Olympus C-730 UltraZoom Review

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Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

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 number.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

Pressing the MENU/OK button brings up this menu. The Left button will toggle the extended camera and exposure information display, the Down button toggles the histogram display, the Up button starts an automated slideshow playback and the Right button will take you to the full menu.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

The full Play mode menu has options for resizing pictures to a smaller size, cropping and saving images to a smaller size, playing back voice memos attached to still images and entering the Setup menu.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

This is the play image with the INFO option enabled. It displays image quality SHQ, size 2048 x 1536, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, time, date and file folder and picture number.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

This is the play mode histogram display screen

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

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 4.0x and once the image is enlarged you can scroll around inside of it using the 4-way selector.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

Flipping the zoom control to the wideangle position enables the thumbnail index mode. You can set it up to display 4, 9 or 16 small images to quickly locate any desired image on your memory card.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

Pressing MENU/OK when the file is a movie brings up this menu of options. The INFO works the same as with still images, it will overlay the camera and exposure data on top of the movie as it is played back. The Mode Menu accesses the main camera menu and the MOVIE PLAY option takes you to the next menu once the movie clip is loaded into memory.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

While the movie is playing the running time and total time is displayed in the lower right corner of the screen. If the "info" option is enabled, this overlay data is displayed at the start of playback for a few seconds.

Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

You can edit the length of movie clips or use the INDEX option to create a 1024 x 768 image containing any sequence of nine frames from a movie file.

Steve's Conclusion

The Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom updates the 3-megapixel C-720 Ultra Zoom with a 10x optical zoom lens, dual media support (both SmartMedia and xD-Picture Card) and a host of new exposure and user-configurable features. Movie clips can now be recorded with sound and the 5-pin TTL flash connector is back so you can use the more powerful Olympus FL-40 speedlight.

The C-730UZ is a semi-compact camera with very good image quality. It's loaded with exposure options and features but can also be 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 also satisfies those needing 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 full Manual mode. If you're creative but lazy (grin), you can use one of the pre-programmed modes for Landscape, Sports, Night Scene or Portrait shots.

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-720UZ 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 11x14" 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-730UZ 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-730UZ however is not one of those, it is fairly useless in dim to dark lighting.

Things I don't like: The C-730 Ultra Zoom and -every- digital camera can greatly benefit from some type of focus assist illuminator. Earlier Olympus cameras like the C-2500L, C-2100 had one so why did it all of the sudden "go away" on newer models? Olympus used to include the RM-1 infrared remote control with most of their cameras. It wasn't included with the C-720UZ (nor was it an option) and it isn't included with the C-730UZ (at least it's now an available option.) 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 one-use 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 all too soon.

The bottom line: Excellent camera, good price, long focal length zoom, all the exposure and finished image size options you could ever want. Most importantly it has the above average image quality that we have come to expect from Olympus 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 unless using a tripod. This is due to camera shake as the "Ultra Zoom" is not stabilized like the 10x lens on the older C-2100UZ. If asked to rate the C-730UZ on a 1 to 10 scale of price to performance I would give it a solid 8.5.

Steve's Soapbox

Olympus' 10X "Ultra Zoom" cameras (C-2100UZ, E-100RS) used to have image stabilizers to prevent blurry pictures due to camera shake. A 10X zoom is great but you have to have a very steady hand or a fast shutter speed to prevent motion blurring beyond 6X. Image stabilization prevents this to a certain degree and allows the camera's powerful zoom to be used in lower light conditions without a flash. We understand that stabilized lenses cost more to make and that the digital camera world is a market driven by price, but ... please bring back a line of Ultra Zoom cameras with image stabilized lenses! Right now the C-2100UZ and E-100RS are two of the most sought after cameras on eBay and other online auction sites because of those lenses. It may not be a huge market but I'm sure you'll find that the informed buyers are willing to pay extra for these more capable cameras.

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