Review: Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Sunday, November 24, 2002
Sunday, December 22, 2002
in September, when Olympus introduced their new C-730
Ultra Zoom ($599), there was one group of people who weren't
too excited about the announcement. Those people would be the owners
of the C-720
Ultra Zoom (see our review),
which was introduced just four months earlier. I myself wonder why
Olympus didn't just release the C-730 instead, but it's not worth
talking about now.
there are five major differences between the C-730 and its predecessor:
C-730UZ is the current king of the jungle when it comes to big zoom
lenses. But there is competition, with Nikon, Minolta, and even
HP selling digicams with 7X lenses or above. How well does the C-730UZ
stack up? Find out now!
and since the 730 is so similar to the 720, I will be reusing a
whole lot of text from that review.
in the Box?
Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom has an average bundle. Inside the box,
3.2 effective Mpixel C-730 Ultra Zoom camera
xD Picture Card
CR-V3 Lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
manual (printed, 51 pages), fold-out Quick Start guide, plus full
manual on CD-ROM
has always been pretty skimpy on the bundles, and that continues
with the C-730UZ. The 16MB card will get you started, but you're
going to want to buy something larger pretty quickly (64MB at the
very minimum). You have the option of using the new xD Picture Cards
or "old" SmartMedia cards. xD cards are theoretically
faster, and will eventually have a much higher capacity. But as
of this writing, both formats are stuck at 128MB.
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-730 seemed about average during
my review period.
not a tiny camera, but considering the size of the lens, it's small
includes a lens cap and retaining strap, to protect that 10X zoom
are a number of accessories available for the C-730UZ. You can add
wide-angle and macro conversion lenses, but you'll need to buy the
CLA-4 lens adapter ($25) first. After disappearing on the C-720,
you can again hook up an external flash to the C-730. I'll have
more on that later. Other accessories include an AC adapter, wireless
remote control, camera case, and numerous card readers.
C-730 is compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases,
you won't even need to install drivers.
C-730UZ 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. It seems a bit
cruel to nickel and dime someone who just bought a $600 camera,
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-730UZ is virtually identical to both the C-720 and the original
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 called pocket size, but it's
still small considering the size of the lens.
official dimensions of the camera are 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.1 inches (WxHxD),
and it weighs about 310 grams empty.
start our tour of the C-730UZ now:
I can't confirm it, I think the C-730 uses the same lens as its
predecessors -- only the CCD has changed. The lens in question is
an F2.8-F3.5, 10X optical zoom monster. The focal range is 5.9 -
59 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 380 mm. The lens barrel is threaded,
and with the conversion lens adapter you attach wide-angle or macro
lens is not stabilized, so you'll need a steady hand or tripod to
take shots at full telephoto. There are no digicams with stabilized
lenses currently being manufactured.
the top of the photo, you can see the C-730UZ'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 - 4.4 m
C-730UZ brings back the external flash sync port that mysteriously
disappeared on the C-720 (you'll see where it is in a second). You'll
need to buy the flash bracket and a bracket cable (if you don't
have one already), and then you can use either the Olympus FL-40
flash, or one of your own. If you use your own flash, it will only
work when the camera is in full manual mode. There is a lengthy
list of requirements for non-Olympus flashes in the manual -- I
will not repeat them here.
the flash and lens are the self-timer light as well as the remote
control receiver. Still no autofocus illuminator! Come on Olympus!
the back of the camera. The C-730 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 viewfinder that you're probably
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 about the same as others I've tested. The resolution
isn't nearly as high as the main LCD, and it shows. The images on
the EVF move smoothly, though -- not choppy like on some. The EVF
has a diopter correction knob for those without perfect vision.
three buttons to the right of the EVF serve multiple purposes, depending
on which mode the camera is in. From left to right:
Macro + spot metering
(Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced, off, 1st curtain slow
sync, 2nd curtain slow sync, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
flash slow sync options have been expanded since the C-720UZ.
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.
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 (±2 in 1/3
and hold the OK button and you will activate the manual focus feature.
You can then adjust the focus yourself, using the four-way switch.
The camera enlarges the center of the image on the LCD/EVF so you
can make sure the subject is in focus. There is also an indicator
showing you the current focal distance.
final button on the back of the camera is the Disp(lay) button,
just below the four-way switch. This turns the LCD on and off (the
EVF is always on in record mode).
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 microphone (new to the C-730), flash
release button (just left of the mode wheel), zoom control with
shutter release button, and the mode wheel.
zoom controls are perfectly placed, and they operate the 10X zoom
smoothly. The zoom is quite responsive -- you can move from the
wide to tele position in about 3 seconds. You can also make precise
adjustments to the lens by just slightly pushing the zoom controller.
mode wheel has been greatly expanded since the C-720. Where there
were eight items on the 720, there are now twelve on the 730. These
of those items are what we call "scene modes". You pick
a scene and the camera uses the best options for that situation.
