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DCRP Review: Olympus
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 21, 2004
Last Updated: February 13, 2008
Olympus joins the increasingly popular 7 Megapixel market with their C-7000 Zoom digital camera ($599). The C-7000Z is a midsize camera with a 5X zoom lens, manual controls, and 2-inch LCD display, just to name a few things.
How does it perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The C-7000Z has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Olympus includes a 32MB xD Picture Card with the C-7000Z. That holds just six photos at the highest JPEG quality, so you'll want a larger card right away. I'd recommend a 256MB or 512MB xD card as a good place to start. Do note that xD cards don't get any larger than 1GB and tend to be much more expensive than CompactFlash or Secure Digital cards.
The C-7000Z uses the familiar LI-12B lithium-ion rechargeable battery, which was also used by the C-60 and C-765/770. This battery packs 4.5 Wh of energy, which is good but not spectacular. Olympus says that you can take 175 shots per charge, though they don't say how they came up with that number. Regardless, it's pretty average battery performance (at best).
No review would be complete without a complaint about proprietary batteries like the LI-12B. For one, they're expensive, costing $37 a pop (and I do recommend buying a spare). Secondly, you can't drop in some disposable batteries to get you through the day like you could on an AA-based camera.
When it's time to recharge the battery just snap it into the included external charger. It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the battery. This isn't one of those handy (in my opinion) "plug it right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cable.
The C-7000 has a built-in lens cover, so there are no lens caps to worry about. As you can see, it's a fairly compact camera.
There aren't too many accessories to mention here. In fact, the only ones I could find were an AC adapter (model D-AC7, $40), wireless remote control (RM-1, $30), and camera case ($20 and up).
Olympus includes their brand new Master software with the C-7000Z, and I have to say that they did a great job with it. The first thing you'll probably do with the software is transfer photos from your camera. Once you've done that, you've got a nice thumbnail view that you can organize by date or keywords. A calendar view is also available.
It's easy to change the size of the thumbnails, and everything was snappy on my PowerMac G5.
If you want to edit a photo, that's just a click away. You can rotate, crop, reduce redeye, or do an "instant fix". If you want to adjust the color balance, you can do that as well, as you can see above.
The software can also be used to "stitch" together several photos into one panoramic photo.
You'll need the Master software to open and edit the RAW images which are saved by the C-7000. You can adjust the exposure compensation, white balance, contrast, sharpness, and color. And this is the beauty of RAW: you can change these things without reducing the quality of the image. That's because RAW images have the, well, raw image data from the CCD. So if you botch the white balance, you can change it later on your PC with no ill effects.
Sharing photos is easy: you can print them or e-mail them right in the Master software. Naturally, there's a slideshow feature available as well. And, if you want to archive them to a CD or DVD, that's available too.
Just like with their old Camedia Master software, Olympus has a "Plus" version available for $20 more. The Master Plus software adds movie editing capabilities, more printing options, and the ability to make Video CDs.
While the software has greatly improved, one thing that hasn't changed is Olympus' unwillingness to print the full camera manual. As usual, you'll get a 27 page "basic manual" in the box, with the full manual on the included CD-ROM. The quality of the manual itself is good -- it's getting to the information that's difficult.
Look and Feel
The C-7000 Zoom is a camera that straddles the line between compact and midsize (I'd lean more toward the latter, myself). It's a little too big to fit in most of your pockets, but it was never a burden to carry around. The body is made mostly of metal, and it feels quite solid for the most part. The important controls are easy-to-reach, and you can easily hold and operate the camera with one hand.
The official dimensions of the C-7000Z are 4.0 x 2.3 × 1.7 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs 220 grams empty. The closest competitors are probably the Pentax Optio 750Z and Canon PowerShot S70, and their numbers are 3.9 x 2.4 x 1.7 inches / 210 grams and 4.5 x 2.2 x 1.5 inches / 230 grams, respectively.
Enough about that, let's start our tour now!
The C-7000Z packs a powerful 5X into its fairly-compact body. The maximum aperture is F2.8 at wide-angle and F4.8 at telephoto. The focal length on this 5X lens is 7.9 - 39.5 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 190 mm. This is not a great camera for those who like wide-angle shots! You cannot attach conversion lenses to the C-7000Z, or to the 750Z or S70 for that matter.
