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Olympus C-5000 Zoom

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

Review First Posted: 11/04/2003




MSRP $599 US

 

*
5.0-megapixel sensor, delivering 2,560 x 1,920-pixel images
*
3x optical zoom lens, with body threads for accessory lenses
* Extensive exposure controls
*
Adjustments for contrast, saturation, and sharpness
*
Hot shoe for external flash

 

 

Manufacturer Overview
Olympus has long been a dominant player in the digicam marketplace. They boast one of the broadest lineups of digicams in the industry, with numerous models ranging from pure entry-level point-and-shoot digicams to the exceptional E-1 SLR. As of this writing in late October 2003, the five-megapixel, 3x-zoom C-5000 Zoom is one of their most recent models.

For quite a while now, Olympus has made a practice of following the introduction a higher-end, fully-featured model with a slightly de-featured version at a significantly lower price. Leveraging development costs over two similar models, they can bring very cost-effective cameras to market.

Recently, Olympus returned to this successful strategy with the introduction of the C-5000 Zoom, a five-megapixel digicam that updates the earlier four-megapixel C-4000 Zoom. The C-5000 Zoom offers just about every "enthusiast" feature you could ask for, excellent image quality, and an amazing $449 estimated "street" price as of its introduction. However, the C-5000 Zoom is missing a few of the extra details that the C-4000 boasted, such as the histogram display, movie editing capability, viewfinder diopter adjustment, AF modes, and Multi-Spot exposure metering, most prominently among them. Still, the camera is capable and able to handle just about any exposure situation, with an intuitive user interface. Read on for all the details!

 

High Points

 

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.

 

Design

Continuing the familiar Olympus Camedia C-Series design (with a few slight tweaks), the C-5000 Zoom's outward appearance is similar to that of previous "C" models. The camera is essentially an update to the previous C-4000 model, and features just a few style differences to set its body apart, in addition to a handful of feature differences that I'll discuss later on. Overall, the camera has a few more curves and angles than the previous model, giving it a sleeker, more fashion-forward appearance. Size and shape are somewhere between a traditional 35mm film point & shoot and a compact SLR, as the camera measures 4.1 x 2.9 x 1.8 inches (105 x 74 x 46 millimeters), just a hair smaller than the C-4000. The C-5000 is just slightly lighter as well, at 9.6 ounces (272 grams) with card and battery installed, with a body design that combines structural plastic and aluminum decorative panels.

Just like previous C-Series digicams, the C-5000 Zoom looks and feels very much like a small film-based SLR camera, substantial enough for a good hold, but small enough to slide into a large purse or coat pocket when you're done shooting. However, the C-5000's redesigned handgrip felt a little awkward at times, perhaps because of my larger hands. (Others at IR didn't share this view though: writer-helper Stephanie Boozer and newsletter editor Mike Pasini both found the C-5000 very comfortable to hold.) A comfortably wide neck strap comes with the camera, enabling you to keep the C-5000 out and ready to shoot on a moment's notice.

The telescoping lens extends just over three-quarters of an inch beyond the front of the camera body when powered on in either Still Shooting (Record) or Movie capture modes. A body flange with accessory threads inside it projects about one-quarter of an inch from the camera's front panel, well inside the hand grip. The lens is protected by a spring-lock, removable plastic lens cap that can be tethered to the camera with the included strap.

From the front of the camera, the edge of the zoom lever (upper left corner) is visible, as well as the flash, self-timer alert light, viewfinder window, and IR receiver (for the included wireless remote control). As mentioned earlier, the inside lip of the exterior lens barrel has a set of filter threads that accepts a lens adapter tube for attaching auxiliary lenses to the camera.

Featuring a similar control layout to other C-Series digicams, the C-5000 Zoom's back panel has all of the control buttons positioned above or to the right of the 1.8-inch LCD color monitor. The four-way Arrow Pad serves multiple functions, and is located next to the lower right corner of the display. An OK/Menu button is at its center. Just above the LCD monitor are the Flash / Erase, Spot / Macro / Protect, and AE Lock / Custom / Rotate buttons. Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor is the Monitor button, which controls the LCD display. The optical viewfinder in the upper left corner of the camera zooms in and out with the lens, and a pair of LED lamps next to the eyepiece report the camera's status. An LED lamp in the top right corner lights whenever the camera accesses the memory card.

The large hand grip, housing the battery and xD-Picture Card compartment (accessed from the bottom panel), makes up the right side of the camera. The grip is sculpted to fit comfortably in your hand, with a subtly recessed finger hold on the front and a dimpled plastic thumb grip on the back. At the top of the handgrip is one of the eyelets for attaching the neck strap.

Below the left side neck strap eyelet is the connector compartment cover, a hinged plastic door that covers the DC-In, Video Out, and USB connector ports.

The top of the camera holds the external flash hot shoe (with a plastic cover), Zoom Lever, Shutter button (surrounded by the Zoom Lever), Power dial, and Mode dial. Angling down from the top panel is the Quick View button.

The bottom of the camera holds the battery and memory card compartment and a plastic screw-mount tripod socket, which is just far enough from the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. The tripod socket is also off-center from the lens, making panorama shots with foreground objects more difficult.

The RM-2 infrared remote control included with the C-5000 Zoom isn't as capable as the RM-1 remote I've come to know and love on earlier/higher end Olympus cameras. While the RM-1 allows you to trip the shutter, control the optical zoom, and scroll through captured images remotely, the RM-2 that ships with the C-5000 is limited to tripping the shutter, by way of a 3-second self-timer delay. Happily though, if you happen to have an RM-2 from an earlier Olympus camera, or choose to purchase one separately, the C-5000 is fully compatible with it, providing full support for the RM-2's functions. I've always enjoyed this feature on past Olympus digicams, as it comes in quite handy in the studio. It's also great any time you're using a really long exposure time and want to prop the camera on something to avoid jiggling it by pressing the Shutter button. A pleasant surprise is the distance from which the IR remote will control the camera (in my experience, out to 15 feet or more, depending on the ambient lighting). I'm less crazy although, about the fact that the camera always waits a few seconds, counting down before firing the shutter in response to the remote. An option to set the shutter delay to zero when using the remote would be very welcome.

