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DCRP Review: Olympus
C-7070 Wide Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 21, 2005
Last Updated: February 13, 2008
The Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom ($699) is the 7.1 Megapixel update to the C-5060 Wide Zoom, which was introduced back in 2003. The C-7070 shares many of the features of its predecessor, including a wide-angle 4X zoom lens, two memory card slots, dual focusing system, full manual controls, and a unique LCD display.
I considered the C-5060WZ one of my favorite cameras back in its day. How does this latest model perform? Find out now in our review!
What's in the Box?
The C-7070Z has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Olympus includes a 32MB xD Picture Card with the C-7070WZ. That holds just six photos at the highest JPEG quality, so you'll want a larger card right away. I'd recommend a 512MB memory card as a good place to start. The C-7070WZ, unlike its predecessor, has dual memory card slots, support both xD and CompactFlash media. I'd stick with CF cards if I were you, as they're cheaper and higher capacity than xD.
The C-7070WZ uses the same BLM-1 battery as the C-5060WZ before it. This battery packs a whopping 10.8 Wh of energy, which is about as good as you'll find on a digital camera. That translates to excellent battery life: you can take 430 shots per charge (measured using the CIPA standard). Compare that with 140 shots on the Canon PowerShot S70 and 240 shots from the Nikon Coolpix 8400. (Olympus did not publish battery life stats for the C-8080WZ.)
The downside of proprietary batteries like the BLM-1 is twofold. For one, they're expensive: an extra will set you back $50. In addition, you can't use regular alkaline batteries to "bail yourself out" when the proprietary battery dies.
When it's time to recharge the battery just snap it into the included external charger. It takes a whopping 5 hours to fully charge the BLM-1. This isn't one of those handy (in my opinion) "plug it right into the wall" chargers -- you must use a power cable.
Want even more battery power? Try then check out the optional B-HLD20 power battery grip ($100). This holds one or two BLM-1 batteries which -- get this -- doubles the effective battery life of the C-7070WZ. The grip also provides extra controls for vertical shooting, plus a port for an optional wired remote control.
Olympus includes a lens cap with a retaining strap with the C-7070WZ. The lens cap leaves a little to be desired -- it seems kind of clunky.
There are quite a few accessories available for the C-7070 Wide Zoom, and I've compiled them into this handy chart:
Now THAT is an impressive set of accessories!
Included with the camera is Olympus Master, a pretty impressive software package that debuted last year. 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 created by the C-7070. 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 contain, 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 26 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 having to load up a PDF file that bothers me.
Look and Feel
The C-7070 is a good-sized camera that probably won't be finding its way into most of your pockets. Like its predecessor, it's built like a tank, with a sturdy metal frame and a minimum of plastic. The only part that doesn't breed a lot of confidence is the plastic door over the memory card slots. The camera is easy to hold, though a larger right hand grip wouldn't hurt. The most important controls are within easy reach of your fingers, though I'm not thrilled with the number of tiny buttons scattered around the camera body.
The official dimensions of the C-7070WZ are 4.6 x 3.4 x 2.6 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions) and it weighs 433 grams empty. The closest competitors are the Canon PowerShot S70 and Nikon Coolpix 8400, and their numbers are 4.5 x 2.2 x 1.5 inches / 230 grams and 4.4 x 3.2 x 3.0 inches / 400 grams, respectively. The C-7070WZ's big brother (in more ways than one), the C-8080WZ, has numbers of 4.9 x 3.3 x 3.9 inches / 660 grams.
Well that's enough of that, let's move onto our tour now!
The biggest selling point of the C-7070WZ is its 4X wide-angle zoom lens. This F2.8-4.8 lens has a focal range of 5.7 - 22.9 mm, which is equivalent to 27 - 110 mm. The only camera that does better is the Coolpix 8400, which is 24 - 85 mm. The C-7070WZ's lens supports 40.5 mm filters and conversion lenses can be attached by using the appropriate adapter.
To the upper-right of the lens is the microphone. To the upper-left from that is the optical viewfinder, remote control receiver, AF-assist lamp, and external focus sensor. Like the C-5060, this camera has a dual focusing system, using both traditional contrast detection as well as phase-difference detection which should make this camera focusing machine (we'll see if that's true later in the review).
