C-3030Z builds on the Quicktime video feature of its predecessor,
the C-2020Z, and makes it even better.
and foremost, there's sound support. Finally, a camera that takes
sound with its video! This is great for quick video snippets of
the kids (or roller coasters, in my case). The sound isn't CD quality,
but it's not terrible.
nice thing about the C-3030Z's video support is that you're not
limited to 30 second snippets -- you can keep going until you fill
up your memory card. In the case of the 16Mb card that's included,
you can record up to 46 seconds in HQ mode (320x240), or 186 in
SQ mode (160x120) -- that's three minutes! If you buy a 64Mb card,
just multiple that times four!
you're in movie mode, you can change the same settings as in still
photos: white balance, ISO, manual focus, and exposure compensation.
You can use the self-timer, and the remote control too.
one disadvantage with Olympus' movie recording mode, is that you
can only use the digital zoom while recording. You can see the effect
of this in the sample I've provided below.
play mode, you get a few more options. You can create a "Movie
Index", which lets you save out portions of your movie as still
images. You can also edit your video, to split it into two movies,
or to remove unneeded segments.
can also playback your movie (without the sound), though keep in
mind you'll have to wait for as many seconds as you recorded, before
the movie starts playing. For the one below, that was 24 seconds.
roller coaster, Six Flags Marine World
24 seconds, HQ mode
using Olympus' implementation of movie mode, Nikon's version just
wasn't as exciting. There's no sound, and you're limited to 40 second
you can use the optical zoom during filming, and you can also change
the same settings as in normal still photography mode.
play mode, you have to wait until the movie has loaded into memory
before you can do anything. If you're just scrolling through photos,
you'll have to wait many seconds before the camera will advance
to the next photo, which is frustrating. I like how the Olympus
loads up a frame of the movie, and only loads it into memory when
you actually want to watch it. If you pop into the menu, even after
its loaded the movie, you have to wait all over again.
Coolpix has no editing or indexing functions.
London Square waterfront, Oakland, CA
22 seconds, VGA mode
really not competition here; the Olympus wins hands-down for movie
the second most popular question I get, after "what camera
should I buy", is "what camera is best for close-up shots"
(usually of jewelry). These two tests set out to see which of these
two cameras is better. The Nikon can shoot as close as 0.8", while
the C-3030Z can get as close as 8". [Updated 5/1/00]
#1: Outdoor flower shot
is an African Violet if I can recall. In reality, these flowers
are pretty dark -- even more so than you see here. But the
bright sun has lightened them up a bit. The detail on both
of these is pretty amazing - you can see the individual hairs
(do plants have hair?) towards the lower-right of each. It's
really too close to call on these... both are very good.
Click for full-sized
Click for full-sized version
#2: Indoor jewelry shot
one was taking with just sunlight coming through the windows
(to the left of this picture). The Olympus couldn't focus
on it at the same distance as the Coolpix, so I moved it back
about .25 inches for the shot on the left. Both shots are
very good, again, and I'm leaning a little towards the Coolpix.
on this test, I took the same shot in uncompressed TIFF mode
on each camera. I'm not a big fan of this mode, since the
highest quality JPEG looks almost identical (to me, at least).
See for yourself by using the links below.
Click for full-sized
Click for uncompressed
TIFF version (1Mb)
Click for full-sized version
Click for uncompressed
TIFF version (1.8Mb)
Nikon Coolpix 990
While both of these cameras are excellent at macro shots, you can get a lot closer on the Nikon. There's a few more shots in the gallery
that showcase the macro talents of these two cameras. I may try another test to see if I can show you how much closer the Nikon can get.
this is an interesting area because there were multiple ways to
approach testing how well the two cameras did at night. There's
the easy way: just put it into auto mode and see what happens. And
the hard way: mess around with manual controls. I figured that auto
mode was the fairest way to do it, since you're letting the camera's
brain decide what's best.
