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Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom

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

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/25/2002

Test Results
In keeping with our standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-730 Ultra Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, we 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-730 images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

Overall, the C-730 Ultra Zoom performed very well, producing excellent color under the majority of shooting conditions. The C-730's auto white balance system was pretty accurate, introducing only a hint of red into some shots under my studio lights, and handling even the extremely difficult incandescent lighting of the "indoor portrait" test surprisingly well. (Although the Manual white balance option really carried the day there.) The 730 did darken the tricky blues of the flowers in the outdoor portrait shot and shift them toward purple a little, but not as much as many cameras, and skin tones were very nice. All in all, very good color under a wide range of conditions.

For the most part, the camera's white balance system handled my testing well, with the Auto option typically providing the best results. However, I often noticed a slight reddish cast with the Auto setting, particularly under our studio lights (here the Manual setting performed well). The Manual white balance performed very well under the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash). Manual white balance also did a good job with the large color blocks of the Davebox target, with good saturation as well. The camera had some trouble with the awkward blues in the flower bouquet in the outdoor test shot, darkening the tone and shifting the color into violet (a common failing among many cameras I've tested). Despite the slight reddish cast from the Auto setting, the C-730 does a good job, particularly with the Manual white balance option.

The C-730 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height in the vertical direction, and around 600 lines in the horizontal direction. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,000 lines vertically and perhaps 1,050 lines vertically. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,300 lines. A very good performance for a long-ratio zoom lens.

The C-730's electronic "optical" viewfinder (EVF) was very accurate, showing 99+ percent frame accuracy at the wide angle zoom setting. However, at telephoto, the viewfinder was slightly loose, showing just a hair more than what's in the final image. The LCD monitor showed the same level of accuracy, since it shows the same view, just on a larger screen. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-730's LCD monitor was essentially perfect in that regard. Just remember to frame a little extra space when shooting at full telephoto.

Given the C-730's increased manual exposure controls and maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, I expected great low-light performance. I wasn't disappointed here. The C-730 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at all three ISO settings. Color balance was warm from the Auto white balance setting, but images were bright and clear. The C-730's Noise Reduction feature did a good job eliminating excess image noise. Even at ISO 400, at the longest exposure, noise was only moderate. Really excellent performance here.

The C-730 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.57 x 1.18 inches (40 x 30 millimeters). Resolution was high, with great detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. (I could even see the tiny dust particles on top of the smaller coin.) Some softness was noticeable along the left side of the frame, but is a very common failing of digicam lenses in ultra-macro shots, most likely caused by the optical phenomena called "curvature of field." Because of the close shooting range and the C-730's very long lens barrel, the flash was ineffective with this shot. (Plan on using external illumination for super-closeup shooting with the C-730.)

The addition of a manual white balance option and increased manual exposure controls greatly helped the C-730's performance throughout my testing. Overall color and saturation were good, and the camera's low-light and macro shooting abilities are outstanding.

Photographers who routinely deal with distant subjects know there's simply no substitute for a long-ratio zoom lens. With a 10x zoom lens and three megapixels of resolution, the aptly-named C-730 Ultra Zoom offers a very affordable and functional entry into the realm of long-telephoto digital photography. It takes good pictures, with good color and tone, and offers an expanded range of manual controls relative to its predecessor and sibling, the C-720 Ultra Zoom. As my regular readers will know, I'm normally no fan of electronic viewfinders as they're generally useless in dim lighting. The EVF on the C-730 seems better than most in this respect though, and the total package offers really excellent value in a long-zoom camera. There's plenty of resolution for sharp 8x10 prints, color and exposure are very good, and the 730 offers all the features true "enthusiasts" demand, while remaining very approachable for novices. All things considered, the C-730 Ultra Zoom is an excellent buy in a long-zoom camera.


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