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Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom

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

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

MSRP $499 US


3.2-megapixel resolution for 3,200 x 2,400 images. (Interpolated, native size is 2,048 x 1,536)
10x zoom lens.
ISO sensitivity from 100-400
xD-Picture Card memory storage
 No external flash connection (See C-750 Ultra Zoom for this feature.)


Full review of production model camera
This is a full review, now updated to reflect results from a production-level camera. The Sample Pictures page, Test Results, and conclusion now reflect my experience with a production-level model.

Note: This review is very similar to that of the Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom. If you've read that review, you know most of what this camera can do as well. The biggest differences are that the C-740 has a 3.2 megapixel CCD vs the 4.0 megapixel sensor on the C-750, the C-750 has a "hot shoe" for attaching an external flash unit, which the C-740 lacks, and the C-750 records movies with sound, whereas the C-740 has no sound recording capability.


Manufacturer Overview
With its very successful line of Camedia digital cameras, Olympus has long been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace. They currently boast one of the broadest digital camera lineups in the industry, with numerous models ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the E-20 high-end SLR. Previously introducing the C-730 Ultra Zoom in the impressive three-megapixel category, Olympus updated the line with an incredible 10x optical zoom lens and incredible manual exposure control. The latest model, the C-740 Ultra Zoom, is an ever-so-slightly pared down version, offering the same great 10x optical zoom and manual control.

In most respects, the C-740 Ultra Zoom is nearly identical to the C-730. It's about the same size and weight, and has the same zoom ratio and manual controls (such as adjustable AF area, long exposure times, and scene modes). What's missing is the ability to record sound, the external flash sync terminal, and the dual memory card formats. (The previous C-730 accepted both SmartMedia and xD-Picture Cards, while the C-740 writes only to xD-Picture Cards.) The 740 does carry forward the "My Camera" menu, which lets the user custom-configure a broad range of settings to meet specific needs. Overall, the C-740 looks like a great option for good resolution, lots of features, and a long zoom on a budget.

High Points



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!



With the same general body shape and size as the rest of the C-series, the Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom is the newest in the popular C-series. Like the C-730 Ultra Zoom before it, the C-740's silver and black body is boxy but compact, with a size that fits the hand well. External control layout is similar to previous models, with a large Mode dial on top of the camera and an array of control buttons on the back panel. The C-740 Ultra Zoom features a 3.2-megapixel CCD, which delivers a maximum image size of 3,200 x 2,400 pixels with interpolation, or 2,048 x 1,536 uninterpolated. This is enough resolution for sharp prints as large as 8x10 inches. Of course, one of the most exciting features on the C-740 is its 10x zoom lens, which boasts a surprisingly large maximum aperture range of f/2.8-3.7.

The C-740 Ultra Zoom measures 4.2 x 2.6 x 2.8 inches (107.5 x 66.0 x 70 millimeters), practically identical in dimensions to the C-730 model. The all-plastic body keeps the C-740 Zoom relatively light weight at 10.4 ounces (295 grams) without batteries, though it does have a reassuring heft when you pick it up (due in part to the larger lens assembly). The camera won't fit into a shirt pocket, but does have a chance at larger coat pockets and purses. It comes with a neckstrap, but I strongly recommend picking up a soft camera case to protect the C-740 when traveling.

The front of the C-740 is fairly plain, featuring only the lens, self-timer LED, and the front lip of the pop-up flash compartment. When fully retracted, the lens barrel projects only about one inch beyond the depth of the hand grip, and it extends about another three-quarters of an inch when powered up in any capture mode. When not in use, the lens is protected by a removable plastic lens cap that attaches to the camera with the supplied tether strap. A plastic grip bar on the inside of the handgrip provides firm purchase for your fingers as they wrap around the camera's body.

On the right side of the camera, the xD-Picture Card compartment is covered by a hinged, plastic door that opens from the back panel. Just above the compartment is one of the eyelets for attaching the neckstrap.

On the opposite side of the camera is the connector compartment, which houses the DC-In, Video Out, and USB connector ports. A hinged plastic door protects the jacks when not in use, and snaps firmly shut. The second eyelet for attaching the neck strap is also on this side of the camera.

The C-740's top panel has just a few controls on it, including the Shutter button (surrounded by the Zoom lever), a Mode dial, and the pop-up flash compartment.

Similar to previous C-series models, the C-740's back panel layout is clean and logical, with all of the control buttons positioned above or to the right of the 1.5-inch LCD monitor. The four-way Arrow Pad serves multiple functions depending on the camera's operating mode, and is located to the right of the LCD display. Arrayed across the top of the back panel are the Self-Timer / Erase, Spot / Macro (with the added DPOF print feature), Flash / Protect, and Flash Release buttons. Below these are the Power and AE Lock / Rotate buttons. A Display button sits just below the four-way Arrow Pad and controls whether or not the rear-panel LCD is illuminated, and how much information is displayed there. The electronic viewfinder in the upper left corner of the camera shows a miniaturized version of the larger LCD display, and features a diopter adjustment dial for eyeglass wearers.