I took the cameras up to Dolores Park, near my home in San Francisco.
Dolores Park is home to one of the original California Missions,
not to mention a really great view of the skyline.
observations: The C-3030Z image is overexposed: look how the city
glows. The CP990 did a far better job. But they are both actually
a step down from their predecessors. With all those extra sensors
on the CCD, there's more noise being picked up. Take a look at the
photo below, taken with my Coolpix 950 several months ago, and then
compare it to either of the photos above.
Click for a full-sized
Shot with Coolpix 950, November 1999
at the sky in the old photo: it's almost pure black. Not so in the
newer photos. The bottom line is that if you're looking for night
shots, you may actually want to consider an older 2 megapixel camera
-- until camera manufacturers get rid of that noise.
Nikon Coolpix 990
you can tinker around with both cameras in manual mode to get better
results, in automatic mode, I've got to award this one to the Coolpix
990. But do remember what I said about older cameras showing less
asked DCRP readers for help on how to see which camera had the brighter
flash (at default settings), and got several different answers:
Use a flash meter; Setup distance markers; Etc, etc... Due to my
limited time and resources, I decided to just find an interior,
dimly lit scene, and take a flash photo:
I'm not a rocket scientist, but I'd say that the C-3030Z has a more
powerful flash. Look at the speaker on the left. You can tell what
brand it its (Tannoy) on the C-3030Z, but not on the CP990. Also,
look how much brighter the wall is on the C-3030Z. I realize this
isn't very scientific, but at least in this example, the C-3030Z
is the stronger flash.
I may find another way to re-test this, based on responses from
readers who thought this wasn't a great way to test it.
is an annoying phenomenon that affects both digital and film cameras.
In a nutshell, here's what it is: When you fire off the flash, the
light goes through your pupils, and hits your retina. There, the
blood vessels absorb all the colors of the flash (remember, white
is made up of lots of colors), except for red, which is reflected.
This red light is what you see in the pictures that makes both man
and beast look like something out of a horror movie!
of the cameras take a similar approach to fixing this problem: they
try to shrink your pupils. The C-3030Z does this with a series of
quick "pre-flashes", about a second before the flash is
fired and the picture taken. The Coolpix 990 has a "pre-flash
lamp" which flashes once, before the main flash fires.
you can see below, it appears that the C-3030Z does a better job
at it. This could be due to the position of the flash relative to
the lens: the CP990's flash is about an inch from the lens, while
the C-3030Z is about an inch-and-a-half away. The further apart
the two are, the less redeye you'll get.
else can you get rid of redeye? For one, you can try getting the
subject into better light. That's not always easy though. Another
solution is to get an external flash, which is the more expensive
option. Both the Coolpix 990 and the C-3030Z have options for this:
the Coolpix 990, Nikon sells the SK-E900 Multi-Flash Bracket Unit
(around $60), which supports many Nikon flash units. Non-Nikon flashes
may work, but the manual warns against using them. When you're using
an external flash, you can turn off the internal flash if you wish.
the C-3030Z, Olympus offers the FL-40 extension flash ($499), which
attaches to the side of the camera. Like with the Nikon, you can
use both flashes, or just the external one. You can also use extension
flashes from other companies with the C-3030Z.
with special thanks to my dad (who seems a little psycho in the
first picture), here's a comparison:
there you have it. Neither of the cameras get rid of redeye completely,
but I give the nod to the C-3030Z.
C-3030Z has some traditional "photo effects", sepia and
black and white mode. But I was very intrigued by their "white
board" and "black board" modes. These should help
capture what's written on them, and make them easy to print, right?
Well, I must admit that I wasn't very excited after I saw the results,
and then tried a "real" white board photo product.
