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Top of camera controls

Top of the camera is the power and mode dial for switching between the three record modes (Program, A/S/M, Movie), Off and Play. I personally would like to have seen Play the other side of Off, but the designers must have had their reasons.

In front of this is the shutter release button surrounded by the zoom control lever. The zoom lever looks a bit funny at first but becomes quite intuitive to use.

In playback mode the zoom controller doubles as the playback zoom and thumbnail selector.

One interesting point to note, the C-3030Z refocuses (AF focus mode) when you stop zooming, so for example zooming from wide to half tele as soon as you let go of the zoom lever the camera will auto-focus just as though you'd half-pressed the shutter release.

There's also a new "Full Time AF" mode which will cause the camera to continuously refocus as you move the camera (exactly the same as Nikon has had on the Coolpix since the 900). Obviously this is a higher drain on battery power but can be preferential as it gives you a better idea of how sharply focused the subject will be (and cuts down on AF time at the instant of pressing the shutter release).

Each of the modes on the mode dial are described below:

Mode Description

Play

Last image taken is displayed, if the INFO option is enabled from the play menu then image is also overlaid with exposure information (see below).

P

Programmed Auto

Camera calculates shutter speed and aperture for best possible exposure. The C-3030Z doesn't feature "flexible programming" as seen on the 990.


The three manual modes below share the same dial position, to switch between each mode you must enter the record menu and select the manual mode you require. (A bit slow for me: Menu, Jog Up, Jog Right, Jog Up/Down, OK, OK).
A

Aperture Priority

Aperture can be selected manually by pressing the up and down arrows on the jog dial and is displayed on the LCD monitor. The camera calculates the correct shutter speed. If the selected aperture would lead to under or over exposure the aperture will show in RED and underlined on the LCD display (along with a small up or down arrow). Possible apertures are:

Apertures: F2.8 - F11.0 in 1/3 stop increments (13 apertures)

The C-2020Z offered the most apertures last year, the C-3030Z features the same flexibility in 13 possible apertures (versus the 990's 10). It also (interestingly) has fixed apertures through the full range zoom.

S

Shutter Priority

Shutter speed can be selected manually by pressing the up and down arrows on the jog dial and is displayed on the LCD monitor. The camera calculates the correct aperture. If the selected shutter speed would lead to under or over exposure the shutter speed will show in RED underlined on the LCD display (along with a small up or down arrow). Possible shutter speeds are:

Shutter speeds: 1 second - 1/800 second (30 shutter speeds)

M

Manual

In manual mode you can set both the shutter speed and aperture, left and right arrows on the jog dial set apertures, up and down arrows set the shutter speed. A display on the LCD will indicate how much the image would be under or over exposed with a particular exposure setting. Possible manual settings are:

Apertures: F2.8 - F11.0 in 1/3 stop increments (13 apertures)

Shutter speeds: 16 seconds - 1/800 second (42 shutter speeds)

 

Movie

Shoot a QuickTime 15fps Movie with sound @ HQ 320 x 240 (~400 KB/s) or SQ 160 x 120 (~90 KB/s). The Movie mode on the C-3030Z has some pros and cons:

Pros: You can shoot up to 32MB of movie or as much space as there is space on your card, you're not limited to "60 second snaps", Movie mode also records audio.

Cons: Optical zoom is fixed, only digital zoom is available, the focus is fixed at the point when you start shooting the camera does not refocus during shooting (shame).

A good set of manual flexibility here on the C-3030Z, in manual mode you can go all the way to 16 seconds, though there's no BULB option for those nice cold weather long exposures... One slight annoyance I had with the manual modes was the number of times I accidentally set exposure compensation which is set using the left and right arrows of the jog dial, I'd consider that a design mistake.


Rear of camera controls

From the back, again looking identical to the C-2020Z, top right is the jog dial, it's used to navigate menus, change various manual settings (see above) and left / right in record mode sets exposure compensation (+/-2EV in 0.3EV steps). Other controls are detailed below:

Button
 
Action
Flash

Toggles through four flash modes:
• Auto Flash
• Anti-Redeye
• Fill-in Flash (forced on)
• Inhibit Flash (forced off)

Macro / metering

Toggles between four macro focus modes / metering modes:
• Normal focus / Center weighted metering
• Normal focus / Spot metering
• Macro focus / Center weighted metering
• Macro focus / Spot metering

OK Confirm

Confirms menu settings and/or leaves menu, also used to switch focus modes, pressing OK once in record mode displays the AF / MF option, cursor right onto MF and you can then manually focus with the jog dial. Doubles as protect (read/only) button in Play mode.

LCD Monitor On/Off

Switches the LCD live preview on or off. By default the LCD is off at power up, though you can set it to come on through the Custom setting of the "All Reset" menu.

In record mode tapping this button twice in quick succession reviews the last image taken, you can even zoom in and out just like full playback mode... Kudos, VERY useful.

Menu

Enters or leaves (without saving settings) the menu for the current mode. Here's my gripe... if you make changes in the menu and forget to press OK and instead press Menu you lose your changes.

Overall the controls are logical enough, everything is within "thumb reach" when holding the camera in one hand, I'd like to have seen a command dial (they really are much better for scrolling through ranges of apertures / shutter speeds) and I'd also like to have seen Aperture / Shutter / Manual mode as an externally accessible option.

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