The bottom of the camera holds the battery compartment cover and a plastic screw-mount tripod socket. The tripod socket is just a little too close to the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. (This is a pet peeve of mine, but I recognize that most people don't spend as much time with their digicams locked down to a tripod as I do.)



The C-740 Ultra Zoom has both a 0.44-inch electronic viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.5-inch, TFT color LCD screen. The EVF has approximately 114,000 pixels, while the rear panel screen sports 180,000. The EVF display behaves a little oddly with moving objects or during rapid panning of the camera. It doesn't look all like a refresh rate issue, but the image blurs noticeably when you move the camera, or when an object moves quickly across the field of view. When things become more or less stationary again, the display seems to sharpen. It's really quite a subtle effect, and didn't interfere with my shooting at all, but it was a little disconcerting nonetheless. The electronic viewfinder (EVF) accommodates eyeglass wearers with a diopter correction adjustment and a comfortably high eyepoint, leaving enough room between your eye and the finder for most eyeglass lenses to fit in, although I did notice a little vignetting around the edges while wearing my own glasses. The tiny display is identical to that of the larger LCD monitor, complete with menus and exposure information. The EVF remains active only when the LCD monitor is switched off, as the Display button switches between the two views.

My regular readers will already know that I'm no fan of electronic viewfinders. They seem to be a necessary evil with long-zoom cameras, as it'd be prohibitively expensive and bulky to include an optical viewfinder with an 10x zoom to match the lens. EVFs do have the dual advantages of providing true "through the lens" (TTL) viewing, as well as the same information display as on rear-panel LCDs, but to my mind the negatives usually outweigh the positives. My biggest objection to EVFs is that they are generally useless for low light shooting, but the EVF on the C-740 Ultra Zoom seemed to be much better than most in this respect (as did the C-730 Ultra Zoom's). The display would get rather dark while the camera's autofocus was working, but at other times seemed quite capable of providing a usable display, even under very dark conditions. (Down to a level corresponding to a one second exposure at ISO 400, dark indeed.

The C-740's LCD monitor is activated by the Display button located just off its lower right corner, which subsequently disables the EVF display. A detailed information readout on both monitors highlights a number of exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the screen. (Note though, that specific exposure parameters are not displayed in any of the "scene" modes.) Part of the information display disappears within a few seconds of half-pressing the Shutter button, and through the Record menu, you can set how much information remains in the display. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value updates continuously to respond to changes in subject or lighting. The Manual mode displays both of the selected f/stop and shutter speed values, while the right-hand set of numbers reports the amount by which the camera thinks the image will be under- or overexposed, up to +/- 3 EV units. (When you're more than three EV over or under, these numbers turn red and remain fixed at +/-3 EV.) The C-740 also features a optional live histogram display, which graphs the tonal distribution of the current composition. This is useful in determining any over- or underexposure that may occur with the current exposure settings, letting you correct the exposure before actually taking the shot.

When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can zoom in up to 4x on displayed images 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-sized images at a time. A very handy "quick view" function lets you check the last picture taken in Record mode by pressing the Display button twice in quick succession. The image will remain displayed on the LCD until you revert back to Record mode by pressing the Display button again, or by half-pressing the Shutter button.

Like some other Olympus digicams, the C-740 also offers the ability to resize or crop your images post-exposure. This is very handy, as it's almost always possible to improve your photos by cropping (trimming) them a little. On the C-740, a cropping menu option lets you trim away as much as 30 percent or so of the image area, and even change the composition from horizontal to vertical, or vice versa. In cropping mode, a bold green outline indicates the current crop area, and the zoom toggle zooms the crop in or out, while the four arrow keys let you move it around the image. Once you've got the crop adjusted to your liking, the camera will save a new image onto the card, with just the cropped area in it. (Your original photo is left undisturbed.) Likewise, using another menu option, you can resize previously-shot photos, to create smaller versions more suitable for emailing.


The Olympus C-740 is equipped with an all-glass lens, with 11 elements in seven groups. The 10x, 6.3-63mm lens provides a focal length range equivalent to a 38-380mm zoom on a 35mm film SLR. (That's a moderate wide angle to quite a long telephoto.) Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, with the maximum aperture setting dependent on the lens zoom position, ranging up to f/3.7 at the maximum telephoto position. Normal focusing distance extends from 23.6 inches (60 centimeters) to infinity, although the near limit is a pretty strong function of zoom setting, ranging from 23.6 inches at full wide angle to 6.6 feet (two meters) at full telephoto. The C-740 offers two Macro settings, the normal one covering from 2.7 inches to 2.0 feet (7 to 60 centimeters) at wide angle, and from 3.9 - 6.6 feet (1.2m - 2.0m) at telephoto. Through the Record menu, a Super Macro option lets the camera focus as close as 1.2 inches (three centimeters). The Macro / Spot button on the back panel adjusts the focus range for closeup subjects, and includes an option for spot metering in Macro mode.