Just above the Olympus logo you'll find the camera's built-in flash. The flash has an unimpressive working range of 0.8 - 3.7 m at wide-angle and 0.8 - 2.2 m at telephoto. The Coolpix 8400 really blows away the C-7070WZ in this area. For more flash power, consider attaching an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment.
The last thing to see on the front of the camera is the self-timer lamp, located to the left of the Olympus logo.
One of the other unique features of this camera is its LCD display. Instead of flipping out to the side like most rotating LCDs, this one flips up. Once there you can rotate it 270 degrees, so it can face you, your subject, or in between. It can also be put in the traditional position (see below) or closed altogether (above, lower right).
Here's some more about that LCD now. It's normal sized: 1.8 inches, and the 130,000 pixel resolution is average as well. One area in which the LCD is better-than-average is in terms of its refresh rate: motion is especially fluid. In low light, the screen brightens a bit so you can see what you're looking at. Not quite as much as I would've liked, but still better than average.
Directly above the LCD is a good-sized optical viewfinder. The dial to the right adjusts the diopter correction (focus) for it.
To the left of the LCD and a little hard to see are two buttons that can work together for a third function. The top button adjusts exposure compensation from -2EV to +2EV in either 1/2EV or 1/3EV steps. The button below it adjusts the flash setting, with choices of auto, auto with redeye reduction, fill flash, flash off, and slow sync (1st or 2nd curtain). Holding both of these buttons down allows you to adjust flash exposure compensation, which has the same range and steps as regular exposure compensation.
The buttons to the upper-right of the LCD are for AE lock / delete photo and Quick View, which is used for entering playback mode without using the mode dial.
Continuing downward we find two more buttons and the four-way controller. The Display button toggles the LCD and what information is shown on it on and off. The CF/xD button switches between the two memory card slots. The four-way controller is used for menu navigation.
The final item of note on the back of the camera is the control dial, located at the upper-right of the photo. This is used for adjusting manual settings as well as any of the controls activated by the buttons on the camera (e.g. flash setting).
There's plenty more to see on the top of the C-7070WZ. Let's start on the left side, where you'll find buttons for the focus mode (Auto, macro, oracle, manual, super macro, super macro +manual) and metering mode (ESP, spot, multi-metering, center-weighted) / image protection.
Manual focus (center frame enlargement not shown)
I want to talk more about those focus modes before we go on. Oracle AF is a strange name for what most companies call Tracking AF. This will keep your subject in focus as they move toward or away from the camera. The manual focus feature lets you use the up and down buttons on the four-way controller to set the focus distance. A guide showing the current distance is shown on the LCD, and the center of the frame is enlarged so you can make sure that your subject is sharp.
The item to the right of those buttons is the C-7070's hot shoe, which has a plastic cover to protect it when not in use. The camera will integrate with the three Olympus-brand flashes that I mentioned in the first section and everything will be automatic. You can use third party flashes as well, though you'll have to manually set up the flash. The camera can sync as fast as 1/200 sec with an external flash.
To the right of the hot shoe is an LCD info display, something that is all too rare these days. This shows things such as shots remaining, image quality setting, shutter speed, aperture, and battery life. Unfortunately, it is not backlit.
Continuing to the right we find the zoom controller with the shutter release button inside it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in 1.6 seconds. I counted 13 steps through the 4X zoom range.
Below that are two more buttons, for self-timer/remote control + image rotation and custom function + DPOF print marking. Yes, that custom button can do just about anything that you wish -- just set it up in the main menu. Holding down both of the buttons resets the camera to default settings.
The final item on the top of the camera is the mode dial, which has the power switch beneath it. The items you'll find on the mode dial include:
One thing that Olympus does that I don't like is reserving the full shutter speed range for manual mode. I'd like to get to those slow shutter speeds without resorting to manual mode... but that's just me.
On this side of the C-7070 you'll find the speaker as well as the I/O ports. These ports include A/V out, USB, and DC-in (for optional AC adapter). The camera supports USB 2.0 Full Speed, which is marketing speak for "just as slow as USB 1.1". The ports are protected by a rubber cover.
On the other side you'll find one of the other nice features on the C-7070WZ: dual memory card slots. The camera supports Type I and Type II CompactFlash cards (Microdrive included) as well as xD Picture Cards. The slots are kept behind a plastic door that seems like it could bust off at any moment.
The included 32MB xD card is shown at right.
