The C-770 Ultra Zoom's shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 second to 0.5 second in automatic modes and down to 16 seconds in manual mode. Apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/8 are available too, and light sensitivity can be set automatically or manually, from ISO 64 to ISO 400. Metering options include eight-point multisegment, spot, and centre-weighted. The dozen automatic scene modes include Portrait, Sport, Landscape, Night Scene, and Self-Portrait options.
The panorama mode can align as many as 10 pictures for later stitching-in software, and there's a two-in-one option to combine a pair of images in a single frame -- both are handy and easy to use. The 12-second timer is augmented by a remote control, which worked well up to about 15 feet from the camera. The C-770 Ultra Zoom is both PictBridge and DPOF compatible, so you can print your shots yourself with a PictBridge capable printer or format orders for printout by a third-party service.
Movie buffs will drool over the C-770 Ultra Zoom's MPEG-4 capabilities, which provide 640x480-pixel capture at a smooth 30fps, with decent audio, for as long as your xD-Picture Card holds out.
On the basis of its lens alone, the Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom begs to be used for sports photography, and it didn't disappoint. While the shutter lag of 0.9 second under contrasting lighting conditions caused us to miss a few critical moments, we had better luck switching to low-speed burst mode, pressing the shutter release just before the action began, and cranking out nine full-resolution pictures in less than 5 seconds. In high-speed burst mode, with the resolution reduced to 640x480 pixels, we captured five shots in a blazing 1.9 seconds. But action photography under dreary, low-contrast conditions is likely to be frustrating. The C-770 Ultra Zoom took 2.9 seconds to squeeze off a shot under that unfavourable lighting.
In single-shot mode, the Olympus was able to snap an image every 2.6 seconds without a flash, which is about average, and once every 5.6 seconds with the flash turned on, which is a little slow. A green indicator in the viewfinder shows when the camera's buffer memory fills during shooting and indicates when the current images have been saved to the memory card. Saving images in TIFF format results in a long, 12-second wait between shots. And you'd better keep this camera switched on and ready for action because its powering-up time was more than 6 seconds.
We liked the electronic viewfinder, but it tended to freeze and display streaks, to dim and to black out just before, during, and after exposure. The rear LCD exhibited the same behaviour but we didn't use it much because it was more difficult to view outdoors under bright light.
The muscular flash unit's range extends from about 0.3 to 4.5m at the wide-angle setting, and 1.2 to 5.1m in telephoto mode, both at ISO 100.
The quality of our test photos from the Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom was generally very good, with consistent exposures, lots of detail in the shadows, and little tendency to overexpose highlights. Indoors, the automatic white balance sometimes gave us extrawarm exposures, but noise wasn't a significant problem until the light sensitivity setting was bumped up to ISO 400.
Edited by: Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by: Tom Espiner