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Olympus Camedia C-725 Digital Camera Review
Introduction: A 3MP digital camera with an 8x Optical zoom (6.4-51.2mm equivelant to 40 - 320mm on a 35mm), the camera comes with a 16mb XD card and 4 AA alkaline batteries. The camera has a 1.5" Colour screen, as well as aperture priority, shutter priority, ISO settings, etc. The camera takes XD memory, and records videos without sound. The camera is available from around £141 online (check latest price at Amazon.co.uk). The camera's size and weight: Dimensions: 107.5 (W) x 76.0 (H) x 77.5 (D) mm (excluding protrusions). Weight: 315g.. Olympus have this to say about their camera:

"Step into the thrilling world of Ultra Zoom photography. With its 8x zoom power the 3.0 million pixel C-725 Ultra Zoom lets you get closer to the subject. No more will your point of interest be swamped by its surroundings. Instead of dots in a sports field, individual players can be zoomed in on. Birds high in a tree are no longer lost in the branches either. They can be brought in to fill the frame in all their fine-feathered detail and colour."

The camera offers very good value for money - especially for a digital camera with an 8x Optical zoom - the camera was first annouced in May 04.

Full specifications and further details can be found on the Olympus site, and press release.

The Camera: It's a compact and made out of plastic - it's larger than the Pentax PC-550 35mm, a camera I use as a size comparison.


Front - Camera off. No built in lens-cover - don't loose the lens cap!


Front - Camera on - lens extended. The silvery plastic bit to the left of the lens is a rubbery grip.


Back - Optical viewfinder (with diopter adjustments - allows you to focus the optical viewfinder), Macro/Landscape/Manual Focus button, Wide/Telephoto Zoom control, Flash button, 4 way controller with an OK button in the middle, Menu Button, Play button, 1.5" TFT screen. There's also a grip on the back that the thumb rests on.


Top - Flash release, Zoom control, shutter release, mode dial


Bottom, under the camera is the tripod mount which is not under the lens. On the left is the battery compartment.


Left Side - DC in, USB connection, TV out.


On this side is the memory slot.


Lens extended, another view.

Size Comparison:

Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic

There is no optical viewfinder, as the camera uses an electronic viewfinder.


Size comparison

Specifications:

  • 3.0 million pixels
  • 8x optical zoom with ED lens (equiv. 40 - 320mm on 35mm camera), f2.8/3.4
  • 3x Digital Zoom
  • Program, Shutter Priority, Aperture Priority and Full Manual modes
  • Portrait, Sport and landscape&portrait modes
  • Movie recording function
  • Supplied with 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • Electronic viewfinder with 110,000 pixels
  • 1.5" LCD 114,000 pixels
  • USB AutoConnect
  • CAMEDIA Master 4.2 software provided

Full Specifications can be found on the Olympus Site.

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • Lens cap
  • CR-V3 Lithium batteries (2x) (mine came with 4 alkaline AA batteries)
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Software CD-ROM (utility software)
  • Instruction manual
  • Warranty card

Average box contents - a larger memory card and a case would have been nice.

Features / Options: The camera mode is selected using the dial on the top of the camera:

The modes are: Play, Auto, Landscape, Action, Portrait, P/A/S/M, My Mode, Video

The buttons on the back of the camera quickly give you access to: Drive, Macro/Spot Metering, Flash/Night, Power, AEL (auto exposure lock), Menu/OK, LCD, EV.

In Photo mode the menu is different depending which mode you are in, they are accessed by pressing the MENU button - menus are explained below.

