Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Welcome to my blog!

Written Words, the blog, picks up where Written Words, the e-newsletter, left off.

Yes, I know it’s been over a year since the last edition of Written Words. Those who have worked on e-newsletters can appreciate how time-consuming they can be to create and publish. So while I loved doing the newsletter, I just couldn’t keep up.

Now that there are so many easy tools to help publish blogs, well, it just seems natural for a writer. My thanks to Molly Joss and her blog for pointing the way. (Check Molly’s blogs at and

What I hope is that this technology will make it easier for me to make Written Words what I wanted to from the beginning: a forum for review and discussion of all things that a communications professional needs and uses in the 21st century. So take a look below at a review of a great digital camera from Olympus. Coming soon will be reviews of backup software, Adobe’s Creative Suite and other items I’ve been testing for a while, but haven’t had the opportunity yet to write about. I plan to have lots of software and hardware reviews in here.

In the meantime, check out my main web site,, and follow the links to some other samples of writing. And if you have an idea or an objection to share, let me know at

Talk to you again soon!

Product review:

Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide Zoom digital camera

It’s been many months since Olympus graciously lent me their 8-megapixel camera, the Camedia C-8080 wide zoom. I have to admit, this is a truly great entry-level professional camera. It’s the kind of camera that can occasionally make an amateur with limited photographic talent and make him look like a pro.
First, capturing eight megapixels per picture taken means you get very clear, sharp and rich pictures, with lots of detail.

This camera offers almost everything that the professional photographer needs besides high resolution:
- Manual focus and user control of the auto focus
- Sequential shooting
- Controls over metering
- Exposure compensation settings
- Noise reduction
- Panorama and macro mode shooting
- Histogram display
- White-point balance control
- Sharpness control
- Hue and saturation controls
- Remote control

Naturally, it gives you the option of complete automatic shooting or manual controls, choosing aperture or shutter-speed priority.

The camera saves in RAW as well as in JPEG and TIFF formats. It has slots for both xD memory chips and Compact Flash cards, and you can put one of each in at the same time. An xD card fills up awfully fast when you’re shooting at 8 megapixels—according to the manual, a 32 MB xD card will only hold two RAW files at 3264 x 2448 pixels. Fortunately, you can buy a Compact Flash or xD card with up to a gigabyte of capacity now for under a hundred bucks, so if you get a camera like this, splurge on a fat card.

It also has everything the amateur wants: auto focus, built-in flash, video capture and playback. The dial at the top that a professional uses to select aperture or shutter speed priority also has a number of settings for shooting portraits, landscapes or sports without a blur, even for shooting at night or in other low-light situations. (Even a pro would appreciate this—yes, he or she knows what settings are needed for every situation, but isn’t it nice to have the shortcuts available? There is also a “My Mode” setting which allows you to save your own personal selections and reuse them later.

The camera records the date and time each picture was shot—useful for pros as well as tourists who might wonder, years later, if those vacation shots were taken in 2005 or 2006?

Time to whine
So when you break it out of the box, at first glance it’s hard to think of anything else to ask for. But a few things come to mind pretty quickly:
- First, the lens is integrated; you can’t unscrew it from the back for a wide-angle, telephoto or true maco lens, so the 8080 is not a true SLR
- The user interface is a little difficult to understand. Buttons aren’t all organized in an intuitive order. Beside the 2 inch/5 cm display on the back there is an “OK” menu button surrounded by four smaller buttons for selecting items from a menu; two centimetres above that is a thumb-dial for selecting other items from other menus. Do we really need both? At times, I had to resort to actually reading the manual to figure out how to work the camera. I know, that may not seem like a harsh criticism, but when it comes to software, my ability to figure out the interface without the paper manual is a little litmus test.
- I don’t know what the real range is for the zoom lens, but I’m always disappointed by zooming — I never seem to get close enough. How much do you have to spend to get a really good zoom?
- The camera is rather big for a digital camera. This could be due to Olympus’ desire to emulate a traditional film camera as much as possible, or because you just need that much size to accommodate that kind of quality, or some combination. Still, the camera is a little awkward for carrying around, limiting its appeal to the serious amateur.

On the road
To get a real feel for the camera and its capabilities, I took it on a couple of trips. Granted, the uses I put it to were strictly amateur-tourist, snapping shots away, and most of the pictures show that.

Still, it does capture great images. Take a look at the lobby of the Animal Kingdom Lodge at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Look at the detail in the ceiling, the floor, the displays. It’s gorgeous. Or the tigers: they look much closer than I’d ever really want to be to a tiger. And take a look at the landscape, shot in western Quebec. There is a lot of range in colour and depth here: more than enough to satisfy the professional.

The lobby at Animal Kingdom Lodge at Disney World, Florida, captured by the Olympus C8080.

The Olympus C8080's zoom got close enough to these tigers with lots of detail. But sometimes, the maximum just wasn't quite close enough.

A long-distance landscape shot like this shows lots of detail (photo by Nicolas Bury).

The video function works fairly well. Images are grainy, as video usually is, but this seems worse than the results from my camcorder. The lighting is too bright, too. Olympus needs to tweak the settings here to get better results.

Summing up
For the serious professional, the C8080 is a very good, versatile choice for getting into serious imagemaking. You cannot swap lenses, but you have a lot of range in distance, portrait and action photography.
It’s a bit bulky, but some people feel that gives it a more serious feel. After all, this is not for taking mindless snapshots: it’s for capturing great images.
In the end, that’s where the camera stands up: absolutely great, rich, deep and sharp 8-megapixel images.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous10:58 PM

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