 

Viewfinder

The C-5000 Zoom offers both a real-image optical viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, 134,000 pixel, TFT color LCD screen. Unlike the previous C-4000 model, the optical viewfinder does not feature a diopter correction adjustment. It does have a fairly high eyepoint, leaving a reasonable amount of room between your eye and the finder for an eyeglass lens to fit. (Although I still found it necessary to press the lens of my eyeglasses up against the camera body to see the full frame.) Although the optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, it does not show the operation of the digital zoom, which can only be used when the LCD monitor is on. A set of four lines in the center of the field of view mark the autofocus area, and help you center your subjects. Two LED indicators (one orange and one green) are adjacent to the viewfinder window, indicating camera status with either glowing or blinking lights. If the green LED blinks, the camera is either having trouble focusing, or there's a problem with the memory card. A solid green LED indicates that focus is set and the camera is ready to snap the picture. A flashing orange LED means that the flash is still charging or there is a potential of camera shake, while a solid orange LED shows that the flash is fully charged and ready to fire.

The C-5000 Zoom's LCD monitor provides detailed information about exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the screen. Information on ISO speed, flash mode, drive mode, and the state of several other camera settings may optionally appear on the LCD screen, if the Shooting Menu (Camera sub-menu) "INFO" setting is turned on. There is no option to completely disable the information overlay, without turning the LCD screen off altogether. (I'd really like to be able to turn off the info overlay sometimes, to avoid obscuring critical subject details.) In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a manually-set constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value updates continuously in response to scene lighting and the exposure compensation setting. In Manual mode, the camera displays both the selected f/stop and shutter speed values (adjustable with the left / right and up / down Arrow buttons, respectively), while the exposure compensation readout serves as an exposure display, showing the amount the camera thinks your settings will over- or underexpose the subject. (The exposure display turns red if your chosen exposure is more than 3 EV units away from what the camera calculates to be correct.

When using the LCD monitor to review captured images, you can zoom in on displayed images up to 4x, and then scroll around the enlarged image using the Arrow buttons. This is very handy for checking focus, small details, or precise framing. There's also an Index display option, which shows either four, nine, or 16 thumbnail images at a time, as determined by a setup menu option. A very handy "Quick View" function also lets you switch quickly from Shooting to Playback mode by pressing the Quick View button on top of the camera. In Quick View mode, the camera will display the most recently captured image on the LCD screen, but you have essentially all of the Playback-mode options available to you, and can scroll back and forth to other images, zoom in and out on them, and call up the information display. You can revert to shooting mode either by pressing the Quick View button again, or simply by half-pressing the Shutter button.

A Record View function, enabled through the Shooting menu (Setup sub-menu), displays the most recently captured image on the LCD screen while the image is being recorded to the memory card. This feature gives you the option of deleting an image instantly by pressing the Flash / Delete button while the review image is still onscreen. It's a great way to check your images without spending time switching back and forth between Playback and Shooting modes.

In my tests, the C-5000 Zoom's optical viewfinder was a bit more accurate than average, showing 90-91% of the final image area, depending on the zoom setting of the lens. The LCD viewfinder was close to perfect, showing 97-98% of the final frame.

 

Optics

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The Olympus C-5000 Zoom is equipped with 3x, 7.8-23.4mm lens, providing a range of angular coverage equivalent to that of a 38-114mm zoom on a 35mm film camera. The glass lens has a maximum aperture of f/2.8 -f/4.8 (depending on the zoom position).

Focus ranges from 19.7 inches (50 centimeters) to infinity in Normal mode, with a Macro mode ranging from 7.9 to 19.7 inches (20 to 50 centimeters). A Super Macro mode lets you get as close as 1.6 inches (4.0 centimeters). You enter either macro mode by pressing the macro/spot metering button on the C-5000's back panel, but Super Macro mode must first be enabled through the LCD menu system. In normal Macro mode, you can zoom the lens back and forth across its range of available focal lengths, but Super Macro mode restricts the lens to a single, slightly wide-angle setting. Minimum coverage in normal macro mode is an unimpressive 6.64 x 4.98 inches (169 x 126 millimeters), but Super Macro takes that to a truly "super" minimum area of just 1.84 x 1.38 inches (47 x 35 millimeters).

The camera's TTL (through the lens) autofocus system uses a contrast-detect method to gauge focus, which means that it should work just fine with auxiliary lenses. The green LED next to the optical viewfinder glows solid as soon as the subject is in focus. (A flashing green LED generally means there's a problem focusing, so you may need to switch to Macro mode, back away from the subject, or get more light on it for the AF system to "see" by.) The C-5000's AF system appears to work well down to a bit less than one foot-candle (11 lux) of illumination, about the level of lighting found in typical city night scenes, corresponding to a shutter speed of 2 seconds at f/2.8, and ISO 100. (An AF-assist light would be really welcome for darker conditions.) Although the C-5000 doesn't feature an automatic focus lock, you can manually lock both exposure and focus by centering the desired portion of the subject in the frame, half-pressing the Shutter button, and then recomposing the image while continuing to half-press the Shutter button. (See the subsequent Exposure section of this review for a description of the independent autoexposure lock control.)

You can also designate the AF area that the camera uses to gauge focus. A total of nine AF area options are provided, two each above, below, left, and right of center, plus the default center position.

