This page has been formatted to facilitate printout of the review.

Use your browser's "Back" button to return to the previous page, or the links at the top and bottom of this page to navigate to related information. If you have difficulty fitting the text on this page onto your printer output, simply resize your browser window to a narrower width and print again.




Remember us when it's time to buy!

Dave here: Have our reviews been helpful to you? (Is this article you're reading right now useful?) Preparing this level of information on as many products as we do is incredibly hard work, not to mention expensive. Things on the Internet may look like they're free, but they're not. (As a lot of big dot.com companies are finding out these days.) Somewhere, somebody has to pay to produce worthwhile content. YOU can help us though, by remembering us when it comes time to make your purchase. Would you consider coming back to our site and clicking-through to one of our advertisers to make your purchase? Every dollar you spend with one of our advertisers helps us directly (in affiliate fees) or indirectly (the advertiser will keep renewing their ad contract with us). To make it easy for you to support us, here's a URL you can visit, to see all our current advertisers, with links to click on that will register your visit to them as having come from our site. It's up to you where you buy, but Mike, Mike, Kim, Yazmin, Marti and I would be really grateful if you'd help us out by choosing one of our advertisers to purchase from.

Thank you for your support!
Dave Etchells, Founder & Publisher


Visit our "Buy Now" Page:
http://www.imaging-resource.com/buynow.htm





Back to Full Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom Review
Go to Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom Data Sheet
Go to Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom Pictures Page
Up to Imaging Resource Cameras Page


Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom

4.0 megapixels, a sharp 10x zoom lens, a unique flash head, and loads more features!

Review First Posted: 07/06/2004




MSRP $699 US

 

*
4.0-megapixel resolution for 2,288 x 1,712 images. (Interpolated, native size is 3,200 x 2,400)
*
10x zoom lens.
*
ISO sensitivity from 64-400
*
xD-Picture Card memory storage
* Unique dual-tube flash head for excellent flash range
*
 TruePic TURBO image processor

 

Manufacturer Overview

The Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom is the current high-end model in an ongoing line of long-zoom digicams from Olympus. While the long-zoom market is getting more crowded these days, Olympus really pioneered it with their excellent C-2100, and still retains a commanding position with their latest C-765 and C-770 models. The Olympus C-770 UltraZoom sports a four megapixel CCD and a full 10x zoom lens, a new TruePic Turbo processor and a larger LCD, along with a range of features tailored to "enthusiast" users looking for full exposure control and compatibility with external flash units.

As with last year's C-740 and C-750, this year's C-765 and C-770 models are near-twins, the principle differences between the two having to do with the C-770's enhanced flash capabilities, and its inclusion of an internal speaker for audio playback. While the C-765 has only a conventional internal flash head, the C-770 sports both a hot shoe for attaching external flash units, and a unique dual-tube internal flash head that provides much greater flash range than found in most prosumer digicams. Compared to earlier models in Olympus' UltraZoom line, this year's models have larger LCD displays, rely on Li-Ion batteries (rather than AAs) for their power, and now accept only xD-Picture Cards, dropping the dual-media compatibility with SmartMedia cards of some prior versions. All in all, the C-770 Ultra Zoom offers full-on "enthusiast" controls and features in a long-zoom camera, at an affordable price.

 

Comparison with the Olympus C-765

If you're read my review of the Olympus C-765, then you'll know most of the features and capabilities of the C-770 as well. The two cameras are virtually identical to each other, the main differences being in the C-770's flash system and its movie mode resolution options, although the C-770 also seems to have a more powerful/faster image processor. Apart from these differences, if you've already read my C-765 review, you can save yourself the time of reading this one for the C-770, and just skip to the test results and conclusions at the bottom. Here's a list of specific differences between the two units:

Feature C-770 C-765
Movie mode resolution options MPEG4 (640 x 480)
SHQ (640 x 480)
HQ (320 x 240)
SQ (160 x 120)
HQ (320 x 240)
SQ (160 x 120)
Internal speaker yes no
Infrared Remote yes no
Internal flash design dual-tube head conventional single-tube design
Internal flash range
(Olympus' spec)
Wide: 1.0-14.8 feet
(0.3 m to 4.5 m)
Tele : 3.9-17 feet
(1.2 m to 5.2 m)
Wide: 1.0-14.8 feet
(0.3 m to 4.5 m)
Tele : 3.9-11.5 feet
(1.2 m to 3.5 m)
External flash hot shoe yes no
Shutter lag
(~ no difference)
1.07 - 1.18 1.00 - 1.21
Single shot buffer depth (large/fine files) 19+ 3
Continuous Lo buffer depth (large/fine files) 11 3
Continuous Hi buffer depth (large/fine files) 5 5
TIFF mode cycle time 12.5 sec 20.8
Worst-case battery life (minutes) 79 120
Weight 11.9 oz
(337 g)
11.1 oz
(315 g)

High Points

 

Executive Overview

Two years ago, Olympus' Camedia C-720 and C-730 Ultra Zoom digicams debuted to immense popularity, with their excellent feature offerings and exceptional zoom capabilities. These were followed last year by the C740 and C-750, which were also very popular. Now, in the 2004 model year, the C-765 and C-770 Ultra Zooms update this popular design with faster processors and a new rechargeable Li-Ion battery that offers good power capacity in a compact package. (While still good though, run times have decreased considerably from last year's models.) The C-770 Ultra Zoom continues with the outstanding 10x zoom lens, wide range of exposure control, and healthy range of creative shooting options as well. The C-770 has manual white balance, five preset Scene modes, a maximum exposure time of 15 seconds, variable ISO, and AutoConnect Storage Class USB (providing plug-and-play transfer of images to Windows 2000, Windows Me and XP, and Mac OS 8.6 and higher computers, without the need for additional driver software). With the full range of exposure control available, Olympus gives users as much or as little exposure control as needed. Though the C-770 was designed with more experienced digital photographers in mind (those who want to step up to a camera with expanded capabilities and full exposure control, including compatibility with external flash systems), the available Program mode offers point-and-shoot ease of use, and six preset shooting modes make it easy for even rank beginners to handle common shooting situations.

With its compact size and surprising portability, the C-765 Ultra Zoom is a viable option even for heavy travelers. The same compact rangefinder-style design that's characterized Olympus digicams for several years is comfortable and familiar, and compact compared to many other long-zoom digicams currently on the market. The C-765 measures only 4.1 x 2.4 x 2.7 inches (104.5 x 60 x 68.5 millimeters) with the lens retracted, and is only three-quarters of an inch thicker with the lens fully extended. Its mixture of plastic and light metal body panels weigh just 11.9 ounces (337 grams) including the battery, light enough to fit into a large purse or waist pack. That said, its classic silver and black color combination, enhanced by a satin finish, makes it deserving of its own protective camera bag or pouch.

