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Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom

Olympus packs a 10x zoom lens into an amazingly small body, for an amazingly low price.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 5/31/2001

Executive Overview
The Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom is a very innovative and welcome addition to the Camedia line, with a completely redesigned, customizable user interface. Its advanced features include a 10x optical zoom lens, increased ISO sensitivity (as high as 800 ISO), a fast 1/1,000-second shutter speed, and AutoConnect Storage Class USB -- providing plug-and-play transfer of images to Windows 2000, Windows Me, and Mac OS 8.6 and higher computers, without the need for additional driver software. The most notable aspect of this digicam, however, is its broad versatility. While it's targeted at experienced digital photographers -- those who want to step up to a camera with expanded capabilities -- it can also be set in a fully Programmed mode for point-and-shoot simplicity, or in one of four preset shooting modes for achieving optimum results in Portrait, Sports, and Landscape photography. (There's also three Slow-Synchro flash modes for evenly exposed night scenes.)

Size, design, and portability are the other really "hot" features of the C-700. It sports the same compact SLR-style design as the C-2040 and C-3040 -- Olympus' recently updated 3x zoom Camedia models -- with nearly identical dimensions except for a slightly longer zoom lens. In fact, compared to other 10x zoom digicams currently on the market (May 2000), the C-700 is remarkably compact, measuring only 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.1 inches (107.5 x 76.0 x 77.5 mm) with the lens retracted, and less than an inch added with the lens fully extended. It weighs just 11.2 ounces (310.5 grams) without batteries, light enough to fit into a large purse or waist pack, but its classic silver and champagne color combination, enhanced by a satin finish, makes it deserving of its own protective camera bag or pouch.

For image preview and playback, the C-700 features a 0.55-inch electronic optical viewfinder (EVF) and a 1.5-inch, rear-panel, color TFT LCD monitor, with 114,000-pixel resolution. Both the EVF and LCD monitors share the same image and information display, including menu options. The monitors' continuous information displays can be set to show limited specifications, such as exposure mode, f/stop setting, shutter speed, sound recording (when on), exposure compensation, resolution, and the number of images remaining. (Shutter speed and f/stop are not displayed in Auto or Preset modes.) Or, the continuous display can be expanded through the Setup menu to show more detailed information such as battery power, flash mode, auto or manual focus, drive, metering, macro, white balance, ISO, and exposure lock, depending on which options are available in the current shooting mode. (This information is also displayed briefly at startup when the expanded Info option is off.)

The 5.9-59mm 10x zoom lens (38-380mm equivalent on a 35mm camera), features 10 high-quality aspherical glass elements in seven groups, with a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture at wide-angle and an f/3.5 maximum aperture at telephoto. Images can be enlarged an additional 2.7x with the Digital Zoom, bringing the total zoom range to more than 1,000mm. (Users should be aware, however, that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom, since it merely crops and enlarges the center portion of the CCD. As a result, digitally enlarged images often result in higher image noise and/or softer resolution.) The C-700 provides a very helpful on-screen distance display when using the Manual Focus option, as well as a white zoom bar that shows the camera's 10x optical zoom operation. A red zoom bar is added to show the digital zoom progress when Digital Zoom is engaged.

The C-700's default image resolution is 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, but lower resolutions of 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 TIFF mode that produces full-resolution images.

The C-700 offers extensive exposure control, including Program (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Speed Priority (S), and Manual (M) exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, while the user controls the remaining exposure variables. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give the user control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in Aperture or Shutter Priority modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8.0 at the wide-angle lens position, and f/3.5 to 8.0 at maximum telephoto. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second in one-third-stop increments. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but the shutter speed extends all the way to 16 seconds, and both shutter and aperture are under the user's control. In addition to these standard exposure modes, the C-700 also offers an Auto mode, which places the camera in complete control over the exposure settings, as well as three preset shooting modes (Portrait, Sports, and Landscape) and three Slow-Synchro flash modes for night exposures (Slow1, Slow2, and Slow Synchro with Red-eye reduction).

The C-700 provides five ISO options (Auto, 100, 200, 400, and 800), Auto Exposure Bracketing (BKT), Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single and Multi-Spot Metering AE Lock modes, plus Exposure Compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, or Quick Reference (manual adjustment) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions, and a White Balance color adjustment function enables you to alter red and blue color shifts in the image.

Image Contrast and Sharpness adjustments are available through the Mode Setup menu, and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in Black and White or Sepia (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) button locks an exposure reading, without having to hold down the shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. AEL can be based on a single exposure reading or up to eight averaged spot readings for more accurate exposures. The AEL button can also be customized to access other image adjustment settings through the camera's Setup menu.

The C-700's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with or without sound, for as long as the SmartMedia card has memory space available. Resolution options include: Standard Quality (SQ), at 160 x 120 pixels, or High Quality (HQ), at 320 x 240 pixels. Four-second sound clips can be recorded to accompany still images, either with image capture, or later during image playback. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to 1.4 frames per second (with or without continuous autofocus), and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 formatted shots for merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. A 12-second Self-Timer option is also available for self-portraits.

The camera's built-in, pop-up flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow Synchronization). The Slow Synchro option can be changed through the Mode menu, allowing you to time the flash at the beginning or end of an exposure, as well as add the Red-Eye Reduction pre-flashes. A proprietary five-pin sync socket allows you to connect an external flash unit when additional flash power is needed. You can also increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Mode menu.

The Olympus C-700 ships with an 8MB SmartMedia memory card for image storage (larger capacity cards are available separately). You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and if you want a larger viewfinder display (or image playback), Olympus has provided a video output cable for connection to a television. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 2.5 utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, plus a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

We've always been big fans of the Olympus Camedia line of digicams, but we were particularly impressed with the C-700 Ultra Zoom. The flexibility of the 10x optical zoom and the more user-friendly interface give the camera an edge over previous models. The electronic viewfinder provides more accurate framing, while the combination of the 800 ISO equivalent setting and f/2.8 maximum aperture gives the camera great low-light shooting capabilities. With the same great image quality as the other Camedia digicams, plus some outstanding new features, the C-700 Ultra Zoom should be just as popular, if not more so, than preceding models.

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