A manual focus option is available by pressing and holding the OK / Menu button on the back panel, which displays the manual focus distance scale on the LCD monitor. The up and down arrow keys adjust the focus distance, and the right and left keys select between MF and AF focus modes. When you adjust the focus manually, the LCD viewfinder display changes to show a 2x magnified view of the central portion of the image while you're actually adjusting the focus, to make it easier to see whether or not your subject is in focus. The display returns to normal size once you release the up or down arrow button. I found the enlarged view pretty helpful in setting focus when the lens was at or near its telephoto position, but less so with the lens at wide angle focal lengths. (This is almost certainly due to the much greater depth of field obtained with the lens set to wide angle.) I really like the C-5000's use of a bargraph focusing distance display, combined with numbers indicating specific distances. Some cameras offer only a bargraph display, with no numeric information, a much less useful arrangement, IMHO. Having specific numbers to refer to can be invaluable in low-light situations, where there's not enough light to see whether the subject is in focus on the LCD screen, and your only option is to estimate the distance to your subject.

The C-5000 Zoom's exterior lens barrel incorporates filter accessory threads that couple to Olympus' lens adapter tube, the CLA-6. (At the time of this review, the CLA-6 was not yet available from Olympus, and thus I have no specs on this product.) This optional adapter extends the threads outward, so they are flush with the front of the lens when it's fully extended. A range of accessory lenses then couple to the CLA-6, extending the camera's wide angle, telephoto, and macro capabilities.

As much as 4x of digital zoom is available in addition to the 3x optical zoom, increasing the C-5000's total zoom range to 12x. Digital zoom is only accessible when the LCD monitor is engaged; when the LCD is turned off, the digital zoom returns to the 1x setting. It also cannot be used with the uncompressed TIFF mode. As always though, remember that digital zoom just "stretches" the image from the central portion of the CCD, which directly trades off resolution for magnification. Digital zoom images will always be softer and less sharp than those with equivalent magnification delivered entirely by an optical zoom lens.

 

Exposure

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Like other Olympus C-Series digicams, the C-5000 Zoom offers a lot of exposure control, including Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual exposure modes. Additional exposure options include four ISO settings (Auto, 50, 80, 160, and 320); exposure compensation up to +/- 2 EV, auto bracketing, internal and external flash adjustment, and spot or multizone metering, in addition to a handful of other creative image settings.

In Auto mode, the camera is in charge of the exposure entirely. The user can only adjust the optical and digital zoom, drive mode, or access the Self-Timer and Macro modes. In Program mode, the camera selects both the aperture and shutter speed (to a maximum of one second), while you control the remaining exposure options such as ISO, Exposure Compensation, White Balance, and metering mode. Aperture Priority lets you set the aperture from f/2.8 to f/8.0, while the camera chooses the best corresponding shutter speed, to a maximum exposure time of one second. In Shutter Priority, you can select shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds, and the camera selects the best corresponding aperture setting. (Note that in program and aperture-priority modes, the default "Auto" setting of the flash will restrict the maximum exposure time to between 1/20 and 1/100 seconds. Slower shutter speeds will only be available if you either turn off the flash, or set it to slow sync mode.)

In Manual mode, you control both aperture and shutter speed (which can extend to 16 seconds in this mode). In Manual mode, the exposure compensation display at the top of the LCD screen changes into an exposure meter, a helpful feature. As you scroll through various shutter speed/aperture combinations, the camera indicates whether or not it thinks the current setting will give you a correct exposure. It does this by showing the f/stop and shutter speed in green, and the difference between your settings and the "correct" exposure in white numerals, across a range of +/- 3 EV. If the differential exceeds 3 EV, the numbers turn red and stay fixed at a +/- 3 EV reading.

In addition to the five basic exposure modes, a "My Mode" option lets you save a set of exposure settings that can be accessed via the virtual mode dial. Thus, if you shoot under the same conditions frequently, you can save the settings and instantly recall them when needed. This can be very handy when you shoot frequently under the same conditions, such as in an office environment or any place where the lighting is controlled and constant.

Six Scene Program stops on the Mode dial offer preset modes for specific shooting situations. Included are Movie (described shortly), Self-Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape / Scene, Landscape / Portrait, Sports, and Portrait modes. Self-Portrait mode lets you take a picture of yourself by holding the camera in front of you. Night Scene mode optimizes the camera for darker shooting situations, keeping the exposure under automatic control but adjusting the ISO and shutter speed for the best exposure. The two Landscape modes are set up for capturing broad vistas of scenery with or without people in the foreground. In Sports mode, the exposure system is biased toward faster shutter speeds to freeze the action, while Portrait mode sets up the camera to capture individual portraits with wider aperture settings, leaving the subject in crisply focused in front of a slightly blurred background.

Two metering systems are available on the C-5000 Zoom: Spot and ESP multi-segment metering. Spot and ESP are accessed by pressing the Spot / Macro / Print button on the camera's back panel. Under the default ESP multi-segment setting, the camera takes readings from a number of areas across the field of view, and evaluates both brightness and contrast between the areas to determine the best exposure. Spot metering reads the exposure from the very center of the image, so you can pinpoint the specific area of the subject you want properly exposed and lock in on that exposure (as well as the lens focus setting) by depressing the Shutter button halfway and holding it down while you recompose the scene. The AE Lock button also lets you lock exposure independently of focus, simply by pressing the button a single time. The exposure is then locked until the button is pressed again or the Shutter button is pressed.

In the main exposure modes (Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Manual modes), the C-5000 Zoom provides a range of ISO (light sensitivity) settings, including Auto, 50, 80, 160, and 320 ISO equivalents. Higher ISO settings naturally bring along with them higher levels of image noise, but I found the pattern of the C-5000's noise to be unusually tight and fine-grained, making it less objectionable than that of many competing models.