The C-770 features an "electronic" optical viewfinder, which is essentially a miniaturized version of the larger, 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. The C-770's EVF has a bright, clear display, and a high eyepoint and a diopter adjustment make it comfortable for eyeglass wearers. Both the LCD and EVF have detailed information displays and provide access to the LCD menu system. The EVF also performs unusually well under low-light conditions, a traditional weakness of EVFs. The 6.3-63mm, 10x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-380mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/3.7 (wide angle to telephoto). In addition to the C-770's 10x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 4x with the "digital zoom," effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 40x. (Keep in mind though, that digital zoom directly trades off image quality for magnification, because it simply crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the CCD.) The C-770's maximum image size is 3,200 x 2,400 pixels, interpolated up from the 2,288 x 1,712-pixel sensor resolution. Lower resolutions of 2,288 x 1,712; 2,288 x 1,520 (a 3:2 ratio), 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.

The C-770's well-rounded exposure modes include Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual settings. In Program mode, the camera controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as 1 second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best value for the other exposure variable. When used in aperture or shutter priority modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8 and shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1 second. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as 15 seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode, or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, and Night-Scene scene modes for easy capture of what might otherwise be tricky subjects. (Night Scene mode extends automatic exposure control down to four-second exposure times.)

The C-770 has five ISO settings (Auto, 64, 100, 200, and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, two metering modes (Digital ESP, Multi-pattern, and Spot), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, or Custom to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Image contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu, and a Function menu option lets you record images in black and white or sepia tones, or in Whiteboard or Blackboard photo modes (good for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) function locks an exposure reading, eliminating the need to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits, and an optional remote control.

The C-770's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with sound, in either SQ (160 x 120 pixels) or HQ (320 x 240 pixels) modes. Actual recording times vary with the resolution and the amount of memory card space. While the C-765 and C-770 can both record sound with their movies, only the C-770 can replay the audio portion of its recordings in-camera, because it has an internal speaker, which the C-765 lacks. Two Sequence modes capture multiple images at short intervals (actual speed depending on file size), with an AF Sequence mode option that adjusts the focus between each shot. A bracketing mode also can be The C-770 also offers a panoramic mode, and a "2-in-1" capture mode that records two images side-by-side (like a split-screen view). The camera's internal, pop-up flash unit offers six operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Night Scene, and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction modes), with adjustable flash intensity.

The Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom ships with a 16MB xD-Picture Card for image storage. Larger capacity cards are available separately, up to the current limit of 512MB, and I highly recommend purchasing a much larger card along with the camera. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and if you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus also provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

I've always been impressed with the user-friendliness and flexibility of Olympus' Camedia digicams. I really enjoyed the performance of the C-750 and its 10x lens, and the C-770 Ultra Zoom appears to have filled its shoes nicely. The larger 4.0-megapixel CCD produces even higher image quality, and the external flash hot shoe increases the camera's flexibility even more. The same excellent manual exposure controls, impressive 10x optical zoom, and versatile array of exposure options return to handle a wide range of shooting conditions. Given the wide range of exposure options, there's no question that novices and advanced amateurs alike will find a lot to like in the C-770.

 

Design

The C-770 Ultra Zoom features the same general body shape and size as the rest of the C-series,though it has shrunk a little around the grip area, largely due to the use of a Li-ion battery pack instead of its predecessors' 4-AA scheme. The control layout is nearly the same, with a large Mode dial on top of the camera and a sprinkling of multi-functional controls on the back panel. The silver body is boxy yet compact, and fits well into the hand. The C-770 Ultra Zoom features a 4.0-megapixel CCD, which delivers a maximum image size of 3,200 x 2,400 pixels with interpolation, or 2,288 x 1,712 pixels uninterpolated. This is enough resolution for sharp 8x10 inch prints, even with moderate cropping. Its 10x zoom lens offers incredible zoom power, and the range of manual and automatic exposure options is as complete as I've seen on a consumer-level digicam.

The C-770 Ultra Zoom measures 4.1 x 2.4 x 2.7 inches (104.5 x 60 x 68.5 millimeters), a little smaller than the C-750. The mixture of plastic and thin metal body panels keeps the C-770 Zoom relatively light at 11.9 ounces (337 grams) without batteries, though the larger lens assembly gives it a solid heft when you pick it up. While stashing the camera in a shirt pocket is out of the question, the C-770 does at least have a chance at larger coat pockets and purses. The accompanying neckstrap is useful and secure, but I strongly recommend picking up a soft camera case to protect the C-770 when traveling.

The front of the C-770 features the lens, self-timer LED / IR remote sensor, microphone, and the front lip of the pop-up flash compartment. When fully retracted, the lens barrel projects a bit less than an inch beyond the depth of the hand grip, and it extends about another three-quarters of an inch when powered up in any capture mode. When not in use, the lens is protected by a removable plastic lens cap that attaches to the camera with the supplied tether strap. A nice touch is that the lens cap rides along with the telescoping lens body, so you don't have to worry about straining the lens motor if you accidentally turn the camera on with the lens cap in place. The combination of the subtle finger grip on the front of the camera body and the gently sculpted thumb rest on the back make the C-770 easy to hold securely, but I'd still recommend using a wrist or neck strap as a backup.

With the built-in flash popped up, this shot also shows the unique dual-tube flash head of the C-770. On top, a tube in a shallow reflector casts light across a wide enough angle to cover the field of view of the lens at its wide angle setting. A lower tube in a deeper reflector projects a narrower beam that concentrates the light from the flash tube onto more distant subjects. The camera automatically switches between the two flash tubes as the lens crosses the approximate midpoint of its focal length range. The net effect is a flash with good coverage at wide angle focal lengths, but with enough power to illuminate even rather distant subjects surprisingly well.

The right side of the camera no longer has the memory compartment door seen on previous models; this is now accessed from the bottom. All that is here is one of the eyelets for attaching the neckstrap.

On the opposite side of the camera is the connector compartment, housing the DC-In, A/V Out, and USB connector ports. A hinged plastic door protects the jacks when not in use, and snaps firmly shut. The speaker is also located on this side, behind a protective grille. The second eyelet for attaching the neck strap is also on this side of the camera.

The C-770's top panel has just a few controls on it, including the Shutter button (surrounded by the Zoom lever), a Mode dial, and the pop-up flash compartment. Also visible is the camera's hot shoe, with its protective plastic cover in place.

With a control layout similar to previous C-series models, the C-770's back panel layout is clean and logical. All of the control buttons fit conveniently above or to the right of the 1.8-inch LCD monitor. The four-way Arrow Pad serves multiple functions depending on the camera's operating mode, and is adjacent to the right of the display. The use of separate buttons for the arrow keys, rather than the rocker-type controls used on some cameras makes for more sure-footed operation, with little likelihood of accidentally pressing keys other than the one you're aiming for. Arrayed across the top of the back panel are the AE Lock / Rotate button, Self-Timer, Remote / Erase, Flash / Protect, and Flash Release buttons. Below these is the red Power button. Just to the right of the LCD's top right corner is the Quick View button, which switches between whatever record mode you happen to be in and Playback mode without having to select Playback mode from the Mode dial. A Display button sits just below and to the left of the four-way Arrow Pad and controls whether the rear-panel LCD or electronic viewfinder (EVF) display is illuminated. The electronic viewfinder in the upper left corner of the camera shows a miniaturized version of the larger LCD display, and features a diopter adjustment dial for eyeglass wearers.

