Review: Olympus C-720 Ultra Zoom
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Saturday, June 22, 2002
Saturday, June 22, 2002
a 3X optical zoom lens is enough for most people, there are some
who want just a little more zoom. Olympus provided that with their
first two Ultra Zoom cameras, the C-700UZ
and the still very popular C-2100UZ.
Both of those cameras were 2 Megapixel, with the C-2100UZ having
a lens stabilizer.
as other cameras went up in resolution, the Ultra Zooms stayed behind
at 2 Megapixel. So there was definitely some excitement in the air
when Olympus released the C-720
Ultra Zoom ($599) in May. The resolution has gone up to 3 Megapixel,
though the zoom has dropped from 10X to 8X.
this this the ultimate "ultra zoom"? Find out in our review!
in the Box?
Olympus C-720 Ultra Zoom has an average bundle. Inside the box,
3.0 effective Mpixel Olympus C-720 Ultra Zoom camera
CR-V3 Lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
manual (printed, 43 pages) plus full manual on CD-ROM
has always been pretty skimpy on the bundles, and that continues
with the C-720UZ. The 16MB card will get you started, but you're
going to want to buy something larger pretty quickly.
find two "long life" lithium batteries (CR-V3) in the
box. While these really do last for quite a while, they will die
eventually and end up in the trash. My recommendation: buy a few
sets of NiMH rechargeables instead. Olympus doesn't provide any
numbers on battery life, but the C-720 seemed about average during
my review period.
can see how small the C-720UZ is
includes a lens cap and retaining strap, to protect that 8X zoom
sponge with every order!
thing that I found humorous was a big foam "sponge" that
was in the box. I guess it's to keep things from moving around in
the box. Too bad they didn't use a full, printed camera manual to
fill in that space instead (more on this below).
camera doesn't seem to support any lens or flash accessories. The
old C-700 supported the Olympus FL-40 external flash, but no longer.
C-720 is compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases,
you won't even need to install drivers.
C-720UZ includes Olympus' new Camedia Master 4.0 software. This
is a dramatically improved version of their photo viewing/editing
software that they've been including for the last few years.
editing tools included with Camedia Master are impressive. You can
change all kinds of things like brightness, contrast, and color
balance. There are also red-eye reduction and "instant fix" options.
software is much more responsive than the previous versions. My
only complaint is that the interface is non-standard on both Macs
$20 more, Olympus will upgrade you to the "Pro" version
of the software. This adds contact sheet printing, image e-mailing,
HTML albums, panorama stitching, and slide shows.
with recent Olympus tradition (unfortunately), the only printed
manual you get is a "basic" manual. If you want more depth,
you've got to load up the one include on CD. The manuals themselves
have been improved over previous Olympus manuals, but are still
C-720UZ is virtually identical to the C-700UZ that it replaces.
The one major change is the omission of the C-700's flash sync port.
camera is a nice mix of metal and high grade plastic. It's small
and fairly easy to hold, though I wish the right hand grip was larger.
The camera is a bit too large to be considered pocket size, but
it's much smaller than similar "big zoom" cameras.
official dimensions of the camera are 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.1 inches (WxHxD),
and it weighs about 315 grams empty.
start our tour of the C-720UZ now:
I'm not mistaken, I believe the lens is actually the same one as
on the C-700. The change in CCD sensor just changed the focal range
down to 8X. Speaking of which, the focal range on this F2.8 lens
is 6.4 - 51.2 mm. That's equivalent to 40 - 320 mm. THe lens is
threaded, though I couldn't find the measurements, nor any mention
of lens accessories.
lens is not stabilized, so you'll need a steady hand or tripod to
take shots at full telephoto.
above the lens you'll find the self-timer lamp and optical viewfinder.
Nope, still no autofocus illuminator. Come on, Olympus!
the top-right of the photo, you can see the C-720UZ's popup flash.
There's a button on the top of the camera that releases it. The
working range of the flash is 0.1 - 5.5 m at wide-angle, and 1.0
- 4.5 m at telephoto. As I mentioned, the C-720UZ does not support
an external flash like its predecessor.
the back of the camera. Like the C-700 before it, the C-720 has
a smaller than average (1.5") LCD display. It is of very good
quality, though -- bright and fluid.
the upper left of the photo, you can see what looks like the optical
viewfinder. But it's not a traditional "window-style"
viewfinder that you're used to. This is an electronic viewfinder
(EVF), which is like a little LCD display. An EVF is a mixed bag:
you get to see what the CCD sees (thus, no parallax error), and
menus and settings can be viewed on it. The negatives include increased
power consumption, and difficult viewing when it's too bright or
too dark outdoors. I'd rather have a real optical viewfinder myself,
but all these ultra zoom cameras use EVFs.
