The Olympus 2100UZ


It was hard to justify a new camera.  The Canon PowerShot has proven to be a fantastic camera, but I want to begin taking candid photos of people and the 2X zoom is not enough.  After much agonizing, I decided to buy myself a second camera for Christmas.  The Canon will still go in my pocket for everyday use, but now I will also be schlepping an Olympus 2100UZ.  For the most part my consuming ways remained at home when I began my trip; however I finally decided that I could not put a price on my new-found artistic outlet.  Besides, there was something in modern spirit of Christmas in consuming and buying a new toy.  I enjoyed more than I should have shopping online from Lisbon, shipping it to my folks, and tracing its progress on the UPS website.  And yes, I still love for all my digital needs, for reasons I explained on my Canon page..

The big difference is the lens.  The Olympus has the equivalent of a 38-380mm lens, or a 10X optical zoom.  That is a massive lens for a film camera.  Digital cameras use CCD's to capture the light through the lens instead of film.  Since CCD's are tiny, it is easier to make a lens for a digital camera than for a film one, i.e. it would be very expensive and heavy to accomplish the same feat with a film camera.

However, a 10X zoom requires a tripod.  Hands are too jittery to get a sharp image.  The solution?  The solution is to use the same technology that makes steady-cam video-cameras keep steady.  Voila, no tripod necessary.  The added advantage is that this technology also works for low-light situations which would also require a tripod.  This means I will be able to take photos of people from at least fifty feet away!

There are currently two such cameras on the market (December 2000).  The other is the slightly more expensive Sony CD-1000.  Sony's is bigger (bad for backpacking) in part because it has a built-in miniature CD writer, much like a mini-disc (essentially meaning digital negatives).  Since I want to carry as little weight as possible, the heavier Sony unit including carrying miniature disks (use once and expensive) and requiring my external CD-ROM drive (left at home), I chose the Olympus.  Steve's Digicam Reviews (most comprehensive reviewer online) said absolutely great things about it, which convinced me.

Another nice feature is the use of a miniature LCD in the viewfinder.  This means that what you see in the viewfinder is exactly what the CCD will capture.  Consumer SLR cameras always have some discrepancy between the two.  This also means that every menu that would be accessed via the external LCD can be done in the viewfinder (including photo review), solving the problem of viewing in bright situations.  Battery life improves as well this way.

The lens is threaded, meaning that I can attach haze and polarizing filters (ordered separately), protecting the precious lens and reducing glare, keeping the sky blue, and reducing unwanted reflections from windows or water.

This camera can capture short QuickTime movies with sound, should I ever find the need.

It is a USB camera with a 2.1 megapixel CCD.  This is my minimum resolution, so I would have preferred higher resolution, but the lens more than makes up for it.  Unfortunately, it takes SmartMedia, so I had to buy a decent size card and USB reader.  It ships with four NiMh rechargeable double-A batteries.  I believe it also has a remote control.

More info after I get my hands on it!