The bottom of the camera holds the battery compartment cover and a plastic screw-mount tripod socket. The tripod socket is just a little too close to the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. (This is a pet peeve of mine, but I recognize that most people don't spend as much time with their digicams locked down to a tripod as I do.) Inside the battery compartment, the new Li-ion battery is retained by a spring loaded clip, and the xD card releases with a downward push. I found it's important to put the battery in the right way, because it's easy to put it in almost all the way in backwards, but not easy to get it back out.

 

Viewfinder

The C-770 Ultra Zoom has both a 0.44-inch electronic viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, TFT color LCD screen. The EVF has approximately 240,000 pixels, while the rear panel screen sports 118,000. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) accommodates eyeglass wearers with a diopter correction adjustment and a comfortably high eyepoint, leaving enough room between your eye and the finder for most eyeglass lenses to fit in, although I did notice a little vignetting around the edges while wearing my own glasses. The tiny display is identical to that of the larger LCD monitor, complete with menus and exposure information. The EVF remains active only when the LCD monitor is switched off, as the Display button switches between the two views.

My regular readers will know that I'm no fan of electronic viewfinders. Unfortunately, they seem to be a necessary evil with long-zoom cameras, as it'd be prohibitively expensive and bulky to include an optical viewfinder with an 10x zoom to match the lens. EVFs do have the dual advantages of providing true "through the lens" (TTL) viewing, as well as the same information display as on rear-panel LCDs, but to my mind the negatives usually outweigh the positives. My biggest objection to EVFs is that they are generally useless for low light shooting, but the EVF on the C-770 Ultra Zoom seems to be one of a new generation that are doing much better in this respect. The display gets rather dark while the camera's autofocus was working, but at other times seem quite capable of providing at least a usable display, even under very dark conditions. (Depending, of course, on what you consider "usable:" I could actually see enough of my DaveBox target to aim the camera, even at the limit of my low-light test, a light level about 4 f-stops (16x) darker than that of typical city street lighting at night.)

On the C-770, the Display button located just off the LCD's lower right corner, toggles between the rear-panel LCD and the EVF display. A detailed information readout on both monitors highlights a number of exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the screen. (Note though, that specific exposure parameters are not displayed in any of the "scene" modes.) Part of the information display disappears within a few seconds of half-pressing the Shutter button, and through the Record menu, you can set how much information remains in the display. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value updates continuously to respond to changes in subject or lighting. The Manual mode displays both of the selected f/stop and shutter speed values, while the right-hand set of numbers reports the amount by which the camera thinks the image will be under- or overexposed, up to +/- 3 EV units. (When you're more than three EV over or under, these numbers turn red and remain fixed at +/-3 EV.) The C-770 also features a optional live histogram display, which graphs the tonal distribution of the current composition. This is useful in determining any over- or underexposure that may occur with the current exposure settings, letting you correct the exposure before actually taking the shot.

When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can zoom in up to 4x on displayed images 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 4, 9, or 16 images at a time, as selected in the Playback menu. A very handy "quick view" function lets you switch to playback mode by pressing the Quick View button. The image will remain displayed on the LCD until you revert back to Record mode by pressing the Display button again, or by half-pressing the Shutter button.

Like some other Olympus digicams, the C-770 also offers the ability to resize or crop your images post-exposure. This is very handy, as it's almost always possible to improve your photos by cropping (trimming) them a little. On the C-770, a cropping menu option lets you trim away as much as 30 percent or so of the image area, and even change the composition from horizontal to vertical, or vice versa. In cropping mode, a bold green outline indicates the current crop area, and the zoom toggle zooms the crop in or out, while the four arrow keys let you move it around the image. Once you've got the crop adjusted to your liking, the camera will save a new image onto the card, with just the cropped area in it. (Your original photo is left undisturbed.) Likewise, using another menu option, you can resize previously-shot photos, to create smaller versions more suitable for emailing.

 

 

Optics

Free Photo Lessons

Learn how to use lens aperture to control depth of field - Visit our free Photo Lessons area!

The Olympus C-770 is equipped with an all-glass lens, with 11 elements in seven groups. The 10x, 6.3-63mm lens provides a focal length range equivalent to a 38-380mm zoom on a 35mm film SLR. (That's a moderate wide angle to quite a long telephoto.) Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, with the maximum aperture setting dependent on the lens zoom position, ranging up to f/3.7 at the maximum telephoto position. The C-770's normal minimum focusing distance supposedly extends from 3.9 to 6.6 feet (1.2 - 2.0m) as the lens ranges from wide angle to telephoto, but in practice, I found that there was no difference in behavior between "normal" focusing and "normal macro" mode: The camera always seemed to focus as close as about three inches at wide angle, and around four feet at telephoto focal lengths. - The close end of this range matches Olympus' spec for closest focus in normal macro mode at wide angle, but the minimum distance in telephoto mode is quite a bit further than the 2.0 feet that Olympus claims. Through the Record menu, a Super Macro option lets the camera focus as close as 1.2 inches (three centimeters), but the lens focal length in this mode is fixed at an intermediate focal length near the wide angle end of the lens' range.

Autofocus is determined through the lens, using a contrast detection method. This means that the autofocus will work properly with auxiliary lenses, although it should be noted that add-on lenses will usually affect a camera's focusing limits: Don't expect the C-770 to focus as close as it usually does when it has a telephoto adapter attached. A green dot lights solid in the viewfinder display whenever focus is set, and flashes if the camera is having trouble adjusting focus. An optional Full-time AF mode continuously checks focus and refocuses as conditions change. This assures that the camera is more likely to be focused on a moving subject when you're ready to shoot; but it also uses more battery, so use this feature wisely. Also, note that, with stationary subjects, the continuous AF option does nothing to reduce shutter delay. Two AF area modes are available as well, iESP and Spot. In iESP mode, the camera bases focus on the entire frame, automatically determining the primary subject, based on proximity to the camera. Spot mode looks at only the very center of the frame, the area within the black AF target marks on the viewfinder display. The C-770 also lets you adjust the AF area, through an option in the Record menu. Once enabled, you use the arrow keys to move the AF target marks anywhere in the frame (though only while in Spot AF mode). Finally, the C-770 features a manual focus option. Pressing and holding the "OK" button displays the AF/MF focus menu, as well as a distance scale that you can set to meters or feet. You then adjust focus with the up and down arrow keys. As an aid to accurate focusing, the center portion of the view enlarges whenever you're actively adjusting the focus setting..

The C-770's lens barrel incorporates body-mounted filter accessory threads that couple to Olympus' range of accessory lens kits, which extend the camera's telephoto, wide-angle, and macro shooting capabilities. (Note that an Olympus adapter tube, part number CLA-4, is required to permit mounting the auxiliary lenses beyond the furthest extension of the C-770's telescoping lens assembly.)

