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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 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 11/04/2003

Executive Overview

Following in the footsteps of previous Camedia C-Series digicams, Olympus presents the C-5000 Zoom, to fill the niche vacated by the very successful C-4000 Zoom. With a slightly more curvy and fashionable body design, the C-5000 Zoom offers a five-megapixel CCD for even higher resolution, and an external flash hot shoe (rather than the sync socket on the previous model). The C-5000 Zoom measures only 4.1 x 2.9 x 1.8 inches (105 x 74 x 46 millimeters), a good bit smaller than its predecessor. It's also a bit lighter, weighing 9.6 ounces (272 grams), including card and battery. While it's more of a handful than Olympus' D-series compact models, the C-5000 Zoom is still fairly easy to stash in a large pocket or purse. I do highly recommend purchasing a soft cover or small camera bag for better protection, although.

Like its more advanced cousin, the C-5060 Zoom, the C-5000 Zoom offers a wide range of user controls, including a one-touch white balance function (with a very useful white balance adjustment feature for minor color tweaks), spot autofocus, wide-ranging contrast and sharpness adjustments, and QuickTime movies. It also incorporates an advanced Noise Reduction System, which uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise in long exposures shot under low light conditions. However, the C-5000 Zoom is missing a couple of features that I really enjoyed on the C-4000 model, namely the histogram feature, Multi-Spot metering mode, and adjustable AF mode, along with a few others. Still, the C-5000 Zoom is a very capable camera, with plenty of exposure features to experiment with.

The C-5000 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, with 134,000 pixels. When the LCD monitor is engaged, it automatically displays detailed exposure information, with the current exposure mode, f/stop setting, shutter speed, and exposure compensation overlaid on top of the viewfinder display (a nice feature not found on every digicam) and the number of images available in the current resolution setting, at the bottom of the monitor. The C-5000 also provides a very helpful numeric/bargraph distance display when using the Manual Focus option, as well as a digital zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) that shows the camera's 3x optical zoom in operation, and the progress of the digital zoom whenever you zoom past the range of the optical telephoto.

The 7.8-23.4mm 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a f/2.8 maximum aperture. In addition to the C-5000's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 4x with the digital zoom function. (Users should be aware that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom though, since the digital zoom merely and enlarges the center portion of the CCD. As a result, digitally enlarged images are invariably "softer" than ones enlarged via a zoom lens.) A set of accessory threads on the camera body accepts an optional lens adapter that lets you attach accessory lenses (macro, wide-angle, and telephoto auxiliary lenses) in front of the camera's own lens.

The C-5000's image file sizes include: 2,560 x 1,920; 2,272 x 1,704; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1280 x 960; 1024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed TIFF format that produces full-resolution images free of compression artifacts.

The C-5000 Zoom offers all the exposure control you could ask for, including Auto, Program (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Speed Priority (S), and Manual (M) exposure modes. Auto mode controls the exposure completely, with you setting only basic options like zoom, macro mode, etc. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as one second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in A or S modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8.0 and shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but offers shutter times as long as 16 seconds. There's also a selection of preset Scene modes, to make it easy to snap good-looking photos in what might otherwise be challenging conditions. Scene Program modes include Self-Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape / Scene, Landscape / Portrait, Sports, and Portrait modes. Finally, the My Mode feature provides a custom setup for the camera, letting you select complex combinations of settings with a single menu choice.

The C-5000 provides five ISO options (light sensitivity settings) of Auto, 50, 80, 160, and 320, automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool Fluorescent, or Quick Reference (aka custom or manual white balance adjustment) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions, while a white balance color adjustment function lets you fine-tune the color balance across a wide range from red to blue.

Image contrast, sharpness, and saturation adjustments are available through the Shooting menu, and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone. If they're fine-grained enough, I particularly appreciate finding contrast and saturation adjustments on a camera, as they let me customize the camera's default "look" to match my personal preferences. The adjustments on the C-5000 do pretty well in this regard, although I'd like to see both more subtle steps and a wider overall range. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits, and a Remote Control mode for use with the included IR remote.

The C-5000 Zoom's Movie mode records QuickTime movies without sound, for maximum times dictated by its internal buffer memory, in either SQ (160 x 120 pixels) or HQ (320 x 240 pixels) modes. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to 1.7 frames per second, and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 shots with the same exposure and white balance, for subsequent merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. (Note that the panorama option is only available when you're using Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards.) One variant of the Continuous mode automatically "brackets" the camera's exposure, snapping either 3 or 5 shots in succession, and varying the exposure by anywhere from 0.3 to 1.0 EV between shots. The "2 in 1" mode captures two individual images, saved as a single split-screen image.

The camera's internal flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow Sync), with flash range extending to approximately 12.8 feet (3.9 meters). The Slow Sync flash mode uses a slower shutter speed with the flash, to allow more of the ambient lighting into the photo, and includes the option to fire the flash at either the beginning or end of the exposure, as well as add a Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash. A proprietary hot shoe on top of the camera lets you connect an Olympus-branded external flash unit when additional flash power is needed. You also can increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Shooting menu.

The Olympus C-5000 Zoom ships with a 32MB xD-Picture Card for image storage (larger capacity cards up to 512MB are available separately). You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and Olympus' "Auto Connect USB" interface means the camera will automatically appear on your computer's desktop, if you're using Windows Me, XP, or 2000, or Mac OS 8.6 or later. A video output jack and cable let you play your images back on an external video monitor, which can also be used as a super-sized viewfinder in capture mode. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

While not offering quite the range of capabilities of the C-5060 Zoom, the Camedia C-5000 Zoom offers really excellent creative control, great low-light capabilities, and large file sizes for maximum print output. When you factor in its excellent image quality, the C-5000 amounts to one of the better deals in the digicam marketplace.

 

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