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Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom

The Olympus C-7070 offers a nice range of "enthusiast" features in a capable and affordable 7-megapixel camera.

Review First Posted: 03/01/2005, Updated: 04/27/2005




MSRP $799 US

 

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7.1-megapixel sensor, delivering 3,072 x 2,304-pixel images
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Super wide angle lens, with 4x optical zoom, equivalent to a 27-110mm lens on a 35mm camera
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New Camera Movement Compensation function prevents blurring in Movie mode.
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Tilt-swivel LCD monitor now swivels a full 270 degrees, can be viewed from the front.
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Accepts xD-Picture Card and CompactFlash memory card formats


Olympus C7070 Manufacturer Overview

The Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom digital camera is the latest in a long line of Olympus Camedia models stretching back to the earliest days of the consumer digital camera industry. Olympus is one of the big players in the digital camera marketplace, with a current product line that ranges from bare-bones entry level models like the D-390 to their "from the ground up" all-digital SLRs, the E-1 and the new 8 megapixel E-300 EVOLT. Since bringing their product manufacture mostly back in-house in 2004, we've seen quality, design, and utility improve significantly.

The Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom represents a slightly pared-down version of the previous C8080 Wide Zoom model, with a slightly smaller zoom range, slightly lower-resolution CCD, and less external control. (Or alternately, the Olympus C7070 could be viewed as a follow-on and upgrade to the previous C5060 model, as its features are perhaps more closely aligned with that predecessor.) The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom features a 4x wide-angle zoom lens reaching to 27mm (among the widest in the consumer digital camera market), a 7.41-megapixel CCD, an update to the C8080's improved user interface, and the same phase-detection autofocus system using an external phase-detect sensor for faster autofocus performance. Pair these features with excellent exposure, color, creative control, and a return to an optical viewfinder, and the Olympus 7070 a very capable camera for just about any shooting situation. An optional underwater housing is also available for the Olympus C7070, for use with the camera's two preset underwater Scene modes, so it can literally go just about anywhere.

 

Olympus C-7070 High Points

 

User Report

With its solid build and wide angle lens, the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom is evidence of two trends. One is that camera manufacturers have heard the market and are more frequently responding with wide angle lenses in their top offerings, instead of continuing the race to add more digits before the big red "X" that indicates zoom factor. The Olympus C7070 has a 27 to 110mm equivalent lens that allows the kind of photography we're no longer used to seeing in most cameras: Wide shots that can pull in more detail from a scene and give your eyes more to explore afterward. In fact, this lens is wide enough that you'll want to remember to zoom in toward 50mm for normal snapshots. The other trend of note is that Olympus still builds a rugged, refined camera for the more serious shooter willing to spend $700 for expandability and utility in a relatively small package.

The first thing I notice when I pick up the Olympus C7070 is the grip. I'm accustomed to bigger, SLR-style grips in cameras of this size, so my first inclination was that this grip was inadequate. Having used it for a week, however, I've come to think that it's perhaps one of the best grips I've used in a camera like this. Its rubbery surface increases the power of its soft curve. Because the grip is mostly used by your three bottom fingers, the camera twists away somewhat, but it doesn't go out of control; instead it rests easily in your palm. They've managed to make a small grip effective through subtle design features. Your thumb has a nice resting place that is recessed left of the Mode and Command dials, completing your hand's ability to quite naturally hold this camera without much muscle effort. In fact, if you let your hand take a natural open resting position, it will generally match the contours of the C7070.

Thankfully, Olympus has ditched the pull-out screen of the otherwise excellent C-8080 design in favor of the more popular and useful 180/270 swivel design. In order to avoid the big hinge on the left, though, they've mounted a big hinge on the top. It's different, but has generally the same effect. They may actually have an advantage with this design. Whereas you have to swing left-mounted LCDs out to see the screen from above, with the Olympus C-7070's screen, you just pull it up from the back and you're ready to shoot from a low vantage point, which can be great for more poignant photography of children.

The optical viewfinder is between the two hinges that hold the LCD, and offers only reasonable utility with glasses -- I had to press them up against the soft rubber guard to see the full frame. If I take my glasses off, however, I can quickly dial the diopter in to my vision. (My 20/180 vision seems to be about the limit of the 7070's dioptric adjustment.) Using the optical viewfinder, I find that the C7070's flat back makes getting my eye right into that viewfinder quite easy, and the taper on the left side even leaves room for my nose to slide comfortably alongside this relatively narrow digicam.

As has been the case with feature-rich Olympus cameras since the early 1990's, I continue to find the interface frustrating at times. It has gotten much better in the last few years, and I'd say that with a little experience, the Olympus C7070 is very usable. Too often, though, I find myself staring blankly at the back of the camera trying to remember where things like the AF mode adjustment is. For some strange reason, it's a very small button sliding off the left slope on the top of the camera. Okay, so it's closer to the lens, where the focusing takes place, but I've become accustomed to manufacturers putting buttons where I more commonly look these days, which is on the back panel. The two buttons up there on that distant slope would have easily fit on the left taper with the Exposure Compensation and Flash buttons. Still, that's a minor complaint. The Olympus C-7070 is far more usable than something like an E-10.

Olympus has also included several ways to easily customize your camera, with a Custom button and a My Mode system for quickly changing an array of settings with ease. I also appreciate the easy and well marked method of resetting the camera to factory default settings. Just hold down the Self Timer/Remote and Custom buttons on the camera's top panel simultaneously for a few seconds, and the camera resets.

The power switch is oddly placed, with a knurl on the right side of the Mode dial. This is the same basic placement on the E-300 EVOLT, where it didn't give me much trouble at all, but the ergonomics of that camera are very different. There's no easy way to flip this switch on or off with the camera held in your right hand. I suppose they didn't want the user to accidentally switch the camera off while going for the Command dial, but I found the arrangement mildly annoying. The camera does seem to conserve battery power admirably, however, shutting down most functions while remaining available, keeping the lens out and waking from sleep in about three seconds.

The motor is a little loud when the lens deploys and zooms, making the usual soft clicky sounds when focusing. Its dual Phase Detection and Contrast Detection AF system works very quickly in reasonable lighting conditions, but slows down quite a bit in low light when zoomed to telephoto focal lengths, though it most often succeeds in achieving focus eventually.

I love that Olympus included both xD and CF Type I and II compatibility in the C7070 Wide Zoom. This not only increases capacity, but allows an easy migration for different types of users. Those stepping up from a lower-end Olympus or Fuji camera can still use their old xD cards, and those interested in exploring the Olympus C-7070 as a wide angle addition to their pro system can use their existing CF cards. If you have both types of cards, go ahead and load up both cards so you can keep shooting longer, swapping one or the other card out when time allows. Switching between them is done very quickly with the press of a button. Which card is in use is displayed onscreen so long as information display has not been canceled; even then, it is also found on the status LCD on the camera's top panel.

Like many cameras in this prosumer range, the Olympus C-7070's flash and optical capabilities are expandable via an accessory lens screw mount and hot shoe. We didn't receive any of these items to test, but I can see that the lenses are mounted via a permanent threaded metal bezel around the front of the lens. I prefer this method to the removable ring approach, because you don't have to worry about where you put the ring while you're using the accessory lens. Then again, the hot shoe has a removable protector that you do have to worry about losing. Removing it reveals the set of three extra contact pads that let the Olympus C7070 control the company's dedicated flash units.

A feature missing from the E-300 EVOLT digital SLR is found here in the Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom: a battery retention latch to keep the big expensive battery from falling free when you open the main battery door. Dropping these $50 babies usually results in their death, so any extra effort on the part of the manufacturer to minimize this possibility is appreciated.