While the C-770's lens provides up to 10x optical zoom, the camera's 4x Digital Zoom increases that magnification to a maximum of 40x, although the digital zoom brings with it the usual reduction in resolution. Digital zoom is enabled through the Record menu and controlled by the Zoom Lever on top of the camera. Since so-called "digital zoom" just crops out and enlarges the central pixels from the CCD's image, it directly trades resolution for magnification. This will result in very soft images if you're working at the camera's maximum four-megapixel file size, but can be useful if you're only looking for 640 x 480 pixels for web or email use.

As an alternative to the blurring effect of the interpolation used with normal digital zoom, the C-770 offers a "Super Zoom" mode. This seems to be an unusual combination of digital telephoto and optical zoom. In Super Zoom mode, image resolution is forced to 1600x1200, and the zoom range is extended by about another 40%. This sounds a lot like a digital zoom function, where the image is being cropped to 1600x1200 to give the greater telephoto effect. What's different about the Super Zoom mode though, is that there's obviously some motion of the lens elements as you zoom from the normal maximum telephoto position to the "super tele" setting. My guess is that the C-770 uses a combination of cropping and optical zooming in its Super Zoom mode, to achieve a smooth 14x zoom range from wide-angle (where it uses the full sensor area, resampling the full frame to 1600x1200) to maximum telephoto (where it uses only the central 1600x1200 chunk of sensor pixels, but does no resampling). An interesting concept, basically giving you an option to use the camera as either a four-megapixel, 10x zoom model, or two-megapixel, 14x zoom model.

 

Exposure

Free Photo Lessons

Learn about white balance and simple lighting techniques for dramatic shots in out free Photo Lessons area!

The C-770 Ultra Zoom offers an impressive amount of exposure control, including Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as a small handful of scene modes that preset exposure and color parameters for shooting in specific situations. The Full Auto and Scene modes make the camera easy to use for novices, while the other options provide the flexibility demanded by more advanced users. All capture modes are set by rotating the Mode dial on top of the camera, which also accesses the My Mode, Movie, and Playback modes. (My Mode lets you create a custom setup for the camera, including settings for virtually every exposure and operating parameter. The saved setup can then be selected simply by rotating the Mode Dial to the "My" position. See below for more information.)

In Auto mode, the camera has complete control over the exposure parameters. You can adjust options like lens zoom, drive mode, image size, etc., but can't make any exposure adjustments at all (not even exposure compensation or white balance, this is truly a "point-and-shoot" mode). Program mode leaves the camera in charge of the aperture and shutter speed, while you control the remaining exposure options such as ISO, metering, and white balance. In Program mode, you also have access to the exposure compensation adjustment, which lets you adjust the camera's automatically determined exposure setting by plus or minus two exposure equivalent (EV) units, in steps of 0.3 EV. Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture from f/2.8 to f/8 (the bottom end of which depends on the lens zoom position) leaving the camera to automatically determine the appropriate shutter speed, down to 1 second. In Shutter Priority, you can select shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1 second, with the camera selecting the corresponding aperture setting. The Manual exposure option lets you control both aperture and shutter speed yourself, and the bottom end of the shutter speed range is extended to 15 seconds. In common with other Olympus cameras, a handy feature of the Manual mode is that, as you scroll through the various exposure settings, the camera indicates whether it thinks your chosen setting will produce a correct exposure. It does this by showing the f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure differential (the difference between your settings and what the camera metering system thinks is correct) in green, up to a limit of +/- 3EV. For exposure differentials outside that range, the numbers turn red and remain fixed at the 3EV reading. (This is a very handy feature that I'd like to see more manufacturers implement in their cameras' manual exposure modes.)

The four scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape, and Night Scene, which optimize the camera for specific shooting situations. In Portrait mode, the camera uses a larger lens aperture, reducing depth of field to throw distracting background elements out of focus. Sports mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds, to help freeze fast-moving subjects. Landscape mode keeps foreground and background in focus, adjusting the camera's color handling to emphasize blue and green hues in the image (producing more intense foliage and sky colors). Night Scene employs slower shutter speeds, allowing more ambient light into the image. Limited menu options are available in the scene modes, as their purpose is to simplify camera setup for novices. (A multitude of menu choices would only add complication to what are intended to be easy-to-use camera settings.)

The C-770 features a variable ISO setting, which lets you set the camera's light sensitivity to 64, 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents, or to an Auto mode in which the camera selects an ISO appropriate to the subject's brightness. The higher sensitivity settings, combined with the camera's maximum 15-second shutter speed and noise reduction option, provide excellent low-light shooting capabilities. The higher ISO settings are also helpful when you want faster shutter speeds under normal lighting, to help freeze fast action. Of course, as with all digicams, the higher ISO settings produce photos with more image noise, in much the same way that higher-ISO films show more film grain. To combat this problem, the C-770 offers a Noise Reduction mode through the Record menu, which greatly reduces the amount of image noise from long exposures, particularly at the higher ISO settings.

Two metering systems are available on the C-770: Spot and Digital ESP. Both are accessed through the Spot / Macro / DPOF button on the camera's back panel. Under the default Digital ESP setting, the camera takes an exposure reading from the center of the image as well as the surrounding area and chooses the best exposure based on brightness and contrast across the entire scene. Spot metering simply reads the exposure from the very center of the image, so you can pinpoint the specific area of the photograph you want properly exposed. (Spot metering is very handy when you have a subject that's backlit, or that has a very different brightness, either lighter or darker, than the background.)

An AE Lock button locks the current exposure settings whenever pressed, so you can independently lock exposure and focus. (AE Lock is useful when you want to base your exposure on an off-center subject. Point the camera at the subject, lock the exposure, then recompose your shot however you like. Your subject will be correctly exposed, regardless of what might be in the center of the frame when you finally snap the shutter.)

For precise manual control over exposure metering, an eight-point Multi-Metering mode is available when in Spot metering mode. Enabling the Multi-Metering option through the Record menu lets you take up to eight single readings throughout the frame, which are then averaged to get the best exposure. I particularly like way the C-770 displays exposure information in Multi-Metering mode. You select individual metering points by pressing the AEL button, and each time you do so, the relative exposure for that point is displayed on a little ruler-graph at the bottom of the LCD screen as soon as you select the first point. Once the exposure graph is displayed, a small green pointer above the line shows the relative brightness of the subject under the central metering spot in real time. Pressing the AEL button captures the current brightness value to incorporate in the exposure calculation, and adds a green marker arrow under the graph at that point. In this way, you can very easily see the range of exposure values represented in your subject, and choose how you want to weight them in the final exposure determination. (You can also bias the exposure toward a particular part of your subject by simply adding more exposure samples from that area.) This one of the most flexible and powerful exposure metering options I've seen on a digicam, incidentally first seen on the still coveted Olympus OM-4 film camera, and is another feature other manufacturers would do well to emulate. (The screen shot shown above right is actually taken from the previous C-740 model. The feature works identically on the C-770, but the aperture, shutter speed, and AEL indicator displays are arranged a little differently.)

