With a fairly lacklustre exterior, the 7020 won't be winning any design awards any time soon. After previously sleek cameras from Olympus, such as the, the 7020 is a bit of a letdown, with no glossy exterior or interesting accoutrements to spice up the mix. It elicits the sort of reaction that's levelled at a Volvo driver's vehicle of choice, at least from an aesthetic point of view — safe but boxy. The box is available in a silver, black or oddly tinged red, and the package weighs 133 grams which is not really here nor there in the general scheme of compact camera weights.
The wide-angle 7x optical zoom lens protrudes just slightly from the camera body when it's retracted, flanked by a contrasting metal ring that sits against the main brushed metal cover.
At the back is a fairly standard configuration with the buttons arranged down the textured right-hand side, with the zoom rocker designated to buttons rather than a physical dial at the top of the camera — a little disconcerting at first until you get used to the orientation. Those buttons are backlit though, which adds a touch of refinement to the otherwise uninteresting behind of the camera. The base of the camera houses the battery and xD card slot, and there's also support for microSD cards using an adapter (not provided). As is fast becoming the norm, HDMI output is provided.
Apart from the 28mm wide-angle lens and 7x optical zoom, the 7020 is equipped with a 3-inch LCD screen, a 12-megapixel sensor, image stabilisation and a range of additional options that may be familiar to Olympus photographers: intelligent auto, program mode, scene modes and beauty mode, something which has been around for a while on the company's cameras. A blemish here, an imperfection there, no discrepancy is too hard for the genies in beauty mode.
Additional modes include Magic Filters — essentially the Art Filters that can be found on the dSLR range and the— which can turn shots into works of pop art, pinhole, sketches and more. They're more of a novelty than actually being useful like the Art Filters on the E-series cameras, but an interesting addition nonetheless. Unlike the Pen, the 7020 doesn't feature HD movie recording, just standard motion JPEG. There are also only two metering modes, either ESP or spot.
Start up to first shot is an acceptable 1.5 seconds, and the camera's performance feels speedy even if it's not all there on paper — the lens extension from one extreme to the other is particularly quick. Writing to xD cards is relatively slow and there's an obvious delay between shots as the camera sends the data to the card (indicated by the helpful orange flashing light).
In high speed mode 1, the 7020 can get out 21 shots at a reduced resolution (2048x1536, or 3 megapixels) at an interval of approximately 0.1 second each. In standard continuous mode the camera only got out two shots before declaring an orange message of "Busy" on the screen. Shutter lag with and without pre-focusing was an acceptable 0.1 and 0.4 second respectively.
The LCD screen has a resolution of only 230,000 dots and it's not particularly colour accurate which does make it difficult to determine if something like the white balance needs to be changed, given the naturally warm tinge that it gives indoor scenes in particular.
At the wide-angle, the lens showed distortion towards the left side of the frame, nothing too out of the blue for a camera of this class though. Colours are fairly accurate and not too oversaturated (when viewed on their own, for a comparison with another camera see below), and for the most part the 7020 determines exposure correctly. In program mode the camera tends to overexpose highlights, but correctly exposes for detail in areas of high contrast, such as a sky, when in intelligent auto mode.
When compared to a similar camera, like the, the 7020's exposures are slightly different, resulting in a duller shot as you can see from the comparison below. In automatic mode, the Olympus measured the exposure at 1/50 at f/3, ISO 64. The Canon measured it at 1/80 at f/2.8, ISO 100 which is roughly equivalent. Note that the maximum aperture on the Olympus is f/3, and on the Canon is f/2.8.