At the top-right of the photo is the C-7000's pop-up flash. It has a fairly small working range of 0.15 - 3.8 m at wide-angle and 0.6 - 2.2 m at telephoto. The flash on the 750Z and S70 are a bit more powerful. You cannot attach an external flash to any of the cameras in this class.
Something I found quite annoying about the pop-up flash is that it gets in the way of your fingers when it's up. You need to be very careful not to block the flash, or push it down slightly. There really isn't a good place to put your fingers while the flash is up, unfortunately.
Directly below the flash is the microphone. To the left of that a bit is the AF-assist lamp, which helps the camera focus in low light situations.
Next to the Camedia logo you'll find the remote control receiver and self-timer lamp.
The C-7000Z has a larger-than-average 2-inch LCD display. With 206,000 pixels, the screen is quite sharp, and the refresh rate is excellent as well. Things aren't as good in low light situations, where I found the LCD too dark to be usable.
Above the LCD is a good-sized optical viewfinder. The only comment I have about the viewfinder is that there is no diopter correction knob.
To the left of the optical viewfinder is the release for the pop-up flash. On the opposite side are three buttons, which do the following:
The AE/AF button is the way to adjust the metering and focus settings. The metering choices are ESP, spot, and multi, while the focus choices are iESP, spot, and area. The AF Area option lets you manually select one of 143 focus points by using the four-way controller.
Directly to the right of the LCD are two buttons plus the four-way controller. The top-most button is AE Lock by default, but you can set it to change nearly any camera setting. In playback mode the button is used to rotate photos. The next button down, Quick View, enters playback mode.
The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, choosing manual settings, and adjusting exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments). By holding down the "OK/Menu" button (in the center of the four-way controller) for one second you will activate the manual focus feature. You can then use the up/down keys to set the focus distance yourself. The camera shows the distance on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged so you can make sure your subject is in focus.
On the far right of the photo is the mode dial, which has the following options:
Two things. Number one, I don't like having to use "M" mode to get all the full shutter speed range. Secondly, I love the My Mode feature -- it's a great way to easily get to your preferred camera settings. In fact, you can have up to four sets of them!
There isn't too much to see on top of the C-7000Z. The flash is in the closed position here, but when it's open, you'll have to find somewhere else to put your fingers.
On the right side of the photo are the power and shutter release buttons, with the latter having the zoom controller wrapped around it. The controller moves the lens very quickly from wide-angle to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. There are just seven steps throughout the 5X zoom range, which doesn't allow for much precision.
0n this side of the camera you'll find the speaker and DC-in port (for the optional AC adapter).
On the other side of the camera are the rest of the I/O ports, which are kept behind a plastic cover. They include USB and A/V -- one port for both functions. The C-7000Z supports USB 2.0 Full Speed, which is marketing-speak for the old, slow USB 1.1.
We end the tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find the battery compartment, memory card slot, and plastic (boo!) tripod mount. The memory card / battery compartment is covered by a flimsy plastic door that is way too easy to open. Also, you cannot swap memory cards while the camera is on a tripod.
The included LI-12B battery is shown at right.
Using the Olympus C-7000 Zoom
The C-7000Z starts up remarkably quickly, taking just 1.2 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures.
|The C-7000Z has not one, but two histograms! The one on the left is your traditional histogram that we all love. The one on the right (called a direct histogram) shows underexposed areas in blue, and overexposed areas in red. Very cool!|
Focusing speeds were generally good, ranging from about 0.4 - 0.8 seconds in most cases. If the camera has to "hunt" to lock focus it can take over a second. Low light focusing was very good, thanks to the C-7000Z's AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was quite low, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed is good, with a delay of about 2 seconds, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature. Things slow down considerably if you shoot in RAW or TIFF mode, with delays of 10 and 17 seconds, respectively.
There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You can, however, use the QuickView feature to do so.