Camera light meters assume that the world averages out to a medium gray, and make their exposure decisions accordingly. This works well most of the time, but subjects that are very bright or dark overall can trick the metering system. Light subjects will tend to be underexposed, while dark ones can be overexposed. In these situations, you need to be able to adjust the camera's default exposure to compensate for the subject's overall tone. This is the function of the "exposure compensation" adjustment. To adjust the exposure compensation on the C-5000 Zoom, simply press either the right or left Arrow buttons (in any exposure mode except Manual) to increase or decrease the exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments, up to +/- 2 EV. The current compensation setting is displayed in the upper right corner of the LCD. (The LCD viewfinder must be enabled to adjust this setting, but once it is set, you can turn the LCD off to conserve power, and the setting will remain in effect.)

Sometimes you aren't sure how best to adjust the exposure for a given subject, and don't want to take the time to adjust the exposure compensation manually. (The subject might move or go away while you're fiddling with the camera's controls.) The answer to this dilemma is found in the C-5000's Auto Bracketing (BKT) function. Selected through the Shooting Mode Menu, this feature makes the camera automatically "bracket" the exposure for each shot by as much as +/- 2 EV in either three- or five-step increments (0.3, 0.6, or 1.0 EV units each). For example, with a setting of five 0.3 EV steps, the camera will automatically snap five shots, at exposure adjustments of -0.7, -0.3, 0, +0.3, and +0.7 EV, insuring that at least one shot would be exposed just right. The bracketing function centers its efforts around whatever exposure you've previously selected as the starting point, including any exposure compensation adjustments you've made.

White Balance is also set in the Mode Menu, with Auto, One Touch (Manual), or one of six Preset options: Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, or Cool Fluorescent, to accommodate a variety of lighting situations. In One Touch mode, white balance is calculated by placing a white card in front of the lens and pressing the OK button. You can also fine-tune the white balance setting with the "WB+/-" setting under the Picture submenu. An adjustment bar appears on the LCD screen, with options to increase or decrease the red or blue tones. (I really like this idea of fine-tuning the white balance. Most digicams tend to have slight biases in their white balance systems under various lighting conditions. Once you get used to how a particular camera shoots, it can be very helpful to have this sort of "tweaking" adjustment available to modify the color shift.)

The C-5000 Zoom has a 12-second Self-Timer for self-portraits or those occasions when you don't want to risk camera shake by pressing the Shutter button to make the exposure. A Remote Control mode works with the accessory remote unit, letting you trip the shutter from a greater distance away. When the remote control is used to trip the shutter, there's always a 3-second delay between pressing the remote's button and when the shutter actually fires. (As I mentioned earlier, I'd really like to see an option for the remote to trip the shutter with no delay.) The Function menu option lets you capture images in Black & White or Sepia modes. The camera also offers contrast, sharpness, and saturation adjustments, all in +/- five-step increments.

 

Flash

The C-5000 Zoom has a fairly standard built-in flash, with five basic operating modes: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill Flash, Flash Off, and Slow Synchro modes. Flash range extends to approximately 12.5 feet (3.8 meters). The Slow Synchro mode combines a slow shutter speed with the flash to let more ambient light into the image. This results in more natural lighting behind flash-illuminated subjects. When photographing moving subjects, Slow Synchro will record some motion blur because of the longer exposure time, with the initial or final image frozen by the flash exposure. I say "initial or final," because the Slow 1 menu option fires the flash at the beginning of the exposure (producing a blur in front of the subject), while Slow 2 fires the flash at the end of the exposure (producing a blur behind the subject, where you'd generally expect to see it). There's also a Slow Red-Eye Reduction mode, for portraits.

An external flash hot shoe on top of the camera replaces the five-pin proprietary flash sync socket found on the C-4000 model, and lets you connect a more powerful external flash. The shoe works with Olympus' FL-20 and FL-50 external flash units, which can be controlled through the camera. Both the internal and external flash units can be used together or separately. Happily though, the shoe also works with ordinary "dumb" automatic flash units, so chances are that any old flash unit you have laying around will work with the C-5000. (Just check to make sure that your generic flash has an acceptably low trigger voltage, preferably 5 volts or less.)

Another nice feature of the C-5000 Zoom's internal flash system is its Flash Brightness adjustment, which allows you to change the flash brightness from +2 to -2 EV in one-third-step increments. When using the built-in flash with an external unit, you can use this feature to adjust the balance of light between the two, a very nice feature that permits subtle direct/bounce flash lighting effects.

Special Exposure Modes

Movie Mode

The C-5000's Movie mode is accessed via the Mode dial on top of the camera. Movies can be recorded in either HQ (320 x 240-pixel) or SQ (160 x 120-pixel) resolution modes. Both record at approximately 15 frames per second. Movies are recorded without sound, but one benefit of this is that the zoom lens can be used while recording. (Zoom lenses generally aren't usable when recording movies with sound because the motors that actuate the zoom lens are too loud, interfering with the audio. If you want to have the option of recording movie clips with sound, check out Olympus' C-5060 Zoom, or the C-750 UltraZoom, which offers a 10x zoom capability, albeit with the reduced resolution of a 4-megapixel CCD.) Maximum recording time per clip is limited by the C-5000 Zoom's buffer memory, but is fairly generous, as shown in the table below. Here's a copy of the recording time table from the C-5000 Zoom's manual:

 

Recording Mode
Resolution
Recording Time in Seconds
(32MB or larger card)
HQ
320x240
(15 frames/sec)
32
SQ
160x120
(15 frames/sec)
140

 

The available seconds of recording time available on the memory card appear on the LCD monitor if it's activated, based on the quality mode selected. (Note though, that regardless of the total amount of space available on the memory card, individual clips cannot be longer than the times shown in the table above.) As mentioned above, you can use the zoom control while recording movies, but the motion of the zoom is somewhat slower than in still recording. Exposure Compensation, Focus Lock, Self-Timer, ISO setting, White Balance, and Function (B&W and Sepia) are also available while in Movie mode.

