Set in a brushed-silver all-metal case with a sliding lens cover that doubles as an on/off switch, the 8.2-ounce C-60 Zoom is built to travel. Everything feels solid and well constructed. The large mode dial on the top looks and feels like the equivalent dial on a 35mm camera. Despite the compact size of the camera, the back-mounted buttons and the four-way arrow pad are substantial enough for even large hands to handle. Olympus's long experience in designing digital point-and-shoot cameras shows in many of the small details. For example, with most point-and-shoot cameras, you have to wait for the lens to extend before you can operate the menus, even if all you want to do is view your pictures. With the C-60 Zoom, you can press the play button and receive full--and almost immediate--access to the playback menus.
While the C-60 Zoom is superior to other point-and-shoot cameras in many aspects of its design and structural integrity, it has two flaws that can seriously hamper its use. The dual-function lens-cover on/off switch is much too sensitive. We frequently turned off the camera, and occasionally turned it on, by accident. The switching-off problem is aggravated by the camera's design; the open cover protrudes slightly, so holding the camera with just a little extra pressure will turn it off. The other design flaw is the narrow zoom lever, which is pointy enough to be uncomfortable when you shoot over long periods of time.
The C-60 Zoom has a broad range of controls and capabilities, including five ISO settings and six flash modes (two for low-light flash-assisted shots). There are more shooting modes than you'll find with most higher-priced cameras. These include Landscape+Portrait mode, which is optimized for keeping both the subject and background in focus, and Self Portrait mode, which is optimized for arms-length photos you take of yourself. Strangely, with all the available settings, there's no provision for manually setting the white balance, other than selecting one of four preprogrammed settings: Daylight, Clouds, Tungsten, or Fluorescent.
The 3X optical zoom lens covers a fairly typical span of 38mm to 114mm (35mm-camera equivalent). The C-60 Zoom doesn't have an AF-assist lamp, which would have made it easier to lock focus in low light. In addition to the standard macro mode, which focuses down to 7.9 inches, there's Super Macro mode, which focuses down to just 1.6 inches.
The C-60 Zoom is no speed demon, though overall it proved moderately better than average. Turn-on-to-first-shot time clocked in at a decent 3.0 seconds, though shutter lag ran a bit high for this camera's class: 0.6 second in scenes with high contrast and 1.2 seconds under dim contrast. And while it eked out an impressive 2.0 seconds for the time between nonflash shots, that time swelled to a ho-hum 5.0 seconds for flash-to-flash shots.
Those who savor every detail of their pictures will be pleased to know there's no time penalty with this camera for saving uncompressed photos. Shot-to-shot time is the same (2.0 seconds) whether you're saving uncompressed TIFF files or lowest-compression JPG files. When your subject goes into overdrive, you can use the camera's 1-second burst mode to capture 4 photos in rapid succession. In our tests, it did a little better than that, snapping up four pictures in 3.0 seconds. The proprietary 1,230mAh lithium-ion rechargeable battery lasted for only 275 photos. That's more than you're likely to shoot during a single outing but fewer than we've seen with other recent snapshot cameras.
We also found the autofocus to be a bit uneven, with a tendency to wander in low light (probably attributable to the lack of an AF-assist lamp). The zoom lever proved responsive without being overly sensitive. By tapping it slightly, we could quickly fine-tune its position.
The C-60 Zoom's LCD screen held up reasonably well in direct sunlight. It's made from a semitransmissive (low-reflective) material designed to cut down on glare and maintain better visibility in bright light. The optical viewfinder has only about 85 to 90 percent coverage, so we favored the LCD screen for critical compositions.
Picture quality was generally good. Most shots exhibited accurate colors, though we saw a tendency toward a slight red or yellow color cast. The best photos were exterior shots with plenty of light; however, when we lowered the light, the visual noise increased dramatically, with a corresponding degradation in sharpness and detail. Some of our ISO 400 photos were so riddled with noise they resembled frames from a video shot.
If you always select the automatic mode, you may be disappointed with the C-60 Zoom's low-light photos. However, if you're willing to experiment with the modes and the settings, you'll find that the noise filter can greatly improve ISO 200 and ISO 400 photos. The night mode (easily accessible from the mode dial) automatically engages the noise filter, and it helped us capture low-light photos with excellent color saturation and manageable levels of visual noise. Super Macro mode was fun and effective, though we were unable to use it with the built-in flash.
We encountered a significant amount of barrel distortion with our wide-angle shots. That's not unusual for a pocket-size high-megapixel camera whose manufacturer is pushing the small sensor to its limits. While most shots displayed a broad contrast range with subtle shades of color, some of our exterior photos showed a definite loss of detail in the brighter portions of the image. On bright sunlit days, you may find high-contrast areas of sand or grass washed out in your photos.
If you like some tweakability thrown in with your all-automatic digital photography, and you want to shoot in an uncompressed format without the hassle of raw files, the C-60 Zoom is one of your dwindling options. Though there are better choices for picture quality and pocketability, this model still stands out from the crowd with some distinctive features.
|Shutter lag (typical)||Time to first shot||Typical shot-to-shot time|