The C-7000Z has a million image quality choices... and here they are:
What an exhaustive list! I already described why RAW is great in the first section of the review. TIFF files are large, uncompressed images that use an industry standard format that all image viewing software can open. RAW images must be processed with the Olympus Master software and eventually third party software like Adobe Photoshop CS. Do note that shooting in RAW (and TIFF mode slows down shot-to-shot and playback speeds dramatically.
Olympus uses one of the more sensible file numbering systems that I've seen. Files are named Pmdd####.jpg, where m is the month (1-9, A-C), d is the day, and #### is 0001-9999. This way your file numbers are always unique (well, at least a year). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.
The C-7000Z uses the most recent revision of the Olympus menu system. When you first hit the menu button, you'll be presented with the following options:
The top and left items in that menu can be customized. You can put any menu option in their place. Nice!
Selecting Mode Menu from that initial screen will bring you to the full recording menu. There are four tabs containing the various menu items. These include:
Time for some further explanation of those items!
There are two sequential (continuous) shooting modes on the C-7000Z, neither of which are terribly impressive. Normal sequential mode takes up to 4 shots (at the SHQ setting) at around 1.4 frames/second. The high speed mode took a grand total of two photos at roughly 2.5 frames/second. In both modes the LCD turns off during shooting, which makes following a moving subject difficult (at least there's an optical viewfinder). The auto bracketing feature will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different exposure. You can choose the exposure interval in the menu: ±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, or ±1.0EV.
The timelapse feature lets you take up to 99 photos at an interval of your choosing (1 - 60 mins). The AC adapter is basically a requirement for this.
The C-7000Z has a custom (one-touch) white balance feature, which lets you use a white or gray card as your white reference, for perfect color in any lighting. Another option is to use the white balance compensation option, which allows you to adjust the selected white balance in either the red or blue direction.
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The C-7000Z did a pretty nice job with our macro test. The subject is pretty "smooth" and everything is nice and sharp. Colors are accurate for the most part, though the rec cloak seems a little too orange to me.
There are two macro modes on the camera. In normal macro mode, you can get as close as 8 cm to your subject at wide-angle and 60 cm at telephoto. To get even closer, you can use super macro mode, which lowers that distance to just 2 cm, which is excellent. You can then fill the frame with a subject just 34 x 25 mm in size. Do note that the lens is fixed while in super macro mode.
The C-7000Z did an excellent job with our night test shot. The photographer (me) didn't do a great job keeping the shot level, as you'll see in the full size image. Thanks to the manual shutter speed control, the camera took in plenty of light. The buildings are nice and sharp, and noise levels are low. There's just a tiny amount of purple fringing to be seen here.
Using that same scene, let's take a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects the noise levels in images:
The camera does quite well all the way through ISO 200. I must say, ISO 400 really isn't too bad -- with noise reduction software you should be able to work with that photo.
There's moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the C-7000Z's 5X zoom lens. Barrel distortion will make straight lines seem curved -- have a look at this photo for an example. I'm told that there are software tools which can fix this. I don't see any evidence of vignetting (dark corners), either.
There's a fair amount of redeye in our flash test shot. The lens and flash are quite close together, so I'm not entirely surprised with the results. The camera does have an in-camera redeye reduction feature in the playback menu, but I couldn't get it to work (and yes, I read the manual).
Since I had both the C-7000Z and Optio 750Z on hand, I decided to break out my new comparison scene. You can click on the links above to see the original (and unrotated) images from the C-7000Z and Optio 750Z, or you can just look at my crops below. Photos were taken with 600W quartz studio lamps at F4.5/F4.6 on both cameras.
C-7000Z at ISO 80
Optio 750Z at ISO 80
C-7000Z at ISO 400
Optio 750Z at ISO 400
Results were quite similar from each of the cameras, with the main differences being slightly sharper images and more saturated color from the Optio 750Z.
Overall the image quality on the C-7000 Zoom was very good. As I indicated in the previous paragraph, colors aren't terribly saturated at the default settings, but a quick trip to the record menu can solve that problem. Photos could've been a bit sharper, but again this can be adjusted in the menu. Noise levels are low for a camera with this resolution, and purple fringing was not a major problem.
I invite you now to check out our photo gallery. Print the photos as if you took them and then decide of the C-7000Z's photo quality meets your needs.