  • AUTO Menu
    • Picture (Size / Quality)
    • Date / Time Setup
    • Card (Format Yes / No)
  • Landscape / Action / Portrait Menu
    • Picture (Size / Quality)
    • Digital Zoom (On / Off)
    • Mode Menu
      • Camera (Panorama / 2in1)
      • Card (Format Yes / No)
      • Setup (All reset / Beep / Pixel Mapping / LCD Brightness / Date/Time / Battery Save)
  • P/A/S/M and MyMode Menu
    • Picture (Size / Quality / WB / Sharpness / Contrast)
    • ISO (Auto / 100 / 200 / 400)
    • Mode Menu
      • Camera (ISO / PASM / EV / BKT / Digital Zoom / Panorama / 2in1)
      • Card (Format Yes / No)
      • Setup (All Reset / Info / Beep / Rec View / MyMode Setup / Sleep / Filename / Pixel Mapping / LCD Brightness / Date/Time / Battery Save / Shortcut / Custom Button)
    • WB (Auto / Preset)
  • Movie Menu
    • Picture (Size: 320x240/160x120)
    • Digital Zoom
    • Mode (ISO)
    • WB (Auto / Custom)

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit in the 16mb provided memory: (an extra memory card is recommended if you intend to go on holiday or are going to be away from a computer for more than half a day!)

Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality / Average file size
  TIFF SHQ HQ
1,984 x 1,488 (3mp) 1 7 (1.8mb) 21 (650kb)
1,600 x 1,200 (2mp / SQ1) 24    
1280x960 (1.3mp / SQ2) 26    
1024x768 (SQ2) 39    
640x480 (SQ2) 99    
Movie 320x240 16seconds    
Movie 160x120 70seconds    

You can fit an average amount of images on the provided 16mb, depeding on the size and amount of compressions used - although a larger memory card is definitely recommended. There is a good choice of image size and compression levels available, although there does seem to be a big gap between SHQ, and HQ, as HQ generates images that tend to have jpeg artifacts.

Speed, ease of use: Very easy to use, simply switch the camera on, and start taking photos. The screen updates are quick. The camera is fairly quick in use. The camera is a bit bulky, especially when compared to the smaller Olympus C-750/C-765 which both have a 10x Optical zoom. The menus are slightly more difficult to pick up and use when compared to other cameras I've used, but it doesn't take too long to get the hang of things.

Battery usage: Seems okay-good, especially when using Ni-MH rechargable batteries, which are pretty much a must for all digital cameras due to the amount of energy they use.

LCD display in photo mode: When the shutter is half pressed, the screen will display the shutter and aperture settings (as long as you are not in AUTO mode). The screen is clear, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate.. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, it also shows the picture size and compression quality, the battery level, current mode, plus other things.

Playback mode: Pressing OK will display additional information about the picture, eg size, compression, white-balance, ae, ISO, shutter speed, aperture size. Scrolling through the photos is fast. The zoom can be used up to 3.0x, there are in between steps, every 0.5x, this feature is quick. Playback menu options: Info (changes the amount of information displayed on screen) / Play (slideshow) / Mode (edit - black&white / sepia / resize, card - erase/format, setup)

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Full size (and medium size) version of these photos are available in the gallery!

Inside:

Wide-angle flash Wide-Angle - flash Inside - with flash

Inside... The camera has quite a powerful flash, sometimes causing images to appear slightly over-exposed. Red eye was not noticable on most photos. Good colours and details.

Noise: [A small paragraph about noise:] Noise generally is a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue / red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise.

The camera has 4 modes for ISO: Auto, 100, 200 or 400. To choose the ISO setting, you need to take the camera out of AUTO mode - This photo was taken with flash, actual pixels shown below from area next to the camera/frog:

Picture - Flash On ISO100 - 100%
ISO200 - 100% ISO400 - 100%

Noise levels at ISO100 are quite low - which means you get quite smooth images. ISO200 and ISO400 both display fairly acceptable noise levels.

Outside:

New Brighton Lighthouse Liverpool water front behind Liver Building - Telephoto

Excellent colour, low noise, good detail - no signs of vignetting in the corners. Pictures taken on the 'HQ' setting - this creates a 3mp image which is around 650kb in size - this means there is some noticable jpeg artifacts in the images. Images are a bit soft and could do with a slight sharpen, although this could be due to the compression.

Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing was noticable in some pictures, for example in the first picture, purple fringing occured in the reflections of the flash in my glasses. In the second picture purple fringing mainly occured in the trees in the top left.