Our tour ends with a look at the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a metal tripod mount as well as the battery compartment. Unlike with the memory card slots, the plastic door over the battery compartment is sturdy and lockable.
The BLM-1 battery is shown at right.
Using the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom
It takes about 2.5 seconds for the C-7070WZ to extend its lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. That's about average.
|The C-7070Z 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!|
In normal lighting, focus speeds were quite good, typically around 0.3 - 0.5 seconds. If the camera has to hunt to lock focus then it can take closer to a second. Despite that fancy dual focusing system, I wasn't overly impressed with the C-7070's low light focusing abilities. That's strange, because the old C-5060WZ did pretty good in my tests. Who knows?
Shutter lag was not an issue, even at slower shutter speeds where it sometimes occurs.
Shot-to-shot speed varies depending on what memory card you're using. With a fast CompactFlash card, I was able to take another shot in about two seconds. Using the included xD card, it was more like three seconds. Shooting in RAW or TIFF mode will increase the shot-to-shot times to around 7 seconds (using that same CompactFlash card).
There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You must enter playback mode (via the QuickView button) and delete it there.
The C-7070WZ 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 or third party software like Adobe Photoshop CS.
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-7070WZ uses the standard Olympus menu system. When you first hit the menu button, you'll be presented with the following options:
With the exception of the Mode Menu option, that whole first menu can be customized. You can put any menu option there for quicker access to your favorite setting.
Selecting Mode Menu from that initial screen will bring you to the full recording menu. There are four tabs containing the various menu items. The menu items are:
Time for some further explanation of those items!
There are three sequential (continuous) shooting modes on the C-7070Z, plus a bracketing feature. Normal sequential mode takes up to 5 shots (at the SHQ setting) at around 1.3 frames/second. AF Sequential mode will refocus between each shot, slowing things down even more. The high speed mode took a grand total of two photos at roughly 2.4 frames/second. In all three modes the LCD turns off during shooting, which makes following a moving subject difficult (at least there's an optical viewfinder). All in all a pretty disappointing continuous shooting feature.
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 dual control panel feature seen above is shown when you turn the LCD off (and are using the optical viewfinder to shoot). The LCD will show exactly what you see above, which is pretty handy, despite the fact that there's a real LCD info display on the top of the camera.
Boy I'm tired of menus and buttons! Let's move onto the photo tests now.
The C-7070WZ did a great job with our standard macro test subject. Colors look good and everything is nice and sharp. Heck, you can practically count the specs of dust!
There are two macro modes on the camera. In normal macro mode, you can get as close as 20 cm to your subject at wide-angle (I'm not sure about telephoto), which isn't great at all. For real close-ups, use super macro mode, which reduces the focus distance to just 3 cm. You can then fill the frame with a subject just 21 x 28 mm in size. Do note that the lens is fixed (in the middle) while in super macro mode. For even more control you can also use the manual focus while in super macro mode.
Though it's a little soft, overall our night test shot turned out fairly well. The camera took in plenty of light, though remember that you have to use "M" mode to get at the full selection of long shutter speeds. There is no purple fringing to be found here and noise levels are comparable to other ultra high resolution cameras.
Using that same scene, let's take a look at how adjusting the ISO sensitivity affects the noise levels in images:
The camera performs well at ISO 100 and 200 (I kind of like the added sharpness in the ISO 100 shot, actually), and details start to disappear at ISO 400.
There is moderate barrel distortion to be found at the wide end of the C-7070WZ's lens, which isn't terribly surprising. There's a bit of corner softness to be seen as well, but this wasn't a real problem in everyday photos.
While the C-7070WZ offers an in-camera redeye fix program (that I'll describe later), I didn't even need to use it! Great job, Olympus!
Overall the photo quality on the C-7070WZ is very good, though I would definitely tweak some of the settings on the camera. The two areas in which I wasn't totally pleased were regarding sharpness (images seem a little soft to my eyes) and color (not saturated enough). Thankfully, it takes one trip to the record menu to adjust both of those. Noise levels are low (considering the resolution of the camera), and I didn't find purple fringing to be a major problem.
So, with that in mind, have a look at our photo gallery. I encourage you to print the photos as if they are your own. Only you can decide if the C-7070's photo quality meets your expectations!
