So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Olympus C-55 Zoom
- Very good pictures, comfortable to hold, generous set of features
- Erratic focus, flash is not automated, shutter lag
Lots of manual controls and great image quality are offset by the C-55's sluggish response time.
Price$ 549.00 (AUD)
While putting the boxy and hefty Olympus C-55 Zoom through its paces, I found much to like about its design. The sizable grip feels comfortable, and the positioning of the buttons and camera navigation wheel allowed me to use the camera one-handed without difficulty. The 2" LCD screen displayed vivid, crisp images, and a button to the right of the screen provided a quick means to play back images.
Much of this camera's appeal lies in its wide array of features, many of which are rare in a point-and-shoot camera in this price range. You get 10 scene modes--including sport and candle--plus auto and program modes, and shutter priority, aperture priority and manual modes for greater control over the image. You can even customise the camera by creating your own shooting preferences as a setting, and by creating shortcuts to often-used options within the menu system.
The C-55's outstanding image quality is another strength. In our tests, the camera rendered sharp images with balanced colour and exposure. The camera's four AA alkaline batteries lasted for 261 shots, which is about average.
Unfortunately, many aspects of the camera disappointed us. Although the camera prompts you when a flash is appropriate, it doesn't pop up the flash automatically. The button to activate the flash is bulky and, like the flash itself, feels poorly constructed.
The camera's erratic focusing mechanism was another source of frustration. When in focus, images appeared crisp and clear. But the camera made it too easy to take out-of-focus shots--surprising, given that Olympus bills the lens as its SportZoom. Even if you're not shooting action, you may want to use the continuous burst mode to mitigate this problem.
The camera's autofocus often took a long time to lock onto the action, causing a lag in the shutter response (the time between when you try to take the picture to when the camera completes the shot). This tendency was especially evident in settings with low to moderate light.
The C-55 menu system's setup takes some getting used to, and you may need to consult the advanced manual on the CD-ROM for an explanation of some features and icons. You'll certainly want to consult the manual for a detailed explanation of the image quality settings. The SHQ, HQ, SQ1, and SQ2 options each give you different resolution choices, but the approach is more confusing and convoluted than it needs to be.
The display shows a slew of settings, so you don't have to switch between screens or wonder what settings the camera is on; at a glance, you can see the ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, and resolution. Oddly, nowhere on the screen do you get a countdown of how many images your xD-Picture Card still has room for.
With a 5X optical zoom that offers the equivalent of a 38mm to 190mm lens (a generous reach for a camera in this class), a movie mode with image stabilisation, and an impressive number of manual controls, the C-55 does little to box you in creatively. But its poky response time might leave you dissatisfied.
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