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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus C-7000 Zoom


   


Olympus C-7000 Zoom Review

Review Date: Jan 24, 2005

Category: Serious Amateur

USER'S EXPERIENCE

Wednesday, Dec 22, 2004 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Camedia C-7000 Zoom
  • Wrist Strap
  • Li-Ion Battery LI-10B & Battery Charger LI-10C
  • 32MB xD-Picture Card
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Instruction Manuals: Basic Manual; Quick Start Guide
  • Software CDs: Olympus Master, C-7000 Advanced Manual

The Olympus Camedia C-7000 Zoom is quite compact and light, and the fact that it gives very good image quality makes it a very attractive digital camera. I find that I can carry it in my large trousers pocket, or my jacket pocket, so it's handy for a quick shot. The fact that it starts up in around 1 second (1.5 sec. with LCD image on), and there is no practical shutter lag, means that it comes close to being a "perfect" digital camera.

Image quality is very good, with great detail and very low noise at ISO 80 and ISO 100, with ISO 200 and even ISO 400 quite usable. I did not find any CA (purple fringing) in my everyday shots, but be aware that it is Winter here and the light is not very strong and bright; other reviewers have found anything from a tiny bit to quite a bit.

I really enjoyed using the Olympus C-7000, and became quite proficient with its controls and Menu selections after a couple of weeks' use. I thought I'd mention a few things you should be aware of when you first start using this camera so as to avoid frustrations.

First, don't assume that the factory defaults are what's best for you if all you intend is to use this camera in a point-and-shoot mode. I would still spend a few minutes to set the following:

- ALL RESET = OFF (this will now keep all your preferred settings, otherwise you'll have to set them again every time you power on)

- ISO = 80

- FULLTIME AF = OFF (Full time AF is quite noisy)

- INFO = ON

- HISTOGRAM = OFF, ON, DIRECT (your choice)

- PICTURE QUALITY/SIZE = SHQ 3072x2304 pixels

- REC VIEW = ON

- BEEP = OFF

- SHUTTER SOUND = OFF

- FILE NAME = AUTO (RESET will start back from 1 whenever you change memory card, and will result in duplicate file names if you change cards on the same day)

- AF ILLUMINATOR = ON

Note that the ALL RESET = ON/OFF setting is an all or nothing sort of thing, i.e. either the camera remembers all settings (even the ones you set during a shooting session but don't want remembered on power down) or forgets them all. To set your preferred default settings, use the My Mode function where you can save up to 4 different sets of settings. In that case, set ALL RESET = ON, so settings you set temporarily will be reset on power down. I admit it's a bit more complicated than it really should be.

The Olympus C-7000 uses the xD-Picture card and comes with a 32MB xD-Picture card. I recommend you purchase at least a 512MB xD-Picture card, or as large a memory card as you can afford.

With Windows XP, you don't need to install any software to transfer images from camera to PC. Just plug the USB cable into your camera and PC USB socket. The LCD monitor turns on automatically (you don't even need to turn on the camera); press OK to select PC. The camera is recognized as a drive, and you just use the supplied Camedia Master software to transfer images to your PC (if you want to use it to index your images by date). If you don't care with indexing your images, you can simply use Windows Explorer to drag and drop the images from the camera to anywhere on your hard drive. Before unplugging the USB cable, you need to click the "Unplug or Eject Hardware" icon on the taskbar first.

The Basic Manual is, as its name implies, quite basic, and in very tiny type. To read up on the many features of the Olympus C-7000, you need the electronic version of the Advanced Manual, which is on the CD (in pdf format), and I would encourage you to save a copy on your PC for easy access. The electronic version is nice since it makes searching for a feature quick and easy. I can also enlarge the display to a comfortable viewing size. However, the lack of a printed reference manual means that you are totally clueless in the field.


Winter Breakdown
28.8mm (138.5mm), Program, Multi-Pattern, 1/50 sec., F4, and ISO 400

The Olympus C-7000 has a fantastic LCD monitor with high resolution (206K pixels) and fast refresh rate for a clear and smooth display. Unfortunately it does not gain up in low-light situations; use the optical viewfinder in those instances.

