The Olympus Camedia C-300 has only recently been announced. Very similar in appearance to the Camedia C-200 it offers a more sophisticated feature list and a corresponding rise in price. Looking at the features available, nothing particularly unique stands out about this camera, except a competitive price of under 300.
- 5.8-16.2mm, F/2.9/F/4.4 2.8x lens. (Equivalent to 36mm-100mm lens in 35mm format)
- 3 megapixel CCD
- Uses SmartMedia (16Mb card supplied)
- Auto (ISO60-400) / ISO100, ISO200, ISO400
- TTL system iESP autofocus (contrast detection system)
- Optical and LCD viewfinder
- Movie Capture mode
- Uses four AA batteries
- Flash range of up to 3.4m
- Weighs 240g (excluding batteries and SM card)
The Camedia C-300 shares the same sliding lens cover as some of its siblings. This cover has the advantage of offering tough protection to the lens and also makes the camera appear neatly stylish. It acts as the power switch, so when it is fully opened the camera powers on, push it 1cm back towards the lens and the lens starts to retract.
A minor annoyance I found is that regardless of whether you want to use the flash or not, it always pops up. So having used the camera you have to remember to push it down when you switch it off. If you forget to do this and put it in a bag it's conceivable that it could be knocked off.
When you're holding the camera in your right hand it falls over the sliding cover. This then makes the camera quite chunky, but not uncomfortable to hold. All the camera controls are reasonably well placed and overall the C-300 has average handling characteristics.
Due to the small number of buttons on the camera body, most camera functions are controlled through the menus. For example, to adjust the exposure you have to go two levels into the menu. This could be due to a cost-cutting exercise, or perhaps the aim was to make the user interface as simple as possible. Either way, some people would have preferred some of the major controls to have direct control via buttons on the body. Also, it can be frustrating when the camera is low on battery power and you need to adjust the exposure compensation, to have to power up the LCD screen and navigate the menu.
|In the shooting preview only a basic amount of information is shown. If relevant, it will show: Battery check, AF mode, Exposure compensation, Sequential shooting, White balance, ISO, Record quality mode, Number of pixels and the AF target mark.
||A touch of the menu button brings up this four way choice selector. Working anti-clockwise from the top they are, Exposure settings, quality settings, exposure compensation and shown in more detail to the right, the mode menu.
||Divided into four tabs the mode menu allows you to set up: Camera - Drive mode, ISO, Digital Zoom, Panorama, 2 photos in 1. Picture - White balance, Sharpness, Contrast. Card - Format a card. Setup - Save settings, Sound, Record view, File name, Pixel mapping, Monitor brightness, Date and time.
The Camedia C-300 provides an option in the menu system to set one of the seven provided modes. In anti-clockwise order these are:
Program auto: The camera adjusts the flash, metering and other functions.
Portrait: The camera aims to create an in focus subject against a blurred background.
Landscape-Portrait: Suitable for taking photos of your subject and the background, keeping them both in focus.
Landscape: The camera focuses on a distant tree or mountain to produce a clear photo. The manual mentions blues and greens are vividly reproduced in this mode.
Night Scene: The camera sets a slower shutter speed than usually used in normal shooting. In this mode the noise reduction function will activate automatically for exposures longer than 1 second. During the noise reduction processing you can't take any photos.
Self portrait: Enables you to take a photo of yourself. First you point the lens towards yourself and the focus is locked on you. The camera automatically sets the shooting conditions and the zoom is fixed in the wide position and cannot be changed.
Movie: Allows you to record silent movies. Unlike many other cameras, you are able to use the zoom in this mode.
The four alkaline batteries the Olympus Camedia C-300 comes with don't last long. We replaced them with some Nimh rechargeables and the battery-life performance dramatically increased. As with many other Olympus cameras you have the option of ordering the use-once Lithium type batteries (CR-V3). If you're not sure about the different types of batteries, we have a battery buyers' guide.
On the side of the camera are connections for power in, video out and USB. Cables for the video out and USB are both provided. If you want to power the camera from the mains you'll have to buy an optional power adapter.
LCD Screen and Viewfinder
Used in direct and bright sunlight the LCD is still visible, though it is hard to check for correct focus in these conditions. Indoors it is clear and quite sharp, but not up to the level of quality some more expensive cameras can offer.
The viewfinder is a reasonable size and provides a small degree of diopter adjustment. There are simple black crosshair markings to help compose your photos.
Bearing in mind that this is a competitively priced camera, image quality was good. The camera's metering system was generally accurate, as was the focussing. The focussing speed was particularly good in fact, comparing well to more expensive models. The macro facility is also good, allowing you to get as close as 20cm to the subject.
The area that could be most improved on this camera, is the level of image noise at the higher ISO settings. Lowering the sharpening setting from Normal to Soft helps reduce the levels but at the expense of detail. The amount of noise at ISO60 is good however and levels are acceptable up to ISO200.
Although the metering, white balance and focussing systems have all performed competently here, the shot (at ISO200) is let down by noise levels in shadow areas.
The lens helps the camera capture a lot of detail for a budget three megapixel camera. However, as you can see in the crop above (ISO200), the shadow noise is present again. Although, for many people, this will only be a problem when printing at large (A4) print sizes.
On a cloudy day the automatic white balance and metering systems coped well in most of our test shots.
The image below shows a 100% crop of the photo on the left.
This illustrates again the level of detail the C-300 is capable of and also the quality of the metering system.
|Also, notice the lack of noise at ISO60.
The Olympus C-300 is a competent camera with an above average level of image quality. It is suited well to anyone wanting a competitively priced camera that can consistently provide good results. The user interface isn't the best around, but the camera is simple to use and that will be the major concern for most potential buyers.
For anyone wanting a high-level of manual control, they'd do better looking elsewhere, but as a point and shoot camera the Olympus C-300 is a fine example. Image quality will generally be above most peoples expectations when they are spending this much cash and after buying some rechargeable batteries you'll have a camera that can cope well with a variety of photographic situations.
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