Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom Review

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Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom

Steve's Conclusion

The Camedia C-7070 Wide Zoom is the 2005 successor to the popular C-5060 Wide Zoom we tested in 2003. It retains the 5060's 4x wide-angle zoom lens with 27mm to 110mm equivalent coverage and its fully-articulating color LCD viewfinder, but increases resolution from 5.1 to 7.1-megapixels, and improves minimum aperture to F11. While the C-7070 will have its greatest appeal to the advanced photographer, beginners will be able to get good results using it as a point-n-shoot in Program AE mode and any of the several Scene modes (Landscape, Portrait, Sports, Night Scene etc.) in which the camera automatically sets the optimal shooting parameters.

The C-7070's lens is a versatile piece of glass. As implied in the moniker "Wide Zoom", Olympus favored the wide angle end of the C-7070's zoom range, providing a field of view equivalent to a 27mm lens in the 35mm film world. While this may seem like only a small numerical improvement over the 35mm wide focal length typical of most consumer digicams, the wider field-of-view provided is of great benefit for interior and landscape shooting, allowing you to capture more of the scene in cramped interiors and more expansive landscapes. The motor-driven zoom moves smoothly and quietly through its range; I counted 21 steps of movement, more than enough to precisely compose your shots.

The lens produced sharp results throughout the zoom range except when stopped down to its smallest aperture, F11, where it was noticeably soft. It had noticeable barrel distortion at full wide angle, but no detectable pin cushioning at telephoto. There was a slight amount of chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in high-contrast areas at all focal lengths in normal exposures, but overexposure will intensify CA. The lens offers two macro settings, Macro and Super Macro; Super Macro allows you to focus as close as one inch, nearly filling the frame with an object the size of a dime!

No matter what you want in the way of features this camera has got it -- from the point and shoot simplicity of Program AE (with shift) to Shutter speed priority (4 to 1/2000 seconds), Aperture priority (F2.8 to F11) or full Manual with shutter speeds as long as 15 seconds plus Bulb and as short as 1/4000 second. Exposure metering options include matrix, spot, center-weighted, and a unique multi mode that lets you take individual readings from up to 8 points to calculate the final exposure. Its accurate Autofocus system is complemented with a manual focus mode having a distance gauge and a magnified central-LCD display to aid in critical focusing. White balance options include Auto, Shade, Cloudy, Sunny, Evening, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1,2,3,4 and manual Preset, plus a White Balance Adjustment which allows you to fine-tune the setting while observing its effect on the LCD's live image.

The C-7070's all-magnesium body is identical to the C-5060, with a large finger grip providing a comfortable and stable feel in your hand. The major controls like the mode, power dial, jog control, zoom lever and shutter button are ergonomically placed and easy to operate. Major settings (flash mode, drive mode, focus mode, metering mode, exposure compensation) are accomplished via onscreen "virtual dials." You can also see these changes on the monochrome data display on the top. The Dual Control Panel setup option turns the color LCD into a useful realtime data display of exposure settings. Particularly useful is the custom My Mode options where you can preset up to four sets of custom configuration combinations of image size, quality, operational mode, lens startup position, EV compensation, flash mode, and most every other camera option available. This is a powerful feature for recalling frequently-used settings, or as a startup default when you turn the camera on.

The C-7070 Wide Zoom gives the user a wide choice of image sizes and Quality settings from 640 x 480 to 3072 x 2304 in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF. It also offers a 3:2 aspect image for "perfect" 4x6" prints with no cropping, and RAW mode at the full 3072 x 2304 size of the imager with an option to save a duplicate JPEG at any of the camera's standard resolution settings. In-camera image processing options are provided for Sharpness, Contrast, Hue and Saturation, all with settings ranging +/-5. There's also an in-camera noise reduction option available for exposures longer than 1/2 second; it worked very effectively on our long exposure test shot.

The C-7070 Wide Zoom's single image shooting performance is very good. The start-up time is 3.5 seconds from turning on the power until you capture the first image, much of that spent extending the lens into shooting position; waking the camera from its power-saving sleep mode takes about the same amount of time. Shutter delay, the elapsed time between releasing the shutter and capturing the image, measured an impressive 1/10 second when pre- focused, and averaged about 5/10 second including autofocus time for a high contrast subject; using the LCD viewfinder adds about 1/10 second to the delay. The shot to shot time measured 1.7 seconds each for up 4 shots, then about 3 seconds between subsequent shots while the camera's buffer emptied. Flash recycle time was average, ranging between 2 and 6 seconds depending on subject distance.

The C-7070 offers three sequential shooting modes: HI, normal and AF. In HI mode, I was able to capture 2 images in 1/2 second, followed by a four-second delay before the next shot cold be taken; the LCD viewfinder went blank during this image capture sequence. In normal Sequential mode, the C-7070 captured 4 shots in 2.6 seconds, with additional shots taken at about 2 second intervals and buffer clearing taking nearly 6 seconds; the LCD viewfinder froze on the most recently captured image in this mode. In Sequential AF mode, the C-7070 refocuses for each image, slowing-down the capture rate to 4 shots in 4.5 seconds, with the LCD viewfinder showing the live image briefly between shots. You'll prefer to use the small but useful optical viewfinder during sequential image capture so you can follow the action while you shoot; this is not a good option, however, when you are using a conversion lens as the optical viewfinder is partially blocked and its image is inaccurate when conversion lenses are attached. These timings were obtained using a fast SanDisk Extreme III 1-gigabyte CF memory card, with SHQ size/quality and flash off. The C-7070's capture rate using xD memory is the same as when using CF, but the the time to flush a buffer full of SHQ JPEG's nearly doubles to about 11 seconds.