The other feature I really like is the inclusion of the adjustable AF Area. You can position the AF frame to any of 11 positions down * 13 positions across = 143 positions, i.e. anywhere on the LCD screen (except the very edges). I find this an invaluable feature for macro and other off-center subject shots. At first, I could not find this feature under the Menu, and it took booting up the PC and searching the Advanced Manual to discover it was staring me in the face right under the AE/AF button. Unfortunately, this setting is not remembered by the camera so you have to set it everytime you want to use it. Since AF Area is my preferred AF mode, I was a bit disappointed. But still, better to have it than not.

I like the fact that you have to manually pop up the flash for it to fire. I hate being surprised by a flash popping up when I don't want to use flash. Pop it up during the day and you have instant fill-in flash. Leave it closed, and you can use slow shutter speeds. This is fortunate also because of the odd placement of the pop up flash at the very top left corner (viewed from the back) of the camera. This corner is also where your left index finger naturally settles to stabilize the camera, and an auto pop up flash would not pop up with your finger resting on top of it.

With the flash popped up, you need to hold the camera quite arkwardly. Olympus is aware of this problem and has even provided two diagrams in the Advanced Manual to demonstrate how best to hold the camera with the flash popped up. This design mistake has been debated at length when it was first introduced on the Sony V1, and so it is quite surprising that Olympus designers and engineers still chose to go with this arkward design.

Be careful not to shine the AF Illuminator into someone's eyes. I accidentally did it to myself and even though it is supposed to be safe, it still took an hour or so for my vision to feel completely normal again.

The Olympus C-7000 has many professional features, and it is understandable that its compact size means that many of these features are accessible only through the Menu. The menu itself on the C-7000 is changed from the traditional Olympus menu, and seems much cleaner (colour and graphics), clearer and straightforward. Once used to their workings, I find it second nature to zip through the menu selections.

One weird problem I had was losing the ability to set the DRIVE option. I just could not figure out why the DRIVE option was disabled in the Menu. Another trip back to the Advanced Manual to discover that setting NOISE REDUCTION to ON will disable the DRIVE OPTION. Presumably, this is because with NOISE REDUCTION, the camera now takes approx. double the time to process the image (which is normal). But since Noise Reduction does not kick in until the shutter speed is 1/2 sec. or less, I'm not sure I understand the reasoning behind disabling the DRIVE option for all shutter speeds. It seems more like some lazy programming of the firmware to me (or misunderstood specs).

[Editor's Note 2005-04-11: OK, the above mystery is cleared. The Olympus C-7000 set at SHQ image quality will not allow you to take sequence shots nor bracket the exposure (i.e. select a Drive Mode). Drive Mode is available at HQ image quality.]

It's a minor niggle but it does illustrate an overreliance on the Menu in Olympus digital cameras. In fact, even when there is a dedicated button, pressing that button still brings up a sub menu (which totally defeats the purpose of a dedicated button). This is more of a perception issue on the part of the user -- and a design paradigm shift for the Olympus software desgner -- because Olympus could have easily forgo displaying the sub menu altogether and simply display the appropriate icon on the screen, allowing repeated press of the dedicated button to rotate through the available options for that feature. This way we can keep concentrating on the picture instead of a sub menu suddenly blocking the view and demanding our attention. But as I said, minor niggle for some who are used to Olympus' menu structure, more so for others more used to faster function changes.

The battery lasts about average (approx 2+ hours with LCD on; or, about 175 shots according to Olympus) and the camera will beep LOUDLY (even if all sound is set to OFF) to warn of low battery condition. A second spare battery is therefore highly recommended.

All said, the Olympus Camedia C-7000 Zoom is an excellent digital camera in a compact and very light body. Despite the little shortcomings mentioned previously, I personally like it very much. The combination of very good image quality, very low noise (usuable in ISO 200, and perhaps even ISO 400), 5x optical zoom, full exposure flexibility, fast start-up and no practical shutter lag, excellent LCD, and a host of other professional features make the C-7000 a very attractive proposition for serious amateur photographers. You do have to go into the Menu to access many of those features and this may limit its practicality as a camera for street photography, but it would certainly shine as a camera for landscape photography. I'd encourage you to check it out at a camera store, for the only way you can decide if the Olympus C-7000 is right for you is to try it out for yourself.

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