Olympus C-7000 Zoom|
Attractive compact camera with power
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)
Olympus, despite its excellent overall record in the digital camera field, has been known to suffer from a hit-or-miss syndrome in the styling and design department. We're happy to report that the C-7000 Zoom sits squarely in the "hit" category as far a looks and implementation go. This is an exceptionally attractive and well designed camera that also feels like it's been crafted from a solid block of some precious high-tech metal (itās actually aluminum). It also has superior ergonomics, with some lines and curves crafted so cleverly that youād swear Olympus has secretly taken a gypsum mold of your hand and designed the thing just for you. Most interestingly, they did all this while maintaining a family resemblance going back to the very first Olympus digital cameras. It's like looking at a BMW automobile÷the latest model is infinitely more advanced, but it shares styling elements with automotive DNA with its distant predecessors. To me, that is the mark of a confident manufacturer with a superior handle on its products (most of the time, anyway).
In a field of 7 megapixel cameras (reviewed in mid-2005), the C-7000 is on the compact side of the spectrum and you might even be able to squeeze it into a pocket, though it'll be a tight fit that's neither to the benefit of you or the camera. Why does Olympus add the "Zoom" descriptive to the C-7000's name? Because it's a 5X optical going from 39 to 190 mm, and not just the garden variety 3X. Multiply that with a perfectly workable 6X digital zoom, and you can stretch magnification to a gratifying 30X. The news is also good on the LCD front. The C-7000's has a 2-inch "semi-transmissive" display that excels outdoors. It is not only a good deal more readable outdoors than most, but also has very wide viewing angles.
The tiny pop-up flash is fairly powerful, but requires manual activation. This means you can miss shots when you need the flash, but haven't popped it up. Not a good solution. There are other little problems. While having the zoom ring around the shutter is a fairly common solution I don't like it because it means you first zoom, and then put your finger on the shutter. I like to have my finger on the shutter while I zoom. And while the large mode dial is clearly marked and devoid of the clutter of tiny icons so often found on digicams, some of the other buttons do rely on tiny icons and color coding. The otherwise impeccable body is marred by a plastic tripod mount, and Olympus uses the xD-Picture card -- a nice enough format, but one that means buying new cards and new adapters for most. And though I use an Olympus as my daily driver, I've never been particularly fond of Olympus' menu systems that rely on a mix of text and icons and also use the "OK" button sometimes to select a setting, sometimes to escape out of a menu. On the plus side, the menus are large and very legible.
In the buzzword and features department, Olympus is relatively modest. We have the TruePic TURBO image processor for fast operation and good detail. The C-7000 is quick and takes very good pictures, so the TURBO works. There's also a red eye removal feature so you don't have to do that dirty work on the PC, handy direct printing to PictBridge-compatible printers, and 12 shooting modes (including manual control) that are not always obvious to access. The movie mode records at full 30 fps, but you can only do 20 second clips.
Despite the fairly user-friendly nature of the C-7000, a quick stroll through the manual is definitely recommended, and that requires perusing a pdf file on the documentation CD. The printed manual only contains the very basics in six languages. It's a big world out there, but English is a fairly common language, so can't we just have English manuals? In the software department you get Olympus Master, the successor to Olympus Camedia. It's an odd mix of very basic file management and rather complex RAW processing. It is not an optimal solution and we wish Olympus would revamp its software offerings.
In the end, the C-7000 is an attractive compact camera with a good deal of power. We were a bit disappointed in the quality of macro shots, but it did everything else well. Like most Olympus cameras it has its little quirks, and like with most Olympus cameras, you need to work its simple and yet at times confusing user interface to get to all the features of this very appealing product.
Not so much:
- Great looks and design quality feel
- Excellent 5X optical zoom
- Superb ergonomics
- Confusing menus and controls
- Only 20-second movie clips
- marginal software and manuals