Olympus C-350 Zoom 

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Like memories, photographs tend to fade with age. Fortunately a solution is readily available. Captured digital images can be stored and retrieved from your hard disk for printing. The results should be as vibrant and fresh as the day they were captured. You just need to match your photographic needs and financial considerations with an appropriate digital camera.

Priced at £249.99, the 3.2 mega pixel Olympus C-350 Zoom digital camera sits between budget offerings and high priced professional models. The C-350 Zoom follows the usual design format favoured by Olympus for its Camedia range of products. Silver in colour and reasonably compact in size, although I would not want to carry it around in my pocket for lengthy periods, the camera's lens remains concealed behind a sliding cover until it is needed. You have to manually slide the cover open in order for the lens to appear. Some care needs to be taken when closing this cover at the end of a sessions. It initially needs to be moved just a short distance for the lens to start retreating into the body of the camera. Being too aggressive in moving the cover could result in damage to the lens. Once the lens has withdrawn then the cover can be completely closed.

Rather than relying on fixed internal memory for storage, the C-350 uses removable xD-Picture Card media. These cards are available in sizes up to 256MB. As standard the camera comes with a 16MB card which can hold 165 images in low quality (640 x 480 pixels) mode which reduces to 6 images at the highest resolution of 2048 x 1536 pixels.

When capturing still images you have a choice of five modes. By default the camera starts in Auto mode with predefined settings for natural colour. However you can easily switch to portrait, landscape, night scene or self-portrait as you turn the lens on yourself. You also have the option to shoot a short video clip that can be as much as 211 seconds at 160 x 120 pixels.

The C-350 camera comes with both optical and digital zoom settings that are rated at 3x. Digital zoom is turned on or off from the camera's menu facility while a small lever on top of the camera adjusts the optical zoom. The results of adjusting the optical zoom are immediately visible when using either the traditional viewfinder or the 1.8 inch LCD monitor found on the rear of the camera. Combining the two zooms should produce 9x zoom which is the equivalent of 35 - 315mm on a 35mm camera. As with the picture modes, optical zoom automatically resets itself when the camera is turned off.

Clearly visible in most lighting conditions, the colour LCD monitor displays the various menu options available with the camera. Using an arrow pad situated alongside the monitor, you can switch between options that have been categorised as camera, picture, card and setup in shooting mode. Play and edit categories replace the first two items when using the menu in playback mode. While the various entries are logically arranged, I found it confusing to have to use the right arrow to enter a section rather than the OK button that was present.

Cables are provided for downloading images to your computer via USB or to the video input socket on your TV. The camera does need to be switch on for the transfer of images with the result that there is a drain on the two AA batteries that power the unit. With the appropriate card reader you can download images to your computer. The supplied software helps automate computer connectivity and sending images direct to a printer.

I was generally impressed with the quality of images captured by the C-350 Zoom which is a major consideration with any digital camera. However there were a couple of points that tended to detract from this camera's overall appeal. As yet card readers for the xD-Picture Card media are not as ubiquitous as other formats while possible problems with the sliding cover needs to be considered.

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