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Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom

Olympus makes a strong update to the top of their prosumer lineup

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/21/2003

Test Results
In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-5060 Wide Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how C-5060's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Excellent color, appropriate saturation, and excellent ability to "tweak" the white balance settings. The C-5060 produced pleasing, accurate color in most circumstances, with appropriate saturation. Outdoors, in the high-key lighting, the cameras somewhat high native contrasted tended to produce slightly dark-looking colors, but the contrast adjustment was largely effective in taming the contrast.. I most often chose the Auto white balance setting, though it had a tendency to produce slightly warm results. Note though, that the excellent white balance "tweak" adjustment could be set to pretty effectively compensate for this, even though I chose not to use it in most of my shots, since I wanted to provide a valid reference for the camera's baseline capabilities. - The C5060's ability to make fine adjustments in the camera's white balance settings independently for each white balance operating mode is not to be underestimated: This is a flexible, powerful capability that greatly extends the usefulness and color accuracy of the camera. The 5060's manual white balance option proved itself capable of handling a very wide range of lighting situations, neutralizing the very strong yellow cast of the household incandescent lighting in my Indoor Portrait test with little difficulty. (In the process, it introduced a slight greenish cast, but here again, the white balance tweak adjustment easily corrected it.) Overall, color looked very hue accurate and appropriately saturated, but I did find myself liking the slightly brighter color of the earlier 5050 a bit more. That said, the 5060 delivered excellent color under a wide variety of conditions.

  • Exposure: Accurate exposure, good dynamic range, but high default contrast. Excellent contrast adjustment capability though. The C-5060 did a good job with exposure, requiring less exposure compensation than average on the high-key Outdoor Portrait, and about an average amount on the Indoor Portrait (without flash). Contrast was high under the harsh sunlight outdoors, but a minor contrast adjustment helped bring the midtones up. (As with its flexible white balance adjustments, the C-5060's fine-grained contrast and saturation adjustments really let you customize the camera's response to match your personal preferences and the demands of your shooting conditions.) Despite its somewhat high default contrast, the C-5060 proved to have a very good dynamic range, capturing good detail in both highlight and shadows on the outdoor house shot.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very high resolution, 1,250-1,300 lines of "strong detail." The C-5060 performed very well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900~1,000 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines horizontally, 1,250 lines vertically. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,700 lines.

  • Closeups: Excellent macro performance, even with the flash, "Super" macro gets really close. The C-5060 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 3.04 x 2.28 inches (77 x 58 millimeters) at the normal setting. In Super macro mode, results were quite a bit better, at 1.32 x 0.99 inches (33 x 25 millimeters). Resolution was very high, with excellent detail in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Corner softness was very slight in the right side of the frame. The C-5060's flash throttled down well for the macro area, producing a very even exposure with only a slight reflection in the brooch. (Note though, that the flash is disabled in Super Macro mode, so you'll need external illumination for the very closest shots.)

  • Night Shots: Really(!) excellent low-light performance, with great color balance and very low noise, even without Noise Reduction enabled. A bright autofocus-assist illuminator, too. With full manual exposure control, adjustable ISO, and a maximum exposure time of 16 seconds, the C-5060 has no trouble with low-light shooting. It produced clear, bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, with good color at all four ISO settings. Most impressive was the C-5060's handling of image noise. Even with the optional Noise Reduction disabled, noise was very low. An excellent job(!)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A tight optical viewfinder, but nearly accurate LCD monitor. The C-5060's optical viewfinder is quite tight, showing about 77 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 81 percent at telephoto. (A shame, given how low the camera's power consumption is with the LCD turned off.) The LCD monitor proved much more accurate, showing about 97 percent of the frame at both zoom settings. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-5060's LCD monitor has only a little room for improvement, but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical VF.

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide angle, though telephoto has virtually no distortion. Optical distortion on the C-5060 was a little higher than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.0 percent barrel distortion. (Average is 0.8 percent barrel distortion, which is still too high, IMHO.) The telephoto end fared much better though, as I couldn't find even one pixel of pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was fairly low, showing only a few pixels of relatively faint coloration on either side of the res target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) The 5060's lens also holds sharpness across the full frame better than most, with relatively little of the softening in the corners that I've come to expect from prosumer-grade digicam lenses. All in all, the 5060's lens appears to be of higher than average quality.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: The C-5060 Wide Zoom is a pretty fast camera overall. It starts up and shuts down a little slowly, but its full-autofocus shutter lag is better than average relative to other cameras in its class, and shot to shot cycle times are quite good as well, at about 1.5 seconds per frame, with a buffer that holds a minimum of four shots in single-shot mode, and seven shots in low-speed continuous mode. Continuous shooting speed is a little mixed, merely average at 1.3 seconds/frame in normal continuous mode (buffer size of 7 large/fine frames), but very fast at 3 frames/second in high-speed continuous mode (buffer size of 4 frames, regardless of resolution). All in all though, a fairly impressive performance, a good if not exceptional choice for sports and other action shooting. (A few cameras have higher-speed continuous modes, as well as modes that capture images continuously before you release the shutter button. That's a handy feature that the 5060 lacks, but its performance otherwise is very good indeed, particularly its autofocus speed.)

  • Battery Life: The C-5060 shows really excellent battery life, among the best in its class. In particular, it consumes almost no power when its LCD is off in capture mode, meaning you can leave it on and ready all day long without significantly affecting your battery life. In its worst case power-drain mode (capture mode with the LCD on), a freshly-charged battery should last for 3.9 hours, much better than average. As noted above, I always advise readers to purchase a second battery along with their camera, so they'll always have a spare ready to go, but the C-5060's excellent battery life means that some people will probably be able to get away with just the battery that comes with the camera. (Personally, I'd still purchase a second battery, but you may prefer to save the expense and put the money into a larger memory card instead.)

Conclusion

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The C-5050 Zoom was an impressive addition to Olympus' excellent and perennially popular Camedia digital camera line, yet the updated C-5060 Wide Zoom manages to offer a number of useful upgrades. With a 35mm equivalent focal length of 27mm, its wide-angle capability is as good as it gets among prosumer digicams without auxiliary lenses, and the Olympus-brand wide adapter goes quite a bit further yet. The lens is also quite sharp from corner to corner, and chromatic aberration is relatively low as well. Color is accurate and appropriately saturated, if not a little less vibrant than that of the previous 5050. (Easily boosted with the fine-grained saturation adjustment though, if you prefer brighter-looking color.) The fine adjustments possible for contrast and saturation make it possible to customize the camera to meet your specific shooting preferences, and the ability to dial-in separate "tweaks" for each of its white balance settings is an unusual and highly welcome feature. All in all, it's hard to find much to fault on the camera, a fact made more remarkable by its $699 estimated retail price as of its introduction in late fall, 2003. Highly recommended, and definitely a "Dave's Pick."

 

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