A Record View function, enabled through the Record menu, displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen while the image is recorded to the memory card. There's also a Quick View function that lets you check the previously captured image, by pressing the new Quick View button. Quick View basically drops you into Playback mode, with all playback functions (zoom, scroll, index display, delete, voice annotate, etc) available, but with the camera able to switch back to Record mode instantly, whenever you half-press the Shutter button.

In situations where exposure compensation is necessary, simply press either the right or left Arrow buttons (in all exposure modes except Auto and Manual) and the EV value displayed on the LCD will increase or decrease in one-third-step increments, up to a maximum of +/- 2 EV. Or, you can use the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function to automatically bracket an exposure as much as +/- 2 EV in either three or five step increments of 0.3, 0.6, or 1.0 EV units each. The auto bracketing will center its efforts around whatever exposure you've chosen as the starting point, including any exposure compensation adjustments you've made. AEB is really handy for those times when you want to make sure you get just the right exposure for a critical subject.

White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Custom, to accommodate a variety of lighting situations. You can also adjust the white balance, adding either more red or blue. This ability to "tweak" the white balance is very helpful when dealing with difficult light sources.

The C-770 Ultra Zoom also offers a 12-second Self-Timer for self-portraits or those occasions when you don't want to risk camera shake on a long exposure by pressing the Shutter button to trip the shutter.

There are also options on the Record menu to set the in-camera image sharpening, contrast, and saturation, in arbitrary units from -5 to +5. The contrast option is one that I personally find appealing. I find that I often want to decrease a camera's default contrast somewhat, to help preserve highlight detail on contrasty subjects. In the same general realm, you can also record images in black-and-white or sepia tones, or capture text via the Whiteboard and Blackboard photo modes, as set via the camera's Function sub-menu..

 

Flash

The C-770 offers a built-in, pop-up flash, with six operating modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes. Auto mode lets the camera decide when to fire the flash, while the Fill-in mode fires the flash with every shot. (Fill-in is useful for throwing light on backlit subjects, keeping their faces from being obscured in deep shadow.) The Red-Eye Reduction mode fires a brief burst of low-power flash pulses before firing the flash at full power, making the pupils of your subject's eyes contract, reducing the occurrence of the Red-Eye Effect. Slow Sync allows more ambient light into the background, producing more natural lighting behind a flash-illuminated subject. Through the Record menu, you can set the Slow Sync flash to fire at either the beginning or end of the exposure. A button on the rear panel pops the flash up from its compartment, while the Flash / Protect button on the back panel controls the flash operating mode. You can also adjust the overall flash intensity from +/-2 EV through the Record menu.

What can be viewed as either a blessing or a curse is the manual control for the popup flash. Often a flash that pops up whenever the camera happens to think it should can be annoying or surprising, especially if you disagree. With the C-770, the flash only fires if you've popped it up yourself. If the light level is too low for a good exposure without the flash, an onscreen warning tells you that you should press the manual pop-up release; if you don't the camera does its best to make the shot work anyway.

Unique Dual-Tube Flash Head
I mentioned the C-770's unique dual-tube flash head earlier, but it's worth a little further discussion here, given how unusual it is. Essentially all long-zoom digicams face dual problems in their flash systems. For one, the flash head on a long-zoom camera needs to spread its light across a wide enough angle to cover the field of view of the lens at its widest-angle position. This means though, that when the lens is zoomed to its full telephoto position, most of the light emitted by the flash is wasted, lighting up parts of the scene that are well outside the field of view. This "wasted" flash power would be a big enough limitation as it is, but long zoom lenses also generally suffer a fairly significant decrease in light-gathering efficiency as they approach the telephoto end of their focal length range. Taking the C-770's lens as a case in point, it has a maximum effective aperture of f/2.8 at its widest angle focal length, but only f/3.7 at the telephoto end of its range, almost a full f-stop (factor of two) reduction in its light-gathering ability. The net result is that flash systems on long zoom digicams tend to have rather limited working ranges when the camera's lens is set to the telephoto end of its range.

Professional-grade dedicated external flash units address this problem with flash heads that "zoom" right along with the camera lens, concentrating the light from the flash tube into a progressively narrower beam as the focal length of the camera's lens moves from wide angle to telephoto. This works fine if you have the size and bulk of a typical external flash unit to work with, but there isn't nearly enough room (or money in the manufacturing budget) to allow a solution of this sort in a prosumer digicam.

Olympus found a very clever way around this dilemma though, as seen in the C-770's internal flash design. While it wasn't practical to incorporate a zooming flash head, Olympus achieved much the same effect at dramatically lower cost and bulk with a dual-tube flash head that covers wide and telephoto focal lengths separately. The upper tube in the flash head is set in a shallow reflector, to provide even coverage at wide-angle focal lengths, while a second tube located below it sits in a much larger, deeper reflector, to focus its light into a much narrower beam. By concentrating the light in this way, the "telephoto" reflector significantly increases the useful range of the flash head, without requiring higher-power circuitry, with all the space, cost, and battery-life penalties that would imply.

In use, the camera automatically switches between the two flash tubes when the lens is zoomed through the midpoint of its focal length range: The top tube is used at short focal lengths, while the bottom one is used at longer ones. This all happens without any user input, the net effect simply being that of a camera with much-improved flash range at telephoto focal lengths.

In my own shooting with the camera, the dual-tube flash head seemed to work very well, with the C-770 much more able to capture distant subjects at night.

This strikes me as an elegant solution to the problem of telephoto flash performance, one that I expect to see other digicam manufacturers adopt for their long-zoom models as well. The incremental cost of the second flash tube should be fairly modest, and very little circuitry should be needed to switch between the two tubes, making the whole solution pretty cost-effective. Kudos to Olympus for this creative solution to a widespread problem!

 

Special Exposure Modes

Movie and Sound Recording Modes
The C-770's Movie mode is accessible via the Mode dial on top of the camera (marked with a small movie camera symbol). Once in Movie mode, you can record QuickTime or MPEG4 movies with or without sound. The length of movie clips depends on the resolution setting and the amount of memory card space available. A number indicating the available seconds of movie storage on the memory card appears on the LCD and EVF monitors. Optical zoom is disabled while recording movies with sound, but is enabled when recording with the sound turned off, and most other exposure options are available in movie mode as well. (Note though, that when zooming during movie recording, it can take quite a while for the autofocus system to adjust to changes in zoom position - As much as several seconds may elapse after a large zoom adjustment before the image becomes sharp again.) Three image resolutions are available in Movie mode, 640 x 480, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels. Olympus doesn't specify what the frame rate is in the C-770's movie mode, but recording time is limited only by the available space on the memory card. An added enhancement on the C-770 over it's lower-end sibling the C-765 is an option for recording its highest-resolution movies as MPEG4 files, rather than the default motion JPEG format. Note that movie files take up a lot of card space. The included 16 MB xD card holds only 17 seconds of movie with sound at the 640 x 480 resolution setting, 46 seconds at 320 x 240, and 186 seconds at 160 x 120. You'll definitely want a large memory card if you plan to do much movie recording.