A very nice feature of the C-5000's movie mode is its "Index" capability, a great way of quickly seeing what's "inside" a movie file. In Movie Playback mode, selecting Index calls up a display of nine individual frames, equally spaced throughout the movie. The index is then saved as a still image file. (The C-5000 lacks the ability of the earlier C-4000, to vary the beginning and ending point of the movie index file, as well as the ability to edit a movie file by lopping off the beginning or end of it..)

Panorama Mode

The C-5000 Zoom offers a Panorama exposure mode when using an Olympus brand panorama-enabled xD-Picture Card. In this mode, the exposure and white balance for a series of shots are determined by the first exposure in the series, making them easier to stitch together in the computer later. The Panorama function is accessed in the Shooting menu through the Camera submenu. When activated, it provides light blue guide lines at the edges of the pictures to help you align successive shots, leaving enough overlap between them for the stitching software to do its job. Up to 10 shots can be taken in a panoramic series. (A note to the Olympus engineers: Why limit this function to 10 shots? On a number of occasions, I've wanted to shoot panoramas with more than 10 shots in the sequence. This may be uncommon, but I don't understand the need to limit the panorama function to a maximum of 10 shots.) Note that this function is only enabled by xD-Picture Cards with built-in panorama-related firmware found on Olympus brand memory cards. Images are saved individually and then assembled on a computer after they've been downloaded. (Another note: If you don't want to use Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards, you can accomplish the same end by shooting in Manual exposure mode to fix the exposure parameters, and daylight or Manual white balance mode, to fix the white balance.)

Sequence Mode

Taking advantage of its relatively generous buffer memory, the C-5000 Zoom offers a Sequence mode that mimics the motor drive on a film camera, continually recording images as long as the Shutter button is held down, or until the buffer memory is full (this varies with the image quality and subject, as well as available memory card space). Available with all compression settings except uncompressed TIFF, the slowest available shutter speed in Sequence mode is 1/30 second, to prevent blurring from camera movement, or conflict between the image-acquisition time and the demands of the continuous-mode processing. One notable limitation of the Sequence mode is that the camera's internal flash cannot be used, since it can't cycle fast enough to keep up with the camera's shooting. However, if you have an external flash capable of recycling at nearly two frames per second, and you shoot in Aperture Priority mode, an external flash may work just fine. (This limitation on flash recycling in continuous mode is a common constraint, faced by all consumer-level digicams that I'm aware of.) You can also set the camera to base all exposure and focus settings on the first shot taken, or to adjust the exposure and focus with each image (which decreases capture speed).

Shooting speed and sequence length in Sequence Mode are governed by the image size/quality settings you've selected. The frame rate is approximately 1.7 frames/second in HQ mode, with a maximum number of 10 frames per sequence.

"2 in 1" Mode

Also accessed through the camera's shooting menu, "2 in 1" mode captures a split-screen image. Once the mode is enabled, the camera guides you in aligning two sequential images, which it then assembles side by side as a single image. The first image takes up the left half of the screen, and the second is on the right. Because images are divided vertically, this mode will work best with vertical ("portrait") format subjects

Noise Reduction/Low Light

This isn't really a separate shooting mode, but deserves separate mention because of the impact it has on low light performance. All digital cameras are plagued by image noise on long exposures, particularly the "hot pixel" kind caused by leakage currents on the CCD array. This noise appears as isolated bright pixels of varying colors. Like many current higher-end cameras, the C-5000 Zoom employs a "dark frame subtraction" technique to remove the hot pixels. This means that when the noise reduction option is turned on, it takes the camera twice as long to complete an exposure, since it's actually taking two shots, one of the subject, and the other with the shutter closed. The second of these will contain only the CCD noise, which the camera then subtracts from the image of the subject. The results are pretty dramatic, making even the maximum 16 second exposures from the C-5000 quite usable, and easily extending the usable light range of the camera down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my testing.

 

Shutter Lag/Cycle Times

When you press the shutter release on a camera, there's usually a lag time before the shutter actually fires. This time is to allow the autofocus and autoexposure mechanisms time to do their work, and can amount to a fairly long delay in some situations. Since this number is rarely reported on, and can significantly affect the picture taking experience, I routinely measure it using a test setup I designed and built for the purpose. (The test system has a resolution of 01 second, and is crystal-controlled for long-term accuracy.) The results of my tests are listed in the following chart.

NOTE: My qualitative characterizations of camera performance below (that is, "reasonably fast," "about average," etc.) are meant to be relative to other cameras of similar price and general capabilities. Thus, the same shutter lag that's "very fast" for a low-end consumer camera might be characterized as "quite slow" if I encountered it on a professional model. The comments are also intended as only a quick reference: If performance specs are critical for you, rely on the absolute numbers to compare cameras, rather than my purely qualitative comments.

