Want a digital camera with a real optical zoom? Not just a puny, 2X toy, but something that can bring you ten times closer to your subject?

The Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom, due to hit the shelves in the coming fortnight, has such a lens.

For £899.99 [inc.VAT], the C-2100 offers point-and-shoot simplicity with considerable control over picture quality.

Olympus makes no claim that the C-2100, with its 2.1-megapixel resolution, is intended for professionals.

So to be successful, the camera will have to find a niche with photo enthusiasts.

The first thing you notice about the C-2100 is its stabilised 7-70mm zoom lens, equivalent to a 38-380mm zoom on a 35mm film camera.

Long lenses exaggerate your hands' natural shakiness, blurring the image. The C-2100's lens uses fluid and gyroscopes to stabilise the image and reduce shakiness.

The camera also gives you more than one way to control the light level. It offers a number of metering options, from simply taking the best exposure for the overall picture to averaging the exposure from up to eight spot readings.

Or, you can tell the C-2100 what kind of scene you're photographing. If you pick a landscape, the camera will juggle its various settings to give you a tight aperture, increasing depth of focus.

The C-2100 also comes with settings for sports, night scenes, and portraits, and you can customise others.
Along similar lines, you can focus a shot automatically as you would with most point-and-shoot cameras, or manually.

The camera also enhances the viewfinder for a more accurate preview.

With most digital cameras, you can line up your shot by looking into either an optical viewfinder that only approximates the shot or an LCD that requires you to hold the camera clumsily in front of you.

The C-2100 has an electronic viewfinder, a tiny LCD with an eyepiece that shows you the actual picture plus everything else you can see on the larger, 1.8-inch LCD.

There's more. The camera has a 16MB buffer to reduce the time you have to wait between taking pictures. And if you want to shoot QuickTime movies, it has a built-in microphone, as well. Olympus debuted this video option with the C-3000 Zoom last spring.

The Olympus C-2100 is only a 2.1-megapixel camera, yet it costs more than some 3-megapixel models. Olympus is hoping that enough people will value the versatility over the resolution.