 4 seconds (although some is visible in the 2 second exposure). This performance is pretty much in line with the characteristics of the Sony CCD used in this and many other 3 megapixel digital cameras. (Note: we could have improved performance by cooling the camera... which is dangerous in itself).
The flash built into the 3000Z is a fairly standard affair for a digital camera, with a quoted ranges of:
|Sensitivity||Range (Wide)||Range (Tele)|
|ISO 100||0.5 - 4.2 m
(1.6 - 13.8 ft)
|0.5 - 3.4 m
(1.6 - 11.2 ft)
|ISO 200||0.5 - 5.9 m
(1.6 - 19.4 ft)
|0.5 - 4.8 m
(1.6 - 15.7 ft)
|ISO 400||0.5 - 8.4 m
(1.6 - 27.6 ft)
|0.5 - 6.7 m
(1.6 - 22.0 ft)
I'll admit it's unusual for a manufacturer to quote range at different sensitivities but it does help if only to remind you that you can get that extra bit of range out of the flash by pushing the ISO up a little.
On average the built-in flash worked well, white balance using the flash was fine (no magenta or yellow problems) and flash output was controlled well with very few over exposures.
One feature of the 3000Z is a basic flash hot-shoe, to test this I used an old Olympus T20 flash light, once you switch the camera to external flash it locks you into either Aperture Priority or Full Manual exposures, requiring you match the aperture setting of the flash to the camera.
Although the 3000Z has a "macro" mode it's a far cry from the macro abilities of other digital cameras in the same price range, although that won't affect many people's buying decision.. At full wide you can get as close as 6 cm from the subject however the large amount of barrel distortion makes images look horrible and frame coverage is no better than the optimum macro distance of 20 cm at full zoom. The shot below shows about the best Macro I was able to get out of the camera, around 3.25 inches across the frame.
The 3000Z has one video capture mode: 320 x 240 QuickTime (with or without audio) for a maximum of 25 seconds at a time. With audio: 324.6 KB/s (max 7.9 MB), without audio: 313.2 KB/s (max 7.6 MB). If you need to use digital zoom or macro focus you have to set them before recording. The camera can NOT zoom during shooting although it will focus and track metering (alter exposure level). It places movie files in a directory named MOVIE on the CF card.
HyPict interpolated 4.8 megapixel mode
Making plenty big noise about their HyPict system Epson have splashed plenty of "4.8 megapixel output" labels all over the retail box (tut, tut). So just how good is it? Well, I was surprised to see that HyPict seems to apply a contrast and sharpen filter to the image before / while interpolating it, all HyPict images came out with much more contrast (stretched histogram) and slightly sharper (looks to me like an unsharpen mask) than the standard 3.14 megapixel image.
The last of the samples below was created using the first 2048 x 1536 image and sampling it up in Photoshop (using BiCubic interpolation), correcting the histogram and applying a mild unsharpen mask.. It's fairly close to Epson's HyPict although doing it out-of-camera has the side effect of magnifying JPEG artifacts at the same time... Maybe there is a place for HyPict (if you don't mind waiting for it to process)...
|Standard 3.14 megapixel image (2048 x 1536)|
|HyPict 4.8 megapixel image (2544 x 1904)|
|Photoshop'd 4.7 megapixel image (2544 x 1904)|