Olympus C-720 UltraZoom Review
By Movable Type Admin
Playback Screens & Menus
When you switch to Play mode the last picture captured is displayed full screen with
minimal information overlayed, the image quality SHQ, the time and date and picture
When an image is played back in full screen mode you can go into zoomed playback mode
by pressing the zoom control to the telephoto position. There are several magnification
values from 1.1x to 3.0x and once the image is enlarged you can scroll around inside
of it using the 4-way selector.
You can play the movie clip back at realtime or frame by frame.
Olympus continues their line of UltraZoom cameras with the 8x optical zoom Camedia C-720 UltraZoom. Last year (2001) Olympus released the 2-megapixel 10x C-700UZ which was $200 less expensive than its predecessor the C-2100UZ. The C-2100UZ and the E-100RS were fitted with stabilized 10x zoom lenses, the C-700UZ and the C-720UZ do not have stabilized lenses. For 2002 Olympus has upgraded the imager to 3-megapixels but shortened the focal length to 8x. The C-720UZ sells for the same $599 price as the C-700UZ sold for last year.
The C-720UZ is a fairly compact camera with good image quality. It's loaded with real camera features but can be easily used by those just starting out in photography. The AUTO mode turns the camera into a simple point and shoot which allows anyone to use it regardless of their experience level. It will also satisfy those wanting more control of the image capturing process. When you feel the creative urge just turn the Mode Dial to the Shutter-speed, Aperture priority or Manual mode. If you're creative but lazy (grin) you can use the pre-programmed Landscape, Sports or Portrait modes.
The overall image quality is quite good but it does exhibit problems with chromatic abberation (purple fringing) of objects with strong backlighting. It's also a problem with the C-2100UZ and C-700UZ as well and seems to be hard to eliminate when coupling a CCD imager to a long telephoto zoom lens. The vast majority of the shots that I took were properly exposed, well saturated and the white balance was right on the money. The Olympus exposure system works very well on this camera as it does on all of the Olympus cameras we have reviewed to date. You will have no problem printing excellent photo-quality prints up to 8x10" from the 3-megapixel images. Another strong point is the quality of indoor flash pictures, Olympus excells at this task. Pictures of people look very natural and I noticed no occurence of red-eye even though I never used the red-eye reduction mode of the flash. The flash also "throttles down" well for macro closeup photos.
The C-720UZ uses an EVF (electronic viewfinder) instead of an optical viewfinder and this has both positive and negative aspects. On the positive - it gives you a real "through the lens" view so even macro shots are framed properly. As well as seeing your subject in the viewfinder it's also possible to overlay camera and exposure data on the screen. The EVF is simply a tiny color LCD screen so anything that can be shown on the big color LCD can also be shown on the EVF. This includes accessing the menu system as well as all the playback features. The negative side of EVF vewfinders is that they tend to be poor to useless in dim or very low-light situations. Some EVF displays can "gain up" to allow their use in these conditions, the C-720UZ however is not one of those, it is fairly useless in dim to dark lighting.
Things I don't like: Olympus used to include the RM-1 infrared remote control with most of their cameras. It was not included with the C-700UZ nor is it included with the C-720UZ and it's not an option either, both cameras lack the infrared sensor to make use of it. The remote is not only handy for self-portraits and macro shots, it's also extremely useful when playing images back on the TV set (from across the room in your easy chair.) Olympus includes the CR-V3 lithium batteries with their cameras instead of rechargeable NiMH batteries. The CR-V3 batteries are a better choice than alkalines but they still end up in the landfill. The C-700UZ records sound in movie mode, sound recording was left out of the C-720UZ altogether. In my conclusion of the C-700UZ I pleaded with Olympus to include a standard PC flash sync connector. Well, I didn't get that, in fact, they did away with the external flash connector altogether.
The bottom line: Excellent camera, good price, long focal length 8x zoom lens and the usual Olympus image quality that we have come to expect from their cameras. The overall color balance, saturation and sharpness is excellent. Some users will no doubt end up with blurry pictures occassionally when zoomed all the way out due to camera shake as this long focal length zoom is not stabilized like the 10x lens on the C-2100UZ. If I was asked to rate the C-720UZ on a 1 to 10 scale of price to performance I would give it a solid 8.
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