Autofocus is determined through the lens, using a contrast detection method. This means that the autofocus will work properly with auxiliary lenses, although it should be noted that add-on lenses will usually affect a camera's focusing limits: Don't expect the C-740 to focus as close as it usually does when it has a telephoto adapter attached. A green dot lights solid in the viewfinder display whenever focus is set, and flashes if the camera is having trouble adjusting focus. An optional Full time AF mode adjusts focus continuously, rather than only when the Shutter button is half-pressed. Two AF area modes are available as well, iESP and Spot. In iESP mode, the camera bases focus on the entire frame, automatically determining the primary subject, based proximity to the camera. Spot mode looks at only the very center of the frame, the area within the black AF target marks on the viewfinder display. The C-740 also lets you adjust the AF area, through an option in the Record menu. Once enabled, you use the arrow keys to move the AF target marks anywhere in the frame (though only while in Spot AF mode). Finally, the C-740 features a manual focus option. Pressing and holding the "OK" button displays the AF/MF focus menu, as well as a distance scale that you can set to meters or feet. You then adjust focus with the up and down arrow keys. As an aid to accurate focusing, the center portion of the view enlarges whenever you're actively adjusting the focus setting..

The C-740's lens barrel incorporates body-mounted filter accessory threads that couple to Olympus' range of accessory lens kits, which extend the camera's telephoto, wide-angle, and macro shooting capabilities. (An adapter barrel is required though, to permit mounting the auxiliary lenses beyond the furthest extension of the C-740's telescoping lens assembly.)

While the C-740's lens provides up to 10x optical zoom, the camera's 3x Digital Zoom increases that magnification to a maximum of 30x, although the digital zoom brings with it the usual reduction in resolution. Digital zoom is enabled through the Record menu and controlled by the Zoom Lever on top of the camera. Since so-called "digital zoom" just crops out and enlarges the central pixels from the CCD's image, it directly trades resolution for magnification. This will result in very soft images if you're working at the camera's maximum three-megapixel file size, but can be useful if you're only shooting at 640 x 480 pixels for web or email use.


The C-740 Ultra Zoom offers an impressive amount of exposure control, including Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes, as well as a handful of preset scene modes for shooting in specific situations. The Full Auto and Scene modes make the camera easy to use for novices, while the other options provide the flexibility demanded by more advanced users. All capture modes are set by rotating the Mode dial on top of the camera, which also accesses the My Mode, Movie, and Playback modes. (My Mode lets you create a custom setup for the camera, including settings for virtually every exposure and operating parameter. The saved setup can then be selected simply by rotating the Mode Dial to the "My" position. See below for more information.)

In Auto mode, the camera has complete control over the exposure parameters. You can adjust options like lens zoom, drive mode, image size, etc., but can't make any exposure adjustments at all (not even exposure compensation or white balance, this is truly a "point-and-shoot" mode). Program mode leaves the camera in charge of the aperture and shutter speed, while you control the remaining exposure options such as ISO, metering, and white balance. In Program mode, you also have access to the exposure compensation adjustment, which lets you adjust the camera's automatically determined exposure setting by plus or minus two exposure equivalent (EV) units, in steps of 0.3 EV. Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture from f/2.8 to f/8 (depending on the lens zoom position) leaving the camera to automatically determine the appropriate shutter speed. In Shutter Priority, you can select shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second, with the camera selecting the corresponding aperture setting. The Manual exposure option lets you control both aperture and shutter speed yourself, and the bottom end of the shutter speed range is extended to 16 seconds. An interesting feature of the Manual mode is that, as you scroll through the various exposure settings, the camera indicates whether it thinks your chosen setting will produce a correct exposure. It does this by showing the f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure differential (the difference between your settings and what the camera metering system thinks is correct) in green, up to a limit of +/- 3EV. For exposure differentials outside that range, the numbers turn red and remain fixed at the 3EV reading. (This is a very handy feature that I'd like to see more manufacturers implement in their cameras' manual exposure modes.)

The six scene modes include Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night Scene, and Self-Portrait modes, which optimize the camera for specific shooting situations. In Portrait mode, the camera uses a larger lens aperture, reducing depth of field to throw distracting background elements out of focus. Sports mode biases the exposure system toward faster shutter speeds, to help freeze fast-moving subjects. Landscape-Portrait mode uses a smaller lens aperture, to increase depth of field, helping to keep both the foreground and background in sharp focus, while Landscape-Scene mode also keeps foreground and background in focus, but adjusts the camera's color handling to emphasize blue and green hues in the image (producing more intense foliage and sky colors). Night Scene employs slower shutter speeds, allowing more ambient light into the image. Finally, Self-Portrait mode adjusts the focus to help you photograph yourself while holding the camera at arm's length. (This is fun for capturing shots of yourself and a friend in precarious situations, such as riding to the top of a mountain on a ski lift.) Limited menu options are available in the scene modes, as their purpose is to simplify camera setup for novices. (A multitude of menu choices would only add complication to what are intended to be easy-to-use camera settings.)