Olympus C-5000 Zoom Timings
Operation
Time (secs)
Notes
Power On -> First shot
4.83
Lens extends before shooting. About average.
Shutdown
3.34
Lens retracts. Fairly typical time. Could take longer before you remove card, if the camera is emptying its buffer memory, up to 94 seconds or so for TIFF-mode files.
Play to Record, first shot
1.48/0.94
Time until first shot is captured, from playback mode. First number is for switch from Playback mode, second is for Quick Review mode.
Record to play (max/min res)
2.67/1.54
First number for large/fine images, second for small/normal.
Shutter lag, full autofocus
1.142/1.012
First number is for lens at wide-angle setting, second is for telephoto. On the slow side of average (average runs from 0.8-1.0 seconds), but interesting in that tele time is shorter than wide-angle: Usually, the opposite is the case.
Shutter lag, manual focus
0.574
Slower than average. (Most competing cameras range between 0.3 and 0.5 seconds.)
Shutter lag, prefocus
0.183
Fairly fast.
Cycle Time, max/min resolution
2.46/2.15
First number is for large/fine (SHQ) files, second is for lowest resolution/quality. There does appear to be a buffer memory (as witness the results in TIFF mode), but in practice, single-shot shooting never seems to fill it. - Hence, all shots happen at the same speed, regardless of how many have been captured.
Cycle Time, TIFF mode 2.57/94 First number is interval between shots for first four captured. After that, 94 seconds before buffer empties.
Cycle time, continuous mode
0.682/0.62
First number is for large/fine (SHQ) files, second is for smallest/lowest quality setting. In large/fine mode, buffer holds 5-7 shots before the shot interval slows to about 3.8 seconds. (Note though, that once the buffer fills, you have to release and press the shutter button again to capture the next images.) The buffer takes about 14 seconds to clear. In low size/quality, buffer holds 100+ images before forcing you to wait.

 
Shutter lag is one of the few areas where I found the C-5000 disappointing, as its lag time range from 1.01 to 1.14 seconds is on the slow side of average. (The shutter lags of most digicams in this price/function category fall somewhere between 0.8 and 1.0 seconds.) Cycle time was good if not spectacular, at 2.46 seconds between shots in the highest-quality mode. Interestingly, while the camera obviously has a buffer memory, it never seemed to fill in normal single-frame shooting: The cycle time never lengthened beyond the roughly 2.5 seconds/frame required for the first frames, regardless of how many shots were captured in sequence. Overall, the C-5000 is decently fast from shot to shot, but the merely-average shutter lag would argue against its use for sports and other action shooting.

 

Operation and User Interface

The C-5000 features a user interface similar to the C-4000 model, although the "virtual dial" for the Scene Program modes has been moved to the Mode dial for quicker actuation. Like previous Olympus digicams, the C-5000 Zoom's menu system has an initial menu screen with four shortcut buttons on it that lead to sub-menus for quick access of frequently-used menu items. These shortcuts are displayed on the screen as three or four buttons, each selected using the arrow key that corresponds to its position on the screen. Although it can take a little getting used to, this dual-level menu system does let you make adjustments to three of the most often used camera settings quite quickly, and imposes only a slight penalty for less-frequently accessed functions. The C-5000's external control layout is very similar to previous Olympus Camedia digicam setups, although some buttons have been moved around. The Custom Function / Protect button (which normally activates the virtual mode dial in A/S/M and Scene modes) can have a special function assigned to it through the Setup sub-menus. This lets you create a short cut to circumvent the menu system for a frequently-used adjustment. With its range of control buttons and menu options, it'll probably take a typical user an hour or so to get familiar with the camera's setup.

Control Enumeration


Mode Dial: The most obvious control on top of the C-5000 is the Mode Dial, which selects the various camera operating modes: Playback, Auto, Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night Scene, Self-Portrait, Movie, My Mode, Aperture / Shutter Speed / Manual (A/S/M), and Program.


Power Dial
: Stacked underneath the Mode dial, the Power dial (a lever, really) turns the camera on and off.


Zoom Lever: Also on top of the camera, in front of the Mode Dial, the Zoom Lever controls the optical zoom in all exposure modes, and the digital zoom when enabled through the Shooting menu. In Playback mode, the lever switches between Index view, normal image display, and playback zoom.

Shutter Button: Located in the center of the Zoom Lever, the Shutter button sets focus and exposure settings when depressed halfway and triggers the shutter when fully pressed.


Quick View Button
: Angled down from the top panel toward the rear of the camera, this button pulls up the Quick View display of the most recently captured image. Pressing the button a second time returns to record mode.


Flash / Erase Button: Located on the top, central portion of the camera's back panel, this button controls the Flash mode in all exposure modes for which flash is available. Pressing it cycles through Auto-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Flash Off, and Slow Sync modes. In Playback mode, this button calls up the Erase menu, which allows you to erase the currently displayed image.


Spot / Macro / Protect Button: Directly beneath the Flash / Erase button on the back panel is the Spot / Macro / Protect button. In all Shooting modes, this button cycles between normal metering (Digital ESP), Spot metering, Macro (Closeup) focus mode, and Macro with Spot Metering modes. In Playback mode, this button write-protects the displayed image. It can also remove protection.


AE Lock / Custom / Rotate Button
: Directly to the right of the Spot / Macro / Protect button, this button locks the exposure when pressed in Record mode. It can also be programmed through the settings menu to handle a number of other functions as well. In Playback mode, this button rotates the displayed image 90 degrees clockwise each time it is pressed.


Monitor Button
: Adjacent to the top right corner of the LCD monitor, this button controls the LCD image and information displays, turning both on or off simultaneously.


Four-Way Arrow Pad: The largest control on the back panel, the Arrow Pad controls many of the C-5000's operations. In all Shooting modes except Manual, the left and right Arrow keys increase or decrease the exposure compensation setting (provided the LCD monitor is active). In Aperture or Shutter Priority exposure modes, the up and down Arrow keys adjust the lens aperture or shutter speed settings, depending on which mode you've selected. In Manual mode, the up and down Arrows control shutter speed, while the left and right Arrows control aperture.