EVF here is just okay. The resolution isn't nearly as high as the
main LCD, and it shows. Also, the frame rate is lower, so when you
point the lens in a different direction, everything is pretty choppy.
The EVF has a diopter correction knob for those without perfect
three buttons to the right of the EVF serve multiple purposes, depending
on which mode the camera is in. From left to right:
(Single-frame, continuous, continuous AF, self-timer, auto bracketing)
(Auto, forced w/redeye reduction, forced, slow sync, slow sync
further explanation is required on some of those. There are two
continuous shooting modes. The first one will lock the focus and
exposure settings on the first shot, and fire up to up 5 shots at
1.2 frames/second. The other continuous mode will redo the focus
and exposure for each shot. This slows the rate down considerably.
bracketing will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different
exposure compensation value. You can set the EV increment in the
macro / spot metering button cycles through ESP metering, spot metering,
macro, and macro + spot metering.
back to our tour now. Just northeast of the main LCD are the power
and "custom" button. The custom button is AE lock by default,
but you can change it to almost anything you like. For me, it was
used to switch between Program/Shutter Priority/Aperture Priority/Manual
the right of the LCD, you'll find the usual four-way switch, with
the OK/Menu button in the middle. Besides operating the menus, the
switch is used for changing the shutter speed and aperture while
in the manual modes, plus exposure compensation (in 1/3 increments).
final button on the back of the camera is the Disp(lay) button,
just below the four-way switch. This toggles between the EVF and
on to the top of the camera now. Normally, I'd complain about the
lack of an LCD info display up here, but since you're forced to
look at the main LCD or EVF, it's really not needed.
items of note here are the flash release button (hard to see), zoom
control with shutter release button, and the mode wheel.
zoom controls are perfectly place, and they operate the 8X zoom
smoothly. The zoom is quite responsive -- you can move from the
wide to tele position in about 2 seconds.
are 8 options on the mode wheel:
- more below
Mode - more below
is pretty much point-and-shoot. You can't change many options.
veterans probably know what P/A/S/M is, but I'll explain it again
anyway. There are four "programs" in this mode: programmed
auto, aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual.
programmed auto mode ("program mode"), you have full control
over everything except the shutter speed and aperture.
aperture priority mode, you choose an aperture, and the C-720 picks
an appropriate shutter speed. The apertures available range from
F2.8 - F7.1.
priority mode is just the opposite; you choose the shutter speed,
and the camera selects the aperture. The shutter speed range is
1/2 - 1/1000 sec. If you're using the slow sync flash mode, you
can go as slow as 2 seconds. I wish Olympus would open up the full
shutter speed range, instead of cutting you off at 1/2 or even 2
get the full range, you need to use full manual mode. Here, you
set both the aperture and shutter speed. The aperture range is the
same, but the shutter speed range changes to 8 - 1/1000 sec.
Mode" is a feature that I wish more cameras had. This mode
allows you to store your favorite settings for easy retrieval. For
me, that's SHQ, ISO 100, no flash, with all other settings normal.
this side of the camera are the I/O ports, found under a fairly
sturdy plastic cover. The ports are DC in (for optional AC adapter),
USB, and video out. I already mentioned the unfortunate loss of
the flash sync port.
the other side of the camera, opened up. You can see the SmartMedia
slot (just pull the card out to remove it), and the included 16MB
the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment
as well as a plastic tripod mount. The C-700 uses 2 CR-V3 batteries,
or more normally, 4 AA cells.
the Olympus C-720 Ultra Zoom
camera takes about 4.5 seconds to extend the lens and "boot
up" before you can start taking pictures. The C-720 isn't going
to win any awards for autofocus speed. It takes about one second
to lock focus at wide-angle, and I clocked it at nearly 3 seconds
at full telephoto. Since it has no AF-assist lamp, the C-720 has
trouble focusing in low light conditions. Shutter lag is noticeable,
Both the LCD and EVF show the same thing in record
speed is pretty average as well. You'll wait about four seconds
between shots in SHQ mode. In TIFF mode, you won't be made to wait,
like on some other cameras. After a few seconds longer than normal,
you can take another shot.
and quality settings are pretty simple on the C-720UZ, as you'll
photos on 16MB card (included)
are three resolutions for SQ2 since you can pick one of them to
use. This chart illustrates why I recommend a larger SmartMedia
C-720UZ uses the newest Olympus menu system, and it's actually customizable.
When you first start it, you're presented with four choices:
like those choices? With the exception of Mode menu, Olympus lets
you put other choices in those spots.
take a look at the Mode Menu now.