What stands out to me most about the Olympus C7070 is that wide angle lens. I was very often surprised with the nice, all-inclusive shots I could get with it. Though it's not quite as powerful, it reminds me of the power I used to feel with my old OM-1 film SLR and its 24mm lens. The wide angle end of photography has been too long ignored by the digital camera manufacturers, and our pictures have suffered as a result. With cameras like the Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom, we're free again to explore and capture more of our world in a single frame than the standard 35mm "wide" setting usually allows. Those seeking to broaden their vision with an expandable 7 megapixel camera would do well to add the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom to their list.

 

Design

Keeping to a similar look and feel that distinguished previous Olympus digital cameras, the Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom has a fairly compact body hosting a generous allotment of external controls and a multi-angle LCD monitor that tilts and swivels. The C7070's all-black body is something of a cross between the styling of a traditional SLR body and that of a rangefinder camera, with a tallish profile 4.6 x 3.4 x 2.6 inches (116 x 87 x 66 millimeters) and weighing a solid 17.7 ounces (502 grams) with battery, CF, and xD-Picture card loaded.

The C7070 Wide Zoom looks and feels quite similar to a small film-based SLR camera, and is substantial enough for a good hold, though I prefer a far deeper cut on the inside of the handgrip than the C7070 offers. It is probably too large to slide into a purse or coat pocket when you're done shooting, so you'll likely want to purchase a small camera bag - although the included neckstrap lets you keep the camera at the ready for those spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. The C7070 has a very pleasing heft to it - not too heavy, but conveying an impression of solidity and ruggedness (there's no noticeable "give" or flexing to any of its body panels).

The lens extends about one inch (26mm) from the front bezel, depending on the zoom position, when the camera is powered on in either Still Shooting (Record) or Movie capture modes. The front lens element is protected by a plastic lens cap that gently press-fits onto the front of the lens, and attaches to the camera with the supplied tether strap.

From the front of the camera, the edge of the zoom lever (upper left corner) is visible, as well as the self-timer / remote control lamp, AF illuminator, AF sensor, flash, microphone, and the remote control receiver. The inside lip of the lens barrel has a set of threads that accepts an optional lens adapter tube for attaching auxiliary lenses to the camera. (Wide angle, telephoto, and macro auxiliary lenses are available.)

The camera's rear panel layout, while being rather packed with controls and features, is logically designed. Most of the control buttons are positioned within easy reach while holding the camera with a stable grip. A 1.8-inch LCD color monitor dominates the rear of the camera, and lifts up from rear panel 180 degrees. Once pulled out from the body 45 degrees, the LCD panel can swivel another 270 degrees on a horizontal pivot. Thus, you can swivel the panel around and close it facing the rear panel, to protect it from incidental scratches. The Five-Way Arrow Pad is right of the display, with the OK button in the center. Below it is the CF / xD button, for selecting the memory card being used. The Display / Info button is directly above, with the Quick View and AE Lock / Erase buttons above and to the left. A small Command dial is at the top of the right side, for making changes in conjunction with the external control buttons, while the edges of the Mode and Power dials can be seen directly above. On the left side of the LCD monitor, on a beveled body facet, are the Flash Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons. (Pressing both simultaneously adjusts the flash exposure.) A red LED adjacent to the memory card door lets you know when the camera is writing to one of the memory cards. A diopter adjustment for the optical viewfinder is on the right of the eyepiece.

The large black hand grip, which houses both the battery and memory card compartments, makes up the right side of the camera. It is sculpted to fit comfortably in your hand, with a slightly concave finger hold on the rubberized, textured front and a smoothly contoured thumb grip on the back. The hinged, plastic door of the memory card compartment opens from the back. Inside the compartment are two slots, one that accommodates Compact Flash Type I and II cards, and another that holds xD-Picture Cards. Right above the compartment door is one of two neck strap eyelets, with the second one counterbalancing it on the left side of the camera.

On the left side of the camera are the second neckstrap eyelet, speaker, and connector compartments. The top compartment holds the A/V Out and USB jacks, while the lower compartment holds the DC-In port. Both compartments are covered by thick, flexible, rubbery flaps that remain tethered to the camera body when opened. Also visible on a beveled body facet, are the Flash Mode and Exposure Compensation buttons which were described previously.

At the far left on the top of the camera are the AF / Macro / MF and Metering Mode / Protect buttons, which angle down toward the neck strap eyelet. To the right is the external flash hot shoe, which is compatible with either generic "dumb" flash units, or Olympus' own dedicated strobes. The remaining controls, clustered on the right hand side of the camera's top, are the Shutter button, Zoom lever, Self-Timer / Remote Control / Rotate button, Custom / DPOF button, and the Mode and Power dials. The top panel also features a small status display panel.

The bottom of the camera holds the battery compartment cover and a metal screw-mount tripod socket that's too close to the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. One way around this is to use the optional AC adapter, handy for time-consuming projects, such as working in the studio or downloading images to the computer. Fortunately, the location of the flash card door on the right hand rear of the camera means that if you're on AC power, the camera needn't be removed from the tripod to offload images when your flash card is full. The good news about the tripod socket is that it's metal, and located about as close to the camera's center of gravity as possible. Both factors make for long life. The downside of the tripod socket location is that it's not particularly close to the optical center of the lens, as needed when shooting multiple images to be assembled into a panorama. (This probably isn't too big an issue though, as the optical center of the lens is actually near the end of the body-mounted lens collar anyway. This means you'd need to use a panorama head with the camera even if the tripod socket were directly centered under the lens cylinder.)

 

 

Viewfinder

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom offers both an optical viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, 130,000 pixel, "Sunshine" TFT color LCD screen. The optical viewfinder accommodates eyeglass wearers with a diopter correction adjustment and a very high eyepoint. A set of central black autofocus brackets is the only feature in the viewfinder display, outlining the center AF and metering points.

As described earlier, the Olympus 7070's LCD monitor pulls out from the back panel and tilts upward 180 degrees, where it can then swivel 270 degrees to face almost any angle. (This means you can "close" the LCD by turning it toward the rear of the camera and folding it down, protecting it from dust and scratches, good for protecting the screen while the camera is in a bag.)


A detailed information overlay reports a number of exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the LCD screen, and the image resolution and quality settings plus the selected destination (CompactFlash or xD-Picture card) for new images. When first entering a record mode, a more detailed information display appears for a few seconds, showing the image attributes (contrast, sharpness, and saturation), flash exposure compensation, ISO, flash mode, drive mode, and focus mode settings. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value changes whenever the Shutter button is half pressed (based on exposure compensation and changing light levels). The Manual mode displays both the selected f/stop and shutter speed values (adjustable with the left / right and up / down Arrow buttons, respectively), while the exposure compensation value is reported in the upper right corner, showing the amount of over- or underexposure. The exposure values flash red when the camera disagrees with the setting.

You can opt to use the LCD monitor as a control panel only, thus using the optical viewfinder for image composition, through a Setup menu option titled "Dual Control Panel." If activated, this function displays all of the exposure settings in the LCD monitor, and only shows the image area in Macro mode, or when digital zoom is used.

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom's LCD monitor also offers a live histogram display with a couple of unusual options first seen on the C-5060 in record mode, helpful in determining any over- or underexposure, and for analyzing the tonal distribution in your images. Histogram displays are generally very useful for determining whether your overall exposure is over or under, but are less helpful in telling when you have small parts of the image that are outside the acceptable exposure range. This is because a small portion of the image represents relatively few pixels, and so won't produce a large (or even visible) spike on the histogram graph. To counter this, Olympus has added two innovative options to the C7070's histogram function. The first of these introduces a small rectangle that you can scroll around the frame, to take histogram readings from a limited local area. This box is activated whenever you hit the +/- button with the histogram active, and you can use the arrow keys to move the selected area within the frame. The values of the light enclosed in the box are shown as a green sub-histogram that appears in front of the overall histogram that tells exactly how much light of a given intensity is coming from a particular area. This amounts to the histogram equivalent of spot metering, and is very useful for examining exposure values in detail.