In Playback mode, the left and right Arrows move forward or backward through the pictures stored on the card, or scroll around portions of the expanded image in Zoom Playback mode.

In the LCD menu system, the Arrow keys navigate through menu screens and select settings.

OK / Menu Button: Located in the center of the four-way Arrow pad, this button activates the menu system on the rear panel LCD monitor and confirms selected menu settings in the LCD menu screens. If the LCD monitor is turned on when you press the Display button, it will call up the menu options and display them over the image. If the LCD monitor is off when you press Display, it brings up the camera's menu system with no viewfinder image. Holding this button down for approximately two seconds brings up the Manual Focus distance display, along with the AF and MF icons. Highlighting the MF icon with the right Arrow button engages the Manual Focus mode, after which the up and down Arrow buttons adjust the focus.

 

Camera Modes & Menus

Portrait Mode: The first Scene mode on the Mode dial, this mode sets up the camera for capturing portraits. By using a larger aperture setting, the camera exposes the subject in sharp focus in front of a slightly blurred background.

Sports Mode: Next in line on the Mode dial, this mode biases the exposure system toward fast shutter speeds to "freeze" action, perfect for sporting events or any fast-moving subject.

Landscape Portrait Mode: This mode is intended for portraits in front of scenery, where you want both the foreground and background in focus. The camera uses a smaller aperture setting to increase the depth of field.

Landscape Scene Mode: Just like Landscape Portrait mode, this mode also uses a small aperture to keep the foreground and background in focus. However, it also enhances blue and green tones for more vibrant nature shots.

Night Mode: This mode is best for capturing night portraits or night scenery, such as cityscapes. A slower shutter speed lets more ambient light into the image, but the exposure compensation and image contrast are dialed down somewhat, preserving color in neon signs or sunsets.

Self-Portrait Mode: This mode lets you take a picture of yourself by holding the camera in front of you.

Movie Mode: Accessed by turning the Mode dial to the movie camera symbol, Movie mode allows you to capture movies with or without sound for as long as the memory card allows.

My Mode: Sets up the camera according to a set of user-defined camera settings, specific to shooting conditions. A huge range of exposure variables such as aperture, shutter speed, white balance, etc. can all be saved. You can even save the lens zoom position. My Mode settings are made through the Setup menu.


Aperture Priority: Lets you select the desired lens aperture (in 1/3-stop (EV) increments, from f/2.8 to f/8), while the camera adjusts the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure. If the required shutter speed is beyond the camera's capabilities, the shutter speed / aperture status numbers in the LCD will flash red.

Shutter Priority: Lets you select the desired shutter speed (in 1/3 EV increments, from 1/1,000 to four seconds), while the camera adjusts the aperture to achieve the correct exposure. If the required aperture is beyond the camera's capabilities, the shutter speed / aperture status numbers in the LCD will flash red.

Manual Mode: Lets you select both the desired aperture (f/2.8 to f/8) and shutter speed (1/1,000 to 16 seconds) settings. The onscreen display that normally shows exposure compensation adjustments becomes an exposure meter, showing the amount of under- or overexposure the settings you've selected will result in. If the amount of over or underexposure exceeds +/- 3 EV units, the settings displayed on the LCD screen turn red instead of green, and the display remains at -3 or +3 EV.


Programmed Exposure: The camera selects both shutter speed and lens aperture, based on existing light conditions and certain camera functions. For example, it uses a faster shutter speed when the lens is in the telephoto position and a slower shutter speed when the lens is in the wide-angle position.


Playback Mode: This mode allows you to view previously captured images using the Arrow Pad to scroll through frames stored in memory. The Zoom Lever switches the image display to Index mode when moved in the wide-angle direction, and enlarges a single image when moved in the telephoto direction, by zooming in to a maximum of 4x magnification. While zoomed in on an image, the Arrow buttons can be used to move the enlarged view around the full image area, allowing you to inspect all parts of it.


Auto Mode
: In this mode, the camera controls the entire exposure, with you only able to adjust the digital and optical zoom, and access the drive and macro settings.

 

Camera Menus

Shooting Menus
When the Menu / OK button is pressed in any shooting mode, the menu screens shown below appear. Menu options vary depending on the actual shooting mode. Depending on the shooting mode you're in and whether you've chosen to reassign their functions or not, three of the top-level menu items are Short Cuts to menu options controlling by default (clockwise from the bottom) White Balance, Image Size/Quality, and Aperture/Shutter/Manual (or Self-Timer in Program mode) exposure control. The fourth option takes you to the main Mode Menu itself. Since the destinations of the short cut options are simply sub-levels inside the main mode menu, I'll only show the main Mode Menu screens here.

 

 

 

Playback Mode
Playback Mode is available by turning to the green Playback symbol on the camera's Mode dial, or by depressing the Quick View button in any Shooting mode. The Playback Top Menu has three options, which differ slightly between Shooting (Record) playback and Movie playback:

Still Playback:

 

Image Storage and Interface

The C-5000 Zoom uses xD-Picture Cards and comes with a 32MB card. Extra cards currently can be purchased in sizes as large as 256MB from either Olympus or third parties. Only Olympus-branded cards will enable the camera's Panorama function, but third party models should otherwise be identical.

The C-5000 Zoom can store images in both uncompressed TIFF and compressed JPEG file formats. The TIFF setting can be assigned to any one of seven(!) resolutions through the camera's Mode Setup menu. JPEG compression levels include Super High Quality (SHQ), High Quality (HQ), and Standard Quality (SQ1 & SQ2). The myriad size options can be assigned to the camera's quality levels via the record setup menu, as shown in the table below. (Green table cells indicate image size options that can be assigned to each named quality setting.) Whatever image size/quality options are assigned to the five named quality settings can be quickly selected either by the "shortcut button" (see the description of the user interface later) or via the record setup menu.

