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10/10

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As a camera reviewer I get to see all the latest models usually before they’re in the shops, but I only have them for a week or so before they have to go back to the manufacturers. Most of the time this is a perfectly fine arrangement, however once in a while I get a camera that makes such an impression on me I’m reluctant to return it. The Olympus C-7070 is just such a camera. I’ve only had it two weeks so far, but I have to admit I’ve completely fallen in love with it. I wonder if the marketing team at Olympus would believe me if I told them I’d lost it?

The reason for my infatuation is simply that the C-7070 is one of the most capable semi-pro digital cameras I’ve ever used. It is superbly well made, has every feature I could ever want on a camera, and its image quality is absolutely fantastic. It has only one major drawback; it’s just so appallingly ugly. When I was out testing it, I kept having this overwhelming urge to put a bag over it.

As a piece of design the C-7070 is the perfect definition of function over form. It’s designed to do a job and do it well, not to sit around looking cute. If this camera was a car it would be 1989 Toyota Hi-Lux pickup with a bull bar, off-road tyres and a cement mixer in the back.

If the £345 price tag wasn’t enough of a clue, it’s obvious from the moment you pick it up that this seven megapixel beast means business. It is solid and chunky, and weighing a hefty 433g it’s heavy too. The uncompromising design is brutal but businesslike. If you painted it matt green and stenciled on a few serial numbers it would look like a piece of military hardware. It’s certainly built like it could be; with a solid magnesium alloy case and firmly mounted metal controls it’s tough enough to knock nails in with.

The main feature that sets the C-7070 apart from other semi-pro cameras is its lens. Most digital zoom cameras have a maximum wide-angle setting equivalent to around 35mm, which isn’t really very wide at all. The C-7070 has a zoom range equivalent to 27-110mm, which is actually wider than the conventional standard wide angle 28mm lens. Not only that but it uses ultra-high quality Olympus ED optical glass, the same as on the company’s professional SLR lenses.

The wide-angle ability gives the C-7070 a photographic versatility that has been sadly lacking from the top sector of the market. This versatility is augmented by the camera’s other features, such as the range of available shutter speeds (16 – 1/4000th sec), the fast maximum and tiny minimum aperture (F2.8 – F11) and the superbly adaptable exposure metering and AF systems. This camera has more settings, options and features than any non-SLR camera I’ve ever seen.

Naturally it has a full range of manual exposure functions, optional manual focusing and a choice of ESP, centre-weighted or spot metering. It also has a choice of seven scene program modes, including two underwater settings for use with the optional waterproof case.

The AF system is worthy of special mention. The C-7070 uses a new special 143-point dual autofocus system with Predictive AF that covers virtually the whole frame area, designed to capture fast-moving subjects accurately, as well as focusing on subjects as close as 3cm in super-macro mode.

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