Self portrait lets you turn the camera on yourself (yikes).
record is pretty much point-and-shoot. You can't change many options.
program mode, you have full control over everything except the shutter
speed and aperture.
aperture priority mode, you choose an aperture, and the C-730 picks
an appropriate shutter speed. The apertures available range from
F2.8 - F8, depending on the zoom position.
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. I wish Olympus would open up the full shutter
speed range, instead of cutting you off at 1/2 second.
get at longer shutter speeds, 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 16 - 1/1000
sec (improved since C-720UZ).
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.
The C-730 can store four different sets of settings in My Mode --
as opposed to one set on the C-720.
have more on movie and playback modes later in the review.
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 A/V out.
the left of that is the speaker, a new feature on the C-730. Below
that is the also-new flash sync port. This port was on the original
C-700 and then disappeared on the C-720.
the other side of the camera, opened up.
of the C-730's biggest design flaws, in my opinion, can be found
here. Olympus advertises that the C-730UZ can read both SmartMedia
and xD Picture Cards. What they don't tell you is that there is
only one slot. It's xD or SmartMedia, just not at the same time.
means you can't copy between cards, like you can on dual slot cameras.
Why would this be useful? Let's say you go to Wal-mart to have your
digital photos printed. Odds are that they don't yet accept xD cards.
But if you could copy your photos over to a SmartMedia card, you'd
be okay. Alas, you can't do that here.
and you can also see the included 16MB xD card as well. It's small!
here is 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 or 4 AA cells.
the Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom
camera takes about 6 seconds to extend the lens and "boot up"
before you can start taking pictures -- not terribly quick. The
C-730 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-730 has trouble focusing in low light conditions. Shutter
lag varied, depending on the shutter speed being used. It was nearly
unnoticeable at 1/100 sec, but was quite frustrating at slower speeds.
All right! A live histogram in record mode.
speed is decent. You'll wait about three seconds between shots in
SHQ mode. Taking a photo in TIFF mode will lock up the camera for
about 13 seconds. I could've sworn that the C-720 didn't do this.
is no option to delete photos as they are being written to the memory
and quality settings are pretty complex on the C-730UZ, as you'll
photos on 16MB card (included)
x 1360 (3:2)
x 1360 (3:2)
x 1360 (3:2)
I'm not surprised. As you can see, there's a TIFF mode. Unless you're
a real perfectionist, using JPEG mode is fine. You can also see
that a larger memory card is almost a necessity.
I didn't list it in the chart, in SHQ and HQ modes you have the
option of saving images at 3200 x 2400. That involves interpolation,
and your images will lose quality as a result.
uses one of the better 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, for one year at least). File numbering is maintained
as you erase and switch memory cards.
C-730UZ uses the newest Olympus menu system, and it's customizable
too. When you first open the menu, you're presented with four choices:
like those choices? With the exception of Mode Menu, you can put
other items in this menu.
take a look at the Mode Menu now. It can be confusing to navigate,
as you've got to hit "OK" to choose and option and then
back out of the menu. Here are the menu options:
(Single-frame, sequential, high speed sequential, AF sequential,
auto bracketing) - see below
(Auto, 100, 200, 400)
- switches between aperture priority, shutter priority, and
full manual modes
Mode (1, 2, 3, 4) - choose from four sets of camera settings
that you have saved
strength (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments)
slow sync (1st curtain, 2nd curtain, slow sync w/redeye reduction)
reduction (on/off) - reduces noise for shutter speeds 1 sec
zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce the quality
of your images
AF (on/off) - keeps the image in focus at all times. Puts extra
strain on batteries.
mode (iESP, spot)
annotations (on/off) - add 4 second sound clips to each photo
macro mode (on/off) - get as close as 4 cm from subject. More
on this later.
- helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded SmartMedia
in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
(Off, black & white, sepia, white board, black board) -
various photo effects
Area (on/off) - lets you choose the AF target by using the four-way
switch. Must put camera in spot metering mode first.
(on/off) - toggles info shown on LCD/EVF
(on/off) - toggles live histogram on LCD/EVF
Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent x3, manual)
- manual WB is new to the C-730
balance compensation (-7EV to +7EV in 1EV increments) - fine
tune white balance - also new to the C-730
(-5 to +5, increments of 1)
(-5 to +5, increments of 1)
(-5 to +5, increments of 1) - new to C-730 as well
(the interesting ones, at least)
reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
(English, Français, Deutsch, Español)
on/off setup (choose startup screen/sound)
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
Mode setup - save your favorite settings for easy retrieval
naming (Auto, reset)
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
brightness - affects both the EVF and main LCD
output (NTSC, PAL)
cut - configure the first page of the menus, as I explained
button (AE lock, info, ISO, P/A/S/M, digital zoom, quality,
white balance) - customize what the AE Lock button does
further explanation is required on some of those. First, the drive
options. There are three continuous shooting modes. Regular sequential
mode will lock the focus and exposure settings on the first shot,
and fire up to up 11 shots at 1.4 frames/second. High speed sequential
works in the same way, just faster: up to three shots at 2.4 frames/sec.