The C-740 features a variable ISO setting, which lets you set the camera's light sensitivity to 100, 200, or 400 ISO equivalents, or to an Auto mode. The higher sensitivity settings, combined with the camera's maximum 16-second shutter speed and noise reduction option, provide excellent low-light shooting capabilities. The higher ISO settings are also helpful when you want faster shutter speeds under normal lighting, to help freeze fast action. Of course, as with all digicams, the higher ISO settings produce photos with more image noise, in much the same way that higher-ISO films show more film grain. To combat this problem, the C-740 offers a Noise Reduction mode through the Record menu, which greatly reduces the amount of image noise from long exposures, particularly at the higher ISO settings.

Two metering systems are available on the C-740: Spot and Digital ESP. Both are accessed through the Spot / Macro / DPOF button on the camera's back panel. Under the default Digital ESP setting, the camera takes an exposure reading from the center of the image as well as the surrounding area and chooses the best exposure based on brightness and contrast across the entire scene. Spot metering simply reads the exposure from the very center of the image, so you can pinpoint the specific area of the photograph you want properly exposed. (Spot metering is very handy when you have a subject that's backlit, or that has a very different brightness, either lighter or darker, than the background.)

An AE Lock button locks the current exposure settings whenever pressed, so you can independently lock exposure and focus. (AE Lock is useful when you want to base your exposure on an off-center subject. Point the camera at the subject, lock the exposure, then recompose your shot however you like. Your subject will be correctly exposed, regardless of what might be in the center of the frame when you finally snap the shutter.)

For precise manual control over exposure metering, an eight-point Multi-Metering mode is available when in Spot metering mode. Enabling the Multi-Metering option through the Record menu lets you take up to eight single readings throughout the frame, which are then averaged to get the best exposure. I particularly like way the C-740 displays exposure information in Multi-Metering mode. You select individual metering points by pressing the AEL button, and each time you do so, the relative exposure for that point is displayed on a little ruler-graph at the bottom of the LCD screen as soon as you select the first point. Once the exposure graph is displayed, a small green pointer above the line shows the relative brightness of the subject under the central metering spot in real time. Pressing the AEL button captures the current brightness value to incorporate in the exposure calculation, and adds a green marker arrow under the graph at that point. In this way, you can very easily see the range of exposure values represented in your subject, and choose how you want to weight them in the final exposure determination. (You can bias the exposure toward a particular part of your subject by simply adding more exposure samples from that area.) This one of the most flexible and powerful exposure metering options I've seen on a digicam, and is another feature other manufacturers would do well to emulate.

A Record View function, enabled through the Record menu, displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen while the image is recorded to the memory card. There's also a Quick View function that lets you check the previously captured image, by pressing the Monitor button twice in quick succession. Quick View basically drops you into Playback mode, with all playback functions (zoom, scroll, index display, delete, voice annotate, etc) available, but with the camera able to switch back to Record mode instantly, whenever you half-press the Shutter button.

In situations where exposure compensation is necessary, simply press either the right or left Arrow buttons (in all exposure modes except Auto and Manual) and the EV value displayed on the LCD will increase or decrease in one-third-step increments, up to a maximum of +/- 2 EV. Or, you can use the Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) function to automatically bracket an exposure as much as +/- 2 EV in either three or five step increments of 0.3, 0.6, or 1.0 EV units each. The auto bracketing will center its efforts around whatever exposure you've chosen as the starting point, including any exposure compensation adjustments you've made. AEB is really handy for those times when you want to make sure you get just the right exposure for a critical subject.

White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Warm White Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, and Custom, to accommodate a variety of lighting situations. You can also adjust the white balance, adding either more red or blue. This ability to "tweak" the white balance is very helpful when dealing with difficult light sources.

The C-740 Ultra Zoom also offers a 12-second Self-Timer for self-portraits or those occasions when you don't want to risk camera shake on a long exposure by pressing the Shutter button to trip the shutter.

There are also options on the Record menu to set the in-camera image sharpening, contrast, and saturation, in arbitrary units from -5 to +5. The contrast option is one that I personally find appealing. I find that I often want to decrease a camera's default contrast somewhat, to help preserve highlight detail on contrasty subjects. In the same general realm, you can also record images in black-and-white or sepia tones, or capture text via the Whiteboard and Blackboard photo modes, as set via the camera's Function sub-menu..

The C-740 offers a built-in, pop-up flash, with six operating modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes. Auto mode lets the camera decide when to fire the flash, while the Fill-in mode fires the flash with every shot. (Fill-in is useful for throwing light on backlit subjects, keeping their faces from being obscured in deep shadow.) The two Red-Eye Reduction modes fire a small pre-flash before firing the flash at full power, making the pupils of your subject's eyes contract, reducing the occurrence of the Red-Eye Effect. Slow Sync allows more ambient light into the background, producing more natural lighting behind a flash-illuminated subject. Through the Record menu, you can set the Slow Sync flash to fire at either the beginning or end of the exposure. A button on the rear panel pops the flash up from its compartment, while the Flash / Protect button on the back panel controls the flash operating mode. You can also adjust the overall flash intensity from +/-2 EV through the Record menu.

