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6/10

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Olympus C-180

It’s a tricky business writing these 1,000-word reviews. Sometimes, as with last week’s review of the impressive Olympus C-7070 1,000 words simply wasn’t enough to do the camera justice. Other times, like right now for example, I’m wondering what I should write about to fill up the space. The Olympus C-180 is so ridiculously simple that I could tell you everything about it in 50 words and go and spend the rest of the day on the beach. The English section of the manual is only 24 pages, and that includes the specification sheet, the contents page and the usual legal disclaimers and warnings not to set fire to it or use it as a flotation device. Chapter headers are: loading the battery, turning the camera on, taking a picture, reviewing a picture and turning the camera off. That’s all you need to know.

It’s hard to imagine a greater contrast to the C-7070 than this little camera. The C-180 is small, light, and so simple a child could use it. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if a lot of these cameras end up in the hands of children, as birthday presents or as a toy to take on holiday. The sub £110 price means that if it gets dropped in a rock pool or smothered in ice cream then it’s no crippling loss. It is one of the cheapest 5.1 megapixel cameras on the market, but it still offers the reassurance of the prestigious Olympus name and a build quality that sets it comfortably apart from the majority of cheap budget cameras.

In outward appearance there’s nothing to set the C-180 apart from many of the other cameras in the Olympus compact range. It has a metallic finish and the rounded shell is I believe constructed from plastic, although there appears to be some aluminium parts dotted around the chassis. The small non-zoom lens is protected by a cover that slides back as the front-mounted power switch is operated. On the back it features a small but bright 1.5-inch LCD monitor with 85,000 pixels.

The controls follow Olympus’s new motto, which seems to be “one button, one function”, so there are single buttons for shooting and playback mode, a menu button and a delete button. Each of the directions of the 4-way menu control also have functions when shooting, specifically flash mode, macro mode and self timer. There is also a Reset button in case you somehow make a mess of the settings, although you’d have to make a pretty determined effort to do so before it’s needed.

Speaking of menus, the C-180 has what is unquestionably the simplest menu ever put into a camera. It has a total of eight options, but only two are used when taking pictures; EV compensation and picture size/quality. Other options include setting the clock, the menu language and the power-off timer, plus formatting the memory card. There’s also the unique Olympus facility called Pixel Mapping, which can eliminate dead pixels on the camera’s CCD.

With such a truncated menu system, it’s the main mode dial on the back panel that does most of the work. It has no less than 10 different options, including auto, program, movie mode and seven different scene modes, covering the usual suspects such as portrait, landscape, landscape + portrait, night scene, sport, self portrait and beach & snow.

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