The second innovative display Olympus has built into the 7070's histogram function is a little more unusual. Called "Direct" mode, it overlays red and blue pixels on the LCD viewfinder image, showing areas that are in deep shadow (blue) or overexposed highlight (red). The resulting display is unique, to say the least. Because of the red and blue tints, you can very quickly see any areas that are in trouble, and I found it to be nearly as helpful as a blinking highlight/shadow display.

Through the Olympus 7070's Mode menu, you can also enable two framing guideline options. The first divides the image area into thirds, horizontally and vertically, with light, dotted yellow lines. The second option maintains the original grid, but adds a fine, but solid "X" of two diagonals that intersect in the center of the frame. Both options are very useful in lining up tricky subjects. The yellow lines are also displayed on the image that appears onscreen right after capture for quick verification that you were still aligned when the shot was made. A nice feature.

In Manual Focus mode, a distance display scale appears on the LCD monitor, a useful feature which helps to adjust focus in low-light situations. Depending on the current focus mode and distance, the scale runs from either 5cm to 20cm, 20cm to 80cm, or 80cm to infinity. While focus is being adjusted, the center portion of the image is shown enlarged to assist in determining sharp focus. Note though, that this scale doesn't actually show exact figures for the focusing distance, however; and the zoomed assist is so blocky that it's hard to detect any change as the focus moves from 20cm to infinity at wide-angle focal lengths. At telephoto, the situation is slightly better, but the zoomed viewfinder display is still nearly useless. Another scale that is shown on the LCD monitor while zooming visually indicates the current zoom level, and whether the digital zoom is being used.

When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can zoom in on displayed images up to 7x, and then scroll around the enlarged image using the Arrow buttons. This is extremely handy for checking focus, small details, or precise framing. There's also an Index display option, which shows either four, nine, or 16 thumbnail images at a time, selected in the Setup menu. A Playback histogram display shows the tonal distribution of the exposed image, with a list of basic exposure settings off to the right. The same histogram options are available in this mode, as well as the Frame Assist guides. A very handy "Quick View" function lets you check the last picture taken in Shooting mode by pressing the Quick View button on the camera's rear panel. The image will remain displayed on the LCD monitor until you revert back to Shooting mode by pressing the Quick View button again, or by half-pressing the Shutter button.

 

Optics

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The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom has an all-glass, aspheric lens design with one ED (extra-low dispersion) element aimed at reducing chromatic aberrations in images caused by light being refracted differently depending on its wavelength. The 4x, 5.7 - 22.9mm lens provides a focal range equivalent to that of a 27-110mm zoom on a 35mm film camera. This is one of the wider-angle zoom lenses available in the prosumer market, great for capturing interior shots, landscapes, and other wide-angle subjects. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.8, depending on the zoom setting.

Focusing distances range from 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) to infinity in Normal mode, and 8.4 inches to 2.6 feet (0.2 to 0.8 meters) in Macro mode. A Super Macro mode lets you get even closer to your subject, as close as 1.2 inches (3.0 centimeters), an impressive performance.

The autofocus system works either through the lens, using a conventional contrast detection scheme, or in conjunction with an external sensor, using a combination of contrast detection and phase detection. Phase detection is a more coarse AF, but it can improve autofocus speed by quickly getting the focus within easy range for the contrast detection AF to refine the focus. Because the phase-detection autofocus system uses an external sensor, use of external lenses may block or reduce its effectiveness. (Note too, that the phase-detection AF only works for subjects more than 80cm (2.6 feet) from the lens.)

The LCD shows a solid green dot as soon as the subject is in focus (flashing means there's a problem focusing and you may need to switch to Manual Focus or Macro mode). Although the C7070 Wide Zoom doesn't feature an independent focus lock button, you can manually lock focus by centering the target portion of the subject in the frame, pressing the Shutter button halfway, and then switching to Manual Focus mode. (Note that there is a separate Auto Exposure Lock button though, which does separate the focus and exposure-lock functions.) An AF assist lamp helps the camera focus in dark shooting conditions, a very welcome if recent addition to the Olympus camera lineup.

The AF / Macro / MF button on the top panel of the camera accesses the normal AF mode, as well a range of macro, manual, and auto focus modes. A "virtual dial" appears on screen when you press the button, with the options arranged diagonally across the LCD. Pressing the button and turning the Command dial cycles a selection cursor through the options available, which include normal AF, Macro, Super Macro, Manual, and Super Macro Manual modes.

Additionally, if you press the Focus button and then hit the OK/Menu button, a secondary focus mode menu appears. The same focus mode options above appear as a menu tab, but you also have the ability to enable Fulltime AF or select the AF Area mode. As I mentioned, Fulltime AF keeps the autofocus constantly engaged as you move the camera from subject to subject, instead of waiting for the Shutter button to be depressed halfway. This might be useful for photography involving moving subjects, but it is an additional drain on the battery because the focusing mechanism is constantly at work.

The AF Area option lets you designate whether the camera determines focus from a small, local area of the image (Spot) or the entire image area (iESP). Once in Spot AF mode, you can move the AF target by holding down the Focus button and using the arrow keys to move the target around on the LCD monitor. (To reset the AF mark to center, press the Menu / OK and Focus buttons simultaneously.)

In manual focus mode, a distance scale appears on the LCD monitor, showing distances in meters or feet. Pressing the up and down arrow buttons adjusts focus when manual focus is enabled. As you focus, the image is automatically enlarged in the LCD monitor to better see small details (although, as we noted earlier, this isn't very effective). The manual focus option includes two modes, a normal one, with the focus range extending from infinity down to 8.4 inches, and a super-macro manual focus mode, which extends the focusing range down to 1.2 inches, while still permitting focusing all the way out to infinity. Once the focus is set manually, you can save the focus setting by pressing the Menu / OK button.

The inside lip of the C7070 Wide Zoom's lens barrel has a set of fairly large accessory threads that couple to Olympus's lens adapter accessory, the CLA-7. The optional CLA-7 adapter hosts a range Olympus brand auxiliary lenses, which extend the camera's wide angle and telephoto coverage.

The C7070 Wide Zoom also provides as much as 5x digital zoom, which can be enabled via the Shooting menu. Once activated, the Zoom scale on the right side of the monitor changes to accommodate the expanded range for the digital zoom. The bottom half of the scale (colored white) indicates the optical zoom range, while the top half (colored red) specifies the digital zoom. The digital zoom is not accessible when the camera is set to save files in RAW mode.

 

Exposure

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The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom offers a lot of exposure control, including Program, Program Shift, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as Scene mode, with seven preset options. All capture modes are set by rotating the Mode dial on the top panel, which also accesses the My Mode and Movie mode. (My Mode lets you create a custom setup for the camera, including virtually every exposure and operating parameter, which can then be selected simply by rotating the Mode Dial to the "My" position.)

In Program mode, the camera selects both the aperture and shutter speed, while you control the remaining exposure options such as ISO, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and metering mode selection. You can access Program Shift mode simply by pressing the up and down arrow keys to scroll through a range of equivalent exposure settings. Thus, you can bias the exposure toward a faster shutter speed or greater depth of field. Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture from f/2.8 to f/11 while the camera chooses the best corresponding shutter speed. In Shutter Priority, you can select shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 16 seconds, and the camera selects the best corresponding aperture setting.