AF sequential mode will redo the focus and exposure for each shot,
which 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
how about that fine-tunable white balance?
chit-chat, let's talk photos now!
C-730UZ did an impressive job with the macro test shot. The image
is a little softer than I like, but you could fix this easily by
cranking up the in-camera sharpness, or just doing in later in Photoshop.
The colors are spot-on, as well. In regular macro mode, the focal
range is 10 - 60 cm at wide-angle, and 1.2 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
730 also has a "super" macro mode, which I used to take
the above photo. The lens is locked just a bit above wide-angle,
and you cannot use the zoom. You can get as close to 4 cm to your
subject. A subject of 44 x 33 mm will fill the frame.
from the purple fringing, the night shot came out pretty well. I
zoomed in more than I usually do -- gotta take advantage of that
lens, you know. The noise reduction did a really great job as well
-- there is very little noise for a 3.2 sec exposure.
C-730UZ also did a nice job in the redeye department. There really
isn't any red to speak of. There's a little reflection from the
flash, but that's about it. Note that I enlarged this a bit so you
can see the detail. Oh, and I had a heck of a time getting the camera
to focus in the dim light this shot is taken in. I ended up using
730's photo quality is good, but not great. Photos are usually well-exposed,
but they suffer from two problems: noise and chromatic aberrations
noise problem isn't severe, but it's still worse than other 3MP
cameras. Pictures appear grainy, rather than smooth. My example
below isn't the best: I'm using it because a) they were taken at
the same time and b) they're both from big zoom cameras.
the Photosmart isn't exactly the resolution leader, it does illustrate
my point about noise levels. The sky, the windows, and the roof
are noticeably noisier on the C-730. For more noise examples, have
a look at the gallery.
View Original Image
other issue I mentioned was purple fringing. This is very common
on big zoom cameras -- kind of a fact of life. I didn't take many
pictures that really bring out this phenomenon, but above is a crop
from one shot, as an example.
my opinion, neither of this issues are deal breakers. The noise
levels are higher than they should be, but for websites and smaller-sized
prints, it won't be a problem. For larger prints, it may be. As
for the purple fringing, like I said, it's a fact of life with big
zoom cameras, and there's not much you can do about it.
more photo samples, visit the gallery!
movie mode on the C-730UZ has been dramatically improved over its
predecessor. Thank you Olympus!
can now record for as long as there is space on the memory card.
For the included 16MB card, that's 46 seconds at 320 x 240. Get
a 32MB card and the number jumps to 93 seconds. And so on. Use the
smaller 160 x 120 resolution and those numbers are 186/374 seconds,
are recorded with sound, and are saved in QuickTime format.
you turn on sound recording, you cannot use the optical zoom during
filming. As I learned with the Photosmart 850, this is a good thing.
a short, very unexciting sample movie:
Click to play movie (2.9MB, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download
C-730 has a very good 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 4X into your photo, and then move around in it.
you didn't do so when you took the photo, you can add a sound clip
to your photos in playback mode.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240),
trimming, and rotation. The trimming (cropping) feature is quite
well-implemented. You can resize the cropping box and move it around.
Hit okay and a new image is saved.
you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode.
You can move through images with about a second delay between them.
you want more info about your photos, you can turn on "info",
or better yet, this histogram feature, which you can see above.
Does it Compare?
Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom is a nice improvement over its predecessor,
the C-720. I've covered the changes throughout this review. In terms
of features, it's an exceptional camera. You get a high resolution
CCD, a huge 10X zoom, tons of manual controls (including white balance
you can fine tune), and very good movie and playback modes. The
photo quality did leave something to be desired, with higher than
average noise levels and purple fringing (which, again, is common
for big zoom cameras). The lack of an AF illuminator made low light
focusing very difficult, and shutter lag was a problem when indoors
and at slower shutter speeds. Finally, the electronic viewfinder
is basically unusable when it's dark. There is a lot more competition
in the big zoom camera market, and I would definitely consider the
C-730UZ -- but be sure to see what else it out there as well.
manual controls, including white balance which you can fine tune
buttons and menus
store four sets of your settings
job with macro, redeye, night shot tests; generally good image
flash support returns
mode, with sound, until memory card is full
mapping feature blocks out bad pixels from CCD
I didn't care for:
aberrations a problem
levels higher than they should be
xD/SmartMedia slot prevents copying between cards
lag when shutter speed isn't fast; Slow autofocus too.
useless in low light or darkness
could be better (larger SM card, full printed manual, rechargeable
other cameras with a big zoom and 3+ Megapixels include the Fuji
Zoom (both 6X), HP
Photosmart 850 (8X), Minolta
DiMAGE 7Hi (7X), Nikon
Coolpix 5700 (8x), and the Sony
Cyber-shot DSC-F717 (5X).
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out
the C-730 and its competitors before you buy!
a look at our extensive photo gallery
to see how the C-730's pictures looked.
a second opinion?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams review of the C-730 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.