In any record mode, you can record a short sound clip to accompany still images. The Sound option in the record menu activates the mode, and you can record a maximum of four seconds per image. Sound recording begins approximately half a second after the shutter is released. You can also record sound after the fact, through a menu option in Playback mode. Thanks to its built-in speaker, you can play back both sound clips and sound-accompanied movies on the C-770, a feature the lower-priced C-765 lacks.

Panorama Mode
Like most Olympus digicams, the C-770 offers a Panorama exposure mode when using an Olympus brand panorama-enabled 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 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 be able to do its job. Up to 10 shots can be taken in a panoramic series. Once the sequence of images is downloaded to your computer, you can use the included Olympus software to assemble them into an extended panorama.

Note that the panorama function is only enabled by the built-in firmware found on Olympus brand memory cards, so this option isn't available when using third-party memory cards. (I have to say that I think this tying of the panorama function to Olympus-branded cards strikes me as one of the most ill-considered product decisions Olympus has made. I can't imagine that the number of memory cards Olympus sells through this mechanism balances the camera sales they lose by having a crippled panorama function. On the other hand, for occasional panorama shots, most users can probably get by with the memory card included in the box with the camera.)

"2-in-1" Mode
Accessed through the Record menu, "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images in a single frame of memory. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one full resolution image, giving a split-screen effect. As with Panorama mode, a set of guidelines appear in the LCD display, to help you line up the shots.

Sequence Mode
The C-770 also offers three Sequence modes that mimic the motor drive on a film camera, recording images in rapid sequence when you hold down the Shutter button. As is usually the case, the number of frames you can capture quickly is limited by the camera's buffer memory capacity (typically three SHQ-quality images), and sequence mode isn't available at all for the TIFF (uncompressed) image format. What's a little surprising is that, once the buffer fills, you have to release and re-press the shutter button before the camera will capture any more frames. (In continuous capture mode, many cameras will simply keep snapping images whenever they're able, as long as you hold down the shutter button and there's space available on the card.) Hi-Speed sequence mode captures two frames, at a slightly faster frame interval. AF Sequence mode also captures a continuous series of images, but adjusts the focus between each shot, resulting in much slower shot to shot times.

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 environments. 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. A total of four different sets of My Mode settings can be saved. The C-770's My Mode is very flexible, letting you preset the following camera parameters (see the subsequent section on camera modes and menus for explanations of any settings which might not be obvious from the list below):

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time or delay before the shutter actually fires. This corresponds to the time required for 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 rarely reported on (and even more rarely reported accurately), and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure both shutter delay and shot to shot cycle times for all cameras I test, using a test system I designed and built for the purpose. (Crystal-controlled, with a resolution of 0.001 second.) Here are the numbers I collected for the Olympus C-770:

Olympus C-770 Timings
Operation
Time
(secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
6.0
LCD turns on and lens extends forward. Longer than average.
Shutdown
3.2 - 44
First time is time to retract lens, second time is worst-case buffer-clearing time, before you can remove the memory card. Lens-retract time is about average. Worst-case buffer-clearing time is very long, but that's because the camera can hold so many small/basic resolution shots in its buffer in continuous shooting mode. Buffer-clearing time in normal shooting mode is quite fast.
Play to Record, first shot
3.3
Time until first shot is captured. Not as fast as I'd like.
Record to play
5.3 / 2.4
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. Average to a bit slower than average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
1.07 / 1.17
First time is at full wide-angle, second is full telephoto. On the slow side of average, but long zooms generally have longer shutter-lag times.
Shutter lag, manual focus 0.71 Quite a bit slower than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.182
Time to capture, after half-pressing shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution

2.56 /
2.70

First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for "TV" mode (640x480) images. Times are averages. In large/fine mode, rate slows to 3.9 seconds per shot after 11 shots, and the buffer clears in 18 seconds. In TV mode, the buffer never fills and clears almost immediately. The cycle time is competitive with its competitors, but the C770 wins in terms of buffer depth, which is excellent for a camera of its class. (Buffer capacity is one area in which the C-770 does much better than its lower-priced sibling the C-765. The C-765 can only buffer a couple of large/fine shots at a time, a limitation that I felt was a significant one when I reviewed it.)
Cycle Time, continuous High mode 0.43
(2.3 fps)
Shoots 5 frames this fast regardless of resolution. In large/fine mode, it slows to about 4 seconds per frame after the buffer is full. After the buffer fills in TV mode, it shoots pairs of frames in rapid succession with each other, with about 4.7 seconds between pairs of shots. Buffer clears in 9 seconds for large/fine images, 6 seconds for TV mode. Very good speed, and a useful buffer capacity.
Cycle Time, continuous Low mode 0.63
(1.60 fps)

In large/fine mode, shoots this fast for 9 frames , then slows to one frame about every 4 seconds, and clears the buffer in 14 seconds. In TV mode, continues this fast for over 100 shots, but takes 34 seconds to clear the buffer.

Cycle Time, continuous AF mode 1.13 (.88 fps) In large/fine mode, shoots this fast for 9 frames , then slows to one frame about every 4 seconds, and clears the buffer in 18 seconds. In TV mode, continues this fast for over 100 shots, but takes 44 seconds to clear the buffer.
Cycle Time, TIFF mode 12.46 No continuous mode available for TIFFs, and no buffering, the camera writes the images to the card after each shot, and you have to wait until it's done processing the previous shot before you can capture the next one. That said though, even this rather leisurely pace is a fair bit faster than most cameras manage to process TIFF-format image files.

While I wouldn't by any stretch call the C-770 a speed demon, it isn't as horribly slow as some long-zoom digicams, has pretty good buffer capacity, and is reasonably fast in its high-speed continuous shooting mode. While its shutter lag is on the long side of average, it does better than some long-zoom models, and is actually quite fast when prefocused by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button prior to the exposure itself. So overall, not a first choice for sports shooting, but if you can learn to prefocus before critical shots, it should do quite nicely.

 

 

Operation and User Interface

The C-770's user interface is very similar to that of the preceding C-750 model, as well as other recent Olympus C-series digicams. An intuitive set of menu options is easy to navigate, and many common exposure options are controlled externally. Even for users new to the interface, menu layouts are quite straightforward. Because the EVF displays the same information as the larger LCD monitor, you can quickly verify basic camera settings while aligning a shot, without having to activate the larger LCD display. A Mode dial on top of the camera changes capture modes quickly, and the AE Lock button can be customized to activate any one of a wide variety of settings. When you do have to call up the LCD menu, a shortcut screen appears first, with quick links to the image quality, white balance, and ISO settings. (You can also edit these shortcuts through the Setup menu, to select different camera functions for each.) Once you get into the actual Record menu, options are organized by function, accessed by a series of tabs along the left side of the screen. This layout lets you quickly skip to the options you need without sifting through pages of menu items. In any of the manual exposure modes, aperture and/or shutter speed is adjusted externally, as is exposure compensation. Once you get the hang of things, the control layout is quite intuitive and efficient.

