Review: Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Wednesday, May 9, 2001
Monday, December 24, 2001
the resolution of digital cameras has started to level out in recent
months, camera manufacturers have found other ways to make their
products stand out. One way in which they are doing so is selling
cameras with large zoom lenses: case in point, the Canon PowerShot
Pro90, Olympus C-2100 Ultra Zoom, and several Sony cameras.
already had an "ultra zoom" camera out there -- the C-2100
Ultra Zoom -- so it came as a surprise to many when they introduced
a second one. The C-700
Ultra Zoom is billed as the smallest camera with a 10X zoom,
and I believe it (even with the lens extended, it's still pretty
small). And I found it to be a great value for the price as well.
Where the C-2100UZ sells for about $800, the C-700UZ is just $600.
did that $200 go? The cameras are very similar internally, with
one major difference: the C-700UZ lacks any kind of image stabilization.
On the C-2100UZ, when you're at full telephoto, an image stabilization
system helps keep things from shaking too much. On the C-700UZ,
you're on your own. Aside from that, there wasn't much to keep me
from really enjoying this tiny camera with a very powerful zoom.
in the Box?
C-700UZ has a pretty good bundle, typical for Olympus. Inside the
box, you'll find:
2.1 Mpixel Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom camera
CR-V3 lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
cap w/ strap
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
page "basic" manual and 200 page "reference"
manual (on CD)
I don't want to take all the credit for this, but I think all my
complaining about lens caps is paying off. Olympus seems to be including
both a lens cap and strap with their newest cameras. Hurrah!
area where Olympus is sorely lacking is in the battery department.
Olympus includes two "long life" CR-V3 batteries, which
are non-rechargeable. While they do last a long time, they end up
polluting our landfills, and you end up needing to buy batteries.
I recommend picking up a set or two of NiMH rechargeable batteries
(and a charger of course). Interestingly enough, the C-2100UZ includes
batteries and a charger. I guess that's part of the price difference.
difference between the C-700 and C-2100 in this department is the
remote control: you don't get one with the C-700.
covered Olympus' Camedia Master software in a previous
review. Overall, I found it to be better than the average software
that comes bundled with the camera, but you won't be throwing out
your copy of Photoshop.
new feature of the C-700UZ is what Olympus calls USB AutoConnect.
What that means is that if you're using a modern Mac, or a Win98/2000
system, you won't need to install any drivers. I'm all for that!
tested the C-700UZ in Mac OS X, and not only did the Image Transfer
utility open, but the camera mounted on the desktop as well.
included 8MB SmartMedia card is rather skimpy -- I wish Olympus
(and all manufacturers) would bundle larger cards with their cameras.
the C-700UZ, Olympus has done something that I really don't like:
they put the manual in PDF format, on the CD. They are partially
forgiven for including a printed "basic" manual, but I
hate having to dig out the CD to look something up in the manual.
I suppose you can print it, but it's 200 pages!
thing I can say about the manuals, however, is that they are improving.
There's a new layout here, and it's easier to follow than previous
C-700UZ's design is familiar -- it looks and feels like their C-2000/3000
series. But there are a few important differences, as you'll see
body itself is mostly plastic, but it feels solid. The camera is
very easy to hold, with a grip for the right hand, and plenty of
room for the left. With the exception of one button in particular,
everything is well-placed.
cameras dimensions are pretty small: 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.1 inches. The
weight (empty) is just 310 g, amazing for a camera with a big lens.
The C-700UZ is just a little larger and heavier than the C-3040Z,
and quite the opposite from the C-2100UZ.
main attraction on the C-700 is, of course, its 10X optical zoom
lens. This F2.8-F3.5 lens has a focal range of 5.9 - 59mm, which
is equivalent to 38 - 380mm. I'm 99% sure this is the same lens
that's on the C-2100UZ as well as the Canon PowerShot Pro90. Since
it shares the same problem with chromatic aberration as those two,
I assume I'm right. But more on that later.
lens is not threaded. If you want to use a filter or conversion
lens, you'll need to buy the "tube" from Olympus which
the lens you can see the pop-up flash, which is probably in that
position to reduce redeye. In my own fooling around with the camera,
I didn't notice a problem with redeye.
onto the back of the camera. The LCD at 1.5" is a little smaller
than most of Olympus' LCDs, but it's just as bright and fluid. Nose
smudging will only be a problem for those who use their left eyes
to use the viewfinder.