 

Image
Size
Options
2,560 x 1,920
2,272 x 1,704
2,048 x 1,536
1,600 x 1,200
1,280 x 960
1,024 x 768
640 x 480
TIFF
SHQ
           
HQ
           
SQ1
 

   
SQ2
   

 

 

I appreciated the C-5000 Zoom's file naming protocol, which includes the month and day at the beginning of the file name, and provides the option of numbering images progressively from one card to the next, or of resetting the naming sequence for each card. The C-5000 Zoom lets you write-protect individual images from accidental erasure by pressing the Protect button on the rear panel.

As just mentioned, the C-5000 Zoom offers a verging-on-absurd range of resolution and image compression settings, including one interpolated size. The table below shows all the available size/quality options, the number of each that can be stored on the included 32MB memory card, and the amount of image compression employed for each.

Image Capacity vs
Resolution/Quality
32MB Memory Card
Hi
Fine
Normal
2,560 x 1,920 Images
(Avg size)
2
16MB
8
3.6MB
26
1.2MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
2,272 x 1,704 Images
(Avg size)
2
12.8MB
11
2.8MB
33
0.9MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1
2,048 x 1,536 Images
(Avg size)
3
10.7MB
13
2.3MB
40
0.8MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1
4:1
12:1
1,600 x 1,200
Images
(Avg size)
5
6MB
22
1.4MB
66
0.5MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1
4:1
12:1
1,280 x 960
Images
(Avg size)
8
3.7MB
35
0.9MB
105
0.3MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1
4:1
12:1
1,024 x 768 Images
(Avg size)
13
2.4MB
55
0.6MB
153
0.2MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 11:1
640 x 480 Images
(Avg size)
33
0.9MB
142
0.2MB
399
0.08MB
Approx.
Compression
1:1 4:1 12:1

 

The following table shows the maximum seconds of movie recording time (with sound) that can be recorded on the included 32MB memory card. NOTE that the maximum time per clip is fixed at 32 seconds for HQ mode, and 140 seconds for SQ mode, regardless of the memory card size.

Recording Mode
Resolution
Movie Time in Seconds
Per Clip
Total
(32MB card)
HQ
320x240
(15 frames/sec)
33
48
SQ
160x120
(15 frames/sec)
148
212

 

The C-5000 Zoom comes with interface software and cables for both Macintosh and Windows computers. It employs a USB Auto-Connect interface for high-speed computer connection. Like all of Olympus' most recent digicams, the C-5000 is a USB "storage class" device. This means it can connect directly to Mac OS Version 9.1 or later, or Windows Me or 2000 computers, without separate driver software. Storage-class or Auto-Connect connections are generally faster than device-class ones. I clocked the C-5000 at a transfer rate of 528 KBytes/second on my G4 Mac. This is faster than the average USB v1.1-connected camera although not quite at the top of the charts. While it's becoming more commonplace now, Olympus was one of the first companies to pioneer storage-class camera connections. - I really like not having to load driver software to connect the camera!

Lost Images? - Download this image-recovery program so you'll have it when you need it...
Since we're talking about memory and image storage, this would be a good time to mention the following: I get a ton of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. It's tragic when it happens, there are few things more precious than photo memories. Corrupted memory cards can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody is immune. "Stuff happens," as they say. A surprising number of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digicam reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

Video Out

The C-5000 Zoom has a Video Out port that supports the NTSC and PAL timing formats. The video output can be used for reviewing previously captured images and movies, or running slide shows from the camera. It also shows all of the LCD menu screens, as well as the preview display from the LCD viewfinder.

Power

The C-5000 Zoom is powered by a single lithium-ion battery pack, or by an optional AC adapter that can significantly extend battery life if you're doing a lot of downloads on the computer or working in a studio environment. The table below shows the power drain I measured in various camera operating modes, and the corresponding projected run times with the provided LiIon battery pack.

 

Operating Mode
Power Drain
(@ 4.8 v)
Estimated Minutes
(One 1090 mAh Li-ion cell)
Capture Mode, w/LCD
52.47 mA
 92
Capture Mode, no LCD
10.3 mA
  7.8 hours (!)
Half-pressed shutter w/LCD
51.01 mA
95 
Half-pressed w/o LCD
33.44 mA
145 
Memory Write (transient)
57.01 mA
n/a
Flash Recharge (transient)
113.2 mA
n/a
Image Playback
26.7 mA
 181


Overall, the C-5000 offers very good battery life. In its worst-case operating mode (capture mode, with the LCD turned on), run time is a little short, at just over an hour and a half. With the LCD off though, run time stretches to almost 8 hours, meaning you can comfortably leave the camera on in record mode all day with the LCD off, but ready to shoot at a moment's notice. The reasonably accurate (~90% frame coverage) optical viewfinder makes it practical to leave the LCD off for routine shooting, too. 

 

Included Software

The C-5000 Zoom comes with a nice complement of software on the supplied CD. Direct camera control and image downloading are provided by Olympus' Camedia Master software package for both Mac and Windows platforms (Macintosh OS 8.6 and higher, Windows 98v2/Me/2000 Pro). USB drivers for both platforms and an Apple QuickTime reader are also included.

Camedia Master lets you download and organize images, as well as perform minor image correction and enhancement functions (such as adjusting contrast, sharpness, and color balance). For panoramic images, Camedia Master supplies a "stitching" utility to piece together shots vertically or horizontally. A complete printing utility works with the DPOF settings and lets you print images directly to Olympus or other DPOF-compliant photo printers.

 

In the Box

The following items are included in the box:


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.


Conclusion
Free Photo Lessons

Check out the Free Photo School program for lessons and tips on improving your photographs!
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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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