In Manual mode, you control both aperture and shutter speed, with an available Bulb shutter setting for manually-timed exposures as long as two minutes. A helpful feature of the Manual mode is that, as you scroll through the various exposure combinations, the camera indicates whether or not the current setting will produce a correct exposure. It does this by showing the f/stop and shutter speed in green, and the exposure differential (the difference between your settings and what the camera meters as correct) in white, in exposure values (EV) within a range of +3 to -3 EV. If you exceed a +/- 3 EV deviation from the camera's metered exposure, the exposure variables flash red in the display. Additionally, you can activate the live histogram display, which graphically shows the under- or overexposure, or the Direct histogram display, which points out the under or overexposed areas on the LCD monitor directly.

For point-and-shoot convenience in what might otherwise be tricky shooting conditions, the C7070 also features seven Scene modes (Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape, Landscape and Portrait, Sports, Underwater Wide, and Underwater Macro). Portrait mode keeps the subject in sharp focus but the background slightly blurred, by using a larger aperture to reduce depth of field. Night Scene mode optimizes the camera for night shots and portraits, using slower shutter speeds to increase the contribution of ambient light to the exposure. Landscape mode instead uses a smaller aperture, to capture sharp detail in broad scenery. Landscape Portrait mode ensures that you have a sharp subject in front of a well-focused background, so that you don't sacrifice detail either in your subject or the scenic background. Sports mode biases the exposure system toward higher shutter speeds, so you can "freeze" fast-paced action. Night Scene mode is for capturing vivid color in dark shooting conditions. The camera employs a slower shutter speed, so a tripod is recommended. Underwater Wide and Underwater Macro modes are for use with the camera's optional underwater housing, and preserve color underwater. Typically, you need a red filter to counteract the large amount of blue, but the C7070 Wide Zoom's Underwater modes boost color for more accurate results. The C7070 Wide Zoom also allows you to apply specific Scenes to the Program, Aperture, Shutter, Manual, My, and Movie modes. Through the Shooting menu, the Scene option applies Portrait, Landscape, or Night Scene presets to the current image, giving you the benefit of a preset shooting mode while maintaining full exposure control.

The C7070 Wide Zoom provides an adjustable ISO setting, with available settings of 80, 100, 200, and 400, plus an Auto setting. The default ISO 80 setting is slightly lower than the more common minimum value of 100, although more cameras are starting to offer lower ISO options like this. The lower default ISO is welcome, as it will result in lower image noise when shooting under bright conditions. (Higher ISO settings are often useful for working in limited light conditions, but they result in noisier images.) In addition, the available lower ISO is helpful when trying for motion-blur effects in more brightly lit surroundings. (Note: When ISO is set to Auto in Program exposure mode, it automatically resets to 50 when you switch to Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, or Manual exposure modes.) To combat the higher image noise that results from longer shutter times when shooting in dark conditions, the C7070 Wide Zoom also offers a Noise Reduction mode, which uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize image noise on long exposures.

Four metering patterns are available on the C7070 Wide Zoom: Spot, Multi, Center-Weighted, and ESP multi-patterned metering. All four are accessed by pressing the Metering button on the left side of the top panel and turning the Command dial. Under the default ESP multi-patterned setting, the camera takes readings from a number of areas in the viewfinder, evaluating both brightness and contrast to arrive at the optimum exposure. Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the image, so you can pinpoint the specific area of the photograph you want properly exposed and lock in on that exposure by depressing the Shutter button halfway and holding it down until you recompose the scene. Center-weighted reads the exposure from the entire frame, but gives a particular weight to the reading from the center spot.

The unusual Multi Meter function, which dates back to the film-based OM-4T, lets you take up to eight individual spot-meter readings from the center of the EVF or LCD monitor (inside the exposure brackets) by repeatedly pressing the AE Lock (AEL) button. Each reading is marked on a relative exposure scale across the bottom of the LCD panel, and then averaged to produce the overall reading. You lock the Multi-Spot reading by holding the AE Lock button down for one second (the word "Memo" appears in the LCD display), and can cancel it by pressing and holding the AEL button one last time. This is a very useful exposure option for advanced photographers. (The screen shot above right is "borrowed" from my review of the earlier C-5050 model, the feature works the same on the 7070.)

Enabled through the Shooting menu (Setup sub-menu), a Record View function displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen while the image is being recorded to the memory card. It's a great way to check your images without wasting time switching back and forth between Playback and Shooting modes. The camera's Quick View function also allows you to check previously captured images in Shooting mode, by pressing the Quick View button. You can review the most recent image (and opt to delete it if you wish), or scroll back through other stored files until you return to the Shooting mode (by pressing the Quick View button a second time or by half-pressing the Shutter button).

In situations where exposure compensation is necessary, pressing the +/- button on the left side of the camera and turning the Command dial increases or decreases the exposure values (EV) in either one-third or one-half-step increments (selected via a setup menu option), up to +/- 2 EV. If exposure compensation is currently activated, the amount of adjustment appears in the LCD information display, except in Manual mode, where there's no automatic exposure to be adjusted.

The C7070's Auto Bracketing (BKT) function is selected through the Shooting Mode Menu (Drive submenu), setting the camera to automatically bracket each exposure by as much as +/- 2 EV in either three- or five-steps with increments of 0.3, 0.7, or 1.0 EV units each. The bracketing function centers its efforts around whatever exposure you've chosen as the starting point, including any exposure compensation adjustments you've made, and captures up to five sequential shots with differing exposure while you hold the Shutter button down. This is a nice implementation of a useful exposure feature. The five-step option is particularly welcome, as the three-step exposure bracketing offered by many cameras often forces you to choose between a too-narrow bracketing range or too-large exposure steps.

The C7070 Wide Zoom's white balance menu offers a broader range of options than found on most high-end consumer digital cameras. No fewer than 11 options are available, including Auto, Shade, Cloudy, Sunny, Evening Sun, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, White Fluorescent, Incandescent, and One-Touch / Custom. One-Touch is the manual setting, where white balance is calculated by placing a white card in front of the lens and pressing the Menu / OK button. The Custom mode lets you pick from four previously-saved white balances, set manually in similar fashion to the One-Touch option. (I really like this ability to save up to four separate custom settings. This lets you switch back and forth rapidly, without having to re-shoot a fresh white card test each time.) You can also fine-tune the white balance setting with the "WB+/-" setting under the Picture submenu. An adjustment bar appears on the LCD screen, with options to shift the color toward either the red or blue ends of the spectrum. I've always appreciated the ability to fine-tune white balance like this. Most digital cameras tend to have slight biases in their white balance systems under various lighting conditions. Once you get used to how a particular camera shoots, it's very helpful to have this sort of tweaking adjustment available to modify the color balance. The 7070's large number of adjustment steps provide very fine-grained control over a surprisingly broad range of color adjustment.

A 12-second Self-Timer is ready for self-portraits, or those occasions when you don't want to risk camera shake by pressing the Shutter button to make the exposure. You can also use the optional IR remote control on the C7070 Wide Zoom to trigger the shutter without the Self-Timer, which gives you either (more or less) immediate actuation, or a three-second delay after pressing the remote's Shutter button, before the shutter is fired. The remote control is rated to work as far as 16.4 feet directly in front of the camera, or as far as 9.8 feet when at a 15-degree angle from the sensor window.

The Function menu option enables you to capture images in Black & White or Sepia modes. The C7070 Wide Zoom also features sharpness, hue, saturation, and contrast adjustments.

 

Flash

The C7070 Wide Zoom has a fairly standard built-in flash unit, with five basic operating modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Flash Off, and Slow Synchro modes. The 7070's flash range extends from 2.6 to 12.1 feet (0.8 to 3.7 meters). The Slow Synchro mode combines a slow shutter speed with the flash to let more ambient light into the background, producing more natural lighting behind a flash-illuminated subject. When photographing moving subjects, Slow Synchro will record some motion blur because of the longer exposure time, with the initial or final image frozen by the flash exposure. Through the Shooting menu, three Slow Synchro modes are available. Slow 1 fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure (producing a blur in front of a moving subject), and Slow 2 fires the flash at the end of the exposure (producing a blur behind a moving subject). You can also opt to fire the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash in conjunction with a Slow Synchro exposure.

