Modest shell hides impressive zoom, video features

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 May, 2004, 12:00am

Product: Olympus Camedia C-770 Ultra Zoom
Price: $4,280
Pros: 10x zoom lens, mpeg 4 video support
Cons: Uninspiring design

The first thing you notice about the Olympus Camedia C-770 is not very much. This camera will not win any design awards.

The C-770 has a basic, silver rectangular body with few frills on the front (there is a black version available overseas, which looks a little nicer). Flip the camera around and you get a bit more character, with a set of straightforward colour-coded controls and a 1.8-inch display.

But Olympus is not selling the camera for its looks. The main focus of this camera is its impressive 10x zoom lens and advanced mpeg 4 video capabilities. The 6.3mm-63mm zoom is apparently made up of 11 separate lenses. Combined with the camera's 4x digital zoom, the result is the ability to capture pictures over a surprisingly long distance without worrying about finding a new lens.

Olympus claims this gives you the equivalent of 38mm-380mm on a 35mm camera. Pictures can be captured in jpeg or tiff formats in eight optional resolutions, ranging from 640x480 to an impressive 3,200x2,400. You also get spot metering and five white balance modes. But don't let that put you off - the on-screen menus are easy to master.

No matter how hard manufacturers try, video and still cameras continue to be distinctly different beasts. A dedicated video camera may take adequate snaps and a still camera may take passable video, but the two are still a long way from converging. Adding mpeg 4 capability does help close the gap.

The C-770 can take video in a choice of either 30 frames per second at 640x480, 15 FPS in 320x240 Quicktime or 15FPS at 160x120. Videos can last as long as you have space on your xD Picturecard.

One of the surprises about this camera is the choice of CCD. Despite the size of the lens, the C-770 is only a four-megapixel camera. Also on the weak side, the tripod mount is not centred. With a 10x zoom, you need a level and stable tripod.

There are a few nice features in addition to the zoom lens and video features. To save batteries or view pictures better in bright light, a single button switches the display from the LCD to the viewfinder.

The camera comes with a strong built-in, pop-up flash but also has a hotshoe so you can add your own if you need to.

Pictures can be copied or printed using either USB 2.0 or PictBridge to connect directly to a printer.

And while Olympus now makes many of its consumer cameras in China, the unit we reviewed was made in Japan.