Olympus Camedia C-310 Zoom
(Also known as the Olympus Camedia D-540 Zoom)
Review Date: July 14th 2004
Ease of Use
The C-310 Zoom is very similar to the C-360Zoom that I reviewed last week. The main physical difference between the two cameras are the lack of a sliding lens cover on the C-310 Zoom. Instead the lens is protected by a plastic cover when the camera is turned off - the cover automatically retracts when the lens is extended. You turn the camera on by sliding the switch on the rear of the body from Off to the Camera symbol. The same switch is also used to access the Play mode so that you can review your photos. Personally I found it easier and quicker to switch the C-310 Zoom on, compared to the slightly fiddly sliding cover on the C-360Zoom. This could mean that you capture more of the action with the C-310 Zoom. Another positive aspect of not having the fancy lens cover is that the C-310 Zoom is slightly cheaper than the C-360Zoom.
As with the C-360Zoom, the C-310 Zoom has lost the shiny metal body of the more expensive Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital and 400 Digital models. Instead the C-360Zoom is made entirely of plastic, although isis still very well made and doesn't cut any corners. Also Olympus do not claim that the C-310 Zoom is waterproof, as they do with the Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital and 400 Digital. There are a few more subtle differences between the C-310 Zoom and the C-360Zoom that may influence your buying decision if you are considering there two models. The positioning of the DC power connector on the C-310 Zoom almost looks like an afterthought by the Olympus designers, as it juts out at the bottom-left hand corner of the camera, spoiling the otherwise smooth lines of the overall design. Also the optical viewfinder slightly juts out from the rear of the camera, whereas on the C-360Zoom it is much more neatly positioned. Finally, the last physical difference that I could spot was the zoom control and shutter button on the C-310 Zoom are slightly smaller than the ones on the C-360Zoom, making them a bit more fiddly to operate. These are all pretty minor differences between the two cameras, but when the difference in RRP is only £30, they could help you decide which one to go for.
As with most other Olympus digital cameras, especially the models that sit within the "easy"range, the C-310 Zoom is the kind of camera that you can pick up and work out how to use within an hour or so, thanks to the uncluttered and logical design of both the camera body and its menu system. The camera body is very well thought out. You will notice straight away that there is no traditional D-pad on the rear of the C-310 Zoom. Instead there are four buttons that perform the same functions as a D-pad, allowing you to scroll through images and the menu system, but which also have their own specific functions as well. For example, the top button of the four allows you to select the macro mode, whilst the bottom one turns the self-timer on and off. This ensures that a lot of the controls are available by pressing buttons rather than scrolling through menus, which makes using the camera quicker and more immediate.
This clever placement of so many options on the exterior of the C-310 Zoom means in turn that its menu system is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. As mentioned above, the four buttons that form the D-pad have their own particular purpose, whilst pressing the OK button accesses the rest of the menus. These include setting the image quality, white balance, exposure compensation and a sub-menu called the Mode Menu, which contains settings like the metering mode and formatting the memory card. So the less commonly used options are accessed through the menu system, whilst the more commonly used options are available via the press of a button.
Internally Olympus have added a new TruePic Turbo image processor to the C-310 Zoom, which is supposed to deliver more image clarity, contrast and brilliant colour and also increase the camera's processing speed by up to 30%. More about image quality later - the new C-310 Zoom does feel a little faster in general use compared to the older Olympus µ[mju:] 400 Digital - it's good to see the latest technological advances filtering down to even the entry-level models in the Olympus range.
The C-310 Zoom still retains a few of the minor handling quibbles found on its predecessors. The zoom lens is quite noisy in operation (more so than the C-360Zoom) and the optical viewfinder is still too small to use effectively - I used the LCD screen to compose all the shots that I took. Also Super Macro Mode has to be turned on and off via a menu option; as the default macro mode isn't that great in comparison, I would have liked an extra external control on the camera body to access Super Macro Mode. Other than those minor points, though, the C-310 Zoom is a very well-built, easy to use and pocketable digital camera.