990 vs. Olympus C-3030Z: Review
Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2000
Last Updated: Sunday, October 1, 2000
of the first big reviews I ever wrote on this site was the Olympus
C-2000Z versus the Nikon Coolpix 950. The interest in those
two cameras was amazing, then and now. When the 3 Megapixel versions
were announced, people again got excited.
C-3030Z and Nikon
Coolpix 990, both $1000, close the gap even more between film
and digital. Read on to find out how, and which is better for you!
in the Box
did a great job with the included software, and just so-so on the
other stuff they include with this camera. Here's what you get:
3.34 Mpixel C-3030Z camera
Li-ion battery packs (non-rechargeable)
manuals (English, Spanish, French) for camera/software. The English
version is over 230 pages!
software CDs (more on this later in the review)
going to give Olympus a thumbs down right off the bat for leaving
out a strap for that lens cap. Because my lens cap is somewhere
on Twin Peaks right now. When I was up there taking some night photos,
I was putting the lens cap back on... it popped off, rolled along
the stone wall, and fell over the side, never to be seen again.
I would imagine it would cost them maybe a nickel to include this
strap. Come on!
made a big fuss about their new Lithium-ion batteries, even putting
out a press release about them. And while they do seem to last for
an eternity, they're not rechargeable. Things get ever stranger
when you recall that the C-2020Z, a "lower" model, includes
NiMH batteries and a charger! Uhh, hello?
weird thing -- while the C-3030Z supports transfer of photos via
a serial connection, no cable was included.
now onto the good stuff. Olympus includes a wireless remote control,
as they have in the past with the C-2000 series, which lets you
take pictures, or review them, without touching the camera. The
coolest thing about this is that when you have the camera plugged
into the TV, you can sit back and run the show from your couch!
of watching photos on the TV, the C-3030Z includes an A/V cable,
rather than the traditional video cable. This is so you can hear
the sounds you record with your photos or movies!
is finally getting the hang of writing decent manuals. They no longer
stuff three languages into one book -- there's now three different
books that come with the camera! Just about everything is covered
in the manual, though its still not super-easy to read (too many
"notes" on every page!)
also did a great job with its software bundle, including not only
their own software, but Adobe Photoshop 5.0LE as well -- see the
Software section later on in this review for more!
didn't include quite as much stuff with the Coolpix 990. The box
3.34 Mpixel Coolpix 990 camera
alkaline batteries (boo!)
Lexar 8X CompactFlash card
cap w/strap (!)
Start guide (fold out)
page manual for camera (electronic manual for software included
thanks to Nikon for the little strap to keep your lens cap on. Also,
kudos for including a Lexar USB-enabled 8X CompactFlash card. While
I didn't run any tests, these cards are supposed to transfer 8 times
faster than normal CompactFlash cards. They are USB-enabled, as
well, so you can use Lexar's JumpShot cable to hook into the USB
port of your computer. Of course, the camera already has USB, so
I don't know why you'd need it anyway.
like with Olympus, Nikon has failed to include rechargeable batteries.
For what it's worth, Olympus' included batteries lasted much longer
was no serial cable included with this camera, either. Weird.
nice to have a printed manual included -- my Coolpix 950 didn't
have one -- and this 100 pager is pretty good.
I've got to give the award to Olympus on this one, even if their
lens cap is in the bushes on Twin Peaks. The remote control and
superior software bundle takes the cake.
Olympus C-3030Z looks almost identical to the C-2000Z series, while
the Coolpix 990 fixes most of my complaints about the 950 that it
I said, the C-3030Z looks just like the C-2000 series, but with
a black body instead of metallic. It also seems like it's lost a
little weight, and it actually felt a little cheaper, with more
plastic than before. If both the C-3030Z and the CP990 fell to the
ground, I think only the Coolpix would survive.
camera does fit well in the hand, especially for your right hand.
For my left hand, I found myself putting my thumb on the bottom
of it, and my index finger on the top. Nose smudges on the LCD will
be a problem for those who use their left eye. Also, since the LCD
kind of bulges out, it's hard to use the optical viewfinder with
your left eye.
front of the camera isn't terribly exciting, but there are a few
items of note here. Those five little holes just above the lens
are for the microphone. Yes, you can record audio! Just above the
word "Olympus" is a infrared receiver, for that included
remote control. Finally, the lens (6.5 - 19.2 mm, which is equivalent
to 32 - 96 mm on a regular camera) is threaded so you can use additional
lenses and filters. Olympus has a whole page full of lens
accessories for this camera.
now to the back of the camera, you can see that this is where most
of the action is. A quick rundown:
optical viewfinder has diopter correction, for those with glasses
1.8-inch "wide view" LCD is very good in all conditions
except (of course) bright light. You can adjust the brightness
of the LCD using the menu system.
the LCD, you can see the flash and macro/spot metering buttons,
which double as delete photo and print when in playback mode.
four way switch is used for moving through menus, and adjusting
the aperture and shutter settings in manual mode
OK button is for the menus sometimes, activating manual focus
other times, and can also lock photos in playback mode.
below that is the button for turning on and off the LCD screen.
