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Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom

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

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 03/02/2003, Updated: 07/17/03

Executive Overview
Olympus struck gold with the Camedia C-720 and C-730 Ultra Zoom digicams, unveiling a popular digicam design that accommodated a wide range of experience levels. With the new C-740 Ultra Zoom, Olympus offers a similar design, although with slightly pared down capabilities relative to the simultaneously-announced C-750. The C-740 Ultra Zoom continues with the 10x zoom lens, wide range of exposure control, and 3.2-megapixel CCD of the earlier C-730, but loses the external flash sync terminal and sound recording capability. Still, the C-740 Ultra Zoom's offerings are well above par for the genre, especially considering the camera's excellent exposure flexibility and its aggressive price point. All of the C-730 other key features remain, including manual white balance, six preset Scene modes, a maximum exposure time of 16 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). Versatility reigns as the top theme of the Camedia C-series, and Olympus provides as much or as little exposure control as anyone could want. While primarily aimed at more experienced digital photographers (those who want to step up to a camera with expanded capabilities), the C-740's Program mode nonetheless allows point-and-shoot simplicity, and the six preset shooting modes excel at common shooting situations.

Like the C-720 and C-730 before it, the C-740 combines compact size, smooth trim design, and portability, always desirable attributes in a digicam. The same compact SLR-style design that's characterized Olympus digicams for several years now prevails again with the C-740. Compared to other 10x zoom digicams currently on the market, the C-740 is remarkably compact, measuring only 4.2 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches (107.5 x 66.0 x 70 millimeters) with the lens retracted, and is only three-quarters of an inch thicker with the lens fully extended. It weighs just 10.4 ounces (295 grams) without batteries, light enough to fit into a large purse or waist pack, but 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-740 features an "electronic" optical viewfinder, which is essentially a miniaturized version of the larger, 1.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. The C-740's EVF is bright and clear, with a good, high eyepoint and a diopter adjustment, both of which 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 seems to be pretty usable 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-740's 10x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 3x with the "digital zoom," effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 30x. (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-740's maximum image resolution is 3,200 x 2,400 pixels, interpolated up from the 2,048 x 1,536-pixel sensor resolution. Lower resolutions of 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-740 offers extensive exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual exposure modes. In Program mode,the camera controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as 1/2 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 1/2 second. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as 16 seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode, or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night-Scene, and Self-Portrait scene modes for easy capture of what might otherwise be tricky subjects.

The C-740 provides four ISO settings (Auto, 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, without having to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits.

The C-740's Movie mode records QuickTime movies (without 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. Two Sequence modes capture multiple images at short intervals (actual speed depends on file size), with an AF Sequence mode option that adjusts the focus between each shot. The C-750 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. Unlike the C-750 though, the C-740 offers no option for connecting an external flash unit to it.

The Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom ships with a 16MB xD-Picture Card for image storage. Larger capacity cards are available separately, up to the current limit of 256MB. 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.

Olympus' C-series of digicams has always proven flexible and quite capable, and the C-740 Ultra Zoom is no exception. This slightly pared-down version of the earlier C-730 model maintains the same in-depth manual exposure controls, excellent 10x optical zoom, and versatile array of exposure options to handle a wide range of shooting conditions. The availability of full manual exposure control and increased sensitivity make the camera a good choice for advanced users, while the range of preset scene modes makes the C-740 approachable for novices as well. With its great feature set and excellent image quality, the C-740 Ultra Zoom looks like a great choice for anyone interested in long-zoom digital photography!


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