As I mentioned earlier, the C-180 has a non-zoom lens, so you’d expect the start-up time to be generally quicker than a camera that has to first extend its lens. Wrong. The electronics and power system are relatively simple too, so its start-up time is a little sluggish at 3.5 seconds, which is also the time taken to wake the camera from sleep mode. The AF system is also not as good as that in most Olympus cameras, and the camera does suffer from an annoying near two second lag between pressing the button and the shot being taken. Combine this with a write-to-memory time of around four seconds for a full-sized image and you’re looking at a shot-to-shot time of just over six seconds. The C-180 has no continuous shooting mode, so that’s pretty much as fast as it’s going to get.
Another thing lacking from the C-180 is any way of changing either the white balance or ISO settings. This is presumably done to avoid confusing new users, which is fair enough since I’ve heard that there are some tribespeople living in the central highlands of Papua New Guinea that don’t know what ISO and white balance are for. Apart from the sluggish performance the C-180 handles very well. The LCD monitor is recessed slightly, so it’s less prone to fingerprints than some, while the deeply recessed lens is virtually immune to dirt and damage. The shutter button is a tad stiff, but at least it’s solidly attached.
With its non-zoom lens, the C-180 is unfortunately limited to a digital zoom. I say unfortunately because in my opinion digital zoom should never, ever be used, because it ruins photographs. It takes the central portion of the image from the CCD and electronically enlarges it to fill the frame. Since it can’t magically produce data from pixels that weren’t there at full resolution, it has to guess using an interpolation algorithm, which drastically degrades the image quality.
If you’ve got a 5.1 megapixel camera like the C-180, which has 4x digital zoom, then at full digital magnification you are throwing away 75% of your camera’s resolution. This effectively means you’re using a 1.3 megapixel camera that interpolates its native images up to an interpolated five megapixels, and this clearly shows up in the test shots. If you look at the zoomed-in images you’ll see how blocky and pixilated they appear. If you need to magnify a digital image, it’s generally a much better idea to take the picture at full resolution and enlarge the relevant section using Photoshop or some similar image processing software.
Apart from this disadvantage, the C-180’s image quality isn’t at all bad. Lens distortion, image noise and purple fringes are all kept to a minimum, focusing and exposure are consistently accurate, and colour rendition is good, although I did notice that the auto white-balance sometimes produced a pinkish tint on white highlights. All in all, a creditable performance from a simplistic camera.
A better quality alternative to the cheap, unfamiliarly-branded cameras you’ll see in supermarkets and catalogues. Build quality is excellent, picture quality is acceptable for snapshots and there has never been a digital camera that’s so easy to use. Slow performance, no manual functions and the lack of an optical zoom are handicaps making its value mediocre. One for the kids, but splash out more if you want something with greater functionality.