In one of the major differences between the C-740 and C-750, the 740 doesn't offer an external flash sync connection. (The 750 has a standard "hot shoe" for attaching an external flash.)

Special Exposure Modes

Movie Mode
The C-740's Movie mode is accessible via the Mode dial on top of the camera (marked with a small movie camera symbol). Once in Movie mode, you can record QuickTime movies without sound. The length of movie clips depends on the resolution setting and the amount of memory card space. A number indicating the available seconds of movie storage on the memory card appears on the LCD and EVF monitors. Optical zoom is disabled while recording, but most other exposure options are available. Two image resolutions are available in Movie mode, 320 x 240 and 160 x 120 pixels. Both resolutions record at approximately 15 frames per second, and recording time is limited only by the available space on the memory card.

Panorama Mode
Like most Olympus digicams, the C-740 offers a Panorama exposure mode when using an Olympus brand panorama-enabled xD-Picture Card. In this mode, the exposure and white balance for a series of shots are determined by the first exposure. The Panorama function provides light blue guide lines at the edges of the pictures to help you align successive shots, leaving enough overlap between them for the stitching software to be able to do its job. Up to 10 shots can be taken in a panoramic series. Once the sequence of images is downloaded to your computer, you can use the included Olympus software to assemble them into an extended panorama.

Note that the panorama function is only enabled by the built-in firmware found on Olympus brand memory cards, so this option isn't available when using third-party memory cards. (I have to say that I think this tying of the panorama function to Olympus-branded cards strikes me as one of the most ill-considered product decisions Olympus has made. I can't imagine that the number of memory cards Olympus sells through this mechanism balances the camera sales they lose by having a crippled panorama function. On the other hand, for occasional panorama shots, most users can probably get by with the memory card included in the box with the camera.)

"2-in-1" Mode
Accessed through the Record menu, "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images in a single frame of memory. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side as one full resolution image, giving a split-screen effect. As with Panorama mode, a set of guidelines appear in the LCD display, to help you line up the shots.

Sequence Mode
The C-740 also offers three Sequence modes that mimic the motor drive on a film camera, recording images in rapid sequence for as long as the Shutter button is held down or until the memory card runs out of space (this varies with the image quality setting and available xD-Picture Card space). As is usually the case, the number of frames you can capture quickly is limited by the camera's buffer memory capacity, and sequence mode isn't available at all for the TIFF (uncompressed) image format. Hi-Sequence mode captures a maximum of three frames, at a slightly faster frame interval. AF Sequence mode also captures a continuous series of images, but adjusts the focus between each shot, resulting in much slower shot to shot times.

My Mode
Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the "My" position, this mode lets you save customized settings and then access them simply by turning the Mode Dial. For example, if you consistently shoot in the same environment, you could save the exposure settings for those specific shooting conditions, so that they can be instantly recalled.(I can imagine this option being very handy for situations where you might have to switch quickly between two different environments. Think of a wedding reception, for instance: Standard "program" mode for outside shots on the lawn, etc, but a custom setup in My Mode to shoot the indoor scenes under incandescent lighting.) My Mode even lets you edit the Shortcut menu items, which appear when the Menu button is pressed, to reflect often changed settings. A total of four different sets of My Mode settings can be saved. The C-740's My Mode is very flexible, letting you preset the following camera parameters (see the subsequent section on camera modes and menus for explanations of any settings which might not be obvious from the list below):

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times
When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a delay or lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is almost never reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I now routinely measure it with a custom test system I constructed for the purpose. (With crystal-controlled timing, accurate to 0.01% and with a timing resolution of one millisecond.) Here are the figures I obtained in my testing of the C-740:

Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom Timings
Power On -> First shot
Camera has to extend lens first. About average.
Time to retract camera lens. About average.
Play to Record, first shot
Time until first shot is captured. About average.
Record to play
Time to display a large/fine file after capture. About average.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
1.09 / 1.09
First number is for wide-angle, second is for telephoto. (Unusual that both numbers are the same.) Slightly slower than average, but fairly good for a long zoom.
Shutter lag, manual focus 0.65 Slower than average.
Shutter lag, prefocus
Time to capture, after half-pressing Shutter button. Very fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
2.0 / 2.1
First number is for large/fine files, second number is time for small/basic images. The C740 seems to have a pretty generous buffer memory, as it can pop off 7 large/fine images at this rate before slowing to write to the card. Very good performance, with a nice, big buffer.
Cycle Time, normal continuous mode, max/min resolution
1.04, 0.77
0.87, 0.70
First numbers are for large/fine files, second numbers are for small/basic images. Buffer holds about 7 shots at large/fine, 140+ at small/basic image size/quality. For both sizes of images, the interval between the first two shots is longer than between the second and third. First time shown for each size/quality is time between first two shots, second time is for subsequent.
Cycle Time, high-speed continuous mode, max/min resolution 0.54/0.54 In high-speed continuous mode, the interval between frames drops to 0.54 seconds, but only three large/fine or six small/basic frames fit in the buffer. After those shots, you'll wait about 10.5 seconds for large/fine files to write to the card, or 4.8 seconds for small/basic ones. Very good speed, but it would be nice to have a bit bigger buffer.
Cycle Time, TIFF images
Pretty typical time for a 3 MP TIFF image.

