Cameras to Fill a Room with a View

The Olympus E-20N, the Canon Elan 7E, and Nikon's Coolpix 885

Jun 1, 2002
Outside Magazine

The OLYMPUS E-20N digital camera's five-megapixel resolution yields tack-sharp 11-by-14 prints, an all-glass 35-140mm zoom lens handles most photo situations superbly, and its true SLR viewfinder ensures WYSIWYG confidence. While neither tiny nor light, the E-20N does feature two thoughtful touches: The LCD panel rotates up and down, allowing you to frame pictures with the camera held overhead or at your knees. And it can store those memory-hungry five-megapixel images on any of three types of storage media: Smart-Media, CompactFlash, or Micro-drive. Note: You will feel like a photojournalist hauling around the E-20N's sizable and awkward lens. ($1,719*; 800-622-6372,

The classic 35mm CANON Elan 7E SLR camera ($455; (800-652-2666, nestles comfortably in the hand, feeling like it was custom-molded to fit. It helps that its auto-eye-focus control tracks my eye-pupil movements, zeroing in wherever I look with eerie accuracy—useful when the subject is the kayaker flailing in the foreground, not the waterfall behind. And it comes value-packed with a quiet, four-frame-per-second film advance that won't alarm wildlife, a 1/4,000-second shutter speed that can freeze the motion of a hummingbird's wings, and tough metal-plate construction that will survive years of abuse. I added a Tokina 28—80mm f/2.8 AT-X 280AF Pro lens ($549; 800-421-1141,, a super-sharp, quick-focusing wide-angle-to-short-telephoto lens that's fast enough to shoot in low light.
NIKON's Coolpix 885 will have even celluloid snobs thinking digital. It's an easy-to-use 3.2-megapixel camera that rivals 35mm film quality for any enlargement up to 11-by-14. It isn't as minuscule as Minolta's DiMAGE X (lower right), but it's still plenty small, slipping nicely into a cargo-pants pocket and weighing in at eight ounces. The 3:1 Nikkor zoom covers a useful 38-114mm range (wider-angle, fisheye, and telephoto lens attachments are available), and its 12 preprogrammed exposure modes handle anything outside, from sunsets to caving. Or if like me you're still hands-on, adjust the exposure manually. All in all, a sweet mix of features for the money. ($440; 800-645-6689,
*Prices reflect street-price quotes from B&H Photo Videos, New York City (800.606.6969).

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