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Olympus C-7000 Wide Zoom

Seven megapixels, 5x zoom, great pictures, a ton of features, and great build quality - A real winner!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/26/04

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-7000 Zoom's "pictures" page.

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As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the C-7000 Zoom's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Excellent color - Pleasing and natural, proper saturation. Good to excellent white balance performance. The C-7000 Zoom did an excellent job with color, producing pleasing, natural results with good saturation. Colors were accurate and fairly well saturated (if just a hint dark) in the "Sunlit" Portrait, with good skin tones. The blue flowers, which are often so problematic for digicams, came out almost exactly right, with just a hint more purple than in real life. The C-7000 Zoom's white balance system also did a great job, handling the strongly-colored household incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait test very well with Auto, Incandescent, and Manual settings, although the Auto option left a little more color in the image than I personally prefer. The MacBeth(tm) chart in Davebox target looked good as well, although it revealed a tendency to shift cyan colors toward blue. Color saturation was overall more accurate than that of most cameras I test, with reds held more in check than they usually are, and most other colors almost dead-on. (As noted though, there was some hue shift in cyans, and the bright yellow swatch was a little undersaturated.) Overall, a very nice job.

  • Exposure: Average to better than average exposure accuracy, excellent tone control. The C-7000 Zoom's exposure system performed well, requiring only average amounts of exposure compensation on shots that usually need it, and never producing a significant exposure error. Like most consumer digicams, the C-7000's default tone curve is rather contrasty, but its contrast adjustment control provides an unusually wide range of adjustment, in nice, fine steps. As a result, the camera did an excellent job handling the deliberately awful lighting of the "Sunlit" Portrait test with ease. Shadow detail was typically strong, and contrast neither too high or too low. Bottom line, an excellent ability to capture excellent images under a wide range of lighting conditions.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very high resolution, 1,500 lines of "strong detail." The C-7000 Zoom performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 1,100 lines per picture height horizontally (almost 1,200 really), and about 1,000 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,500 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,800 - 1,900 lines. Looking at the results from Imatest, the "MTF 50" numbers tend to correlate best with visual perceptions of sharpness, so those are what I focus on here. The uncorrected resolution figures are 1301 line widths per picture height in the horizontal direction (corresponding to the vertically-oriented edge), and 1285 along the vertical axis (corresponding to the horizontally-oriented edge), for a combined average of 1293 LW/PH. Correcting to a "standardized" sharpening with a one-pixel radius increases these numbers a fair bit, to an average of 1583 LW/PH, an excellent number.

  • Image Noise: Very good noise performance. Noise was very low in the C-7000 Zoom's images, and it had an unusually fine-grained pattern, which made it less objectionable than it would have been otherwise. The camera also did a very good job at trading off minimal detail in areas of subtle contrast to control the noise: There was very little of the blotchy "watercolor effect" that many cameras display as a result of their anti-noise processing. Even at ISOs 200 and 400, the noise level was really only moderately high, and didn't interfere with detail definition. (Unlike a majority of consumer digicams these days, I'd consider the C-7000 to be entirely usable at ISO 400.)

  • Closeups: Great performance in Super macro mode, about average results in standard mode. Flash throttles down, but the lens casts a shadow. The C-7000 Zoom turned in about an average performance in the macro category with its normal macro mode, capturing a minimum area of 3.27 x 2.45 inches (83 x 62millimeters). However, in Super Macro mode, the camera captured a very tiny minimum area measuring 1.17 x 0.88 inches (30 x 22 millimeters). Resolution was very high in both shots, with excellent fine detail. (Although the dollar bill was blurred in the larger frame because the camera likely judged focus from the coins and brooch.) Details were soft in the corners of both images, but sharp in the center. (Most digicams I test show a lot of softness in the corners of the frame in their macro modes.) The C-7000 Zoom's flash had a little trouble here, as it was partially blocked by the camera's lens. However, the flash did manage to throttle down for the normal macro area. The flash is (understandably) disabled in the super macro mode, so plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots.

  • Night Shots: Good low-light performance, with good color and comparatively low image noise. Good low-light autofocus performance too. (Easily able to handle lighting 1/4 the brightness of typical city night scenes.) The C-7000 Zoom produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at both the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux), and images captured at ISO 80 were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux), though you could arguably use the image taken at 1/8 foot-candle. Color is good with the Auto white balance setting, though a slight warm cast increases in dimmer shots. Noise is comparatively low here. Even at ISO 400, image noise is only moderate, better than most digicams on the market. The camera's Noise Reduction option doesn't really have a very strong effect on noise, as shots taken with and without it enabled are very similar. (This is actually to the camera/sensor's credit: The level of "hot pixels" is amazingly low with no noise reduction, so there's not an awful lot for the noise reduction to do when it's turned on.) The C-7000 also focuses well under dim lighting, able to focus at light levels a bit below 1/4 foot-candle without its AF illuminator, and in complete darkness with the illuminator enabled.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A very tight optical viewfinder, but an accurate LCD monitor. The C-7000 Zoom's optical viewfinder proved very tight, showing only about 77 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and only 81 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor performed much better, showing about 99 percent frame accuracy at both zoom settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-7000 Zoom's LCD monitor is essentially perfect in this regard, but the optical viewfinder could really use some help. (It's one of the few weak points in an otherwise excellent camera.)

  • Optical Distortion: Higher than average barrel distortion, low pincushion. Moderate chromatic aberration, good corner to corner sharpness. Optical distortion on the C-7000 Zoom was pretty high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.3 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I measured approximately 0.2 percent pincushion distortion there. Chromatic aberration was excellent to moderate, showing about three to five pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines at wide angle, but virtually none at telephoto focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) Sharpness was very good from corner to corner at normal and wide angle focal lengths. At the telephoto end of the lens' range, some softness appeared in the corners, but fortunately didn't extend very far into the frame.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Excellent shutter response, good cycle times. With full-autofocus shutter lag times of 0.53-0.54 second and prefocus lag of only 0.157 second, the C-7000' is a good bit more responsive to the shutter button than are most cameras I test. Cycle times are good if not amazing, at roughly two seconds per frame, for up to four shots. Continuous-mode speed is excellent, at 0.38 second/frame or 2.6 frames/second in continuous-high mode, but the only for bursts of two shots at a time.

  • Battery Life: Pretty good battery life. With a worst-case run time of 109 minutes in capture mode with the LCD illuminated, the C-7000 has good battery life for a relatively compact model, but I still highly recommend purchasing a second battery right along with the camera itself. Battery life is a bit better with the LCD turned off (144 minutes), but the C-7000's optical viewfinder is so inaccurate that you'll probably spend most of the time with the LCD turned on.

 

Conclusion

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The C-7000 Zoom carries on the "high value" tradition established by the previous "C" series models, offering a very strong feature set at a very affordable price. The C-7000 Zoom offers all the features most "enthusiast" users crave (with the sole possible exception of an external flash sync connector), including a full range of exposure control, extensive creative controls for tweaking image parameters like contrast and saturation, and fine-tuning for white balance and flash power. The camera is small, and has a quality feel, with tight controls and a nice heft. In addition, the C-7000 Zoom accommodates less photo-savvy users with a range of preset scene modes, auto exposure options, and a Redeye Fix option for eliminating redeye in portraits. An excellent value for the enthusiast on a budget, this would also be an ideal camera for consumers wanting to gradually learn more about digital photography with a camera that has room to grow into. All in all, just an excellent camera, one of the best Olympus has yet made. (In my humble opinion, anyway.) Highly recommended, and definitely a Dave's Pick.

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