The C-740 Ultra Zoom is quick enough, but clearly not a speed demon. Startup and shutdown are about average. Shutter lag is on the slow side of normal (a bit faster than that of the 750 though), but its prefocus lag is very fast. In my experience, long-zoom cameras suffer somewhat in the shutter lag area, apparently because such lenses take longer to focus, so the 740's performance isn't bad in comparison. Definitely not the camera for fast-paced sports action though. Cycle times are quite good upper midrange camera, andthe roughly 6-7 shot buffer (at large/fine image quality) is pretty generous for this class of camera. Overall, a pretty good performance, but it would sure be nice to have super-fast focusing for sports shots. (The long zoom lens is great for sports usage, but a faster full-autofocus shutter response would be a big help in that application. - The very fast prefocus lag time is great though.)


Operation and User Interface
The C-740's user interface is very similar to that of the preceding C-730 model, as well as other recent Olympus C-series digicams. An intuitive set of menu options is easy to navigate, and many common exposure options are controlled externally. Even for users new to the interface, menu layouts are quite straightforward. Because the EVF displays the same information as the larger LCD monitor, you can quickly verify basic camera settings while aligning a shot, without having to activate the larger LCD display. A Mode dial on top of the camera changes capture modes quickly, and the AE Lock button can be customized to activate a number of settings. When you do have to call up the LCD menu, a shortcut screen appears first, with quick links to the image quality, white balance, and ISO settings. (You can also edit these shortcuts through the Setup menu, to select different camera functions for each.) Once you get into the actual Record menu, options are organized by function, accessed by a series of tabs along the left side of the screen. This layout lets you quickly skip to the options you need without sifting through pages of menu items. In any of the manual exposure modes, aperture and/or shutter speed is adjusted externally, as is exposure compensation. Once you get the hang of things, the control layout is quite intuitive and efficient.

Control Enumeration

Mode Dial
: On the top of the camera is the Mode Dial, which controls the camera's main operating mode. Choices are Playback, Auto, Portrait, Sports, Landscape/Portrait, Landscape/Scene, Night Scene, Self-Portrait, Movie, My Mode, Aperture / Shutter Speed / Manual (A/S/M), and Program modes.

Zoom Lever
: On top of the camera, in front of the Mode Dial, the Zoom Lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes, and the Digital Zoom when enabled through the Record menu.

In Playback mode, the zoom lever switches between Index view, normal image display, and playback zoom, and controls the amount of playback zoom applied.

Shutter Button: Located in the center of the Zoom control, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure settings when pressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully pressed.

Flash / Protect Button
: Located on the top, right portion of the camera's back panel, this button controls the Flash mode in all still capture modes. Pressing it cycles through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Slow Sync, and Slow Sync with Red-Eye Reduction modes.

In Playback mode, this button marks the displayed image for write-protection, or removes protection. Once protected, files cannot be erased or manipulated in any way, but will still be deleted if the memory card is reformatted.

Flash Release Button: Just above the Flash / Protect button, this button releases the pop-up flash from its compartment.

Spot / Macro / Print Button
: Directly to the left of the Flash / Protect button on the back panel is the Spot / Macro / Print button. In all Record modes, this button cycles between normal metering (Digital ESP), Spot metering, Macro (Closeup) mode, and Macro with Spot Metering modes.

In Playback mode, this button calls up the Digital Print Order Format (DPOF) print settings menu, which lets you tag the current image, or all of the images on the card, for printing on a DPOF-compatible output device. Once an image is selected, you can set the number of copies, whether or not to print the date and time stamp on the photo, or whether to print only a cropped area of the image.

Self-Timer / Remote / Erase Button
: Adjacent to the viewfinder eyepiece, on the right side, this button controls the camera's Self-Timer and Remote modes, cycling between the two and normal exposure mode in any record mode.

In Playback mode, this button lets you erase the current image. The camera presents a confirmation screen after the Erase button is pressed, to make sure you really meant to delete the image.

Diopter Adjustment Dial
: To the right of the viewfinder eyepiece, this dial adjusts the electronic viewfinder's optics to accommodate eyeglass wearers. I don't have any way of measuring these adjustments, but the C-740's seems to cover a fairly wide range, accommodating even my 20/180 uncorrected vision.

Power Button
: Directly above the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this red button turns the camera on and off.

AE Lock / Custom / Rotation Button
: To the right of the Power button, this button locks the exposure setting in any record mode. Through the Setup menu, it can be customized to control a number of other menu functions.

In Playback mode, this button rotates the image display clockwise in increments of 90 degrees.