Olympus does for white board mode is essentially put the camera
in black and white mode, and really boost the contrast.
the last week, I received a copy of pixid's Whiteboard
Photo product, which is really nifty (I'll be doing a full review
in the future). You take a regular photo of a white board (or black
board, flip chart, etc), import it into the program (Windows only),
push one button, and it creates a really nice printable (color)
version of the photo! Check out the table below to see what I mean:
white board mode
photo of my white board taken with the C-3030Z
photo as middle, after being run through pixid's Whiteboard
that I'm only showing the right side of the white board. Yes, I
have to pay quarterly taxes this year, and don't ask me to explain
that calendar, either. The other side of the white board had confidential
DCRP information on it <grin>.
C-3030Z also has the same panorama mode that Olympus has had for
several years now. You get a rectangle on the left side of the LCD,
and another on the right. You're supposed to move what's in the
box on the right to the box on the left, as you progress from left
to right. You can move in different directions (e.g. top to bottom)
if you'd like by using the four-way button.
find this mode only somewhat helpful. Casio definitely does it better
-- they "ghost" the image on the right side, so you can
superimpose it over on the left side.
keep in mind that you must have an Olympus-brand SmartMedia card
inserted to use this feature.
Coolpix 990 Features
16, VGA sequence, and Ultra HS
addition to the usual continuous shooting modes, Nikon also has
three special modes that the C-3030Z doesn't have. I'm not going
to put up lots of shots, but will describe them instead.
16 is the most unique of the three. What it does is take sixteen
consecutive shots, and then assemble them into a collage, like so:
full-sized image (608k)
Sorry it's not more interesting subject matter. You get the idea
feature is best for taking pictures of moving objects, not your
home theater system. Here's a shot
I took last year of a roller coaster, with the Coolpix 950.
sequence mode is just like regular continuous shooting mode, except
that it's a 640x480. This means that it can record images at 2 frames
there's Ultra HS mode. This will take photos at 320x240 at 30 frames
per second, for up to 80 frames. Why use this instead of movie mode?
Well, here you can get a little over 2 seconds at 30fps [Ultra HS],
as opposed to 40 seconds at 15fps [Video]. I don't know why you'd
use this, that's why!
was the toughest review I've ever written for several reasons. The
first reason is that it's the most in-depth review I've done, covering
many topics usually not touched (though don't expect future reviews
to be this detailed!) The second reason is that these two cameras
are very, very competitive. In some areas, the Olympus wins, in
others, the Nikon. Sometimes it's too close to call. You really
can't go wrong with either. I'll try to
help you make a purchasing decision at the end of this section.
Here's how the two stacked up in our tests:
in the Box
based on all the tests I performed, it looks as if the Olympus C-3030Z
is the winner. But not by much. Both of these cameras have exceptional
photo quality -- check out the gallery to see what I mean.
about photo quality? [Added 5/1/00]
received lots of e-mails asking why I completely ignored photo quality
in this review, since it's the most important thing. That is partially
true - but since we already know that the photo quality is excellent
on both (just look at the gallery to
see what I mean), the whole package seems more important to me.
said, I'm still not going to say "this one takes better photos
that the other" since I honestly can't pick a winner. They
are both very, very good. I leave the photo quality decision to
your eyes alone.
the advantages of the C-3030Z over the Coolpix 990:
movie mode with sound
range of shutter/aperture settings in manual mode
control of settings while in Program (auto) mode
flash, with less redeye
And here's the advantages of the Coolpix 990 over the C-3030Z
design and build quality
to use menus and buttons
night shots in auto mode
storage advantage (currently, the largest shipping SmartMedia
card is 64Mb, while the largest Type I Compactflash card is 192Mb)
that's all! I hope this review has helped you figure out which of
these two cameras might be the best match for your needs. But don't
take my word for it. Go out and try both of them, if you can. Or,
check out some other reviews of these cameras:
out some additional head-to-head photos in our gallery!
What did you
think of this review? Send me some feedback,
please! Unfortunately, I can't do this often due to my limited time
and resources, but I may try this again in the future.