Olympus C700 Ultra Zoom - opinions/alternatives

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Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

I had the opportunity of a quick play with this camera on Sunday and it looked at first glance quite impressive. 10x optical zoom in a (fairly) compact is spectacular. I have read 2 reviews (dpreview and stevesdigicams) which give rather different views on the beast. Does anybody out there have any hands on experience of this camera or recommendations of other compacts with better than 3x optical zoom. To date I have not been impressed by digital zoom but if somebody can persuade me otherwise I'm listening.

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Regards

Keith

Regards Keith

Alan Roberts at work
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Joined: May 6 1999

Don't get excited about digital zoom. While it's true that the camera can do a better digital zoom than you can after you've downloaded the picture, it still isn't good, no matter what tricks they play.

The camera does it better for two reasons:
1:- it hasn't JPEG compressed it yet, so hasn't got compression artefacts to magnify.
2:- the raw data from the ccd can be interpolated in different ways depending on the magnification wanted. Not saying that's what they do do, it's what they can do if they're clever enough.

Image manipulation is always easiest if you access to the source data.

And, no, I don't know the C700, and I never use the digital zoom on my C3030.

Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

Thanks Alan.

I have always been totally unimpressed by digital zoom on camcorders and have no reason to expect it to be any better on stills cameras. That is why the idea of the 10x optical zoom appeals so much. The vast majority of smaller digital stills cameras only have 3x optical zoom. I want something fairly compact as I already have a good 35mm camera but could do with something more portable, ie will fit in the pocket, at times.

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Regards

Keith

Regards Keith

Alan Roberts at work
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Joined: May 6 1999

One more thought, wides are harder to get right than longs, so a zoom that goes long is going to make better pictures than one that goes wide. For the same money.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Cameras with long zooms that remain within the term "compact" invariably have zooms fitted that loose a lot of speed towards telephoto. This C700 Keith - have you looked at the maximum apertures for each end of the zoom range?

The wide-angle end may well be an impressive and useful f2.8 ~ but the tele end will be something like f9.5 and you'll have to read the samll print on page 144 in the instruction book to find this out - it's not something that camera manufacturer's are proud of.

The disadvantages are threefold. Firstly the small maximum aperture at full zoom means the camera will have to reduce the shutter speed to give you correct exposure and this often gives you camera shake pictures.

Secondly the in-built flash (GN 11 if you're lucky) is designed to cover (nearly) the wide-angle end and is therefore near totally useless at the telephoto setting. Not only has a lot of light been wasted by covering a big area, but the max distance may well be 4 metres or so (see page 144).

Thirdly long zooms when used at their extremes are only really sharp when used a couple of stops down from max aperture. So lets look at the lens again. It may well be the equivalent of a 400mm zoom in 35mm terms, but to get sharp pictures you'll be hand-holding at f18.

tom.

Keitht
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Joined: Jan 8 2001

Thanks Tom

Since posting the original question I have managed to find more reviews of the C700 both technical and user. There seem to be some fairly major concerns over chromatic abberation and a couple of examples shown really are bad. On that basis alone I have decided to give it a miss.
My main use will be for landscape work so the maximum aperture is less important. Conversely, the minimum aperture of f8 on most might be!
As the need to purchase isn't pressing I will try and sit on my wallet for a few more months. The pixel count per pound is always improving and there are a few 4x zooms appearing. Although 10x seems great, as you have pointed out, there are downsides as well.
I am also in two minds over the comparative benefits of electronic and optical viewfinders. Coming from a SLR background I'm inclined to go along the electronic route as you see what is coming through the lens. All of the 4x cameras I've seen so far have optical viewfinders with markers.

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Regards

Keith

Regards Keith

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Viewfinders - a bee-in-my-bonnet. I've bought a £750 Nikon CP5000 and it's optical viewfinder is every bit as good as an eight quid Boots Disposable. The rear screen is fine indoors or outside on a grey day. So have we progressed?

My ancient 35mm EOS cost a third of the Nikon but its viewfinder is many things the Nikon isn't: it's superb, bright, sharp, big, accurate and through the lens.

The best deal of the moment has got to be the last of the OLympus E10s. The E20 is a teeny bit better but a lot more money. At least the E10 has a proper SLR TTL viewfinder, a delight in this digital compact age.

tom.