Four-Way Arrow Pad and OK / Menu Button
: Made up of four buttons arranged in a circle around a central "OK" button, the Arrow Pad controls many of the camera's operations. In all capture modes except Manual, the left and right arrow buttons increase or decrease the exposure compensation setting. In Aperture or Shutter Priority exposure modes, the up and down Arrow buttons adjust the lens aperture or shutter speed settings, depending on which mode you've selected. In Manual mode, the up and down Arrows control shutter speed, while the left and right Arrows control aperture.

In Playback mode, the left and right Arrows move forward or backward through the pictures stored on the card, or scroll around portions of the expanded image in Zoom Playback mode.

In the LCD menu system, the Arrow buttons navigate through menu screens and select settings. The OK / Menu button in the center of the pad displays the settings menu in any camera mode, and also confirms menu selections.

In any capture mode, pressing and holding the OK button for a few seconds activates the camera's manual focus option. Press the right arrow key to enter manual focus mode, and then use the up and down arrow keys to adjust the focus.

Display Button
: Just off the lower right corner of the LCD monitor, this button toggles the viewfinder display between the EVF and LCD monitors. If pressed twice in quick succession while in a capture mode, it displays the Quick View function, which calls up the previously-captured image on the screen and enables most playback-mode functions. A third press of this button or a half-press of the shutter button returns the LCD to its normal viewfinder display.


Camera Modes and Menus

Movie Mode: Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the movie camera symbol, Movie mode lets you capture movies (without sound) for as long as the memory card has available space. Shutter speed is set automatically, from 1/8,000 to 1/30 second, depending on light levels and the camera's ISO setting.

My Mode: Quickly configures the camera based on a (large) set of previously saved user-defined settings. Exposure variables such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. can all be saved. You can even save the lens zoom position. My Mode settings are made through the Setup menu, and the camera can accommodate four different sets.

A/S/M Mode: Accesses a range of manual and semi-manual exposure modes, including Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give the user control over one exposure variable and the camera control over the other. Manual mode offers full user control over both aperture and shutter speed. Apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8, depending on the zoom setting. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second, in both Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, and to 16 seconds in Manual mode.

Program Mode: Puts the camera in control of both aperture and shutter speed settings, while you control all other exposure variables, such as white balance, exposure compensation, etc.

Playback Mode: This mode lets you view previously captured images using the Arrow Pad to scroll through frames stored in memory. The Zoom Lever switches the image display to Index mode when moved in the wide angle direction, and when moved in the telephoto direction, enlarges a single image. While zoomed in on an image, the Arrow buttons can move the enlarged view around the full image area, allowing you to inspect all parts of it.

Auto Mode: This mode puts the camera in charge of all exposure variables, apart from zoom, flash mode, image size, and drive mode. This is a true "point & shoot" mode, requiring almost no input from the user apart from a press of the Shutter button.

Portrait Mode: Optimizes the camera for capturing portraits. A larger aperture is used, so that the subject will appear sharply focused in front of a slightly soft background.

Sports Mode: The camera's exposure system is biased toward faster shutter speeds to freeze action and moving subjects.

Landscape / Portrait Mode: This mode is best for capturing wide views of scenery or portraits in front of landscapes. The camera uses a smaller aperture setting, which increases the depth of field to capture both the foreground and background in sharp focus.

Landscape / Scene Mode: Like Landscape / Portrait mode, this mode is for capturing wide views of scenery, with both the foreground and background in focus. However, this mode also enhances any blue or green colors in the image, for more vibrant trees, water, and skies.

Night Scene Mode: This mode is best for capturing night portraits or night scenery, such as cityscapes. A slower shutter speed lets more ambient light into the image, preserving color in neon signs or sunsets.

Self-Portrait Mode: The final mode on the Mode dial, this mode is for handheld self-portraits (where you hold the camera out in front of yourself and take a picture). Focus remains fixed on you.

Still Picture Shooting Menu: (Note that available menu options will change depending on capture mode.)

Playback Menu

Image Storage and Interface
The C-740 stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes equipped with a 16MB card.

The C-740 can store images in both uncompressed TIFF and compressed JPEG file formats. JPEG compression levels include Super High Quality (SHQ), High Quality (HQ), and Standard Quality (SQ). No less than seven image sizes are available, with a variety at each quality setting. Resolutions include 3,200 x 2,400 ("Enlarge" size, produced by interpolating up from the 2,048 x 1,536 pixels of the CCD); 2,048 x 1,536; 2,048 x 1,360 (3:2); 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels.

The C-740's file naming protocol includes the month and day at the beginning of the file name, and provides the option of numbering images progressively from one card to the next, or of resetting the naming sequence for each card. The camera lets you write-protect individual images from accidental erasure through the Playback menu. (Note that individually protected images can still be erased by a card format operation).

The myriad size options can be assigned to the camera's TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ1, and SQ2 quality levels via the Shooting menu, as shown in the table below. (Green table cells indicate image size options that can be assigned to each named quality setting.) Whatever image size/quality options are assigned to the five named quality settings can be quickly selected either by the "shortcut button" (see the earlier description of the user interface) or via the record setup menu. The second table below shows the approximate size and compression ratio of each of the 740's size/quality setting combinations, along with how many of each image size can fit on the included 16MB memory card.