An Olympus-configured hot shoe on top of the camera allows you to connect an external flash for more powerful flash needs. Olympus offers the FL-series external flash units as accessories, which couple with the camera to allow flash exposure compensation. (The FL-50 is a fairly advanced unit with a power-zoom head that tracks the zoom setting of the camera lens, while the FL-20 is a very compact, less expensive unit of more modest capabilities.) The internal and external flash units can be used together or separately. Third-party flash units can also be used, although some units may not be able to synchronize with the camera, and Olympus warns that some flash units can damage the camera's circuitry. (Be sure to check the trigger voltage on your flash unit's hot shoe contacts, to ensure that it doesn't present more than a few volts to the camera's flash contacts. If you measure more than 10 volts or so on the flash units contacts, don't risk connecting it to the 7070. Use a device like a Wein Safe-Sync(tm) to protect the 7070 against high trigger voltages in external flash units.) Assuming that they use a low trigger voltage, most third-party flash units should work fine with the 7070. The main limitation will be that the camera will have no control over the flash power, reducing you to manual flash exposure control via the camera's lens aperture setting and any power adjustment that might be available on the flash unit itself.

Another nice feature of the C7070 Wide Zoom's internal flash system is its Flash Brightness adjustment, which allows you to change the flash brightness from +2 to -2 EV in one-third-step increments. When using the built-in flash with an external unit, you can use this feature to adjust the balance of light between the two, by dialing-down the intensity of the internal flash while controlling the power of the external unit manually.

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom's flash also has good support for external "slave" flash units, letting it work with conventional slave trigger units. Like most digital cameras, the C7070 normally uses a small metering pre-flash prior to the main exposure to set the flash power level. This pre-flash will falsely trigger conventional slave units, causing them to fire before the 7070 actually opens its shutter. Several third-party "smart" slave triggers are available that ignore the pre-flash, firing the slave strobe on the second pop of the camera's flash. The Olympus 7070 avoids the need for such special "smart" triggers though, by offering a special "slave" flash mode that causes its internal flash to fire only once per exposure. Olympus showed some welcome forethought in designing this flash mode, in that they give you a choice of ten different power levels for the internal flash when firing in single-pop mode. This lets you balance the amount of light coming from the 7070's internal flash with that coming from the slave unit(s). Very nice! (By the way, if you want no light to come from the camera's internal flash, you can tape a piece of exposed slide film over the camera's flash strobe, which will filter out most of the visible light, but let enough infrared pass to trigger a sensitive slave unit. - Be careful not to cycle the 7070's internal flash too quickly when doing this though, as it could overheat and possibly melt the slide film, making a mess.) The 7070's slave-flash option is only available when the camera is set to manual exposure mode. As an added bonus though, if you set the flash intensity in "slave" mode to a low value, you can actually use the on-camera flash during continuous shooting, although the maximum frame rate is limited to about one frame/second.


Special Exposure Modes

Movie Mode
The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom's Movie mode is accessed via the Mode dial on top of the camera (marked with a small movie camera symbol). Movies can be recorded at either 640 x 480; 320 x 240; or 160 x 120 pixels. You can choose between 15 or 30 frames per second through the settings menu. Sound recording can be turned On or Off in the Movie menu. At the highest resolution and frame rate, the maximum recording time per clip is limited to 20 seconds, but all other resolution and frame rate combinations can be recorded continuously up to the limit of the memory card's capacity. The available seconds of recording time appear in the status display panel or LCD monitor, based on the quality mode selected and space remaining on the card.

Sound recording with movies presents something of a dilemma for camera manufacturers. The problem with sound recording is that any camera-generated noises will be faithfully recorded along with the ambient sound, generally dominating since they're so close to the microphone. To avoid this problem, most cameras that offer sound recording in movie mode generally don't permit zooming of the lens while recording is in progress, since the sound of the lens motor would be so loud.

With the C7070's movie mode, Olympus has taken a very intelligent approach, enabling or disabling lens zoom (as well as continuous autofocus) based on whether or not sound recording is enabled. In all circumstances though, digital zoom is available (if it is enabled), and the lens zoom can always be adjusted to any position prior to the start of recording. Olympus' movie mode implementation makes a lot of sense, offering as many camera functions as possible, governed by whether or not sound is being recorded. Beyond the sound/zoom tradeoff, a wide range of recording options apply to Movie mode as well, including spot metering, exposure compensation, focus lock, self-timer, ISO, and white balance, all of which are also unusual features to find available in a digital camera Movie option.

Another useful feature in Movie mode is the Camera Movement Compensation option, which can be activated through a Record menu option. More like the image stabilization we've seen on camcorders for years than the optical image stabilization technology popular on many current long zoom digital cameras, this option moves the image capture area across the surface of the CCD to counteract any blurring from camera movement. This function is only suitable for subtle camera movements, but is a nice feature nonetheless. Because the method of compensation is to move the sampling area in response to motion, the image area is cropped, similar to the way a digital zoom crops an image, and a much smaller angle of view is available from this otherwise "wide zoom" camera.

First seen in the Camedia C-3030 (February 2000), the Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom again offers in-camera "editing" of movies in Playback mode, through the Playback menu. Here, you can scroll forward and backward frame-by-frame through the movie, and set cut points at the beginning and end of the segment you're interested in. Movie content between the two cut points will be preserved, the rest discarded. In a nice touch though, Olympus allows you to choose whether to modify the original movie file, or just save the selected portion in a separate file - a feature that makes the Movie mode much more useful.

Audio Record Mode
The C7070 Wide Zoom's Audio Record mode captures up to four seconds of sound to accompany an image. Activated through the Shooting Menu (Camera sub-menu), the audio recording takes place immediately after you make an exposure. A status bar appears on the LCD monitor with the word "Busy" displayed. Green dots light up along the status bar to indicate how much time you have left until the recording is finished. You can also add audio clips after the image is recorded by selecting the Audio option in the Playback menu.

Panorama Mode
The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom offers a Panorama exposure mode when using an Olympus brand panorama-enabled xD-Picture Card. (The function is unavailable when using a CompactFlash memory card - even if an Olympus-brand xD-Picture Card is also in the camera - or when using any other brand xD-Picture Card.) In this mode, the exposure and white balance for a series of shots are determined by the first exposure. The Panorama function is accessed in the Shooting menu through the Camera submenu. When activated, it provides light blue guide lines at the edges of the pictures to help you align successive shots, leaving enough overlap between them for the stitching software to do its job. Up to 10 shots can be taken in a panoramic series. Images are saved individually and then assembled on a computer after they've been downloaded.

Sequence Modes

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom offers several Sequence modes that mimic the motor drive on a film camera, continually recording images for as long as the Shutter button is held down, or until the memory runs out (this varies with the image quality and subject, as well as available card space).

The Olympus 7070 has a total of three sequence modes, varying in the time between shots, and the maximum number of shots that can be recorded without pausing. High-speed sequence mode captures two frames (regardless of resolution/quality setting) at 2.5 frames per second. "Normal" sequence mode slows to about 1.0-1.1 frames/second, but permits much longer sequences to be captured. Depending somewhat on the speed of the memory card you're using, normal sequence mode can capture a large number of full-resolution "HQ" images. In AF sequence mode, the camera pauses to focus between shots, further slowing the frame rate, but insuring that moving subjects will remain in focus as they approach or recede from the camera. TIFF and RAW file formats aren't available in sequence modes, but the full range of JPEG compression levels and sizes are.

