DCRP Review: Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: May 22, 2003
Last Updated: May 12, 2004

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The review has been finished using a production model camera. Product shots have been updated where necessary, and all sample photos are from this shipping model.

The year 2003 brings us two new Ultra Zoom cameras from Olympus. The C-740 Ultra Zoom (see our review) and C-750 Ultra Zoom (reviewed here) share two major changes: a new ED (extra-low dispersion) lens, and a more compact body. Both use Olympus' new xD Picture Card format for storing photos. Unlike the C-730, these two new models do not support SmartMedia.

The C-750 Ultra Zoom has even more features than the C-740. It offers a 4 Megapixel CCD, a hot shoe, and sound recording.

Here's a chart detailing the differences between the models:

  C-740 Ultra Zoom C-750 Ultra Zoom
Resolution 3.2 effective Megapixel 4.0 effective Megapixel
External flash support None Hot shoe
Sound recording support No Yes
Remote control support No Yes
Body Plastic/Metal All-Metal
Est. Street Price $499 $599

In the "old days", there wasn't much competition in the ultra zoom arena. That is changing, with Fuji, HP, and Toshiba getting into the act. That's good, because it means that consumers will get better products.

The C-750UZ is the highest resolution "big zoom" camera out there. Is it the ultimate ultra zoom? Find out now...

Since the cameras are so similar, the C-740 and C-750 reviews will share a lot of text.

What's in the Box?

The Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 effective Mpixel C-750 Ultra Zoom camera
  • 16MB xD Picture Card
  • Four NiMH AA batteries
  • Battery charger
  • Remote control
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • Basic manual, fold-out Quick Start guide, plus full manual on CD-ROM

Olympus has improved the bundle on the C-750UZ since the C-730UZ, at least in the battery department. Instead of the usual non-rechargeable lithium batteries that the C-730 had, you'll get four 1700 mAh NiMH rechargeables. Olympus does not publish battery life information, but I can tell you that it will vary depending on what battery you use. I'd buy them as powerful as you can -- at least 20000 mAh.

If you're in a bind, you can use either AA alkaline or CR-V3 lithium batteries to get through a day of shooting.

When it's time to charge the batteries, just use the included battery charger. This isn't a fast charger -- it's an "overnight" charger.

The include 16MB xD card is pretty skimpy considering the resolution of this camera. You'll definitely want to buy something larger right away. 512MB xD cards will soon be available.

The C-750 has a smaller body than its predecessors

Olympus includes a lens cap and retaining strap, to protect that 10X zoom lens.

Another nice item included with the camera is the "classic" RM-1 remote control. It can be used for taking pictures or showing them off in playback mode.

There are a number of accessories available for the C-750UZ. You can add wide-angle ($200), telephoto ($160), and macro ($140) conversion lenses, but you'll need to buy the CLA-4 lens adapter ($26) first. If you want to use an external flash, Olympus sells the FL-40 ($500) or the more basic FL-20 ($199). A flash bracket and flash cable are also available.

Other accessories include an AC adapter ($60), camera case, and numerous card readers.

Like all of Olympus' recent cameras, the C-750 is fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP. Most likely, you won't even need to install drivers.

The C-750UZ includes Olympus' new Camedia Master 4.1 software. This is a dramatically improved version of their photo viewing/editing software that they've been including for the last few years.

The 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.

The software is much more responsive than the previous versions. My only complaint is that the interface is non-standard on both Macs and PCs.

For $20 more (groan), 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.

Keeping (unfortunately) with recent tradition, Olympus only includes a printed "basic" manual in the box. If you want to view the full manual, you need to look at the PDF file on the CD. Once there, the manual quality is about average.

Look and Feel

Both the C-740 and C-750 are smaller than the C-730 they replace. While the C-740's body is a mix of metal and plastic ,the C-750 goes one step further by having an all-metal body.

The camera is too large to be called pocket size, but it's still small considering the size of the lens. You can use the camera with one hand or two. I did find the right hand grip to be too small for my taste.

The official dimensions of the C-750UZ are 4.2 x 2.6 x 2.7 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs about 305 grams empty. For the sake of comparison, the C-730's numbers were 4.2 x 3.0 x 3.1 and 310 g, respectively.

Let's start our tour of this camera now:

Both the C-740 and C-750 use a new 10X ED lens. The ED (extra-low dispersion) lens elements help reduce the purple fringing normally seen on "big zoom" cameras like this. This F2.8 - F3.7 lens has a focal range of 6.3 - 63 mm. That's equivalent to 38 - 380 mm.