3,200 x 2,400
2,048 x 1,536
1,600 x 1,200
1,280 x 960
1,024 x 768
640 x 480

Image Capacity vs
16MB Memory Card
Enlarge Size
3,200 x 2,400
(Avg size)
N/A 2
N/A 4:1 12:1
2,048 x 1,536
(Avg size)
1:1 4:1 12:1
1,600 x 1,200
(Avg size)
1:1 4:1 12:1
1,280 x 960
(Avg size)
1,024 x 768
(Avg size)
(Avg size)


The C-740 comes with interface software and cables for both Mac and Windows computers. It employs a USB interface for high-speed computer connection, and implements a "storage-class" connection. This is what Olympus refers to as their "USB Auto-Connect" function, which lets you connect the camera directly to a Windows Me, 2000, or XP computer, or a Mac running OS version 8.6 or later, without the need for driver software.

Download speed is *very* fast: The C-740 is only slightly slower than the C-750, which is actually the fastest USB-connected digicam I've tested to date. I measured the C-740's download speed at of 684 KB/second on my 2.4 GHz Sony VAIO computer, running Windows XP.

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...



Video Out
The C-740 has a Video Out port for reviewing previously captured images and movies, or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all of the LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder. (This last means that you could use a TV monitor as a "remote viewfinder" if you wanted to.) Through the Setup menu, you can set the Video Out signal to NTSC or PAL.

The C-740 is powered by two CR-V3 lithium battery packs, four AA batteries (alkaline, lithium, NiMH, or NiCd), or an optional AC adapter that can significantly extend battery life if you're doing a lot of downloads on the computer or working in a studio environment. The table below shows the power drain I measured in various operating modes for the C740, as well as projected runtimes based on a set of four NiMH batteries with a true capacity of 1600 mAh. (This is rather conservative these days, as you can now find NiMH AA cells with as much as 2000 mAh of true (vs advertised) capacity.)

Operating Mode
(@6.5 volts on the external power terminal)
Est. Minutes
(Four 1600 mAh NiMH cells, true capacity)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
335 mA
Capture Mode, EVF only
308 mA
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
334 mA
Half-pressed, EVF only
307 mA
Memory Write (transient)
415 mA
Flash Recharge (transient)
800 mA
Image Playback
221 mA

Overall, the C-740's battery life is quite a bit better than I've come to expect from digicams with electronic viewfinders. Generally, the issue with EVFs is that you can't turn them off, so they continue to draw power whether you need them or not. (You can often save significant battery power on cameras with optical viewfinders, simply by leaving the LCD display turned off.) Even in its worst-case power-drain mode (capture mode, with the rear panel LCD display active), projected run time is fully three and a half hours. This is much better than average for a digicam powered by four NiMH AA cell batteries.

Despite it's good battery life though, I strongly recommend that you purchase at least two sets of high-capacity NiMH rechargeable AA cells, and a good charger. Read my NiMH Battery Shootout page for the latest on actual battery performance, or my review of the Maha C204F to see why it's my favorite charger.

Included Software
The C-740 comes with a nice complement of software on the supplied CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by Olympus' Camedia Master software package (version 4.1) for both Mac and Windows platforms (Macintosh OS 8.6-9.2/OS X, Windows 98/98SE/Me/2000 Pro/XP). USB drivers for both platforms and an Apple QuickTime reader are also included.

Camedia Master lets you download and organize images, as well as perform minor image correction and enhancement functions (such as adjusting contrast, sharpness, and color balance). For panoramic images, Camedia Master supplies a "stitching" utility to piece together shots vertically or horizontally. A complete printing utility works with the DPOF settings and allows you to print images directly to Olympus or other DPOF-compliant photo printers.

In the Box
Here's a list of what's included in the box with the C-740 UltraZoom:


Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-740 Ultra Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I 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-740 Ultra Zoom's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

I have consistently been pleased with the flexibility, ease of use, and excellent picture quality of Olympus' Camedia line of digicams. As noted earlier, Olympus has been something of a pioneer in the long-zoom category, beginning with their C-2100 UltraZoom a couple of years back, and continuing last year with their C-720 and C-730. Olympus' newest entry, the C-740 Ultra Zoom, offers many of the features of last year's top-end C-730, at a slightly lower price. Though Olympus shaved off a couple of the more enthusiast features (such as sound recording and an external flash sync), the C-740 still offers great exposure flexibility and creative control. It offers an excellent range of manual controls, useful preset Scene modes, and a full 3.2-megapixel CCD. There's plenty of resolution for sharp 8x10 prints, and the C-740 offers many of the features that true enthusiasts demand, while remaining very approachable for novices. Having now tested a full-production model, my earlier favorable opinion seems well justified. - If you're interested in long-zoom digital photography, the C-740 is definitely a model to give serious consideration to. (If you want the 740's features but a 4.0-megapixel CCD and external flash sync socket, check out the C-750 Ultra Zoom.)

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