see this in both the LCD and EVF
all of these "ultra zoom" cameras, the C-700 uses an EVF,
or electronic viewfinder. While you get to see through the lens,
the quality isn't the same as the big LCD, and not even close to
a true optical viewfinder. That said, you do get a wealth of information
in the EVF that you wouldn't get otherwise. There is a diopter correction
knob to assist those of us with glasses.
to the right of the EVF, you'll find buttons for:
[rec] / Delete [play]
& spot metering [rec] / DPOF print marking [play]
[rec] / Protect [play]
quick word about the Drive button. That moves you between the following
w/AF (focuses for each shot)
C-700 can shoot at 1.2 frames/sec for up to 3 shots in SHQ or 6
in HQ. Sorry, there's no continuous TIFF mode shooting (yet).
back to our tour now: around the LCD are a number of other buttons:
Lock or Custom button [rec] / Rotate [play]
/ Menu invoke
(toggles between EVF and LCD)
that's completely new here is the "custom button" feature.
You can replace the AE lock button with a number of other functions
from the menu. On the whole, Olympus has made the menus quite customizable
on the C-700.
I mentioned that everything was well-placed except for one button:
the Ok/Menu button. For as long as I can remember, these two have
always been separate, and it doesn't seem logical to have them as
the same button. Maybe it's just me.
onto the top of the camera. You can see the microphone, flash release
button, mode wheel, and shutter release / zoom control. There's
no LCD info display on this camera since the same information is
found on the EVF and LCD.
mode wheel has the following options:
Priority / Shutter Priority / Full Manual mode
I mentioned in the C-3040Z
review, I wish that the A/S/M choices were separate, saving
a trip to the menu. The three "scene modes" (landscape/action/portrait)
choose the best settings for those situations. As for the manual
modes, here are the choices available:
priority: choose between F2.8 - F8 in wide-angle and F3.5 - F8
priority: choose between 1/2 sec and 1/1000 sec
manual: same aperture values; shutter speed range of 16 sec -
you're going to do any serious night shooting (or anything that
requires a slower speed than 1/2 sec), you'll have to use full manual
a look at the side of the camera, where you can see the various
I/O ports. Here, you'll find:
sync (5 pin)
you can use the fabled FL-40 external flash with this camera, but
you'll need to buy the flash bracket as well. Both are available
from Olympus. Update 5/11/01: You can use other flashes,
but Olympus has a lengthy section of warnings about doing so in
here's the other side, with the included 8MB SmartMedia card shown.
This is one of those "grab it yourself" slots, meaning
it's not spring-loaded.
that brings us to the bottom of the camera. Down here, you'll find
the battery compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount.
the Olympus C-700 Ultra Zoom
camera takes approximately 5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm
up" before you can start taking pictures. On the whole, the
C-700UZ is quite responsive. There's little delay while the camera
locks focuses or takes the picture, and you can take another in
under 2 seconds.
a look at the many resolution and quality options on the C-700UZ,
and how many fit on the included 8MB card, as well as a 32MB card
(for reference sake).
you can see, there's a whole lot of choices. Do note that full-size
TIFF files take over 15 seconds to write to the card, and you cannot
take additional photos during that time.
C-700UZ uses an entirely new menu system, that allows quick access
to the settings that you want. It is more complex than the old system,
and it takes some getting used to, for sure.
you first press the menu button in record mode, you are presented
with the screen above. The ISO, Quality, and White Balance choices
are customizable, so you could put whatever setting you want in
those spaces. The Mode Menu choice enters the menu system at the
the full menu. There are tabs on the left for Camera, Picture, Card,
and General settings. In the main area you'll actually change the
settings. There's lots of moving right and left in this system,
and I'm not sure if I like it that much. Perhaps it will grow on
a look at all the choices available in the menu, and what they mean:
(Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800)
(chooses the manual mode to use)
intensity (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
flash settings (first or second curtain)
zoom (2.7X, on/off)
after stills (on/off)
with movies (on/off)
helper (requires Olympus-branded SM card)
(black & white, sepia, black board, white board)
(see chart above)
balance (auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, manual)
balance color (makes color bluer/redder)
(hard, normal, soft)
(high, normal, low)
Reset (choose which camera settings are stored, or if they're
all reset to defaults)
(displayed with picture)
View (shows picture after it's taken - on/off)
name (reset, auto)
Cut (lets you customize that first menu screen, as described
Button (change the AE Lock button to something else)
now onto some photo tests. Before I do that, I wanted to illustrate
the power of the 10X optical zoom with the following example:
the left: No zoom, 3X zoom, 10X zoom
of the problems with this particular lens is that it exhibits a
lot of chromatic aberration, also known as purple fringing. The
shot below illustrates it very well.
