Digital Photography For What It's
Equipment for Oly C-series digitals—a
hyper-linked list of more or less indispensable paraphernalia
Last updated July 27, 2004
Just Add Money
Now that you've opted for something considerably more sophisticated than a
point-and-shoot digital camera, your Oly digital rangefinder is destined to become merely
the largest in an inevitable cascade of outlays leading to a competent and
workable digital setup. Out of the box, high-end consumer-grade digital cameras are both more and
less usable than their 35 mm SLR counterparts, but their stiffer prices seem to
generate a lot of magical thinking regarding secondary expenses.
Some digitals, like my C-5050Z, come with suitable rechargeable batteries and chargers, but
many AA-compatible digitals don't.
Few come with memory card readers, and none come with a workable
memory supply. (The 5.2MP C-5050Z shipped with a measly 32MB xD card!)
All come with image editing and transfer software, but few come
with the software you're likely to end up using.
You get the picture. But before
railing against the profit-mongering manufacturers for all the shortfalls, consider
this: In most cases, you're better off buying these essentials from 3rd parties
to suit your own skills, needs and goals. And once you enter the realm of filters, auxiliary
lenses and external flash units, you're
largely on your own anyway. Even if your camera manufacturer offers such
accessories as options, you'll probably do better elsewhere.
If you're suffering from choice- or cost-induced paralysis, this article's here to
help—particularly if you happened to purchase an Oly digital rangefinder
(e.g., a C-5050Z or C-750UZ) or a C-2100UZ. However, much of the information here also ports well to
other digital rangefinders like the Canon PowerShot Gx series, the Nikon CoolPix 8x0
series, and the Canon IS Pro90, to name just a few.
Do Your Own Research
Think of this annotated guide to equipping your Oly digital rangefinder or C-2100UZ
as a starting point for your own research. As you'll quickly discover by
poking around this and other digital photography sites, there are many other ways
to skin the digital photography cat—other gadgets, other brands,
To a certain extent, the picks offered here reflect my own personal
preferences, shooting habits and
experiences as an amateur primarily interested in nature photography.
But the picks have also been heavily influenced by the many, many Oly digital users of all
skill and experience levels who have shared their needs and experiences on RPD.
On balance, I don't think you'll go wrong with any of the items recommended
here. Some of them are quite optional. If you shoot enough,
many if not most of these items will likely come in handy sooner or later, but you certainly won't need all
of them at once. More modest photographic aims and resources will naturally require
less, while professional work will require much more.
||I strongly urge you to research all your digital
photography purchases thoroughly for yourself, with a firm
understanding of your needs and limitations in mind.
through your own cost/benefit analysis before buying.
If experience and RPD
teach anything about photography equipment, it's this: The devil's often in the details.
one's likely to know your details (existing equipment, budget, needs, skills,
goals, etc.) better than you, you're almost certainly your own best chief
purchasing agent, even if you're new to the game. Unfortunately, photographic
equipment purchases have a way of uncovering details you wish you'd noticed before
buying. There are no fail-safe defenses against gotchas, and there never will be
— especially with complicated digital photography technology. All you can do is try to stay
out of trouble as best you can. The more pre-purchase homework you do, the fewer ugly surprises
you'll find on your doorstep. Don't forget to read those return policies!
I strongly recommend all the items in this "starter kit" for any
Oly digital rangefinder or C-2100UZ owner. If your camera takes a proprietary
lithium ion battery rather than AAs or
equivalents, buy a spare right off the bat, follow the manufacturer's
instructions carefully, and skip the first subsection below.
Memory and storage
(SM), CompactFlash (CF) or xD cards in a
suitable holder. How much memory to
carry depends on the kind of shooting you do, but you'll definitely need
more than you found in the camera box. (Generic SM brands are fine, but save the
supplied Oly SM or xD card for panorama work. If you have the choice, favor CF cards.
They're usually faster than other card types and are potentially useful in
many electronic devices, not just your camera. The faster the CF card, the
better — especially with 4+ MP cameras.)
Multi-format USB card reader or floppy adapter;
forget the serial cable. (Later Oly rangefinder and C-2100UZ users, see below.)
CD-R writer and blanks, or some other safe
means of archiving your images for easy
armor (C-series rangefinders only)
Software (I strongly recommend PIE plus one
of the others listed below)
Picture Information Extractor (PIE)
really shines at automated image transfers and on-the-fly file renaming, but this
flexible little thumbnailer also does an excellent job at lossless rotations, image filing, EXIF
data access and many other recurring digital photography housekeeping chores.
thumbnailing digital image
browser offers many different ways to view and work with images,
supports zillions of image formats, allows manual and automated image
enhancements, generates text file lists, makes contact sheets and
albums, performs lossless JPEG transformations and much, much
more. I have
yet to find a simple way to get it
to automate file renaming during image transfers, but PIE will
cover that nicely.
ThumbsPlus v. 4.10 or later, for
to intermediate image post-processing,
convenient batch processing, EXIF data access
and advanced database-driven image file management
PhotoShop Elements v. 2.0 or later, for intermediate to advanced post-processing,
including the use of layers and RAW image plug-ins. Frequent rebates keep
the price ~10% that of the full PhotoShop package with all but the most
arcane editing features included.
Once you've gathered up your starter kit, take some time to work with it
before spending more. If you have further needs, they'll soon become apparent.
If your photographic aspirations reach intermediate or higher levels, these
valuable options will greatly enhance the functionality of your camera.
||Warning! Don't buy everything on this list at
Feel your way along so you'll know what your issues are before you
auxiliary lenses and other optical accessories
(a must in many, many situations)
Flash (essential for quality flash work)
Non-slave flash unit with a bounce (or better yet, a
bounce-swivel-tilt) head — check your film camera bag before you rush out to
buy a new one.