The lens is not stabilized, so you'll need a steady hand or tripod to take shots at full telephoto. There is only one camera currently on the market with a stabilized lens: the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1.

At the top of the photo, you can see the C-750UZ's popup flash. There's a button on the top of the camera that releases it. The working range of the flash is 0.3 - 4.5 m at wide-angle, and 1.2 - 3.5 m at telephoto. The C-750UZ supports an external flash via its hot shoe. More on that in a bit.

Just above-left from the lens is the self-timer lamp / remote control receiver. On the opposite side of the lens is the microphone.

Sadly, the C-750UZ lacks an AF-assist lamp.

Here's the back of the camera. The C-750 has a smaller-than-average 1.5" LCD display. The resolution is high, and images are bright and fluid on the screen. Like with all LCDs, it can be hard to see outdoors.

At the upper left of the photo, you can see the electronic viewfinder (EVF). The EVF is not a traditional viewfinder that you're probably used to -- it's more like a little 0.44" 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. I'd rather have a real optical viewfinder myself, but all these ultra zoom cameras use EVFs.

The EVF here is about the same as others I've tested. The resolution isn't nearly as high as the main LCD, but images move smoothly -- not choppy like on EVFs. The EVF has a diopter correction knob for those without perfect vision.

The three buttons to the right of the EVF serve multiple purposes, depending on which mode the camera is in. From left to right:

Record Mode Playback Mode
- Self-timer
- Remote control
Delete photo
- Spot metering
- Macro mode
- Macro + spot metering
DPOF print mark
Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, forced, slow sync) Protect image

Just to the right of those buttons is the release for the pop-up flash.

Above 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. In playback mode, you can use this button to rotate photos.

To 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 increments).

Press 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.

The 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). Press this button twice quickly (which is harder than it sounds) and you'll enter playback mode.

Moving 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.

The big new feature here is the hot shoe, as I mentioned earlier. It supports Olympus' own FL-20 and FL-40 flashes, plus third party flashes as well. Do note that if you use a non-Olympus flash, you'll need to use both the camera and the flash in manual mode.

The zoom controls are perfectly placed, and they operate the 10X zoom smoothly (though noisily). The zoom is quite responsive -- you can move from the wide to tele position in just 2 seconds. You can also make precise adjustments to the lens by just slightly pushing the zoom controller. I didn't find the zoom to be terribly responsive -- there was always a lag before the lens starts moving.

The items on the mode wheel are the same ones that were on the C-730. They are:

  • Auto record
  • Portrait
  • Sports (action)
  • Landscape-Portrait
  • Landscape-Scene
  • Night Scene
  • Self Portrait
  • Movie mode
  • My Mode
  • A/S/M modes
  • Program mode
  • Playback mode

Many 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 (a scary thought).

Auto record is pretty much point-and-shoot. You can't change many options.

In program mode, you have full control over everything except the shutter speed and aperture.

In aperture priority mode, you choose an aperture, and the C-750 picks an appropriate shutter speed. The apertures available range from F2.8 - F8, depending on the zoom position.

Shutter priority mode is just the opposite; you choose the shutter speed, and the camera selects the aperture. The shutter speed range is 1 - 1/1000 sec. I wish Olympus would open up the full shutter speed range, instead of cutting you off at 1 second.

To get at those 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.

"My 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-750 can store four different sets of settings in My Mode.

I'll have more on movie and playback modes later in the review.

On 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 old C-730 used to have a flash sync port, but that's missing on both of the 2003 Ultra Zoom models.

To the left of that is the speaker.

Here's the other side of the camera, opened up.

The C-730 was sort of an "in-between" camera with regard to memory cards. The C-750 completes Olympus' transition to xD for their Ultra Zoom line. In other words, while the C-730 could read both SmartMedia and xD, the C-750 reads xD only.

You can also see the included 16MB xD card as well. It's tiny!

Finally, here is the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment as well as a plastic tripod mount (boo!). The C-750 uses two CR-V3 or four AA cells.

A lock on the battery compartment door keeps things from falling out.

Using the Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom

Record Mode

The C-750UZ takes a fairly sluggish 5.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can begin taking pictures.

