• Price When Reviewed: £425.52 plus VAT

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The specifications of this camera will seem vaguely familiar to regular readers of Digit: 3.2 megapixels output (2,048-x-1,536 pixels), a 3:1 zoom lens, compact body, USB – the same as the Camedia 3030 Zoom reviewed in the middle of 2000. However, it’s £300 cheaper: £500 compared to £800. This family of Olympus cameras (there’s a recent 4mp model too, called the 4040 Zoom) are all excellent performers, with high-quality lenses, full manual and automatic exposure controls with overrides, and sensible software features such as selectable white balance, multi-exposure modes, built-in panorama tools, and basic movie-capture facilities. The new 3020Z uses the 3030Z’s f/2.8 lens (32-96mm equivalent) and the 3040Z’s improved software and user interface. A few items have been left out, including the external flashgun interface port, the TV-out port and the little infrared remote control unit. Less importantly, the 3020Z has an ordinary silver plastic casing instead of the cool crackle-finish black of other models, and the tripod bush is plastic too. The dimensions are unchanged at 109.5-x-76.4-x-69.6mm, and the weight without batteries is 300g. Quality lens It’s a good compromise. £300 is a major saving, and still nets you the important items – namely a high quality lens, a decent CCD, and a full set of manual and automatic controls. You can live without a remote control by using the self-timer. The TV playback mode is no great loss. While there’s QuickTime movie capture (320-x-240 pixels) and in-camera playback mode, there’s no microphone for sound. Keen photographers might regret the loss of the external flash capability, as the built-in flashgun is strictly for parties and emergencies. There’s a noise-reduction feature that reduces the grainy effect that’s a hazard of CCDs with exposures of a second or more. The CCD sensitivity is selectable between 100, 200 and 400 ISO, plus automatic. The 400 ISO setting is fairly noisy, however. Metering options are full-area pattern (‘digital ESP’), plus centre spot. The shutter speed ranges from 4-1/800th second (16 seconds maximum for manual settings), and the aperture ranges from f/2.0-f/11 for wide and telephoto settings. The autofocus works well, and there’s a basic manual focus option. Macro focusing works down to 20cm. Storage settings It's called a 3.2mp camera because it captures 3.24 million pixels, though its actual output resolution is 3.14mp (2,048-x-1,536 pixels), the same as the 3030 Zoom and 3040 Zoom. Save options include uncompressed TIFF, two levels of JPEG compression, and four lower resolution settings. A 16MB Smart Media storage card is supplied. A program mode is included, plus five ‘scene’ mode pre-set collections for portrait, sports, landscape, night scene, and movies. Sepia and B&W effects are included. A panorama mode shows on-screen guides for creating overlapping sets of images in any direction. There’s also a ‘My Mode’ setting that lets you store all current mode choices, which are restored next time you switch the camera on. Non-rechargeable alkaline batteries are included instead of Olympus’ normal long-life lithiums, but most users will invest in a few sets of NiMH rechargeables anyway. There’s no battery charger or mains adaptor, but Olympus doesn’t supply these in its pricier models either. The 3020Zoom’s control set is the same as all others in the family, with a main mode-control dial, combined shutter and power zoom control, dedicated buttons for flash and macro focus, and a four-way selector which works with the on-screen menus and exposure controls. The 1.8-inch LCD monitor is clear for both images and menus, but it isn’t movable. There’s also an optical viewfinder. A USB cable is supplied, and downloads are handled by Olympus’ Camedia Master application, which includes basic image-editing and print tools. As ever with this family of cameras and lenses, the image quality is excellent, with a good dynamic range, accurate colours, and sharp focus. If you don’t need the higher resolution and all the gadgetry of today’s top digital cameras, the Camedia 3020 Zoom offers great capability at a more attractive price.