My Mode
Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the "My" position, this mode lets you save customized settings and then access them simply by turning the Mode dial. For example, if you consistently shoot in the same environment, you could save the exposure settings for those specific shooting conditions, so that they can be instantly recalled. (I can imagine this option being very handy for situations where you might have to switch quickly between two different settings. Think of a wedding reception, for instance: Standard "program" mode for outside shots on the lawn, etc, but a custom setup in My Mode to shoot the indoor scenes under incandescent lighting.) My Mode even lets you edit the Shortcut menu items, which appear when the Menu button is pressed, to reflect often-changed settings. The My Mode is very flexible, letting you preset the nearly all of the camera's parameters.

 

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is only rarely reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure it using a test setup I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled timing, with a resolution of 0.001 second.)

Olympus C7070 Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
3.6
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. On the slow side of average.
Shutdown
2.2 - 14
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time. Average times, buffer clearing time isn't bad, considering it corresponds to clearing a hundred small/basic images after a continuous burst.
Play to Record, first shot
1.1
Time until first shot is captured. Fairly fast.
Record to play
4.7 / 2.2
First time is that required to display a large/fine file immediately after capture, second time is that needed to display a large/fine file that has already been processed and stored on the memory card. A little slow.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
0.65 / 0.66
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. Pretty fast.

Shutter lag, continuous autofocus

0.68
As usual, no benefit to continuous AF with a stationary subject.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.36
A little slow, by current standards.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.169
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Moderately fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

2.16 / 2.14

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, shoots 4 frames this fast, then slows to an irregular pace of 3 seconds per shot. Buffer clears in 4 seconds. In TV mode, keeps up this pace indefinitely, and clears the buffer in 2 seconds. OK speed, but nothing special by current standards for this class of camera. Times recorded with Lexar 2GB, 80x CF card.
Cycle Time, TIFF / RAW

10.29 / 6.99

First number is for largest size TIFF files, second number is time for RAW files. No buffer, each shot takes this long. Times recorded with Lexar 2GB 80x CF card. Times with xD card are a little slower (10.42 seconds for RAW mode files.)
Cycle Time, continuous High mode, max/min resolution 0.40
(2.5 fps)

Shoots 2 frames this fast regardless of resolution, then slows to about 3.4 seconds per shot for large/fine files, or 2.1 seconds per shot for TV mode files. Buffer clears in 4 seconds for large/fine images, 3 seconds for lowest resolution. Pretty fast, but an awfully small buffer. Times recorded with Lexar 2GB 80x CF card.

Cycle Time, continuous Low mode, max/min resolution 1.26>0.84
1.06>0.84
(1.19 fps)
First set of numbers are for large/fine files, second set for TV mode images. Times are averages. Shoots 4 images fast in large/fine mode, then slows to about 3.4 seconds per shot. Maintains this pace indefinitely in TV mode. Buffer clears in 4 seconds for large/fine shots, in 13 seconds for TV mode images. Like many digital cameras I test, the interval between the first two shots in continuous-low mode is longer, 1.26 and 1.06 seconds respectively for large/fine and TV mode images, but subsequent shots all occur at intervals of 0.84 second. Average speed, but again a somewhat limited buffer capacity for a camera of this capability level. Times recorded with Lexar 2GB 80x CF card.

The Olympus C7070 is middle-of-the road in a lot of its performance characteristics, but does focus somewhat faster than average, with full-autofocus shutter delays of 0.65 - 0.66 second. Shutter lag when manually focused is slower than average, its lag when prefocused is reasonable at 0.169 second. Cycle times are OK, if not dramatic, at about 2.16 seconds/frame for large/fine images. Buffer capacity is a little low by current standards, at 4 large/fine shots in single-shot and low-speed continuous modes, and only two frames in high-speed continuous mode. Overall, a camera with faster-than-average focusing speed, but not one that you'd look to if your primary interest was sports or other fast-paced action.

 

Operation and User Interface

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom has a similar interface design to previous C-series cameras, with a nice complement of external controls to keep you out of the menu system for most common functions. The C7070's Mode dial quickly sets the exposure mode, and the Command dial lets you change a variety of settings without delving into the LCD menu. The LCD menu system itself is much the same as seen in recent C-series cameras, and the return of the virtual dial for some settings again proves useful. Several of the C7070 Wide Zoom's external controls can be combined in pairs to adjust a third camera setting. For example, holding down the Flash and +/- buttons adjusts the flash exposure compensation. This is excellent in terms of limiting LCD menu usage, but does make the camera's interface slightly more complicated. And even with the liberal use of external controls, the C7070's menu system is deeper and more complex than most digital cameras on the market. I'd say it will probably take several hours for the average user to become fully acquainted with the 7070's control layout.

 

Control Enumeration


Shutter Button
: Located on top of the camera, on the right side, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure settings when depressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully depressed.

Zoom Lever (see image above): Surrounding the Shutter button, the Zoom lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes, and the digital zoom when enabled through the Shooting menu. In Playback mode, the lever switches between Index view, normal image display, and zoomed playback.


Self-Timer / Remote / Rotate Button
: Behind the Shutter button and Zoom lever controls, this button accesses the Self-Timer and Remote Control modes when pressed while turning the Command dial. Pressing this button in Playback mode rotates the captured image 90 degrees clockwise. In any camera mode, pressing this button with the Custom / DPOF button resets all camera settings to their defaults.

Custom / DPOF Button (see image above): To the right of the Shutter button, this button can be programmed to access a variety of camera settings while in Shooting mode. (The default setting is the Drive option.) In Playback mode, this button calls up the DPOF settings menu, where you can select images for printing, the number of copies of each, etc. As noted above, pressing this button with the Self-Timer / Remote / Rotate button resets all camera settings to their defaults.


Mode Dial
: On top of the camera, the Mode dial selects the camera's operating mode. Choices are Playback, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, Manual, My Mode, Movie, and Scene modes.


Power Dial
: Directly beneath the Mode dial, this dial simply turns the camera on and off.


Focus Button
: Located on left side of the camera's top panel, this button controls the focus mode. Pressing the button displays a "virtual dial" containing focus options on the LCD. Turning the Command dial cycles between Normal AF, Macro, Manual Focus, Super Macro, and Super Macro Manual Focus modes. Pressing the OK button with the virtual dial displayed pulls up the Focus menu, where you can quickly adjust the focus mode, AF area, or enable Fulltime AF.


Metering / Protect Button
: Behind the Focus button on the top panel, this button sets the camera's metering mode to Spot, Center-weighted, Multi, or ESP when pressed while turning the Command dial. In Playback mode, this button marks the current image for write-protection.


Command Dial
: Tucked in the upper right corner of the rear panel, this dial adjusts a variety of camera settings when turned while pressing one of the control buttons. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, this dial adjusts the available exposure variable (lens aperture or shutter speed, respectively). In Manual exposure mode, it adjusts the shutter speed when no button is pressed, or aperture in conjunction with the +/- button. In Playback mode, this dial scrolls back and forth between captured images.


Diopter Adjustment Dial
: Tucked on the right side of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this ring adjusts the viewfinder to accommodate eyeglass wearers.


AE Lock / Erase Button
: To the right of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, this button locks the exposure in any Shooting mode (a second press cancels the exposure lock). In Playback mode, this button calls up the Single Erase menu, for deleting the currently-displayed image.


Quick View Button
: Just below the AE Lock / Erase button, this button activates the Quick View function, which calls up the previously captured image on the screen.


Monitor / Info Button
: Below and to the right of the Quick View button, this button controls the LCD display, cycling between an information overlay, the image area only, and a detailed status display in place of an image. In Playback mode, this button cycles through several screens of information on the currently displayed image.


