The Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom is the latest addition to the popular range, nicknamed by some "Uzis", like the gun. Competitively priced and featuring a generous 10x optical zoom the most appealing feature of this camera is very obvious. In this incarnation, Olympus have upgraded the CCD and various other parts of the camera which will boost the capabilities the Ultra Zoom range offers even further.
- 3.2 megapixel CCD
- Olympus 10x zoom lens (Equivalent to 38-380mm in 35mm format). f2.8-f3.5 maximum aperture.
- Digital ESP, Spot and Multi-spot metering
- Electronic Viewfinder and 1.5in LCD monitor
- Takes SmartMedia and xD media
- Up to three shots at 2.4 frames per sec
- Image noise reduction
- Custom setting memorisation
- Uses 4x AA batteries
- Dimensions: 107.5x76x77.5mm
- Weight: 310g
- List Price 499
Olympus cameras are generally built quite well and the C-730 is no exception. Gripped tightly in the hand it has a very reassuring solid feel and weight. Because of the large zoom lens, it isn't the most pocketable of cameras and you'll probably want to carry it by the included strap, or in a bag.
The back of the camera is simply laid out and the controls are all within easy reach. A lot of the camera modes have been added onto the large dial adjacent to the shutter release. Zooming is carried out using the combined control that is around the shutter-release, as with many other Olympus cameras. All together the control layout is nothing amazing but works well enough.
The finish of the camera is to quite a high standard, with some attractive silver finishes around the lens and reasonably tasteful reflective plastic grip. Overall this is a camera that will look and feel good, combining a wide range of options and settings into an easy to use package.
The various menus and screens available on this camera are outlined next to the images below. Because of the large number of options that can be changed or setup this might not be an ideal camera for all the hesitant beginners. However anyone used to digital cameras, will probably be thankful for the control Olympus have given over various aspects of the camera functions and image quality.
The display whilst your framing a photograph is very simple, with minimal clutter around the sides.
A minor niggle is there is no way to totally clear the display of the extra information. Most other cameras include this facility as the lack of distractions can aid the framing your photograph.
Optionally you can have a histogram overlaid on the display, which can greatly aid getting that perfect exposure.
The Record menu allows you to set up all the important settings that control the image quality and functions of the camera.
These include settings such as the continuos mode, ISO setting, Full-time AF, Image compression, Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation and quite a lot more.
||In this mode you can very quickly view the photographs you've taken. As each photo is shown you can choose to show a small histogram, or you can overlay text information about each photo.
This menu lets you add audio clips to photos you've already taken, or re-record existing audio clips.
You can also resize or crop photos, erase or format the card and setup various features of the camera.
All the camera modes are quickly accessible through the main mode dial on the top of the camera. These are divided into (working from 6 o'clock anti-clockwise):
- Portrait shooting
- Sports Shooting
- Landscape-Portrait shooting
- Landscape-Scene shooting
- Night-scene shooting
- Self Portrait shooting
- Movie record
- My Mode
- A/S/M selections
- Program shooting
Adding to this already comprehensive list of camera modes are some selectable from the camera menu. The Panorama feature allows photos to be taken with Olympus Camedia brand cards and the 2 in 1 feature combines two photos taken in succession and stores them as one.
In the standard continuos shooting mode, you can take up to 11 photographs at 1.4fps. In the Hi speed mode, you can shoot a maximum of 3 photographs at up to 2.4fps. There is also an AF continuous mode, where the focus is locked for each frame automatically. Lastly, a bracketing mode allows you to shoot multiple shots of the same scene with varying exposure values.
Viewfinder and LCD screen
The viewfinder is of the electric kind (EVF), meaning when you look into it you're looking at a tiny electronic screen. The advantages of this over the large TFT screen adjacent to it are being able to see it clearly in bright sunlight and also it using less power. Whilst the quality of this EVF isn't up to that of superior cameras like the Minolta Dimage 7i, it is still very usable, includes diopter adjustment and is reasonably detailed.
The LCD is quite small, but is very bright and has a better than average level of sharpness and colour accuracy. It is slightly sunken into the camera body which should help to protect it from scratches and smudges.
A video-out cable and connection are provided and the type is selectable between NTSC and PAL. Together with this, hidden behind the plastic side cover, are USB and power in connections. There is also a flash terminal for external flash units.
The C-730 uses four AA batteries, or it can take two of the lithium CR-V3 type. We used two of these lithium batteries during the review period and the camera does last a long time with them. If you have a set of these batteries, you'll probably want to save them for backups on your rechargeables. Used with a good set of Ni-MH batteries, the C-730 battery life is very commendable and we went a long time between charges.
For a reasonably priced three-megapixel digital camera, the Olympus C-730 offers a good level of performance. Besides having a great focal-length range, the lens is easily sharp enough to produce a good looking image. There were a few problems with purple fringing, but only an acceptable amount for such a competitively priced camera.
On shorter exposures the noise levels are reasonably low and when stretched to longer exposures the noise reduction option helps to ensure they don't get out of control. Shooting at normal exposure times, the ISO100 noise is usually noticeable but not too distracting. ISO200 shows a slight increase over the noise of ISO100 but is still usable and ISO400 is close to the edge of being usable depending on your expectations. The in-camera flash is quite powerful and helps out on those occasions where you don't want to increase the ISO.
With the default settings, colours may be slightly under-saturated for some tastes. Olympus have included colour saturation control though, so this can be changed to individual taste. Colour accuracy is still commendable and overall the standard of images the C-730 produced was high.
The cropped section below shows the kind of detail the C-730 is capable of capturing. It also shows about the minimum amount of image noise possible.
Because the maximum aperture decreases as you zoom in on your subject, there was not a fast enough shutter speed possible in the above right photograph. The flash rescued the situation and is very useful for those occasions you forget a tripod.
This is another crop of a larger image, showing the rich colour levels the C-730 can capture. The noise levels on this particular shot were also quite low.
The crop below, shows some of the ugly purple fringing we came across. Unfortunately despite how it might look, this isn't a neon glow from the sign and once you've noticed it, it is quite distracting.
The two photos above show the wide angle and telephoto settings of the C-730 lens. At the telephoto setting, you usually will need a tripod or a very steady hold of the camera to get a sharp shot.
The metering system on the C-730 is reliable enough and with the optional overlaid histogram it's not too hard to achieve a decent exposure.
The Olympus C-730 has its far share of problems. Image noise could be lower and a more flexible ISO range would be useful. The purple fringing effect could also do with being reduced and the overall image quality does sometimes leave room for improvement.
Once you're aware of these problems there are a lot of positive points to be considered. The flexibility of the powerful lens is very appealing, as is the low price. There are a wealth of camera settings and features that allow you to get the most out of the camera, something severely lacking on a few other budget cameras with powerful lenses.
Overall despite having a few flaws, we'd still recommend the Olympus C-730 as a well-priced, fun to use, flexible digital camera, that is very capable of producing good photographs.
In summary the main positive points of the Olympus C-730 Ultra Zoom are:
Powerful lens in a compact and well priced body
Above average image quality
Compatibility with XD and Smartmedia cards
Good build quality and finish
Lasts well on rechargeable batteries
Negative points are:
Occasional purple fringing
Focussing speed can be slow
Image noise is sometimes distracting
Awful power-on noise (can be turned off)
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