probably have to blow this up to see what I mean. While it's not
in all pictures, don't be surprised to see it on the edges of objects
with a bright sky behind it.
from that, I was very pleased with the photo quality. The zoom allows
you to really get close to things that would be tiny otherwise.
But don't take my word for it, take a look at the gallery
and judge for yourself.
macro test turned out well (as it did on the C-3040Z), and I didn't
even need to adjust the white balance for a change. In macro mode,
you can get as close as 0.1 m (0.3 ft) in wide-angle mode, and 1.2
m (3.9 ft) in telephoto mode. [Updated 5/15/01]
original nightshot: ISO 451
nightshot test didn't turn out nearly as well as I was expecting.
In addition to the reddish coloring, the photos I took very quite
grainy as well. I tried changing white balance settings and still
got the weird colors -- and not just in this location.
readers speculated that the reason my night tests weren't turning
out so well was a high ISO setting. The camera was set to Auto and
it used an ISO over 400 for the shot you see above. So I went out
again (albeit to a different location) and tried again, with lower
ISO values. I was surprised to see that it made little difference.
Both shots below were taken in full manual mode, F3.5, 1 second
nightshot #1 - ISO 100
nightshot #2 - ISO 200
like the C-3040Z, the movie mode on the C-700UZ isn't quite as nice
as on the E-100 Rapid Shot, also made by Olympus. That camera features
higher resolution (640 x 480) and faster frame rates (30 fps). Oh
well, this is pretty good as it is.
can record movies in 16 second (HQ, 320 x 240) or 70 second (SQ,
160 x 120) clips.
cannot use the optical zoom while filming on the C-700 -- only the
digital zoom. You can set the optical zoom to roughly the range
you want before filming, and use the digital zoom to zoom in additionally
(of course the quality will go downhill).
a thrilling sample movie of a 747 taking off for you (filmed in
to play movie (QuickTime format, M-JPEG codec; 3,8MB)
C-700 Ultra Zoom has a competent playback mode. All the basics are
here: slideshows, thumbnail mode (4, 9, or 16 at a time), DPOF print
marking, photo protection, and zoom & scroll.
camera moves between photos quickly -- less than a second for HQ
photos. TIFF photos will take at least 15 seconds to view.
zoom and scroll mode, you can zoom in as much as 3X into your photos,
and then scroll around in them. I found the scrolling feature to
be way too slow, however.
nice feature is the ability to rotate your photos in the camera,
saving a trip to the photo editing software later.
information about a photo is available -- no histograms though (though
most people won't care).
Does it Compare?
the C-700 Ultra Zoom, Olympus has taken the already very good C-2000/3000
series, and popped a 10X optical zoom in it -- and the results are
very positive. Yes, there's that problem with chromatic aberrations,
but you won't notice in most situations. But overall, this little
camera with the very big zoom takes superb pictures, is fairly easy-to-use,
and packs a lot of features into it's silver body.
does it compare with the more expensive C-2100 Ultra Zoom? Very
favorably, in this reviewers opinion. The major differences are
the lack of image stabilization, a few bundled features, and about
$200 in cash. You may have to use a tripod for some of those long
range shots (like you probably should anyhow), but I'd say the C-700UZ
is a better value for the money.
smokes - 10X optical zoom for about $600 street?
good photo quality in most cases
customizable menu system (though it takes getting used to)
for external flash
good looking body
I didn't care for:
optical zoom in movie mode
aberrations noticeable in several photos
mode could use some more features
of OK/Menu button
rechargeable batteries included
already mentioned the competition earlier in this review: the Canon
PowerShot Pro90, Olympus E-100RS
Ultra Zoom, and perhaps the Sony
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the C-700UZ and its competitors before you buy!
how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos
in our photo gallery!
a second opinion? How about a third?
Digicams review of the C-700UZ. If that's not enough, DP
Review has one too.
welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.