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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus C-7070 WideZoom


   


Olympus C-7070 WideZoom Review

Review Date: May 10, 2005

Category: Serious to Advanced Amateur

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award

HANDLING & FEEL


"Abundance"
5.7mm (27.2mm), Program Auto, Multi-Pattern, 1/80 sec., F4 and ISO 400

The Olympus Camedia C-7070 Zoom looks very professional in its all-black magnesium body. It also looks distinctive with a tall shape and lots of angles and curves -- all with a very practical and ergonomic reason. At 116W x 87H x 65.5D mm (4.6W x 3.4H x 2.6D in.), it's not quite compact, but just about slips into my spring jacket pocket. Weighing in at 420g (13.5 oz.), it's also not exactly light, but has a good heft and solid feel.

Funny thing is, at first, the Olympus C-7070 feels big and heavy, and it is if you are used to the compacts and ultra compacts only. Then I unpack the Olympus EVOLT E-300 digital SLR (review coming soon) and suddenly the C-7070's dimensions and weight feel very reasonable. I can see how those of you currently using a dSLR might want to look closely at the Olympus C-7070 as a take-anywhere digital camera with full control and exposure flexibility.

The Olympus C-7070 has a rubberized handgrip that allows your fingers to wrap around it naturally. It's a two-handed camera, requiring both hands to stabilize it and to operate the controls. At first, the buttons seemed to have been grouped a bit haphazardly; however, after using it for two weeks, their placement and use have become second nature.

If you are a long time Olympus digital camera user, the controls and menu structure will probably seem very familiar to you. Otherwise, be prepared for a period of adjustment -- even a little bit of frustration -- as you adapt to a new way of doing things. The Olympus C-7070 has lots of power under its handsome exterior, and it does pay to delve into the Advanced Manual (on CD) and explore all the features available. One point that may seem frustrating at first is that there is a well organized menu -- and then there are shortcuts. So you may feel confused at first while you wonder where to go to access a particular feature. My suggestion is to first take an hour or so and quickly familiarize yourself with the menu structure. As I mentioned, it is well organized, with 4 tabs: Camera settings, Picture settings, Card format, and Setup. All the settings can be accessed thru the menu. After you become familiar with the menu structure, then explore the shortcuts (accessed thru the direct buttons), which will cut down considerably the amount of button presses to access some features. Then, you may even want to customize your favourite settings and save them for quicker access.

The Power Switch is neither a button that you press down nor a collar around the shutter release button. Instead, it is a dial sandwiched between the Mode Dial and the Control Dial. You turn on the camera with a flick of the dial using your thumb. Turning it off is a bit more tricky, requiring your index finger to find the small lever and flick it back.

Regrettably, the remote controller is now optional after having been supplied as standard for many models; I find the remote controller invaluable for macro shots or whenever camera shake is a potential source of blurred images.

A couple of small but thoughtful touches:

  • There are no sensors near the handgrip where your fingers could block them.
  • A small latch in the battery compartment prevents the battery from falling when the door is opened.

For those who like it, there's a LCD Control Panel on top of the camera giving the exposure settings. It's not backlighted, though. Olympus allows the LCD monitor to function as a Control Panel at a press of the Info button. This screen looks complicated at first, but study it for a couple of minutes and you'll quickly recognize the most common settings like on the screen above, the type of focus used is AF, ISO is set to 80 and WB to Manual WB, flash is OFF, the Drive mode is Single AF, I'm writing to the CF memory card, the image quality/size I've selected is SHQ, and the number of images left is 72. To use the LCD as a Control Panel, you select this option in the menu (Menu - Setup - Dual Control Panel - ON).

The viewfinder is optical and, good news for those wearing glasses, there is diopter adjustment. However, the dial is on the right ("wrong") side of the viewfinder; with my eye against the viewfinder, I find just enough space to put my thumb in there to rotate the knob with difficulty.

