Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom

The 7-megapixel Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom, with its namesake wide-angle lens, abundance of features, and great picture quality, has a lot to offer the enthusiast who’s a few dollars short of the price of a digital SLR.

The magnesium-alloy body has a reassuringly rugged feel, and the rubberized grip and contoured thumbrest make it a pleasure to hold. The 1.8-inch swiveling LCD is great for taking shots at odd angles, and handily arranged buttons provide quick access to common settings without making you hunt through menus. A control panel on top of the camera displays essential settings, and you can display the same information on the LCD, where it’s easier to read. The C-7070’s only external design flaw is its flimsy lens cap, which falls off easily.

The C-7070 is very much an enthusiast’s camera, providing full manual control. (There’s no automatic mode.) The mode dial offers Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, My Mode (which lets you access one of four sets of settings you define), Movie, Scene, and Playback modes. Scene mode offers seven options, including two special modes for shooting underwater.

That’s right: underwater. An underwater housing is one of several accessories available from Olympus (including a flash for the hot shoe, ring flash for shadow-free close-ups, remote control, telephoto conversion lens, and wide-angle adapter).

The 4x optical zoom extends from a wide 27mm to 110mm. In Super Macro mode, the lens can focus to a respectable 1.8 inches. The autofocus (AF) is responsive, the Oracle AF mode keeps moving subjects in focus, and an AF illuminator assists focusing in low light. In Spot AF mode, you can target any of 143 zones, so you can keep your subject in focus wherever it is in the frame. A live histogram helps you adjust exposure (easily accessed via the controller pad), a histogram target mark lets you read a target area of the frame, and you can opt to display over- and underexposed areas directly on the image.

The C-7070’s startup time is about 2 seconds. There’s no noticeable shutter lag, and a sequential shooting mode can take up to 11 JPEG pictures every 1.1 seconds. But write times when shooting RAW are painfully slow—as long as 10 seconds—depending on your media. You’ll need the bundled Olympus Master software (or a Photoshop plug-in from Olympus) to open the proprietary Raw format (ORF) files.

The pictures I took with the C-7070 had excellent, accurate color and very good detail. ISO ranges from 50 to 400, and noise isn’t a problem until 400 ISO. I noticed mild purple fringing and some barreling, which is to be expected with a wide lens.

You can shoot VGA-quality video (640-by-480 pixels) at 30 frames per second, and the camera’s image stabilization reduces blur. The video quality is good, but you must disable audio to use the optical zoom during video recording, which makes the video of limited use.

The C-7070 has dual memory slots, so you can load up the camera with an xD-Picture Card and a Compact Flash Type I or Type II card.

Macworld’s Buying Advice

The Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom’s advanced features, flexibility, expandability, build quality, and image quality make it a solid choice for an enthusiast, but its slow write times will test your patience if you shoot a lot of Raw-format images.

Jury Tests

Color Quality - Accuracy Excellent
Clarity - Detail Very Good
Clarity - Artifacts, Noise Very Good

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

Specifications

Resolution 7.1 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length 4.0x Optical (27mm to 110mm)
Maximum Aperture f2.8-f4.8
Size (wxhxd) 4.6 inches x 3.4 inches x 2.6 inches
Weight 13.5 ounces

[ Robert Ellis is a freelance writer, Mac fan, and avid digital photographer. He publishes the blog Futurosity.]

Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom
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