Things slow down considerably when shooting RAW or TIFF images. Shot-to-shot without flash captured images to CF memory at intervals of 6 seconds for RAW and 8 seconds for TIFF. Using xD memory slowed things a bit more, with intervals of 10 seconds for RAW and 16 seconds for TIFF. Continuous shooting is limited to Hi for RAW images; it captured 2 images in 1/2 second, but buffer clearing took a leisurely 11 seconds with CF memory, and 19 seconds with xD. Continuous shooting of TIFF images is not possible.

The C-7070 performed well indoors. The combination of a powerful (by consumer digicam standards) flash and 27mm wide angle zoom will allow you to capture large group portraits and obtain good flash exposures of moderate size rooms, while the generous field of view will give you flexibility in composing shots in small interior spaces. Flash shots were well exposed and had good color balance, while its red-eye reduction mode proved effective. The C-7070 controlled its flash well at close range; as a result, it would be a good choice for taking images of small objects for your online auction listings. The C-7070 is equipped with a focus-assist lamp, allowing the camera to autofocus on high contrast subjects even in complete darkness; the focus assist lamp was of little benefit on low contrast subjects or with the zoom lens in its telephoto range. The LCD intensify's its viewfinder image in dim lighting, helping your shot composition effort. The C-7070 is also equipped with a hot shoe if you need more flash power or to take flash exposures using a conversion lens.

The C-7070 also performed well outdoors. Images were consistently well-exposed and richly- saturated. The range of the zoom lens provides plenty of flexibility in shot composition, with the wide-angle 27mm focal length providing extra field of view for landscapes. The LCD viewfinder has a brightness adjustment, allowing it to be used even on the brightest of days, but it has no anti-glare coating to prevent the reflection of direct sunlight. The LCD is fully articulating, allowing you to shoot at waist-level, overhead, or even from in front of the lens for a self-portrait. It's also great for doing tabletop macro shots. With the C-7070's flash set to Auto, it will fire automatically when the camera determines that the subject is backlit. I found that the flash sometimes fired on outdoor landscape shots that had relatively dark areas in the center of the frame; I suggest that you disable the flash in such conditions.

Image Playback mode was versatile but slow. Images can optionally be viewed with superimposed exposure information, a histogram, or plain with areas of under and overexposure highlighted. The C-7070's index display is configurable for 4, 9, or 16 images. A Playback zoom will enlarge the image up to 7 times, allowing you to field check critical focus. Still images can be rotated, resized or cropped in-camera, and a red eye fix can be applied, although the C-7070's red eye reduction flash mode eliminates red eye in most cases. Movies can also be edited, extracting 9 frames and storing them as a still picture, or reducing the clip length by selecting new beginning and ending frames. Playback of still images was slow, taking about 2 seconds to display an SHQ JPEG, 5 seconds for a TIFF, and 7 seconds for RAW.

The C-7070's powerful flash, motorized zoom and bright LCD can consume a lot of power, so Olympus equipped it with a sizable 7.2-volt, 1500mAh Lithium Ion battery of a proprietary design. I was able to capture about 500 images before its capacity was exhausted, and that included a lot of time using the LCD to test and explore the camera's menu system. The battery took about 4 hours to recharge from an empty condition using the included BCM-2 charger; as usual, I recommend that you obtain a second BLM-1 battery and keep it charged, avoiding the disappointment of discovering a dead battery during a special photo op.

In addition to the still image modes the C-7070 can also record 640x480 and 320x240 resolution QuickTime movies at 15 or 30fps with sound. Movie recording time is limited to 20 seconds for 640x480 30fps clips, but only by the amount of available memory at 15fps and 320x240. The movies are sharp and clear but both the optical zoom and full-time AF are disabled during recording when the audio is enabled, preventing the noise of lens movement from being recorded; the optical zoom can be used to compose the movie before recording starts. You'll need a large memory card if you intend to record movies at 640x480 and 30fps; our test movies consumed about 1.5 megabytes of memory per second of moving image.

With a high resolution 7.1-megapixel imager, a 4x zoom lens with wide field of view, an all-magnesium body, a choice of CF or xD memory cards and exposure options galore, the Olympus Camedia C-7070 Wide Zoom presents an impressive resume. Its excellent image quality will please the most demanding users, but its limited depth of continuous shooting, and relatively slow image playback may disappoint those who value responsiveness. It's a perfect camera for those just starting out that want the best possible camera to "grow into" later as their photographic talents expand. With all of its advanced features and controls the C-7070 Wide Zoom is still very easy to use for the novice too. The bottom line as always is the image quality and this camera delivers sharp, well saturated and true to life color images consistently. Olympus has produced another winner with the Camedia C-7070 Wide Zoom, and with a street price of under $600 (as of April 2005), it's a very good value, perfect for capturing memories of your summer vacation.

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Want a second opinion?

DC Resource's C-7070 review

Imaging Resource's C-7070 review

LetsGoDigital's C-7070 review

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