The 1.8 in. semi-transmissive TFT LCD monitor is clear at 130,000 pixels resolution, and has a good refresh rate. Unfortunately it does not gain up in low-light (except in Manual Mode -- read further down). When you are taking pictures indoors in low-light or outside when it's dark, I would recommend that you adjust the brightness of the LCD monitor up to make it easier to see the image (Menu - Setup - <monitor>) or use the optical viewfinder.

An interesting feature of the LCD monitor is that in Manual mode, you can set it to automatically adjust the brightness of the LCD to display the subject with optimum clarity (Menu - Camera - M Mode - OFF). This effectively allows the LCD to gain up in low-light, and it works very well indeed. Because the camera also displays the exposure differential, it becomes child play to obtain perfect exposure using Manual Mode. A +ve exposure differential suggests overexposure and a negative one, underexposure. Just use the Control Dial to adjust the shutter speed and aperture (press the exposure compensation [+/-] button while rotating the Control Dial to adjust aperture) until the exposure differential number disappears from screen. Note that you cannot have the Histogram ON while you are using the M Mode feature.

Speaking of the LCD monitor, it swivels up 180° and clockwise 270°, so that the LCD monitor can face your subject (as in when you want to take your own picture) and for easy overhead and ground-level shots. If you are into macro photography, it is simply invaluable. There is an orientation sensor that flips the image right side up as you lift the LCD monitor past the horizon. Note that the image only flips when the monitor is raised and lowered, not when it is rotated sideways. In the latter case, the image is 90° rotated. When the camera is not in use, you can store the LCD monitor facing inward to protect it.

A half-press of the shutter release button will trigger the AF Illuminator that will throw some light (red/orange) on your subject (I cannot repeat often enough that you should be careful not to shine the light into your subject's eyes, especially into the eyes of babies and children). You can enable/disable the AF Illuminator in the Menu (Setup - AF Illuminator - ON/OFF).

The lens cap is the push on type and is not too tight; if you turn on the camera without first removing the lens cap, the latter just pops out as the lens extends outward, ensuring no damage to the lens mechanism. This unfortunately also means that the lens cap does tend to fall off a bit too easily with just a slight bump.

The Arrow Keys are reserved mostly for menu choice selections and the Control Dial to select an option when a Direct Button is pressed. The UP and DOWN arrow keys are defaulted to Program Shift; I would have preferred the use of the Control Dial in this case.

The behavior of a button press can be customized in the Menu (Setup - Dial - Normal/Custom1/Custom2):

In Normal mode, you press a button to display the relevant menu options (essentially a subset of what's available from the main menu), rotate the Control Dial to make your selection, and press the button again to dismiss the menu options.

Custom1:
Long rectangle clutters the screen
Revised Custom1: press or rotate the available options in position

Custom1 mode is my favourite, with each press of the button selecting the next available option. The menu display disappears after about 3 seconds of inactivity. However, I would have preferred the selection to be more discreete than splashing a long rectangle across the screen. Though its large text is easy on the eyes, it does tend to clutter the screen needlessly, interfering with image composition; instead, just show it to us exactly where the setting is displayed on screen (see Revised Custom1, how I think Custom1 should be displayed).

Custom3 is similar to Normal, except you have to press and hold the button while you rotate the Control Dial to make your selection. You let go of the button to dismiss the menu options.

The Olympus C-7070 has dual memory card slots, accepting the proprietary xD-Picture Card as well as the de-facto industry standard CompactFlash (CF) card. To use the Panorama scene mode, you must use an Olympus-brand xD-Picture Card (one from another brand will not do). Being able to use 2 memory cards effectively doubles your storage capacity. A 512MB CF card can hold about 97 SHQ images or 47 RAW images.

There is a hot shoe for attaching an external flash and there are lots of optional accessories.

All said, the Olympus Camedia C-7070 Wide Zoom is an excellent digital camera in a rugged body. It would be overkill for someone just looking for a Point-and-Shoot, but for a professional photographer desiring a relatively compact take-anywhere digital camera -- or, conversely, for a serious amateur photographer ready to graduate to a camera offering full control and exposure flexibility -- the Olympus C-7070 needs to be on your shortlist of candidates.

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