The C-7070 Wide Zoom's movie mode would've been excellent had there been no time limits. The highest quality setting allows you to record video at 640 x 480, 30 frames/second, with sound, for just 20 seconds, no matter how large of a memory card you use. For unlimited recording, you'll need to try one of the three other movie qualities: HQ (640 x 480, 15 fps), SQ1 (320 x 240, 30 fps), and SQ2 (320 x 240, 15 fps).
One very nice feature in movie mode is camera movement compensation, a fancy word for digital image stabilization. This will help counter the effects of "camera shake" that can make your videos blurry.
In playback mode you can edit movies by keeping only the parts you want. You can also create an index photo made up of nine photos taken from the movie.
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 sample movie for you, taken at the highest quality setting. As you can see, I'm getting a little hard up for material around here.
Click to play movie (10.9 MB, 640 x 480, 30 fps, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The C-7070Z 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 7X into your photo (in 1X increments), and then move around in it.
You can rotate, crop, or resize your images with the push of a button.
The redeye fix feature allows you to eliminate those annoying demon eyes from your photos, after they are taken. Since I didn't have any redeye in the first place I didn't need to use it.
The copy option will move a few or all of your images from one memory card to another.
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 (though you'll lose some of the flexibility of the format).
Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode (above left). But press the Display button and you can activate two different info screens which displays the information on the right.
The camera moves through photos at somewhat sluggish clip, with a two second delay between each high res picture. If you're viewing RAW or TIFF images, there's a noticeable delay while the image is loaded.
How Does it Compare?
There's a whole lot to like about the Olympus C-7070 Wide Zoom, and only a few things that you won't care for. The C-7070WZ isn't just another 7 Megapixel camera; this one features an ultra wide-angle lens starting at 27 mm. Unlike the Coolpix 8400 (which starts a little wider, at 24 mm), the C-7070 has some decent telephoto power, with a top end of 110 mm. If that's not enough for you, Olympus offers your choice of conversion lenses, which can reduce the focal length to 18.9, or increase it to a whopping 330 mm. The expandability doesn't stop there, though. The camera also supports 40.5 mm filters (without the need for a conversion lens adapter), an external flash, a power battery grip, and an underwater case.
With one exception, the C-7070's build quality is excellent. It has a sturdy metal frame and it's ready to take almost anything you can throw at it. The one part of the camera that didn't seem so solid was the plastic door over the memory card slots. The camera is fairly good sized, so you won't be storing it in your pants pocket. It's easy to hold, though a larger grip would've been nice, and I wasn't a huge fan of the scattered button layout either. Like the C-5060WZ before it, the C-7070 has a handy rotating LCD display that flips up, instead of out. Low light visibility is better than average. The Wide Zoom also features dual memory card slots, supporting both CompactFlash and xD.
Camera performance is average in some areas and better than average in others. The C-7070WZ does well in terms of focusing times (in good lighting) and shutter lag. Shot-to-shot times are average, as is low light focusing performance (despite the dual focusing system). Playback speeds were slow, especially when viewing RAW or TIFF images, and the continuous shooting mode is nothing to write home about. One area in which the C-7070WZ blows past the competition is in terms of battery life: it can over 400 shots on a single charge.
In terms of features, the C-7070WZ is fully loaded. The camera offers full manual controls, white balance fine tuning, subject tracking autofocus, two types of histograms, and an electronic image stabilizer for movie mode. The movie mode has a lot of potential, but you can only record 20 seconds worth of video at the highest quality setting. The macro mode isn't terribly impressive unless you're using the super macro mode, then you can get very close to your subject.
Photo quality is very good and comparable to other 7 Megapixel cameras. I would personally increase the sharpness and color saturation a notch, though.
I've named a few of my gripes about the C-7070WZ already, but here are a few more. The LCD info display on the top of the camera would've been nicer if it was backlit. The camera doesn't support USB 2.0 High Speed. The flash is fairly weak, especially when compared to the Coolpix 8400. And no Olympus review would be complete without my usual mention of the full manual only being on CD. Bad Olympus!
I really enjoyed using the C-7070WZ and it gets my recommendation. If you take a lot of photos that need that wide-angle lens, it's definitely worth your consideration.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Some other wide-angle cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot Pro1 and S70, Konica Minolta DiMAGE A200, Nikon Coolpix 8400, Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828.
As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the C-7070WZ and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality turned out in our gallery!
Want a second opinion?
Read more reviews at Steve's Digicams and Imaging Resource.
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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