Olympus Camedia C-3020 Zoom
The C-3020's somewhat boxy shape makes it easy to hold, and frequently used controls such as the zoom are well-positioned and the proper size for hands both large and small. Like Olympus's other C-series models, the C-3020 feels and looks sturdily built, with solid covers for the data connectors, media, and batteries. You also get flexible battery options: You can use two 3-volt lithium disposable batteries or four standard AA batteries (the camera comes with the latter).
The camera's size accommodates a relatively fast lens. For low light or action scenes, you can shoot at f2.8 at both wide angle and telephoto. (Most digital cameras lose an f-stop or two when you use telephoto.) One-step white balance calibration is another welcome feature--and is somewhat uncommon in sub-$500 cameras.
Overall, Olympus kept to the middle of the road with its new model. The C-3020 is conventionally styled and neither small nor oversize. It's relatively easy to use, but you have to rely on the menus for changing many functions. In the default mode, for example, switching from aperture priority to shutter priority takes about eight button presses. Fortunately, the menus are well-organized and easy to read. At $449, the C-3020's price is about average for a 3-megapixel camera--though prices for this class of camera are steadily sliding south.
Olympus included a number of shortcut options that successfully speed up camera operations. The menu shortcuts can be reprogrammed, as can the auto-exposure lock button. Supplementing five preprogrammed scene modes, a My Mode selection lets you save your current settings or create custom settings for nearly all of the camera's controls.
Finding some of the camera's useful functions isn't easy. For example, the Acrobat-based documentation files disclosed that you can lock the exposure over several shots--a handy feature when you're taking multiple shots to stitch together into a panorama.
If you like to shoot really tight close-ups, you may want to look elsewhere. The C-3020 has a minimum focus distance of about 7 inches; with the zoom, you can shoot an area about 3.5 inches across. It's one of the few cameras we've reviewed that lacks video-out, which is commonly used to display photos on a TV.
The only application bundled with the C-3020 is Olympus's Camedia Master 2.5--a good set of basic tools for managing image files and making simple fixes. Options for the C-3020 include wide-angle and 1.45X teleconverter lenses, and rechargeable battery packs.