Review based on a Production Model Olympus C-3030Z

Olympus's upgraded C-2020Z is the C-3030Z, with pretty much similar features to its older brother but with a nice new black metallic case, wider shooting angles and the 3.3 megapixel CCD. The C-3030Z will probably be up near the top of most buyers lists and just like the C-2020Z there'll always be a fierce debate over the Olympus C-3030Z and Nikon Coolpix 990.

In many places in this review I will refer to how "it compares with the 990", simply because (a) the 990 starts this review as the leading camera in my experience and (b) that's the most common comparison buyers will make (990 vs. C-3030Z).

The C-2020Z

On 19th October 1999 the C-2020Z came as an upgrade and set of fixes from the popular C-2000Z. Olympus had corrected some of the initial niggles expressed by reviewers and owners alike. The power switch was moved onto the mode dial rather than being placed inside it (leading to no end of accidental shutdowns instead of shots taken) and most of the useful controls (macro, flash, manual focus) were moved to buttons on the case rather than being buried in the menu system.

They also enhanced the operation of the camera, including a very nice magnifying loupe when using manual focus and support for QuickTime movies.

The C-3030Z

Announced on the 27th January 2000, the C-3030Z immediately generated a lot of interest as it was yet another new camera into the 3.34 megapixel class. Finished in the new black metallic look and offering higher resolution and slightly expanded features it quickly went onto peoples buying lists.

The biggest questions on everyone's lips was what about image quality? The C-2020Z often rumbled with the 950, it looked as though the C-3030Z was immediately being compared to Nikon's new 990.

One thing we didn't all notice were the little cutouts in the lens (see image right), these are down to the newer wide angle (32mm - 96mm vs. 36mm - 115mm on the C-2020Z). Without these four little cutouts we'd see vignetting at wide angles (edge of the lens becoming visible on the final image).

What's new since the C-2020Z?

What's Changed?

  • 3.34 megapixel CCD, 2048 x 1536 (3.14 effective) vs. 1600 x 1200 (1.92 effective)
  • Larger internal memory buffer (faster operation but necessary for the extra pixels)
  • Lens now 32mm to 96mm vs. 38mm to 115mm
  • Lens slower (F2.8 vs. F2.0)
  • Full-Time AF option (continual focusing)
  • Smooth digital zoom up to 2.5x
  • Flash output adjustment (+/-2EV in 0.3EV steps)
  • Flash sync connector now Olympus proprietary 5-pin connector
  • Custom startup settings
  • Neck strap mounts changed
  • Thicker hand grip
  • Re-orientated battery compartment and improved battery door
  • Different top "control panel" LCD layout
  • Support for the new proprietary Olympus CR-V3 Lithium batteries (big deal!)
  • Audio recording / AV Movies
  • 16MB SmartMedia bundled vs. 8MB
  • Rechargeable batteries & Charger no longer included (boo!)
  • USB connectivity
  • All metal case (C-2020Z was half metallic half plastic)

What's still missing?

  • A focus indicator bracket [   ] in the LCD display
  • Manual preset white balance / white balance fine-tuning (this IS useful)