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Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom

3.2 megapixels, a sharp 10x zoom lens, tons of features, and an affordable price!

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 03/02/2003, Updated: 07/17/03

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-740 Ultra Zoom's "pictures" page.

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 C-740 Ultra Zoom's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: The C-740 Ultra Zoom produced very good color throughout my testing, with accurate hue and appropriate saturation in virtually all cases. (No surprise, I guess, but its color was very similar to that of its higher-resolution sibling, the C-750.) Skin tones were good in most circumstances, neither over- or undersaturated, although it produced very ruddy skin tones in the outdoor portrait test. It even did a very good job with the tough blue flowers of the outdoor portrait, with only hints of purple in them, faithfully representing the original subject very well. White balance performance was very good, although the auto white balance option had a hard time in the difficult indoor portrait test. (Both the Incandescent and Manual white balance options did very well there.) A very good to excellent performance overall, although with a few points off for the overly-reddish skin tones in the Outdoor Portrait shot. (Although that ruddiness may be a result of using the low-contrast option.)

  • Exposure: The C-740 Ultra Zoom's exposure system was pretty accurate in most instances. The very high-key outdoor portrait resulted in high contrast with a limited midtone range, although the variable-contrast option helped quite a bit. The C-740 took roughly the same positive exposure compensation in the outdoor and indoor portrait shots as do most cameras I test. Dynamic range seems quite good: On my "Davebox" test, the C-740 Ultra Zoom had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, while still holding moderate detail in the deep shadows, and the camera did quite well on the far-field house shot as well. I'd like the camera's default contrast a bit lower, but the available contrast adjustment helps greatly in this area.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: The C-740 Ultra Zoom performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines horizontally and vertically. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,150 lines.

  • Closeups: The C-740 Ultra Zoom performed nicely in the macro category, capturing a slightly smaller than average minimum area of 3.27 x 2.45 inches (83 x 62 millimeters). In "Super Macro" mode, the camera captured a somewhat smaller image area at 2.56 x 1.92 inches (65 x 49 millimeters). Resolution is very high, as the dollar bill, coins, and brooch show excellent detail. Details on the dollar bill are just slightly soft, though the coins and brooch are quite sharp. Corner softness is noticeable in the top left corner of the frame, but isn't too bad. The C-740 Ultra Zoom's flash throttles down pretty well for macro shooting, although it was fooled by the bright reflection from the brooch, causing it to underexpose elsewhere. Also, the camera's long lens creates a small shadow in the lower left corner of the frame at closest approach.

  • Night Shots: With full manual exposure control and a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, the C-740 Ultra Zoom is well-equipped to handle quite dark shooting conditions. In my testing, the camera produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) test limit, at all three ISO settings. Color was good overall, though slightly warm with the dimmer lighting. At ISO 100, the 1/16 foot-candle image was just a little dark, but still bright enough to use. The C-740 Ultra Zoom's Noise Reduction system did a good job of keeping noise in check. Even though noise was visible at ISO 400, the grain pattern was tight and subdued. The autofocus system seemed to work down to about 0.7 foot-candles (8 lux or so). The camera can thus photograph at light levels much darker than those at which its AF system will work, a fairly typical behavior among digicams I've tested. (An AF-assist light would be most welcome.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The C-740 Ultra Zoom's Electronic Viewfinder (EVF) and LCD monitor are very accurate, both showing approximately 97 percent of the frame at wide angle, and about 98 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-740 Ultra Zoom's LCD monitor performed well in this regard. The C-740 Ultra Zoom also has an electronic "optical" viewfinder, which shows the same view as the LCD monitor, only at a smaller size. (The arrangement of both monitors was such that I ended up with a slight shift in the image, the top cut off slightly, the bottom slightly extended. This effect was worse at the maximum telephoto focal length, and slightly more evident with the EVF, but wasn't too bad overall.)

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the C-740 Ultra Zoom is low at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.4 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared slightly better, as I measured a 0.3 percent barrel distortion. Both of these numbers are better than average, especially for a long-ratio zoom lens. Chromatic aberration is moderate, showing about 4-5 pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (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.) The only other distortion noticeable was some corner softness, most evident in the left corners of the frame.

  • Battery Life: The C-740 UltraZoom's battery life is surprisingly good, much better than I'd normally expect from a camera using an electronic viewfinder. (Since EVFs are always on when the camera is being used, battery life is usually worse than it would be for cameras with optical viewfinders.) Worst-case battery life with standard 1600 mAh NiMH cells should be around 3.5 hours, much better than average for its class. (I still strongly recommend purchasing at least a couple of sets of rechargeable AA batteries and a good charger to accompany them though.)


Conclusion
I have consistently been pleased with the flexibility, ease of use, and excellent picture quality of Olympus' Camedia line of digicams. As noted earlier, Olympus has been something of a pioneer in the long-zoom category, beginning with their C-2100 UltraZoom a couple of years back, and continuing last year with their C-720 and C-730. Olympus' newest entry, the C-740 Ultra Zoom, offers many of the features of last year's top-end C-730, at a slightly lower price. Though Olympus shaved off a couple of the more enthusiast features (such as sound recording and an external flash sync), the C-740 still offers great exposure flexibility and creative control. It offers an excellent range of manual controls, useful preset Scene modes, and a full 3.2-megapixel CCD. There's plenty of resolution for sharp 8x10 prints, and the C-740 offers many of the features that true enthusiasts demand, while remaining very approachable for novices. Having now tested a full-production model, my earlier favorable opinion seems well justified. - If you're interested in long-zoom digital photography, the C-740 is definitely a model to give serious consideration to. (If you want the 740's features but a 4.0-megapixel CCD and external flash sync socket, check out the C-750 Ultra Zoom.)

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