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Olympus C-5000 Zoom

The latest "bargain" enthusiast model from Olympus delivers great pictures at a great price.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/04/2003

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-5000 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 the C-5000 Zoom's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Very good color. Slightly oversaturates some strong primary colors, and a slight tendency to leave a warm cast in images, but good overall. The C-5000 Zoom produced good color in most instances, although the Auto and Daylight white balance settings sometimes resulted in a slightly warm color balance. Color accuracy was quite good, although saturation was a little high for my taste on some shots. Outdoors, skin tones were pretty good, though slightly pink, but the blue flowers were purplish. Indoors, the Manual white balance again won out, and overall color was nearly accurate. The Manual setting produced the best results on many occasions, with good white values on the House poster and Davebox, and it handled the very difficult household incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait test quite well.

  • Exposure: Accurate exposure, but high default contrast. An effective contrast-adjustment option though. The C-5000 Zoom's exposure system handled most of my test lighting pretty well, actually producing more accurate exposures with its default setting than is often the case for some of my more difficult subjects. Its default contrast is quite high though, causing it to lose highlight detail and plug shadows on harshly-lit subjects like my Outdoor Portrait test. Offsetting this though, its contrast adjustment feature does provide a fair range of adjustment, helping tame the contrasty tone curve when needed. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of exposure compensation, and produced accurate exposures. The camera's high contrast limits dynamic range under harsh lighting, but image noise is lower than average in the shadows, preserving detail there. Despite the high contrast though, the camera both distinguished subtle tonal variations on the Q60 target and held onto significant shadow detail on the Davebox shot, a worthy accomplishment.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: Very good resolution, ~1250 lines/picture height. The C-5000 Zoom performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 900 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 1,000 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,300 lines horizontally, and 1,200 lines in the vertical direction. (The detail in the fine lines of the res target was also unusually "clean," with very little aliasing or jaggedness.) "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,600 lines.

  • Image Noise: Good to average noise levels, but less objectionable than in some competing cameras, thanks to a nice tight grain pattern. While I don't currently perform a quantitative noise test, I've decided to begin including subjective comments on noise performance here, due to the high level of interest among readers in the topic. As CCD resolution has increased (and pixel dimensions on average have shrunk), image noise has become an increasing factor. Five megapixel digicams on average show higher image noise than did their two- and three-megapixel forebears. In the case of the C-5000, I was pleased to see that image noise was generally low, and even at high ISO settings, maintained a very fine grain pattern. It's been my experience that noise with a tight, fine pattern is much less objectionable to viewers than is the blotchy-looking noise found in most digicams at high ISO settings. While I wouldn't venture to compare its quantitative performance in this regard with other cameras, I did generally find the C-5000's noise levels to be low, and its noise pattern less objectionable than that of many competing models.

  • Closeups: Exceptional macro performance in Super Macro mode. The C-5000 Zoom's normal macro setting captured a slightly large minimum area in the normal Macro mode, at 6.64 x 4.98 inches (169 x 126 millimeters). (Not surprising since the closest focal distance is 7.9 inches.) In Super Macro mode, however, it captured a very tiny minimum area of just 1.84 x 1.38 inches (47 x 35 millimeters). As is often the case with digicam macro shots, the corners of both images were fairly soft, particularly in the top corners of the frame. The C-5000 Zoom's flash throttled down well for the normal macro area, but would be ineffective at the closer Super Macro mode. (Plan on using external lighting for the closest macro shots.)

  • Night Shots: Great low-light shooting capabilities, even at the lowest ISO setting, but an AF-assist light would be a big help. The C-5000 Zoom performed well at low light levels, thanks to its variable ISO capability and maximum shutter time of 16 seconds. In my testing, it produced clear, bright images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test, at the 80, 160, and 320 ISO settings. At ISO 50, images were usable down to the 1/8 foot-candle light level (1.3 lux). Color balance was slightly warm in the dim lighting, but improved in the brighter shots. The C-5000 Zoom also has an optional Noise Reduction mode, which does a good job of eliminating image noise. The biggest limitation of the C-5000 for low light shooting is its autofocus system, which only operates reliably down to a bit below 1 foot-candle, or about the level of typical city street lighting at night. (An AF-assist illuminator would be very welcome.)

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: Great accuracy from the LCD monitor, and pretty good results with the optical viewfinder as well. The C-5000 Zoom's optical viewfinder was a little tight, but the results weren't too bad. The optical viewfinder showed about 91 percent frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 89 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor proved to be more accurate, showing about 97 frame accuracy at wide angle, and about 98 percent at telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-5000 Zoom's LCD monitor did a good job here, and even the optical viewfinder is better than average.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the C-5000 Zoom was slightly high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.9 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, where I found only one pixel of barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was moderate, showing a maximum of about five or six pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines, and a moderate amount of color. (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.) Apart from the somewhat high barrel distortion, the only other distortion I noticed was some softness in the top two corners of the frame.

  • Shutter lag and cycle time: The C-5000 is on the slow side of average in terms of shutter lag, with shutter delay ranging from 1.01 to 1.14 seconds at full autofocus. Manual focus delay is fully 0.57 seconds, but prefocus lag is quite a bit better, at 0.183 seconds. Cycle time is average, at about 2.4 seconds between frames, with no apparent buffer memory coming into play. Not a first choice for fast-paced action, responsiveness was one of the few disappointments with the C5000.

  • Battery Life: The C-5000's worst-case battery life (LCD on, in capture mode) is a slightly disappointing 92 minutes, but this is balanced by the camera's very low power consumption when the LCD is left off. With the LCD off, the C-5000 can run for nearly 8 hours on a fully charged battery. (Given that the optical viewfinder is also a bit more accurate than most, you may be able to avoid using the LCD screen much of the time.) Playback-mode life is very good as well, at just over 3 hours.


Conclusion
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The C-5000 Zoom carries on the "high value" tradition established by the earlier C-3000 and C-4000 models, offering a very strong feature set at a very affordable price. Although its features are trimmed down slightly from the top-of-the-line C-5060 Zoom, the C-5000 still offers all the features most "enthusiast" users crave, including a full range of exposure control, extensive creative controls for tweaking image parameters like contrast and saturation, a hot shoe for use with external flash units, a handy IR remote, and body threads to support the use of add-on optics like macro, tele, and wide-angle accessory lenses. (The main differences relative to the C-5060 are a 3x vs 4x zoom lens, no sound recording, and no live histogram display for exposure feedback.) It offers very good color and accurate exposure as well. I personally find its default tone curve to be too contrasty for my tastes, but the optional contrast adjustment works well and helps tame the high contrast in situations with harsh lighting. In common with other five-megapixel models, image noise is higher than we saw in earlier two- and three-megapixel cameras, but the very fine, tight grain pattern in the C-5000's noise made it much less objectionable to my eye than that of many of its competitors. All in all, a very nice digicam with great functionality, at a very good price. An excellent value for the enthusiast on a budget, this would also make a nearly ideal camera for photography students. Highly recommended.

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