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
Copyright © 2004 Bob LeVitus