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Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom review: Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom

Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom

Michael Shapiro
3 min read
Billed as the world's smallest 3-megapixel, 8X optical zoom digital camera, the Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom lets advanced amateur shooters get in close to the action without lugging around expensive, weighty 35mm lenses. This camera makes a worthwhile addition to the outdoorsperson's or sightseer's backpack--as long that shooter is willing to live with somewhat inconsistent image quality.

Despite its large optical-zoom range, the C-720 won't weigh you down.
The C-720 inherits the look and feel of its predecessor, the 2-megapixel, 10X zoom C-700. The design is smart, solid, and well thought out. At 13.7 ounces with the batteries and the media installed, the C-720 feels lightweight for a model with such a large optical-zoom range. While it lacks an image-stabilization system, its comfortable ergonomics and weight keep camera shake to a minimum.

You won't waste time scrolling through the C-720's LCD menu system since most of the commonly used features are easily accessible from well-placed buttons.
Buttons are well placed, and you can access commonly used functions such as flash settings, exposure compensation, spot metering, autoexposure lock, macro mode, and continuous-shooting modes without scrolling through the LCD menu system. The menu system itself is thoughtfully organized to make important features easily accessible. The command dial handles a number of shooting modes, including a customizable setting known heartwarmingly as My Mode. Olympus outfitted the C-720 with a sensible array of desirable features, providing a selection of exposure modes from fully manual to automatic. This digicam also offers useful manual overrides such as contrast and sharpness adjustments. Unfortunately, there are a couple of notable omissions, such as saturation adjustments and, surprisingly, a manual white-balance function. On the other hand, you get a silent-video-clip mode, three preset scene modes, and a continuous-shooting mode that refocuses for each shot in the series. There's also a new feature called 2-in-1, which lets you shoot two exposures and save them in one frame side by side, should you have a hankering to do so. Of course, the C-720's main attraction is its ultrazoom, which provides the 35mm camera equivalent of a 40mm-to-320mm lens in only a small fraction of the space usually required.

Among the C-720's passel of features, you'll find a silent-video-clip mode, three preset scene modes, and a continuous-shooting mode that refocuses for each shot in the series.

Included accessories

Olympus markets the C-720 as the perfect pick for shooting sporting events, wildlife, and other such active or faraway subjects. However, although the C-720 does succeed in bringing you close to the action, it isn't especially quick at capturing it.

Input/output ports
The autofocus isn't exactly fast on its feet, and there is a brief but noticeable shutter lag. If you're trying to capture fast-moving subjects, you'll probably get frustrated pretty quickly. The camera is much better suited for wildlife shooting than for sports photography. An electronic viewfinder on the C-720 takes the place of an optical one, obviating the parallax problems that can lead to poor composition in close-range shots. However, the absence of image stabilization works with the somewhat jumpy viewfinder image to make it difficult to frame a level shot when you're shooting at the telephoto end of the zoom.

There is a lot to like about the C-720's image quality. The camera produces rich, well-saturated color and Olympus's Digital ESP metering system is accurate. Our test images generally exhibited a good dynamic range, capturing ample detail in both shadows and highlights. When a photograph shot with this camera is good, it's very good. However, the C-720's output is also subject to some annoying problems. The saturation of greens appears to be particularly high and can get out of hand in scenes with a lot of green in the background, with areas of the hue occasionally bleeding into subjects' skin tones.

Olympus's Digital ESP metering system is right on the money.

Chromatic aberration is also a significant problem; purple fringing occurred unusually frequently and noticeably around objects with bright backgrounds. A number of our photos revealed significantly more noise than we'd have expected, even in open-shade situations. We recommend setting the light sensitivity at ISO 100 whenever possible.

Watch for purple fringing when shooting objects against bright backgrounds.


Olympus Camedia C-720 Ultra Zoom

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 7Performance 6Image quality 7