Five-Way Arrow Pad
: The largest control on the back panel, the Arrow Pad features four arrow keys surrounding the central, OK / Menu button. In any settings menu, the arrow buttons navigate through available options and make selections. In Playback mode, the left and right Arrows move singly forward or backward through the pictures stored on the card, and the up and down Arrows jump ten at a time forward or backward through the pictures; all four Arrows scroll around portions of the expanded image in Zoom Playback mode.

The Central OK/Menu button activates the menu system on the rear panel LCD monitor or Electronic Viewfinder and confirms selected menu settings in the various LCD menu screens. When you press the Display button, it will call up the menu options and display them over the viewfinder image. Pressing this button while the Focus virtual dial is displayed accesses a short Focus menu.


CF / xD Button
: To the right of the Monitor button, this button switches between the two memory card slots (CompactFlash and xD-Picture Card), if you have cards of both types loaded into the camera.


+/- Button
: Located on a beveled panel on the left side of the camera, this button adjusts the exposure compensation when pressed while turning the Command dial. Exposure can be increased or decreased from -2 to +2 EV in half (or via a menu setting) one-third-step increments. In Manual exposure mode, this button accesses the lens aperture setting rather than exposure compensation. Pressing this button and the Flash button below it accesses the flash exposure compensation adjustment (likewise set by turning the Command dial)

Flash Button (see image above): Directly below the +/- button, this button controls the flash operating mode. Turning the Command dial cycles between Auto, Forced, Suppressed, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow Synchro modes. When held down in conjunction with the +/- button, this button accesses the flash exposure compensation setting.

 

Camera Modes


Scene Mode
: Noted on the Mode dial by the word "SCENE," this mode offers seven preset shooting modes for specific situations. Available modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape and Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Underwater Wide, and Underwater Macro.


Movie Mode
: Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the movie camera symbol, Movie mode allows you to capture movies with or without sound for as long as the memory card allows. Shutter speed is automatically set depending on light levels, although Olympus doesn't specify the range of shutter speeds the camera uses in movie mode.


My Mode
: Sets up the camera according to a set of user-defined camera settings, specific to shooting conditions. A huge range of exposure variables such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. can all be saved. You can even save the lens zoom position. My Mode settings are made through the Setup menu.


Manual Mode
: Allows the user to select both the desired aperture (f/2.8 to f/11) and shutter speed (1/4,000 to 16 seconds, with a Bulb mode) settings independently. The camera meters the scene, and indicates how over- or underexposed it thinks the shot will be by displaying the number of EV units over or under in green numerals. If the settings are beyond the camera's metering capabilities or would result in more than a +/- 3EV exposure error, the display is fixed at plus or minus 3 EV, and the numerals turn red.


Shutter Priority
: Allows the user to select the desired shutter speed from 1/4,000 to 16 seconds, while the camera adjusts the aperture to achieve the correct exposure. If the required aperture is beyond the camera's capabilities, the shutter speed / aperture status numbers in the LCD will flash red.


Aperture Priority
: Allows the user to select the desired lens aperture (in varying increments, from f/2.8 to f/11), while the camera adjusts the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure. If the required shutter speed is beyond the camera's capabilities, the shutter speed / aperture status numbers in the LCD will flash red.


Programmed Exposure
: The camera selects both shutter speed and lens aperture, based on existing light conditions and certain camera functions. For example, it uses a faster shutter speed when the lens is in the telephoto position and a slower shutter speed when the lens is in the wide-angle position.


Playback Mode
: This mode allows the user to view previously captured images using the Arrow Pad to scroll through frames stored in memory. The Zoom lever switches the image display to Index mode when moved in the wide-angle direction, and enlarges a single image when moved in the telephoto direction, zooming in to a maximum of 7x magnification. While zoomed in on an image, the Arrow buttons can be used to move the enlarged view around the full image area, allowing you to inspect all parts of it.

 

Camera Menus

(Note that in the following, the menus shown will normally appear over the top of the live LCD viewfinder display, if the LCD viewfinder function is enabled. In the interests of clarity though, I've shown the menus here over a blank gray viewfinder image.)

Shooting Mode Menus
When the camera is in any of the shooting modes, pressing the Menu / OK button brings up the Shooting Top Menu. Three of the top-level menu items are Short Cuts to menu options controlling White Balance, Drive Mode, and Image Size/Quality. (In Movie mode, the Sound and Camera Movement Compensation options take the place of Drive and White Balance.) The fourth option takes you to the main Mode Menu itself

Due to the number of features that are subject to user control, the C7070's menu structure is deeper and more complex than on most cameras on the market. None of it is difficult to understand, it's just that there's a lot of functionality to be controlled. There are a lot of second- and third-level menu screens as well that we really don't have room to present here, but the text below describes all the available functions.

Camera menu tab:

Picture menu tab:
Card:
Capture-Mode Set Up:
Playback Mode
Playback Mode is available by turning to the green Playback symbol on the camera's Mode dial, or by depressing the Quick View button in any Shooting mode. The top level of the Playback Menu has three options, which differ slightly between Shooting (Record) playback and Movie playback:

Still Playback:
Still Playback Mode Menu:
The main playback mode menu has three sets of controls, organized and accessed via tabs on the left side of the display. (Note that a variety of functions and options, such as histogram and info display, DPOF print setup, image protection, and image rotation are now handled via external camera controls, rather than through the menu system.)
Play
Card:
Setup: Accesses the same Setup menu as described above.

Movie Playback:
When you have a movie selected as the current image in playback mode, pressing the Menu button brings up a different shortcut screen, with the following entries on it: (Sorry, we didn't take any screen shots for the movie mode menus.)
Movie Playback Mode Menu:
The Movie Playback mode menu also has three tabs in it, Edit, Card, and Setup. Setup and Card are identical to those above, so I'll only detail the Edit tab here.

 

Image Storage and Interface

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom saves images on either CompactFlash Type I or II cards, or xD-Picture Cards. The memory card compartment offers slots accommodating both card types. The camera ships with a 32MB xD Picture Card, not remotely adequate for a camera with the resolution of the C7070 Zoom, but xD Picture Cards are currently available as large as 512MB size (and 1GB cards have been announced), and CF cards can be found as large as 8GB. The CF / xD button on the camera's rear panel selects which memory card to use, and an option on the camera's playback menu lets you copy images between cards. The C7070 Wide Zoom does offer individual image protection via the Metering / Protect button, but as usual this doesn't protect against erasure due to card reformatting. It must also be noted that the camera's Panorama function is only available when an Olympus-brand xD-Picture Card is in use, a policy that I've long questioned the wisdom of.

A happy note though, is that the Olympus C7070 does support the FAT32 directory format, so you can use memory cards larger than 2 GB in it. (I tested it with a Lexar 4GB memory card, and it read, wrote, and formatted the card properly.)

The C7070 Wide Zoom can store images in RAW, uncompressed TIFF, and compressed JPEG file formats. The TIFF setting can be assigned to any one of nine resolutions through the camera's Mode Setup menu. (I never could figure out why Olympus thinks we need as many as nine different options for image size, 3 or 4 would be more than enough, in my thinking.) JPEG compression levels include Super High Quality (SHQ), High Quality (HQ), and Standard Quality (SQ1 & SQ2). The myriad size options can be assigned to the camera's TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ1, and SQ2 quality levels via the Shooting menu, as shown in the table below. (Green table cells indicate image size options that can be assigned to each named quality setting.) Whatever image size/quality options are assigned to the five named quality settings can be quickly selected either by the "shortcut button" (see the earlier description of the user interface) or via the record setup menu. RAW format is only available for full-resolution images, but the camera can be set to also capture an SHQ, HQ, SQ1 or SQ2 JPEG image simultaneously with each RAW file.

