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Olympus C-50 Zoom

Olympus packs a 5.0-megapixel CCD into an ultra-compact body, with a host of advanced features too.

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Page 12:Test Results & Conclusion

Review First Posted: 11/26/2002

Test Results
In keeping with our standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only our key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the C-50 Ultra Zoom's "pictures" page.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, we 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-50 images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Overall, the C-50 Zoom did a pretty good job, though I noticed a tendency for the camera to produce slightly warm casts. The camera's white balance system had some trouble with the difficult incandescent lighting of the Indoor Portrait (without flash), producing warm images with both the Auto and Incandescent settings. (I really wish Olympus had included a "manual" white balance option on this camera, it would have greatly added to its value.) The large color blocks of the Davebox target looked pretty good, with good saturation, although they had the very slight yellowish cast I observed on many photos. The awkward blues in the flower bouquet in the outdoor test shot proved a little difficult, as the C-50 darkened the tone and shifted the color slightly into violet (a common tendency among many cameras I've tested). Though color balance was consistently a little warm, the C-50 produced pleasing color overall.
  • Exposure: The C-50's metering system seemed to be pretty accurate. As usual, it underexposed the very high-key outdoor portrait shot, but a little positive exposure compensation fixed that. It also underexposed the indoor portrait shot with flash, again requiring a little positive exposure compensation to achieve a good exposure. It tended to produce slightly contrasty photos, particularly under harsh full-sun lighting, although a menu option to adjust the contrast helps somewhat with this. On my "Davebox" test, the C-50 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target, while still holding good detail in the deep shadows. Overall, a very good performance, albeit slightly contrasty for my personal tastes.
  • Resolution/Sharpness: The C-50 performed very well on our "laboratory" resolution test chart. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height, in both horizontal and vertical directions. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,250 lines, "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,650 lines.
  • Closeups: The C-50 turned in about an average performance in the macro category, with a minimum capture area of 3 x 4 inches (76 x 102 mm). The image was slightly soft overall, and lower contrast than I'd have expected, but there was very little softening or distortion in the corners. With the flash enabled, exposure came out quite even, albeit slightly dark, doubtless because the specular reflection from the brooch tricked the flash metering system into underexposing the image. A good but not spectacular job.
  • Night Shots: The C-50's adjustable ISO setting, combined with a maximum exposure time of eight seconds, results in good low-light shooting capabilities. The C-50 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) limit of my test at ISO 320, to 1/4 foot-candle at ISO 160, and to 1/2 foot-candle at ISO 80. Color was just a little warm across the board. One thing the C-50 doesn't offer is a noise reduction option, something of a departure for higher-end Olympus cameras. Although there isn't a lot of noise present, the actual noisy pixels are quite bright. Even at ISO 80, several bright pixels dot the image. The Median Filter option in Photoshop(tm) can quickly eliminate the worst of the noise, but for the ultimate treatment, see Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro program.
  • Viewfinder Accuracy: The C-50's optical viewfinder is pretty tight, showing 84 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto zoom settings. The LCD monitor is much more accurate, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at wide angle and telephoto. The LCD monitor is thus quite accurate, but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical finder - Particularly given that the C-50 has such excellent battery life with the LCD turned off.

  • Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the C-50 is rather high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.05 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared much better, as I found only three pixels of barrel distortion there (about 0.1 percent). Chromatic aberration is moderately high, showing about five or six pixels of coloration on either side of the 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.) With the lens at telephoto, there also seemed to be quite a bit of flare at the boundaries of the dark target elements.
  • Battery Life: The C-50 shows slightly better than average battery life for a compact digicam when the LCD is turned on, but with the LCD off, battery life is exceptional, at over 6 hours. I still highly recommend getting a second battery pack to carry along as a spare, but the C-50 does much better than most compacts in this area.

With its small size and wide range of exposure offerings, the C-50 is well-suited to novices and more experienced users alike. While the full-auto and scene modes make the camera approachable for novices, its surprising range of exposure controls and options make it well suited for advanced users looking for a compact, "take anywhere" camera. Its all-metal body is both stylish and rugged, and it's compact enough to fit easily in most pockets. It produced good-quality photos under a wide range of shooting conditions, although I really would have liked to see a "custom" white balance setting to handle difficult light sources like household incandescent lighting. It's lens produced sharp images, although the compromises associated with the tiny body made for more geometric distortion and chromatic aberration than I'd prefer. All in all though, an excellent, versatile, really compact digicam, easy enough for a beginner to use, but with enough features to satisfy even "enthusiast" users. (Actually, probably one of my favorite compact digicams as of this writing.)

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