Autofocus speeds seemed a little slow, with the delay being just under a second in most cases. If the camera has to hunt a bit, it will be longer. Low light focusing wasn't great, due in part to the 750's lack of an AF-assist lamp.

In terms of shutter lag, there isn't very much at fast shutter speeds. When you start approaching "tripod speeds", it becomes more noticeable.

Lots of info on the LCD/EVF in record mode, including a live histogram

Shot-to-shot speed was quite good, with about a 1.5 second delay between shots, assuming you have the Rec View feature turned off.

Resolution and quality settings are pretty complex on the C-750UZ, as you'll see below:

Quality Resolution # photos on 16MB card (included)
TIFF 2288 x 1712 1
2288 x 1520 (3:2) 1
2048 x 1536 1
1600 x 1200 2
1280 x 960 4
1024 x 768 6
640 x 480 16
SHQ 2288 x 1712 5
2288 x 1520 (3:2) 6
HQ 2288 x 1712 16
2288 x 1520 (3:2) 18
SQ1 - High 2048 x 1536 8
1600 x 1200 11
1280 x 960 17
SQ1 - Normal 2048 x 1536 20
1600 x 1200 32
1280 x 960 49
SQ2 - High 1024 x 768 26
640 x 480 66
SQ2 - Normal 1024 x 768 76
640 x 480 165

Now you know why I suggested buying a larger xD card! As you can see, there's a TIFF mode. Unless you're a real perfectionist, using JPEG mode is fine. Do note that the camera will be locked up for over 20 seconds every time you take a TIFF image.

Although 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.

Olympus 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.

The C-750UZ uses the recent, customizable Olympus menu system. When you first open the menu, you're presented with four choices:

  • Drive
  • Mode Menu
  • White balance
  • Image quality

Don't like those choices? With the exception of Mode Menu, you can put other items in this menu.

The Mode Menu is where most of your options are, and it can be a little intimidating at first. Here are the menu options:

  • Camera Setup
    • Drive (Single-frame, sequential, high speed sequential, AF sequential, auto bracketing) - see below
    • ISO (Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400)
    • A/S/M - switches between aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual modes
    • My Mode (1, 2, 3, 4) - choose from four sets of camera settings that you have saved
    • Flash strength (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments)
    • Flash slow sync (1st curtain, 1st curtain w/redeye reduction, 2nd curtain)
    • Noise reduction (on/off) - reduces noise for shutter speeds 1 sec or slower
    • Multi-metering (on/off)
    • Digital zoom (on/off) - using the 4X digital zoom will reduce the quality of your images
    • Full-time AF (on/off) - keeps the image in focus at all times. Puts extra strain on batteries.
    • AF mode (iESP, spot)
    • Super macro mode (on/off) - more later
    • Panorama - helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded xD card
    • 2 in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
    • Function (Off, black & white, sepia, white board, black board) - various photo effects
    • AF Area (on/off) - lets you choose the AF target by using the four-way switch. Must put camera in spot metering mode first.
    • Info (on/off) - toggles info shown on LCD/EVF
    • Histogram (on/off) - toggles live histogram on LCD/EVF
    • Voice annotations (on/off) - add 4 second sound clips to each photo you take

  • Picture Settings
    • Quality (see chart)
    • White Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent x3, manual)
    • White balance compensation (-7EV to +7EV in 1EV increments) - fine tune white balance
    • Sharpness (-5 to +5, increments of 1)
    • Contrast (-5 to +5, increments of 1)
    • Saturation (-5 to +5, increments of 1)

  • Card Setup (Format)

  • Setup (the interesting ones, at least)
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Language (English, Français, Deutsch, Español)
    • PW on/off setup - choose startup screen/sound
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • Sleep (30 sec, 1, 3, 5, 10 min)
    • My Mode setup - save your favorite settings for easy retrieval
    • File naming (Auto, reset)
    • Pixel mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
    • Monitor brightness - affects both the EVF and main LCD
    • Video output (NTSC, PAL)
    • Short cut - configure the first page of the menus, as I explained above
    • Custom button (AE lock, info, ISO, P/A/S/M, digital zoom, quality, white balance) - customize what the AE Lock button does

Some 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 will take up to 8 shots at 1.3 frames/sec. High speed sequential works in the same way, just faster (1.8 frames/sec) and with fewer shots (only two). AF sequential mode will redo the focus and exposure for each shot, which slows the rate down considerably (figure just under 1 frame/sec).

