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Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom

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

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Page 1:Intro, Highlights & User Report

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

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

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Olympus C7070 Manufacturer Overview

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

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


Olympus C-7070 High Points

  • 7.41-megapixel (7.1 effective) CCD delivering up to 3,072 x 2,304-pixel resolution images.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.8-inch, "Sunshine" color, multi-angle LCD display that tilts and swivels.
  • Olympus 4x, 5.7 - 22.9mm, f2.8 - 4.8 zoom lens (equivalent to a 27-110mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 5x Digital Zoom.
  • Dual (contrast detection / phase-difference detection) AF system with Auto (iESP), Manual, Macro, Super Macro, and Super Macro Manual Focus control, with AF assist light for low-light shooting.
  • Shutter speeds from 1/4,000 to 15 seconds, with a Bulb setting limited to two minutes.
  • Program AE, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, plus seven preset Scene modes.
  • My Mode for saving custom user settings.
  • Spot, Multi, Center-weighted, or ESP multi-patterned metering systems.
  • Adjustable sensitivity with an Auto setting and 80, 100, 200, and 400 ISO equivalents.
  • Auto Bracketing, Sequence Shooting and Panoramic capture modes.
  • Adjustable White Balance with 11 settings, plus a WB color adjustment function.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes, three Slow Sync modes.
  • External flash hot-shoe accepts generic strobes as well as dedicated Olympus units.
  • Built-in and external flashes can be used together.
  • Noise Reduction for improved image quality on long exposures.
  • Optional autofocus-assist illuminator.
  • Live histogram display option.
  • Unique selectable sub-histogram area.
  • Image sharpness, saturation, hue and contrast adjustments.
  • Black-and-White and Sepia capture modes.
  • QuickTime Movie mode with sound, and Voice Caption mode.
  • Digital Image Stabilization in Movie Mode.
  • Compatible with optional infrared remote control.
  • JPEG, uncompressed TIFF, and RAW file formats.
  • Images saved to either CompactFlash or xD-Picture Card memory cards (Olympus C7070 bundles in the US include a 32MB xD-Picture Card in the box).
  • USB Auto-Connect for fast image download.
  • Video cable for connecting to a television set.
  • Software CD with Olympus' Camedia Master utility software (includes QuickTime and USB drivers).
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility and print settings.
  • Power from a single lithium-ion battery pack or optional AC adapter (battery and charger included).
  • Optional underwater housing.


User Report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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