The C-7000 Zoom has a very good movie mode, with only a recording time limit keeping it from greatness. You can record video at 640 x 480 (30 frames/second), with sound, for up to 20 seconds. No matter how large a memory card you insert, the 20 second limit remains the same. Do note that the included 32MB xD card can only hold 17 seconds worth of video.
For unlimited recording you'll need to reduce the movie quality. You can keep the resolution at 640 x 480 and cut the frame rate to 15 fps, or you can drop down to 320 x 240 at 15 or 30 fps.
You cannot use the zoom lens during filming unless you turn off sound recording.
Movies are saved in QuickTime format, using the M-JPEG codec.
Here's a very quick sample movie, in more ways than one.
Click to play movie (11.7 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The C-7000Z has a very nice playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll". The camera supports direct printing using the PictBridge system, as well.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 5X into your photo (in 0.5X steps), and then move around in it.
You can rotate, crop, or resize your images with the push of a button.
The redeye fix feature is supposed to get rid of redeye in your shots, but it didn't work for any of the flash shots that I took.
The RAW data edit feature is very cool. This allows you to adjust the various properties of your RAW image right on the camera, and then convert it to a JPEG. If you don't mind doing this on your camera, you can skip the step of processing the RAW files on your computer altogether.
Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode. By going to the menu, you can activate two different info screens which displays the information above.
The camera moves through photos at an average clip, with a one second delay between each high res picture. If you're viewing RAW or TIFF images, there's a very noticeable delay while the image is loaded.
How Does it Compare?
I very much enjoyed using the Olympus C-7000 Zoom, and it gets my recommendation. Photo quality was very good, though I'd definitely crank the sharpness and especially the saturation up a notch or two. The C-7000Z has a 5X zoom lens packed into a midsized body, though the lens starts at 38 mm, making it a bad choice for wide-angle lovers. Camera performance is excellent, with the exception of saving or viewing RAW and TIFF files. The C-7000 is nicely-designed for the most part, with the exception of the clumsy door over the memory card / battery compartment. The camera has a larger-than-average 2.0 inch LCD display which works well in most situations, save for dimly lit rooms. The camera offers full manual controls and then some. The macro mode on the camera is excellent, allowing you to get as close to your subject as 2 cm. I also appreciate the My Mode feature, which lets you store 4 sets of camera settings, and the customizable menus and buttons are a nice touch. The RAW data edit feature lets you adjust the properties of your RAW images without touching your PC. The C-7000Z has an impressive VGA movie mode, though it's crippled with a 20 second recording limit at the highest quality setting.
No camera is perfect -- the C-7000Z has some flaws worth mentioning, and I already mentioned a few of them. I was bothered by the placement of the flash: when it's up, it makes the camera more difficult to hold. The camera has some redeye issues, and I couldn't get the in-camera redeye fix feature to work. I found barrel distortion to be very obvious in my wide-angle shots. The continuous shooting mode isn't worth writing home about, and RAW/TIFF shooting and playback performance was slow. And finally, I've complained about a million times before, and I'll do it again now: Olympus needs to stop putting the camera manual on CD!
Many people will be faced with choosing between the C-7000Z, the Pentax Optio 750Z, and the Canon PowerShot S70, so here's my advice. Take a lot of indoor or wide-angle shots? Go directly to the Canon. Want lots of zoom? Choose the Optio or the C-7000Z. If photo quality is the most important criteria, the Pentax seems to do the best right out of the box. If you like a rotating LCD, then choose Pentax. For support of the RAW image format or extra manual controls, Canon or Olympus. And for the small percentage of people who buy a camera for its movie mode, the Pentax appears to be the best. In terms of design and usability -- well, that one's up to you. As you can see, I didn't come right out and pick the best one, but hopefully I dropped a few hints. By all means, try the cameras in person and decide which you like best!
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot S70, Casio Exilim EX-P700, Kodak EasyShare DX7630, and the Pentax Optio 750Z. For a more expandable (and larger) camera, the Canon PowerShot G6 and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 are worth a look.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the C-7000Z and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality turned out in our gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read another review at Steve's Digicams.
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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