Control Enumeration


Mode Dial
: On the top of the camera is the Mode Dial, which controls the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Playback, Auto, Portrait, Sports, Landscape, Night Scene, Movie, My Mode, Aperture / Shutter Speed / Manual (A/S/M), and Program modes.


Zoom Lever
: On top of the camera, in front of the Mode Dial and surrounding the shutter release, the Zoom Lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes, and the Digital Zoom when enabled through the Record menu.

In Playback mode, the zoom lever switches between Index view, normal image display, and playback zoom, and controls the amount of playback zoom applied.

Shutter Button: Located in the center of the Zoom control, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure settings when pressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully pressed.


Flash / Protect Button
: Located on the top, right portion of the camera's back panel, this button controls the Flash mode in all still capture modes. Pressing it cycles through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes.

In Playback mode, this button marks the displayed image for write-protection, or removes protection. Once protected, files cannot be erased or manipulated in any way, but will still be deleted if the memory card is reformatted.


Flash Release Button
: Just to the right of the Flash / Protect button, this button releases the pop-up flash from its compartment.


Self-Timer / IR Remote / Erase Button
: Adjacent to the viewfinder eyepiece, on the right side, this button controls the camera's Self-Timer mode, and also enables or disables the remote-control interface. When remote control is enabled, the included IR remote controller can be used to fire the camera's shutter.

In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the current image. The camera presents a confirmation screen after the Erase button is pressed, to make sure you really meant to delete the image.


AE Lock / Custom / Rotation Button
: To the left of the self timer button, this button locks the exposure setting in any record mode. Through the Setup menu, it can be customized to control a number of other menu functions.

In Playback mode, this button rotates the image display clockwise in increments of 90 degrees.


Diopter Adjustment Dial
: To the right of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the electronic viewfinder's optics to accommodate eyeglass wearers. I don't have any way of measuring these adjustments, but the C-770's seems to cover a fairly wide range, almost accommodating even my 20/180 (very nearsighted) uncorrected vision.


Power/Main Mode Switch:
Directly above the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this slide switch turns the camera on and off, and also selects the main operating mode. Options are Playback, Still-Image Capture, and Movie Capture.


Four-Way Arrow Pad and OK / Menu Button
: Made up of four buttons arranged in a circle around a central "OK" button, the Arrow Pad controls many of the camera's operations. In all capture modes except Manual, the left and right arrow buttons increase or decrease the exposure compensation setting. In Aperture or Shutter Priority exposure modes, the up and down Arrow buttons adjust the lens aperture or shutter speed settings, depending on which mode you've selected. In Manual mode, the up and down Arrows control shutter speed, while the left and right Arrows control aperture.

In Playback mode, the left and right Arrows move forward or backward through the pictures stored on the card. Up and down arrows jump through the images 10 frames at a time. All four are used to scroll around portions of the zoomed image in Zoom Playback mode.

In the LCD menu system, the Arrow buttons navigate through menu screens and select settings. The OK / Menu button in the center of the pad displays the settings menu in any camera mode, and also confirms menu selections.

In any capture mode, pressing and holding the OK button for a few seconds activates the camera's manual focus option. Press the left arrow key to enter manual focus mode, and then use the up and down arrow keys to adjust the focus.


Display Button
: Just off the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button toggles the viewfinder display back and forth between the EVF and LCD monitors.


Quickview Button
: Calls up the previously-captured image on the screen and enables most playback-mode functions.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Playback Mode: Accessed by sliding the rear-panel mode switch to the position marked by a green arrow. This mode lets you 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 when moved in the telephoto direction, enlarges a single image. While zoomed in on an image, the Arrow buttons can move the enlarged view around the full image area, allowing you to inspect all parts of it.

Still Capture Mode: Accessed by sliding the rear-panel mode switch to the position marked by a camera icon. This mode lets you capture still images. Once this main mode is selected, various still-capture submodes are available via the top-mounted mode dial.

Movie Mode: Accessed by sliding the rear-panel mode switch to the movie camera symbol, Movie mode lets you capture movies (with sound) for as long as the memory card has available space. Shutter speed is set automatically, depending on light levels and the camera's ISO setting, but Olympus gives no specification for the shutter speed range. (The C-750 had a movie-mode shutter speed range of 1/30 - 1/8,000, but the C-770's manual makes no mention of shutter speed in movie mode.)

My Mode: Quickly configures the camera based on a (large) set of previously saved user-defined settings. 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, and the camera can accommodate four different sets.

A/S/M Mode: Accesses a range of manual and semi-manual exposure modes, including Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give the user control over one exposure variable and the camera control over the other. Manual mode offers full user control over both aperture and shutter speed. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, depending on the zoom setting. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1 second, in both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, and to 16 seconds in Manual mode.

Program Mode: Puts the camera in control of both aperture and shutter speed settings, while you control all other exposure variables, such as white balance, exposure compensation, etc.

Auto Mode: This mode puts the camera in charge of all exposure variables, apart from zoom, flash mode, image size, and drive mode. This is a true "point & shoot" mode, requiring almost no input from the user apart from a press of the Shutter button.

Portrait Mode: Optimizes the camera for capturing portraits. A larger aperture is used, so that the subject will appear sharply focused in front of a slightly soft background.

Sports Mode: The camera's exposure system is biased toward faster shutter speeds to freeze action and moving subjects.

Landscape & Portrait Mode: This mode is for capturing wide views of scenery with a person in the foreground. A smaller lens aperture is used to keep both the foreground and background in focus.

Landscape Mode: This mode is for capturing wide views of scenery, with both the foreground and background in focus. Similar to the Landscape+Portrait mode described above, but this mode also enhances any blue or green colors in the image, for more vibrant trees, water, and skies.

Night Scene Mode: This mode is best for capturing night portraits or night scenery, such as cityscapes. A slower shutter speed (as long as 4 seconds) lets you shoot under darker conditions.

Self-Portrait Mode: Designated by an icon showing two figures side by side, this mode lets you snap a picture of yourself, by holding the camera at arms-length, facing you. The focal length is set to wide angle, and the camera's autofocus system will look for a close-in subject to lock onto.



Still Picture Shooting Menu: In capture mode, pressing the OK/Menu button initially brings up the "shortcut" menu shown at right. In its default configuration, this lets you quickly access the settings for drive mode, resolution and ISO by pressing the up-, left-, or down-arrow keys respectively, or enter the main menu system by pressing the right-arrow key. You can configure the shortcut menu through an option on the setup menu though, assigning a variety of functions to the up-, down-, or left-arrow keys. Following are the options available on each of the four tabs of the record-mode menu system. (Note that available menu options will change depending on capture mode.)








