Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom
At a Glance
The Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom has the oblong, fairly compact body of a point-and-shoot--in fact, it's the smallest Ultra Zoom model yet--together with the advanced controls, hot shoe (for external flash), and large lens barrel of an advanced model. With its brushed-metal case and good-size buttons and dials, this model has a smooth, solid feel. A resolution of 4 megapixels, though modest for an advanced camera, helps offset the extra cost of including a 10X optical zoom lens.
That lens makes the C-770 suitable for amateur sports photography. We took it with us to the nose-bleed seats at a San Francisco Giants night game, and took some pretty nice shots of batters at home plate. The camera's shutter lag is about 1 second--not especially quick--if you click a shot by fully depressing the shutter button in one go. When we set the auto exposure lock with a half-press of the trigger, however, there was virtually no shutter lag.
According to Olympus, this is the first of its Ultra Zoom line to use MPEG-4 for video clips. Oddly, in movie mode you can record sound with your movies or you can change the zoom, but you can't do both. If you switch on audio recording, the camera disables the zoom while you're filming--it's pretty annoying.
The C-770 did well in our image quality tests, earning an overall score of Very good. Image sharpness scores were low compared with the other advanced models we tested, but that's to be expected when you match a 4-megapixel camera against 5-, 6-, and 8-megapixel models. On the other hand, it earned high scores for exposure and color accuracy. All three of our test shots--outdoor, still life, and flash--had spot-on exposure. The only knock on the C-770's photos was noticeable noise (speckling) in areas of solid color.
The C-770's zoom button is large and easy to locate, even when you're looking through the viewfinder; and changing the zoom is relatively smooth--though pretty noisy. The electronic viewfinder is bright and quick, with no smearing as you pan. On the other hand, most of the camera's settings--including the control for switching between shutter-priority, aperture-priority, and full-manual exposures modes--are located in the menus. Fortunately, the auto exposure lock button on the back of the camera can be dedicated to another function; and by using the camera's My Mode, you can save up to four custom combinations of settings (though you must dig through the menus to choose among the combinations).
Optional accessories for the C-770 include a 0.7X wide-angle lens converter and a 1.7X telephoto lens converter. Adding the latter extends your telephoto range beyond 600mm (35mm equivalent). The wide-angle lens could be the more useful one, however, because the C-770 standard lens starts at a relatively high 38mm.
The C-770 is a good choice if you want maximum zoom power in a small package.