Flash self timer. (SHQ) 100% - actual pixels.
Wide-angle. 100% - actual pixels. (top left)

Zoom: The main feature of this camera is it's 8x Optical zoom - the camera also has a built in 3x Digital zoom which can be switched on and off - the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software to blur the image so that it does not look pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using this, and simply crop the image later on your computer. I've included examples below simply to show what these features do - and whilst the digital zoom looks acceptable at the size shown (the last photo), if you printed the images out or viewed the full size versions in the gallery you would easily notice the negative effect digital zoom has on image quality.

Wide-angle Full telephoto (8x Optical zoom) Full telephoto + digital zoom (3x)

The digital zoom is seperated from the optical zoom with a line. When using the digital zoom the magnification level does not appear on screen.

When using the optical zoom, it's quite quiet, and seems fairly quick, it has about 20 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom is not displayed on screen numerically.

Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens is at full wide angle, and you can zoom in - you can also use the digital zoom. The camera can focus down to 10cm in wide-angle.

Macro - Timex Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro - Kitten / Flash Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is quite good, although using flash can lose detail due to over-exposing - also, due to the long lens, the flash could be obstructed by the lens. The images look a bit soft when viewed at 100%.

Movie: 320x240 / 15fps (with no sound) - you can't use the optical zoom, but you can use the digital zoom whilst recording. The movie is recorded as a .MOV file.


Download movie - Click here. (2.87mb MOV) Making cups of tea. (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie seems okay, although the size and framerate is rather average. Videos are limited to 16(!) seconds when using 320x240, digital zoom can be used, but not the optical zoom - this is strange considering the videos do not include sound. The lower resolution, 160x120, is limited to 70 seconds.

Conclusion

Image: Image quality is very good - the images have great colour, good detail, low noise, but seem a bit soft occassionally - there is some noticable purple fringing, which unfortunately is quite normal for ultra zoom digital cameras at the moment. The macro mode is good, if a bit average. The flash occassionally over-exposes photos when the subject is too close. The movie mode is quite poor, especially as it is limited in length and doesn't record sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is quite chunky, and has a small screen considering the size of the camera. The camera is the same size as C-720, released in 2002, which is the same size and design as the C-700 released in 2001. Knowing this, the camera does seem a bit outdated in design, but other people I showed the camera to didn't say anything about the design. It's a shame the camera isn't based on the smaller C-750, or the even smaller and newer C-765. The camera is easy to use, and has a good set of features and controls.

Alternate ultra zoom digital cameras: 6x Optical Zoom: Fuji S3000/S3500, 8x Optical Zoom: Konica Minolta Dimage Z10, HP 945, 10x Optical Zoom: Olympus C765/C770, Fuji S5000/S5500, Konica Minolta Z1/Z2, Canon S1 IS, Kodak DX6490, Kyocera Finecam M410R, 12x Optical Zoom: Konica Minolta Z3 (IS), Panasonic FZ3(IS), FZ10(IS), FZ20(IS). See www.kelkoo.co.uk or www.dealtime.co.uk for latest prices.

Summary: This camera has a large 8x Optical zoom lens, this lets you get extremely close to the "action", and somewhat makes up for the relatively low mp sensor. The camera produces excellent images, with great colour and low noise levels, although sometimes this is ruined by purple fringing. The camera offers excellent value for money - there is very little competition available for this price with an 8x Optical zoom lens. The camera is easy to use and has a good macro mode. Unfortunately the cameras video mode is very limiting, and the camera is quite bulky compared to the other Olympus cameras. If you are not interested in the video mode, and want an ultra zoom camera on a limited budget I would recommend this camera! Check latest price on Amazon.co.uk

What I like:

  • 8x Optical Zoom Lens
  • Low noise levels
  • Easy to use
  • Great colour and detail in pictures
  • Good macro mode
  • Low price

What I don't like:

  • Very limited video mode (16sec hi-res, no sound)
  • No Manual Focus
  • No Case
  • Small screen
  • Purple Fringing
  • A bit chunky / large compared to the newer Olympus cameras