Image
Size
Options
3,072 x 2,304
3,072 x 2,048 (3:2)
2,592 x 1,944
2,288 x 1,712
2,048 x 1,536
1,600 x 1,200
1,280 x 960
1,024 x 768
640 x 480
TIFF
 
SHQ
             
HQ
             
SQ1
   
     
SQ2
         
 


The table below shows all the available size/quality options (there ought to be enough here to satisfy anyone), the number of each that can be stored on the included 32MB memory card, and the amount of image compression employed for each.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
32 MB Memory Card
Fine Normal
TIFF
RAW
3072 x 2304
Images
(Avg size)
48
5.3 MB
142
1.8 MB
12
21.3 MB
23
10.9 MB
Approx.
Compression
4:1 12:1 - 2:1
2592 x 1944
Images
(Avg size)
67
3.8 MB
200
1.3 MB
16
15.5 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 12:1 - -
2288 x 1712
Images
(Avg size)
86
3.0 MB
252
1.0 MB
21
11.9 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 12:1 - -
2048 x 1536
Images
(Avg size)
108
2.4 MB
312
819 KB
27
9.5 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 12:1 - -
1600 x 1200
Images
(Avg size)
177
1.4 MB
488
524 KB
44
5.8 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 11:1 - -
1280 x 960
Images
(Avg size)
269
950 KB
781
328 KB
69
3.7 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 11:1 - -
1024 x 768 Images
(Avg size)
411
622 KB
1117
229 KB
107
2.4 MB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 10:1 - -
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
977
262 KB
2606
98 KB
269
950 KB
-
Approx.
Compression
4:1 10:1 - -


The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom comes with interface software and cables for both Macintosh and Windows computers. It employs a USB Auto-Connect interface for high-speed computer connection. Like all of Olympus' recent digital cameras, the C7070 is a USB "storage class" device, meaning it will connect directly to computers running the Windows XP or Mac OS X operating systems. In our tests, the C7070 was fast but not blazingly so, with a download speed of 860 KBytes/second, when transferring files from a Lexar 80x CF card. (Cameras with slow USB interfaces run as low as 300 KB/s, cameras with fast v1.1 interfaces run as high as 600 KB/s. Cameras with USB v2.0 interfaces run as fast as several megabytes/second.)

RAW data files can be edited in-camera and saved as JPEGs. This is convenient for quick processing, but the small size and uncertain tonal and color characteristics of the 7070's LCD screen make it difficult to judge the impact of any image adjustments you might make. Still, you can adjust white balance, sharpness, saturation, etc. in-camera, without having to download the file first, which makes it easier to print RAW files from the camera to a DPOF device.

 

Video Out

The C7070 Wide Zoom has a Video Out port for connecting the camera directly to a television set. Through the Setup menu, you can select either NTSC or PAL formats. The video output can be used for reviewing previously captured images and movies, or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all of the LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder. Combined with the optional infrared remote control device, the C7070 Wide Zoom's video capabilities make the camera a unique presentation device.

 

Power

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom is powered by a single BLM1 lithium-ion battery pack (7.2v, 1500mAh), or by an optional AC adapter that can significantly extend battery life if you're doing a lot of downloads on the computer or working in a studio environment. The camera comes with a battery and a charger and as usual, I recommend picking up a second battery and keeping it freshly charged at all times. The table below shows the power consumption in various operating modes, and the projected run times you could expect based on the stated capacity of the provided battery pack:

Operating Mode
Power
(@6.5 volts on the external power terminal)
Est. Minutes
(7.2v, 1500 mAh battery pack)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
343 mA
290
Capture Mode, no LCD
193 mA
517
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
365 mA
273
Half-pressed w/o LCD
365 mA
273
Memory Write (transient)
396 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
781 mA
n/a
Image Playback
192 mA
520

With a worst case run time (capture mode with the rear panel LCD turned on) of almost five hours, the Olympus C7070 has really excellent battery life. With the LCD off, you can shoot literally all day on a full battery, but the C7070's poor viewfinder accuracy means that you'll probably find yourself using the LCD more often than not. Still, really excellent battery life, easily one of the top cameras on the market in this respect.

 

Included Software

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom ships with Olympus' standard complement of software on CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by the Olympus Master software package for both Mac and Windows platforms (Macintosh OS X 10.2 and later, Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000/XP). USB drivers for both platforms and an Apple QuickTime reader are also included. Also included is the Olympus Photoshop RAW plug-in version 2.0, for both Mac and Windows platforms, compatible with Adobe Photoshop(tm) versions 5.0 and above. (Note that QuickTime 4.0 must be installed on your computer in order to use the Photoshop plug-in.)

Olympus Master allows you to download and organize images, as well as perform minor image correction and enhancement functions (such as adjusting contrast, sharpness, and color balance). For panoramic images, Olympus Master supplies a "stitching" utility to piece together shots vertically or horizontally. A complete printing utility works with the DPOF settings and allows you to print images directly to Olympus or other photo printers.

The Photoshop RAW plugin lets you open the C7070's RAW-format files in Adobe Photoshop, adjusting color and tone on the way in. The advantage of working directly from the RAW file format is that it preserves all the data originally captured by the camera's sensor, so you can make radical tonal adjustments without having the image "break up" on you due to gaps in the tonal scale.

 

In the Box

The following items are included in the box with the C7070 Wide Zoom (in the USA, at least):

 

Recommended Accessories



Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For full details on each of the test images, see the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom's "pictures" page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Olympus C-7070 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Very good resolution
  • Sharp lens, good distortion characteristics
  • Excellent wide-angle capability
  • Better than average shutter response
  • Really excellent macro performance
  • Excellent, fine-grained control over contrast, color balance, saturation
  • Really excellent battery life
  • Good noise performance
  • Accurate LCD viewfinder
  • Nifty tilt-swivel LCD viewfinder
  • Good low light exposure capability
  • Excellent "live" histogram/exposure warning system
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Dual-media capability (CF and xD)
  • Generally good movie capability
  • Unique "Camera Motion Compensation" gives anti-shake in movie mode
  • Tight optical viewfinder (83-84% accuracy)
  • Low light autofocus without AF illuminator could be a bit better
  • Maximum aperture is only average (f/2.8-4.8)
  • Shot to shot cycle times are only average for its class, buffer capacity is a little low
  • Movies limited to 20 seconds at 640x480, 30fps (lower res/frame rates have no limits though)
  • Panorama exposure mode only works with Olympus-brand xD cards

Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
Learn how to take stunning photos with simple pro lighting tips, in our free Photo School area!

The Olympus C7070 Wide Zoom is something of a hybrid between the previous C5060 and C8080 models, incorporating elements from both. With a sharp 4x optical zoom lens that extends all the way to a 27 mm wide angle equivalent, and a 7-megapixel CCD with good color and noise characteristics, the Olympus C7070 delivers very high quality images under a wide range of shooting conditions. In its Program Auto or Scene modes, it's easy enough for non-technical users to operate, but it's first and foremost an "enthusiast" camera, with all the bells and whistles such shooters demand. Like its predecessors, the Olympus C7070 offers excellent user control and fine-tuning over white balance, color saturation, contrast, and exposure. Such fine-grained control deserves special notice, because it lets you really customize the camera's response to match your personal preferences and the demands of your subjects and lighting. (Want color that "pops" a little more? Just dial up the saturation a notch or two. Need to tone down the contrast a bit? That's accomplished just as easily.) All in all, the Olympus C7070 is a very capable camera for the "enthusiast" crowd, offered at an attractive price, and with nice extras like an extra-wide zoom lens and controls that let you customize the camera's imaging to an unusual degree. Definitely a Dave's Pick, one of the better cameras on the market in its price/performance range.




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