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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 3:Viewfinder

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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