Auto bracketing will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different exposure compensation value. You can set the EV increment (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1EV) in the setup menu.

The fine-tunable white balance lets you make the white balance redder or bluer. It's almost impossible to have bad white balance with the C-750.

Okay, enough about menus. Let's take a look at some photo samples now.

The 750 turned in a sharp, though somewhat noisy, night shot from atop Twin Peaks. There's a bit of purple fringing, but much less than I expected. Do note that you'll need to either use night scene mode or full manual mode to get the longer shutter speeds like the one used above (3.2 sec).

The macro test shot came out very well. What impressed me most was the smoothness of the subject. The colors were accurate, and the noise levels were low.

The C-750 has two macro modes. Regular macro mode gives you a focal range of 7 - 60 cm at wide-angle, and 1.2 - 2.0 m at telephoto. Super macro mode will lock the lens in the "sweet spot" of the focal range (somewhere in the middle), allowing you to get as close as 3 cm to your subject.

There was a tiny bit of redeye in the test shot, but it's pretty minor. What's left can be cleaned up in software.

The distortion test shows moderate barrel distortion at wide-angle, and no vignetting (dark corners).

Overall, I'm quite pleased with the photo quality on the C-750UZ. The noise levels seem to be much lower than other recent Olympus cameras, giving image more of a smooth look (though they're still sharp). Color and exposure were both very good. Purple fringing is lower than previous Ultra Zoom models, but it's not totally eliminated.

Don't just take my word for it though -- have a look at the gallery and decide for yourself if the 750's photo quality is right for you.

Movie Mode

The movie mode on the C-750UZ is much better than on older Ultra Zoom models.

You can 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 187/374 seconds, respectively.

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, with a 15 fps frame rate.

The zoom lens can be used during filming.

Here's an unexciting sample movie for you:

Click to play movie (3.0MB, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The C-750 has the standard (and very good) Olympus playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.

The 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. The performance of this feature could be better.

Three other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240), trimming, and rotation. The trimming (cropping) feature in particular is well implemented. You can resize the cropping box and move it around. Hit okay and a new image is saved.

Deleting an image is a piece of cake -- just hit the delete button on the back of the camera. You can delete one photo, or all of them -- but not several at a time.

Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode (above left). When you want more info, you can turn on "info" in the menu, or better yet, the histogram feature (above right) .

Moving between photos on the camera is fairly quick: it takes about 1.5 seconds to load another photo.

How Does it Compare?

For those people who want a high resolution camera with a big lens and lots of controls, the Olympus C-750 Ultra Zoom is the best there is. It offers very good photo quality, with less noise than other recent Olympus models. The new ED lens elements reduce, but do not eliminate, purple fringing. The camera has full manual controls, though I don't like how the full shutter speed range is locked out in shutter priority mode. Other nice features include a hot shoe, above average movie and playback modes, a customizable menu system, and a super macro mode for ultra-closeups. The "My Mode" feature, which lets you quickly access your favorite settings, is a nice touch as well. Negatives about the C-750 include slow AF performance, the lack of an AF-assist lamp, a sluggish zoom controller, and the tiny 16MB memory card bundled with the camera. While not perfect, the C-750 is one of the best cameras of its kind, and is well worth a look.

If you don't need the hot shoe, sound recording, remote control support, and 4MP CCD, consider the similar C-740 Ultra Zoom.

What I liked:

  • Very good photo quality, less noise than earlier Olympus models
  • 10X zoom lens
  • Less purple fringing than earlier models
  • Full manual controls, including white balance which you can fine tune
  • Customizable buttons and menus
  • Can store four sets of your settings
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Nice playback mode
  • Pixel mapping feature blocks out bad pixels from CCD

What I didn't care for:

  • AF performance could be better (an AF illuminator would help too)
  • EVF difficult to see in low light
  • Still some purple fringing (really hard to avoid on these big lenses, though)
  • Zoom controller a little sluggish
  • Slowest shutter speeds only available in full manual mode
  • Fancy metal body, but plastic tripod mount
  • Bundle could be better (larger xD card, full printed manual)

Some other big zoom (7X or greater) cameras with 4+ Megapixels include the HP Photosmart 850 (8X), Minolta DiMAGE 7Hi (7X), Nikon Coolpix 5700 (8X), and the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ1 (12X).

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the C-750 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out the photo gallery for this camera!

Want a second opinion?

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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.

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