- ISO (Auto,
100, 200, 400)
- explained earlier
- Flash strength
(-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Auto bracketing
(3 or 5 shots; 0.3, 0.7, 1.0EV intervals)
- helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded SmartMedia
in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent) - what,
no manual mode?
(Soft, normal, high)
(Low, normal, high)
Setup (erase all, format)
(the interesting ones, at least)
reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
(on/off) - exposure info shown on LCD in record and playback
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
Mode setup - choose your favorite settings
naming (Auto, reset)
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
brightness - affects both the EVF and main LCD
- Short cut
- configure the first page of the menus, as I explained above
button (AE lock, info, ISO, P/A/S/M, digital zoom, quality,
white balance) - customize what this button does
chit-chat, let's talk photos now!
the subject was a little softer than I would've liked (easily fixable),
the C-720UZ did an overall respectable job with the macro test.
The colors look as they do in real life, and noise is minimal. The
focal range in macro mode is 10 - 60 cm (3.9 - 23.6 inches).
underexposed this shot a bit, to help minimize chromatic aberrations
(more about those in a second). But they're still very noticeable
here. One thing that isn't noticeable is noise, which is impressive
considering that the C-720UZ doesn't have a noise reduction system
(or if it does, Olympus doesn't mention it). Since the camera has
full manual control of shutter speed and aperture, you can get creative
with shots like this.
a 200% blowup of my new red-eye test. Even with red-eye reduction
turned on, the C-720UZ still exhibits this problem. It's nothing
terrible, though, and it can be correctly fairly easily in most
are these chromatic aberrations that I alluded to a moment ago?
Perhaps a more descriptive name for it is purple fringing, as it
is often called. Have a look at these cropped images:
you can see, parts of the image where a relatively dark subject
hit a bright one end up with a purple "fringe" to it.
It doesn't look good no matter how you cut it. If you're downsizing
these images or printing them, the fringing won't be a major problem.
If you're doing large sized prints, they may still be noticeable.
The C-720 (and the C-700 before it) are much worse than average
in the fringing department.
the photo quality on the C-720UZ is good, but not great. The purple
fringing plays a big part in that. Also, the camera overexposed
some images that came out perfectly on other Olympus cameras,so
it may be a good idea to shoot with a -0.3 or -0.7 exposure compensation
setting. Some readers also pointed out that the corners of many
of the images aren't as sharp as the center. But don't just take
my (our) word for it, have a look at our extensive photo
gallery and decide for yourself.
C-720UZ's movie mode is really quite lousy for a $600 camera. You
can record clips at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120, in QuickTime format.
bad news: clips are limited to 16 seconds at HQ (320 x 240) and
70 seconds at SQ (160 x 120). Sound is not recorded. Despite, that
you can't use the optical zoom during filming. In fact, you can't
even use it at all in movie mode. It's locked.
said, here's a very short sample movie:
Click to play movie (940KB, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download
C-720 has a pretty decent playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.
zoom and scroll feature is here too, allowing you to zoom in as
much as 3X into your photo, and then move around in it.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240)
and rotation. You can also convert your images to black and white
get more info about your photos, just turn on the info feature,
and you'll get plenty.
C-720 moves through images quickly -- about 1.5 seconds between
high resolution shots.
Does it Compare?
Olympus C-720UZ is far from being a perfect camera. But it still
gets my recommendation, mainly because there aren't many other high
resolution cameras with a big zoom lens. Photo quality was a mixed
bag. Sometimes it was quite good, other times the purple fringing
was quite noticeable. The camera also overexposed images that cheaper
(Olympus) cameras shot perfectly. Of course, you can get around
this using exposure compensation, but my tests use default settings.
Other things that bothered me me were the lack of an AF-assist lamp,
a limited movie mode, and no manual white balance. The good points
include a mostly complete set of manual controls, that big 8X zoom
lens, and nice customizable menus and buttons. If you're into a
big zoom camera, give the C-720UZ a look, but keep in mind the issues
I've brought up in this review!
in a small package
buttons and menus
Camedia Master software
mapping feature blocks out bad pixels from CCD
I didn't care for:
aberrations a problem; image corners can be soft.
a few images that shouldn't have been
manual white balance
of external flash support since C-700
sound or zoom in movie mode
could be better (larger SM card, full printed manual, rechargeable
other cameras with 5X zoom lenses or greater include the Fuji FinePix
2800 Zoom (6X) and FinePix
S602 Zoom (6X), Minolta
DiMAGE 7i (7X), Nikon
Coolpix 5700 (8X), Olympus
C-2100 Ultra Zoom (10X, if you can find one), and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-F707 (5X).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the C-720 and its competitors before you buy!
a look at our extensive photo gallery
to see how the C-720's pictures looked.
a second opinion?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the C-720 Ultra Zoom.
welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal
recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.