Olympus Digital 700 review

Price when reviewed

If there’s one camera that stands out from the crowd, it’s the Olympus. The new 700 comes in blue, orange or traditional silver, and the wedge-shaped design is also striking. It weighs only 120g – the same as a small mobile phone – yet still manages to squeeze in a 3x optical zoom (albeit with a maximum aperture of f/3.4). Another advantage is the 7-megapixel sensor, which increases resolution to 3,072 x 2,304. Plus, the body is weatherproof, which means you won’t risk damage by taking shots in the rain.

Olympus  Digital 700 review

It’s not all good news though. The 2.5in TFT is nice and large, but with only 115,000 pixels it looks grainy. It’s very reflective too; outdoors it can be a pain. Controls are intuitive: the d-pad has shortcuts to flash modes, EV shift, macro and the self-timer, while a dial switches between shooting, playback, movie, scene, guide (help menus) and anti-shake modes. The latter works well, just like the Casio’s, but it’s a shame the function isn’t available across all shooting modes.

It’s good to see a live histogram, but there’s no manual white balance and menus are frustrating to use. Fortunately, there’s an Ixus-style Func button, which provides instant access to white balance, ISO and metering modes.

However, despite the Digital 700’s extra megapixel of resolution over its rivals, we were underwhelmed by its image quality. At 100%, images showed a lack of detail due to too much compression. Plus, the camera underexposed our outdoor test scene, the metering system being slightly thrown by the overcast sky. Oversaturated colours and no adjustment in the menu simply compounded the problem.

Indoors, the Olympus was on a par with the Canon, sharing the same slight white balance error, but it produced a reasonably sharp image with a decent level of detail. However, the camera failed to focus properly in our night shot, possibly because there’s no AF assist lamp. Selecting the Night Scene preset or using the super-high 1,600 ISO setting didn’t help despite using a tripod. Movie quality at the VGA setting wasn’t great either: the frame rate is only 15fps and clips were noisy and plagued with artefacts.

A total of 19MB of memory is integrated, but if you register with Olympus you’ll get a free 64MB xD-Picture card. This is all well and good, but can’t make up for the average overall image quality. Had it been better, we could have overlooked the reflective screen and other shortcomings, but as it is there are better deals here.

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