Olympus C-770 UltraZoom Review
Building on the success of the popular Olympus C-750UZ, the Olympus CAMEDIA C-770 Ultra Zoom is a compact, yet highly durable camera that can fit easily into any size handbag. It shares most of its features with the sibling, the Olympus C-765UZ, including the 4-megapixel imager and TruePic TURBO image processor, which improves image quality and delivers faster overall processing speeds. The C-770UZ improves on the C-765UZ with its all metal body, larger image buffer, hot shoe for external flash equipment, a built-in speaker for audio playback, and the ability to record MPEG4 movies at 640 x 480 and 30 frames per second. In automatic exposure mode, the C-770 operates as a simple point-n-shoot, but with a big difference - its powerful zoom lens. Intermediate photographers will enjoy the C-770's scene modes, and those with experience will benefit from manual, aperture-priority and shutter-priority exposure modes. It's a camera that will satisfy every skill level in your family.
The C-770's most dominant feature is its powerful 10X 38-380mm (35mm equivalent) Ultra Zoom lens. The versatile zoom range provides enough field of view at wide angle for landscape and interior shooting, while the magnification at full telephoto will bring your distant subjects closer, much closer. Sports and nature photographers will appreciate the relatively wide f/3.7 aperture at full 380mm telephoto, enabling them to shoot at high enough shutter speeds to stop action and minimize camera shake. Despite its wide range, the lens produces only slight barrel distortion at full wide angle, diminishing to near zero at the telephoto end. Chromatic aberration is also well controlled, with only a slight amount of purple fringing present throughout the zoom range. As versatile as the C-770 lens is, there are some photographers who always want more. Olympus does not disappoint them, offering WCON-0.7X Wide and TCON-1.7X Telephoto conversion lenses that combine with the C-770 to offer an astonishing 27-646mm zoom range (the conversion lenses were not tested).
Like most consumer digicams with big zoom lenses, the C-770UZ has no optical viewfinder. Instead, it's equipped with an Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) that can be used to compose and review shots as well as operate the camera's menu system; it is equally functional to the C-770's LCD monitor. The EVF is quite resolute and easy to use, and offers several advantages over optical viewfinders, including intensifying the live image of subjects in dim lighting conditions, and the ability to overlay shooting information and histogram on the live image. The C-770's EVF won't be mistaken for an optical viewfinder however; it suffers the same shortcomings as most EVF's by introducing a slight delay (1/10 second or less) in the live image, and momentarily freezing during autofocus. I was satisfied with the C-770's compromise EVF/big-zoom solution, using the EVF as the primary viewfinder while shooting, and the LCD for reviewing shots and operating the menu system.
Like its sibling the C-765UZ, the C-770's overall image quality in SHQ 2288x1712 is very good. The vast majority of the shots that I took were properly exposed, well saturated and the white balance was on the money. The Olympus exposure system works very well on this camera as it does on most all of the Olympus cameras we have reviewed to date. You will have no problem printing excellent photo- quality 8x10-inch prints from the 4 megapixel SHQ images.
Indoor shooting benefited from the C-770's strong flash; it seemed to have more range than Olympus' claim of 14.8 feet. While its flash is powerful, the C-770UZ was quite effective at squelching it at close range, making it useful for macro photography. It's red-eye reduction mode was effective, producing portraits with pleasing skin tones and without red eyes. The minimum wide angle focal length of 38mm can be limiting while shooting in cramped quarters, but the WCON-0.7X Wide converter lens will extend that to 27mm if you need it. For shooting in larger interiors, an external flash such as the Olympus FL-20 can be attached to the C-770UZ's hot shoe to shed more light on the subject.
The C-770UZ's shooting performance is good, with a shutter lag of 2/10 second when pre-focused and 8/10 second including autofocus (in average lighting.) Rapid shooting in single shot mode produced an image every 2.3 seconds without flash, and between 2.5 and 7 seconds with flash (depending on subject distance). The C-770UZ features three sequential shooting modes (Normal, High, AF). Sequential drive mode recorded 9 shots in 5.5 seconds, High Speed Sequential mode captured 5 frames in 1.8 seconds, and AF Sequential mode captured 10 shots in 9.3 seconds (slower because the C-770UZ refocused between shots). The C-770UZ's viewfinders, both EVF and LCD, go blank as an image is captured, limiting your ability to follow a moving subject in any continuous shooting mode. While I was satisfied with the C-770UZ's shooting performance, its power-on time was disappointing; it took about 7 seconds from power-on till the first shot was captured. Waking it from the power-saving sleep mode fared only slightly better, taking just under 6 seconds to capture an image. The C-770UZ is not a camera to rely on for capturing those unposed spontaneous moments. All tests were done in SHQ/2816x2112 quality, using a Olympus 512MB xD-Picture card. Times may vary and are dependent on lighting conditions, media, etc.
The C-770UZ's movie modes are nearly as versatile as its lens. With recording time limited only by the amount of available memory, the C-770UZ offers you a choice of 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 Quick Time formats at 15 frames per second, and a compressed 640 x 480 MPEG4 format at 30 fps, all with (or without) sound. Like most consumer digicams, the optical zoom feature is disabled during movie recording to prevent the recording of unwanted sounds. But the C-770UZ also allows you to attach an external microphone, disabling the internal microphone and allowing the operation of the zoom during recording. The movie quality in MPEG4 mode was quite noticeably lower than SHQ 640 x 480 mode, but with a memory saving of over 50%. MPEG4 mode was flawed, however, by a noticeable delay in the audio playback.
Overall, the Olympus C-770UZ is an excellent camera. With its stylish and ergonomic body, excellent image quality, and versatile exposure modes, every member of your family will enjoy using it. Its big zoom lens adds to the fun factor, enabling you to capture nicely composed images of subjects that wouldn't be prominent using a 3x zoom. With a street price of about $599, the Olympus CAMEDIA C-770 Ultra Zoom is a worthy competitor in the big zoom consumer digicam market. If you like the C-770UZ but your budget is a bit tight, consider its sibling, the Olympus C-750UZ; it offers many of the same features for about $100 less.
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