PC or TTL sync cable or adapter, as needed. (C-2100UZ
and later Oly rangefinder users, see below.)
— also a great aid
to steadiness in handheld shots, flash or otherwise
Quick release camera mount for the bracket—again, to safeguard
AAs for the flash
- Sync socket cap
tether (C-2000Z and C-2020Z only)
- An intermediate to advanced image editor like Corel PHOTO-PAINT, Paint
Shop Pro, PhotoShop offering layers, layer subtraction, LAB color mode (for access to
luminance data) and tone curves. (Note that the
Adobe PhotoDeluxe software bundled with some older Oly digitals has subtractible layers but lacks
curves and LAB color. Click here for some
other good leads and here for an
introductory discussion of post-processing.)
Remember, take time to assess your real needs before
breaking the bank on these options.
What Not to Rush Out and Buy
There are a few items I'd recommend not buying until you've found a definite
need for them.
A Tale of Two Cameras
By the time I stopped spending on my trusty old C-2020Z sometime in late
1999, I was well into the What not to rush out and buy
list. So when my C-5050Z came along in early 2004, I thought I'd need little
more than the camera itself. After all, the cameras took all the same lens
accessories and SM cards.
So much for thinking. By the time the dust settled again, I'd shelled out
another $350 for the following items, all but the last of which were
necessitated by interval technology changes:
A fast 256MB CompactFlash memory cards, to
handle those huge 7MB full-resolution RAW image files without interminable
A grossly over-priced Oly PC sync adapter for
the C-5050Z hotshoe, in order to use my existing non-Oly external flash unit
and flash bracket with the new camera.
PhotoShop Elements 2.0, to work with its new RAW
output, which my existing Corel PHOTO-PAINT 9 editor would not support.
(Whether I'll also need Adobe's stand-alone Camera RAW plug-in remains to be
A second lens
armor setup (CLA-1 conversion lens
adapter, 43-49 mm step-up ring and 49 mm lens cap), since my armored
C-2020Z would still see heavy use as an IR
0.7x WCON-07 wide-angle conversion lens I've always wanted — the
perfect complement to my prized 1.7x
B-300 teleconverter. Why stop now?
Like I said, just add money. Count on it.
This article's featured photo offers a little
non-verbal counterbalance to the gear-oriented text.
There's still something to be said for trying to make the best of the gear
you have, but with one-click web shopping and door-step deliveries, it's
all too easy to fall into the trap of spending lots of time and money acquiring
more and more must-have gear to the exclusion of actual picture-taking. (Not a
word to my wife—I'll deny I ever said anything of the sort!)
Thanks to Annika for her sense of humor, her quick hand with the PhotoShop
5.5 desaturation tool and her willingness to share this Kodak DC290 photo on RPD,
where she posted a link to it under the
subject, "I guess
it's true what they say...." BTW, the photo is used here with her permission,
all rights reserved, without further processing of the full-sized version.
What About Later Oly Rangefinders and the C-2100UZ?
I'm no expert on all the ways
later Oly rangefinders and the C-2100UZ depart from
the C-2020Z and C-5050Z, but I am aware of the following differences pertinent to this
The C-2100UZ lens has a 49 mm thread for mounting filters and teleconverters,
so there's no need for a lens tube. It's safe to mount filters directly on the
The built-in USB port on the C-2100UZ and all rangefinders following
the C-2020Z offers fast, convenient tethered image
transfers, which may obviate the need for a card reader for many users. However,
unwilling to tether the camera to their computer or needing access to their
images as files on the SmartMedia card will want a card reader anyway.
The C-5050Z and later C-series cameras come with a proprietary TTL-enabled
hotshoe but no sync cable socket. The hotshoe also takes standard non-TTL
hotshoe flash units. Prior to the C-5050Z, C-series rangefinders had a proprietary 5-pin TTL
sync socket, and before that, a standard PC sync socket (C-2000Z and C-2020Z
only). The C-2100UZ uses the 5-pin TTL socket as well.
Oly offers a number of over-priced TTL-to-PC adapters and cables for generic external
flash support. For a while, the only external flash unit known to take full advantage of the
proprietary TTL socket was the very
expensive and very sophisticated Oly FL-40. Now PROMASTER and Metz make
dedicated TTL units. For more TTL external flash
details, click here.
Starting with the C-5050Z, Oly added 12-bit RAW recording to its C-series
cameras. To take full advantage of your RAW images, you'll need to import them
into either the bundled Camedia software or the full version of PhotoShop using
either Adobe's Camera RAW plug-in or Olympus' RAW plug-in. (You can download the
latter from the Olympus America
site.) PhotoShop Elements 2.0 apparently works with the Oly plug-in, but
only in 8-bit mode.
The hardware items listed here should otherwise work well with all
Oly digital rangefinders, and they'll probably be just as
software items won't care.
If you find anything else that doesn't fit later rangefinders or the
C-2100UZ, please let me
know at dpFWIW@cliffshade.com.
References and Links
(See also the home page links.)
Digital Cameras—the gateway to Olympus America's official camera webpages
digital accessories—official info on Oly-brand replacement parts and accessories.
Not all Oly gear adaptable to the Oly digital line is listed here, but it's a start. Beware
the prices at the Olympus Emporium.
Unless explicitly attributed to another contributor, all content on this
site © Jeremy McCreary
Comments and corrections to Jeremy McCreary at dpFWIW@cliffshade.com, but please see here