If you're in record mode, if you press it twice quickly, you can
move into playback mode without using the mode wheel.
that is the button that activates the menus
red light to the right tells you when the memory card is being
moving onto the top of the camera, where things are pretty familiar.
The LCD info display is just like on every other camera, as is the
mode wheel. Your choices in the mode wheel are Play, Off, Program
(auto) mode, A/S/M (manual) mode, and movie mode.
zoom control continues to bother me a bit, as it did on the C-2000
series. It just seems non-intuitive to me to pull the switch towards
you, when you want to get closer to something. Oh well, last time
I mentioned this, a few people wrote in and said I was weird. Go
figure. The zoom controls can also be used for (surprise) zooming
into your photos in playback mode, or backing out into thumbnail
quick peek at the left side of the camera now. Under a plastic door
lies the I/O plugs for the camera. From top to bottom: power, A/V
out, USB, serial. Just above all that is the diopter correction
knob, and to the lower-left is the external flash sync terminal.
the other side, under a door whose strength is uncertain, is the
SmartMedia slot. It's the traditional push and eject system used
on most other SmartMedia cameras. The included 16Mb card is shown.
last but not least, here's the bottom of the camera. On the left
side of the photo, you can see where you put the batteries. Right
in the middle, though not directly under the lens, is the metal
must confess that when I first saw the Coolpix 900 a few years ago,
I thought the design was too strange for me. When it was time to
get a 2 Megapixel camera, I decided to give it a chance, and I bought
the CP950. Now a year later, it's still one of my favorite cameras.
You may think that swiveling lens is a gimmick, but it allows for
some interesting shots from my own usage. It takes a bit of getting
used to, but once you do, it's great! I'm going to do the usual
tour, then show you the changes made between the CP950 and CP990.
Coolpix 990 fits very well in your hand, even more so than with
the 950, thanks to a larger right hand grip. There's plenty of space
for your left hand too, thanks to the swiveling lens. There's no
danger of nose smudging, since the optical viewfinder is off by
itself. The body feels much more solid than the C-3030Z, as I mentioned
earlier, with much more metal than plastic.
the front of the camera, with the lens swiveled down. The power
port is the only thing of note on the front. The lens (8 - 24 mm,
equivalent to 38 - 115 mm) is also threaded, and you can use all
the accessories that you could on the CP950. This includes the fisheye,
wide-angle, and telephoto lens converters.
tour now continues to the back of the camera. Here's the rundown:
below the optical viewfinder is the diopter correction knob (out
of sight in this picture)
1.8" LCD is also very good (except in bright sunlight), and
has adjustable brightness
monitor button turns the LCD on and off
menu button invokes the menu system
W/T buttons are the zoom controls in both record and playback
four-way switch is for using the menus
the LCD the three buttons are:
and manual focus (rec); delete photo (play)
and ISO (rec); thumbnail mode (play)
and size (rec)
as pointed out by DCRP readers, you can use the macro with the self-timer,
if you keep hitting this button. This is a welcome change from the
CP950. [Updated 5/1/00]
buttons below the LCD are a bit confusing in general. If you want
to change the quality, you hit the QUAL button. To change the size,
you hold down the QUAL button and use the wheel that you'll see
in a second.
wheel I was referring to is at the lower right of the photo. You
use this to change some settings, and to see more details in playback
mode. More on both of these later in the review. The LCD is pretty
busy, showing what mode you're in (Program in this example), metering
(matrix), flash, shutter speed (1/30), and the other usual suspects.
mode dial has been reversed since the CP950, which took some getting
used to. Your choices are: Off, Auto record, Manual record, and
Playback. Below that are buttons for changing between Program/Aperture/Shutter/Manual
modes, as well as for adjusting exposure compensation. You just
hold either of these buttons down, and turn the wheel to make your
an artistic shot for you, here.... note the purple highlights, compared
to red on the CP950.
the other side, we have the CompactFlash slot, as well is the I/O
connectors. Note the included 16Mb Lexar 8X CompactFlash card. The
I/O slots include one for video out, and the other for USB. Sadly,
this isn't a Type II slot, so the IBM Microdrive that I liked so
much won't work in it.
finally, the bottom of the camera. The battery slot, to the left,
is easy to get open, but hard to close and lock. The tripod socket
in right in the center of gravity, and it's metal.
promised, here's a quick comparison between the CP950 and the CP990.
a top down look, with the CP950 being on the bottom, and the CP990
on top. The differences:
grip on the CP990 has really been beefed up, and its very easy
to hold onto
LCD info display is larger on the CP990
power input has been moved down a little on the CP990
mode dial has been reversed
flash and macro buttons have been moved from the top of the camera
to below the LCD on the 990. I prefer the old location, myself.
old wheel used to be on the front of the CP950 -- it's now on
finally... the CompactFlash slot has been moved! No longer on the
bottom of the camera (shown above on my CP950), it's now on the
side (see three photos up). And the door won't break off, like I've
feared on my CP950 (though it is yet to happen).
Nikon Coolpix 990
is a close one, but I do find it a bit easier to handle the Coolpix
990. It also feels more solid and well-built.
to page two for more on using these two cameras >>