A model example of evolutionary gradualism, the 3.2-megapixel Olympus Camedia C-740 delivers the solid performance, the broad feature set, and the respectable image quality of its ancestors, along with the long zoom that distinguishes the Ultra Zoom line from much of its competition. Improvements over its predecessor, the , include the optical zoom's jump up from 8X to 10X, a beefed-up RAM buffer that permits continuous shooting of up to 11 frames, and six rather than four scene modes. If you need a slightly higher resolution or a flash hotshoe, climb half a step up the ladder to the 4-megapixel , which delivers a lot more features for a relatively small increase in price.
The C-740 is more compact than the C-730, fitting neatly in a jacket pocket or a small fanny pack. The metal-and-plastic body weighs 13.5 ounces with disposable CRV3 batteries and about 14.6 ounces with rechargeable nickel-metal-hydride AA cells. Getting a good grip is a cinch: a generous bulge facilitates one-handed shooting, and the zoom switch is conveniently located just in front of the shutter release. The large mode dial is easily operable with your right thumb.
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We still dislike Olympus's A/S/M exposure control, which forces you to jump into the menu system to select aperture-priority, shutter-priority, or manual mode.
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Olympus could use the navigation pad more extensively to, say, handle the context-sensitive uses of the function buttons.
The controls are simply arranged and clearly labeled. A navigational pad encircles the menu/selector button. As with other C-series models, choosing settings is easy, though it takes a while to remember all the features and their locations. The virtual mode dial provides access to drive mode, resolution, white balance, and other frequently used functions. They're not buried in the menu system, but cycling through selections with dedicated buttons would require fewer steps. The display toggles between the electronic viewfinder (EVF) and the LCD; unlike some cameras with EVFs, the C-740 can display the menus in either place. After a bit of practice, we could navigate the options without looking away from the EVF.
The fairly solid and firmly moored flash pops up for use; otherwise, it folds down and lies flush with the top of the body, out of harm's way. Unlike the slightly upscale C-750, the C-740 lacks a hotshoe for an external flash.
The C-740's primary claim to fame is its 10X zoom lens, which provides a 38mm-to-380mm range, in 35mm-camera terms. Olympus follows up with a broad array of features targeted at both point-and-shoot and hands-on photographers. Along with the fully automatic modes, which include six scene presets, you get aperture-priority, shutter-priority, and manual exposure modes; three metering selections; exposure and flash compensation; and a dynamic histogram. The MyMode function lets you store up to four collections of parameter settings.
The C-740 offers two close-up modes: Macro is for objects between 2.8 inches and 2 feet away; Super Macro lets you get within 1.2 inches of the subject but at a fixed focal length. Both options yield sharp pictures. You can focus manually through the EVF or the LCD; an enlarged view of the frame's center pops up as a visual aid. If you wear glasses, you'll appreciate the eyepiece diopter.
Four shooting modes--one-time autofocus, frame-based autofocus, high speed, and exposure bracketing--give you plenty of flexibility. But the C-740's video capabilities lag behind those of some competitors. The camera can capture up to 33 seconds of silent, 15-frame-per-second video at a maximum resolution of 320x240 pixels. However, unlike with many models, you can zoom the lens while recording footage. We also appreciate the ability to save uncompressed TIFF files, even though the bundled 16MB xD-Picture Card can hold just one TIFF shot.
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We gave up battery testing after we'd taken 1,125 photos with the LCD always on and the flash firing on about 20 percent of the shots. Our 1,850mAh nickel-metal-hydride cells (not pictured here) never even blinked.
With the exception of great battery life, the C-740's performance was about average for its class. The 5-second start-up was on the lengthy side, and shot-to-shot time ranged anywhere from 2 seconds without the flash to 5 seconds with it. In its fastest burst mode, the C-740 managed a very respectable three frames at 2.8 frames per second. The absence of an autofocus illuminator didn't hamper the camera's focusing ability. In addition, the manual focus was truly usable.