Playback Menu
As with its record mode menu system, pressing the OK/Menu button in playback mode initially brings up a "Short Cut" menu screen, which offers three shortcuts to frequently-used options, as well as an option to enter the main playback mode menu system. Unlike the record mode short cut menu though, the options on the playback mode short cut screen are fixed, and not subject to reprogramming via the setup menu.



Image Storage and Interface

The C-770 stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes equipped with a 16MB card. The C-770's file naming protocol includes the month and day at the beginning of the file name, and provides the option of numbering images progressively from one card to the next, or of resetting the naming sequence for each card. The camera lets you write-protect individual images from accidental erasure through the Playback menu. (Note that individually protected images can still be erased by a card format operation).

The C-770 can store images in both uncompressed TIFF and compressed JPEG file formats. JPEG compression levels include Super High Quality (SHQ), High Quality (HQ), and Standard Quality (SQ). No less than seven image sizes are available, with a variety at each quality setting. Resolutions include 3,200 x 2,400 ("Enlarge" size, produced by interpolating up from the 2,288 x 1,712 pixels of the CCD); 2,288 x 1,712; 2,288 x 1,520 (3:2); 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels.

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. The second table below shows the approximate size and compression ratio of each of the 750's size/quality setting combinations, along with how many of each image size can fit on the included 16MB memory card.

Image
Size
Options
3,200 x 2,400
(Interpolated)
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
         

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
64 MB Memory Card
TIFF Fine
Normal
2,288 x 1,712 Images
(Avg size)
5
11.6 MB
23
2.7 MB
65
985 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
2,048 x 1,536 Images
(Avg size)
6
9.8 MB
35
1.8 MB
81
790 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 5:1 12:1
1,600 x 1,200 Images
(Avg size)
11
5.8 MB
45
593 KB
128
311 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
1,280 x 960 Images
(Avg size)
17
3.7 MB
70
914 KB
199
321 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1
12:1
1,024 x 768 Images
(Avg size)
27
2.4 MB
107
595 KB
307
208 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1
11:1
640 x 480
Images
(Avg size)
67
948 KB
266
241 KB
665
96 KB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1
10:1

 

The C-770 comes with interface software and cables for both Mac and Windows computers. It employs a USB interface for high-speed computer connection, and implements a "storage-class" connection. This is what Olympus refers to as their "USB Auto-Connect" function, which lets you connect the camera directly to a Windows Me, 2000, or XP computer, or a Mac running OS version 8.6 or later, without the need for driver software. Download speed is quite fast, but not as quick as many current models with high-speed USB 2.0 interfaces. I clocked the C-770 at a download speed of 731 KB/second to my 2.4 GHz Sony VAIO computer, running Windows XP. (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.)

 

 

Video Out

The C-770 has an A/V Out port 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. (This last means that you could use a TV monitor as a "remote viewfinder" if you wanted to.) Through the Setup menu, you can set the Video Out signal to NTSC or PAL.

Power

The C-770 is powered by a rechargeable LI-10B battery pack or 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 table below shows the power drain I measured in various operating modes for the C-770...

Operating Mode
Power
(@4.8 volts on the external power terminal)
Est. Minutes, LI-10B battery pack
Capture Mode, w/LCD
640 mA
79
Capture Mode, no LCD
617 mA
82
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
630 mA
80
Half-pressed w/o LCD
590 mA
86
Memory Write (transient)
656 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
1635 mA
n/a
Image Playback
402 mA
125


Overall, the C-770's battery life is low, even for an EVF-equipped camera, a fair bit worse than that of the C-765, and far below the level of the earlier C-750 model. Generally, the issue with EVFs is that you can't turn them off, so they continue to draw power whether you need them or not. (You can often save significant battery power on cameras with optical viewfinders, simply by leaving the LCD display turned off.) In its worst-case power-drain mode (capture mode, with the rear panel LCD display active), the C-770's projected run time is only 79 minutes, very much on the short side. The C-770's more powerful processor and bigger buffer memory evidently exact a high price relative to the lower-powered C-765 model. (Why on earth Olympus didn't choose to include their LI-12B battery with the C-770 is a mystery to me. The roughly 19% higher capacity would have been very welcome, given the C-770's higher power drain.) As always, I strongly recommend that you purchase an extra battery and keep it charged, advice that applies doubly for cameras like the C-770, with shorter than average battery life.

 

Included Software

The C-770 comes with a nice complement of software on the supplied CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by Olympus' Camedia Master software package (version 4.2) for both Mac and Windows platforms (Macintosh OS 8.6-9.2/OS X, Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000 Pro/XP). USB drivers for both platforms and an Apple QuickTime reader are also included.

Camedia Master lets you 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, Camedia 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 DPOF-compliant photo printers.

 

In the Box

In the US, the C-770 ship with the following items in the box::

 

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-770'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-770's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

NOTE: Because they're essentially the same camera inside, the results below are virtually identical to those for the Olympus C-765. To save you some reading, the main differences are that the C-770 has: 1) A bit higher image noise, particularly at low light levels and high ISO; 2) A deeper buffer memory, to permit longer runs of continuous shooting; and 3) Somewhat shorter battery life, the result of its faster processor and bigger buffer memory.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the C-770 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

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!

Olympus was an early innovator in the long-zoom category, and have maintained a commanding presence there for some years now. The C-770 represents the top of their long-zoom line for 2004, offering good value and a very rich feature set in a full, "enthusiast-level" digicam, with four-megapixel resolution and a 10x zoom lens. It continues the flexible exposure control, useful preset Scene modes, and creative image adjustment tools of last year's long-zoom models from Olympus, and image resolution is high enough for sharp 8x10 prints, even with moderate cropping. With its varying levels of exposure control, the C-770 meets the needs of both enthusiasts and novices alike. Overall, the C-770's image quality is very good, my main complaint being the relatively high levels of chromatic aberration that it has in common with most long-zoom models on the market, and somewhat higher than average levels of image noise under nighttime shooting conditions. It improves over its lower-end sibling, the C-765 in a number of areas, but its more powerful processor and deeper buffer memory also contribute to noticeably shorter battery life. Apart from these fairly minor issues (relative to competing long-zoom models, at any rate), it's hard to find much in the C-770 to complain about, and its relatively large buffer memory, extensive movie capability (including MPEG4 format, at 640 x 480 resolution), great flash range and external-flash compatibility make it a standout in many respects. If you're interested in long-zoom digital photography and need its unique capabilities, the C-770 definitely deserves strong consideration. (If you can live without MPEG movies, external flash connection, and deeper buffer memory though, you can save yourself a hundred dollars or so by going with its lower-end sibling the C-765.)

<<C-770 Sample Images | Additional Resources and Other Links>>

Reader Comments!
Questions, comments or controversy on this product? Click this link to see what other Imaging Resource readers have had to say about the Olympus Camedia C-770 Zoom, or add comments of your own!



Site Map | About Us | | Advertising | Privacy Policy | Usage Policy | Home

Imaging Resource © 1998 - 2014. Material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted or otherwise used without the prior written consent of .