Friday, 1 August 2014

Olympus C-315 zoom

OK.  I am going to use a naughty word - digital. There - said and nothing bad has happened.  This blog has always been about my old film cameras - not digital for the simple reason that I do not collect digital cameras. I have nothing against digital cameras and I do own a rather nice digital SLR - a Canon 650D - but they do not entice me in the same way that film cameras do.

Olympus C-315 zoom - closed
So why have I bought this 'old' digital camera? Well, last summer Bestbeloved and I went to Edinburgh for the day. I wasn't feeling particularly well and could not face carrying a camera around all day. My collection of old cameras are all metal and even the lightest are heavy after a day walking around the delights of Scotland's capital. My single digital camera - the 650D - is also heavy and requires lenses to be carried as well.

Of course, I spent the day seeing things I wanted to photograph and couldn't. I decided then that I needed a modern, small and very light plastic digital camera that would sit in my pocket unnoticed until I needed it.

Olympus C-315 zoom - open
It has taken me until this week to find one at a price I was willing to pay. I ought to say that I have not been looking very hard! Having bought the camera, I found that I needed an XD card which are no longer made. So, today I have camera, card and batteries and I have been out and about Lincoln trying the camera out.

The camera is small - 10 cm by 5.5 cm by 4 cm - no so small by very modern standards, perhaps, but it is the smallest camera I own - and it weighs 200 gram with the batteries fitted. I would certainly be able to carry this camera around all day with no trouble.
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Blog copyright 2014, John Margetts
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Being digital, it is mostly controlled by menus. There are minimal external controls. On the top are two controls - the shutter release and a zoom control. On the back there is a small 36 mm by 26 mm LCD display which takes up about half the back. Above the display is a small viewfinder and next to that is the on/off-playback-photograph switch.

To the right of the display is what seems to be the standard four direction buttons with a central 'OK' button. Above this is a quick display button so you can chimp your work. On the left-hand end of the camera is a power input socket. The right-hand end is rather more cluttered. There is a door covering the XD card slot, another door covering the battery compartment and an attachment point for a wrist strap.
Olympus C-315 zoom - back view

The base of the camera has a central tripod boss and a small electrical socket. I am guessing that this last is concerned with the 'Imagelink' mentioned on the front of the camera - that is, a direct connection to an Olympus photo printer. The front of the camera is also fairly plain. There is a small telescopic lens, the front of the viewfinder, a small flash window and a red LED.

I shall now go over the controls individually before discussing how the camera behaves in action. The main control on any camera is the shutter release. this is to the modern standard - a plain, smooth button basically flush with its surroundings. unlike the shutter releases on my film cameras, there is no thread for a cable release.

When you press this shutter release, several things happen. First, the lens is focussed. Then the exposure is calculated and set, then the shutter opens. This is not a fast camera and there is a delay of two to three seconds between pressing the release button and the shutter opening. You can forget about the decisive moment with this camera. Once the photograph has been taken, there is a further delay while the picture file is written to the card. On all quality settings the write time is about five seconds which much reduces your photographic ability.

The button next to the shutter release is the zoom control. This is marked 'W' and 'T' - wide and telephoto with no indication of focal length. This control works quite well and is about the only control with no time lag. What I did find impressive is the way that the zoom control also zooms the viewfinder keeping the viewfinder image close to what the sensor sees. There does not seem to be any parallax adjustment when the lens is close focussed but that might be asking a bit too much. 

Moving to the back of the camera, the on/off switch suffers from a great deal of delay. When you switch the camera on there is a delay of three seconds before there is any noticeable activity. A feature I do not like is the way that the camera reverts to defaults when you switch it on. That is Program mode and HQ quality. I have been using the camera in landscape mode and SHQ quality but that is not retained. Yes, I can easily reset those but that is inconvenient and it would be nice if the camera made a note of the settings when it was switched off.

If you do not use the camera for a short while it goes into a suspended mode to conserve power. When you press any button the camera powers back up - but with a considerable delay. The screen is below the on/off button and takes up most of teh left half of the back. Information on the screen when shooting is: the current mode (there are seven to choose from), the focussing point (centre of the screen), shooting mode (single or burst), image quality and remaining shots. There are four quality settings. SHQ and HQ are the same resolution (2592 x 1944 pixels) and I assume that SHQ saves the file with less compression. SQ1 has a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels and SQ2 a resolution of 1600 x 1200 pixels. The proportions of each is 4:3 which is rather more square than I am used to with either 35mm film or my Canon DSLR. That is not to say it is bad, it is just not what I am used to.

Next to the screen is the quick view button. Pressing this displays the last photograph taken. Initially, the quality and frame number are displayed but only for a few seconds - after that you just get the uncluttered picture. In SHQ and SQ the display also shows the date and time of the picture, but not in HQ for some reason. While you are viewing a picture with the Quick View button, moving the zoom control to 'W' will display 16 thumbnails at a time (or 9 or 4 - the number can be set with one of the menu items). You can manoeuvre through these using the direction buttons - moving the zoom control to 'T' will display the highlighted picture full-screen. 

The direction keys do various things depending on the mode the camera is in. In shooting mode, they are as follows: the up button sets/resets macro mode, down button sets/resets the delay timer, left button allows you to choose shooting mode and the right button sets/resets the flash - the flash can also be used to prevent red-eye. The central 'OK' button brings up the shooting menu. This allows you to set quality, white balance (auto, sunny, cloudy, artificial light) and the mode menu (exposure compensation, digital zoom, secondary macro mode, single or burst and (if you have the right Olympus XD card) panorama mode. A further menu allows you to format the card and a third menu I am not quite sure what it does. I have no manual or operating instructions and I am doing this by experiment. When you are at a menu item, the central button confirms that particular item.

When viewing your pictures, the left and right direction buttons move to the next/last picture and the up/down buttons toggle between the first and last image. A second press on the up/down buttons moves ten images.

On the right-hand end of the camera is a USB port for downloading pictures to a computer. I do not have the CD-ROM that came with the camera with instructions and software, but this works well without either on my Linux (Ubuntu 14.4) computer. As an experiment, I tried formatting the XD card with my computer rather than with the camera - the camera did not like this and insisted on formatting the XD card again before I could use the camera again. As a further experiment, I tried to upload a photograph from my computer to the camera - this did not work. Rather, it did but the camera would not admit to the photograph being there.

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Blog copyright 2014, John Margetts
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Using the camera.

The camera I easy to use - I have been doing so with no instructions at all and I have had no problems. The test pictures I have taken are below. I am generally pleased with these. One thing that is worth mentioning is that they are all a bit flat. The light was good and I would have expected a bit more contrast and colour saturation. No real problem as this can easily be fixed in the Gimp (or Photoshop, for my rich readers).

What is worth noting is the second interior shot. This was taken at the lowest resolution of 640 x 480 pixels. If you look at the top of the black picture frame you can see the effects of the individual pixels as the frame is stepped rather than smooth - compare with the first picture which is at the maximum resolution of 2592 x 1944 pixels.

All pictures in Lincoln and copyright John Margetts.



Same as above but tweaked in the Gimp







using the macro setting

High quality
Lowest quality