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  10-17-03 | This column originally appeared in the Houston Chronicle.


10X Optical Zoom Makes Olympus C-740
a Digital Camera Worth Buying


By Bob LeVitus

My Nikon CoolPix 775 isn't a bad digital camera. But after less than 2 years, it wore out. First the battery door latch broke. Thanks to the miracle of duct tape that one didn't even slow me down. But soon thereafter the flash broke as well, firing only when it's in a particularly good mood, which is to say, rarely. I could have lived with the duct-taped door, but without the flash I was limited to shooting only outdoors or in brightly lit rooms. Not good. So I went to get it fixed and was shocked to learn that repairing it would cost almost as much as replacing it—over $200.

Well, that frosted me. I'd be danged if I'd pay that much to have it fixed. If I had to spend money, I was going to get a new camera that had the features I wanted and wasn't a Nikon.

My criteria were simple: I wanted more megapixels (the Nikon has 2MP), which would let me print 8 x 10 pictures without "pixelization." I wanted more optical zoom than the Nikon's 3X, which would make it easier to shoot my kids at soccer and softball games. And finally, I wanted to pay less than $400.

So I did what well-connected shoppers do and hopped on the Web to figure out which camera I wanted. (All you need is Google you know...) After reading dozens of reviews and user comments I decided that the camera that best suited my criteria was the Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom. It's a 3.2 megapixel camera with a 10X optical zoom that sells for around $400 if you shop around for it.

This was definitely a case where mixing business with pleasure made sense, so I called Olympus and arranged to borrow a C-740 Ultra Zoom for a month for "review."

The 10X optical zoom is the showstopper. No other digital camera under $500 comes close. I was able to shoot soccer games from the sidelines and get good shots even when the action was at the other end of the field. I was able to take close up action shots even when the players were a good thirty or forty feet away and the shutter is fast enough to freeze the action beautifully. I daresay I took more "keeper" action shots in a month with this camera than I took in over a year with the Nikon. In my humble opinion, this is the camera's best feature.

Unlike the Nikon, which uses its own proprietary rechargeable batteries, the C-740 uses good old AA batteries. I've been using some rechargeable NiMH batteries I had laying around, but it's nice to know I could use a package of store-bought AAs in a pinch.

There's nothing I hate about it. Like most digital cameras, the controls take some getting used to. And it's larger than the Nikon, so I can't slip it into a shirt or pants pocket as easily (though it fits in most of my jacket pockets easily). My biggest complaint is that while it comes with a booklet that describes most features briefly, the real user manual is a PDF. I'd have loved to have a hard copy instead or in addition.

At the end of the day it's all about getting good pictures and I'm getting more of them with this camera than I did with my Nikon.   Over the past month I've shot thousands of pictures; I give the Olympus C-740 Ultra Zoom my highest recommendation—I'm buying one to replace the near-dead Nikon CoolPix 775.

C-740 Ultra Zoom
Street price: $425.
For more info, check out the Olympus web site:

Or visit the Media Mall digital cameras page
for preferred vendors.

Bob LeVitus is a leading authority on Mac OS and the author of 41 books, including The Little iTunes Book and Mac OS X for Dummies, 2nd Edition. E-mail comments to [email protected].

Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus




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