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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 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 11/26/2002

Executive Overview
In the past, finding a compact, go-anywhere digicam meant giving up more advanced exposure-control options. The Olympus C-50 Zoom breaks that paradigm though, offering both point-and-shoot ease of use and advanced "enthusiast" features in a super-compact, all-metal body design. A 5.0-megapixel CCD delivers high quality images, using Olympus' own TruePic technology to for sharper images, lower noise, and more vivid colors. Though the C-50 offers six preset Scene shooting modes, it also offers a completely automatic mode as well as a full selection of manual and semi-manual exposure modes. A maximum exposure time of eight seconds makes for great low light capability, and adjustable white balance, ISO, and other image attributes make the C-50 versatile enough for just about any shooting situation.

The C-50's compact body is perfect for pockets and small purses, measuring only 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches (99.5 x 58.5 x 41.5 millimeters), not including minor protrusions. It weighs just 6.8 ounces (194 grams) without the battery, despite its rugged metal body. A wrist strap secures the camera in-hand, but the attractive, brushed-metal finish demands the protection of a soft camera case during travel.

A real-image optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, but is slightly less accurate for framing than the 1.5-inch color LCD monitor. In addition to its viewfinder display, the LCD monitor has a detailed information overlay that reports exposure information and a few camera settings. The 7.8-23.4mm, 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-f/4.8 (wide angle to telephoto). In addition to the C-50's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to an additional 4x with the "digital zoom," effectively increasing the camera's zoom capabilities to 12x. (Keep in mind though, that digital zoom directly trades off image quality for magnification, because it simply crops out and enlarges the central pixels of the CCD.) The C-50's default image resolution is 2,560 x 1,920 pixels, but lower resolutions of 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels are also available. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.

The C-50 offers an excellent range of exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as 1/2 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 AP or SP modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/8 and shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but permits shutter speeds as long as eight seconds. You can also put the camera into full Auto mode, or select between Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, Night-Scene, and Self-Portrait scene modes for easy capture of what might otherwise be tricky subjects.

The C-50 provides four ISO options (Auto, 80, 160, and 320), automatic exposure bracketing, two metering modes (Digital ESP Multi-pattern and Spot), plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance options include Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent settings to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions. Image contrast and sharpness adjustments are available through the LCD menu as well. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits, and a Remote Control mode for controlling the shutter with the included remote control unit.

The C-50's Movie mode records QuickTime movies (without sound), in either SQ (160 x 120 pixels) or HQ (320 x 240 pixels) modes. Actual recording times vary with the resolution and the amount of memory card space, but you can record a maximum of 70 seconds per movie at the lower resolution. Sequence mode captures multiple images as fast as one frame per second (depending on file size), with an AF Sequence mode that adjusts the focus between each shot. The C-50 also offers a panoramic mode (with Olympus-branded memory cards only), and a "2-in-1" capture mode that records two images side-by-side (like a split-screen view). The camera's internal flash unit offers six operating modes (Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in Flash, Flash Off, Night Scene, and Night Scene with Red-Eye Reduction modes), with adjustable flash intensity.

The C-50 ships with a 16MB xD-Picture Card for image storage. Larger capacity cards are available separately, up to the current limit of 128MB. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and if you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus also provides a video output cable for connection to a television set. Also packaged with the C-50 is a remote control, useful in setting up self-portraits or for preventing camera movement from pressing the Shutter button when using slow shutter speeds. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.0 utility package, a capable all-in-one image management program that provides basic organization and editing tools in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

Olympus' C-series digicams have always proved flexible and high quality, and the C-50 Zoom carries on that tradition very well. Though small, the C-50 doesn't skimp at all on features, offering many of the advanced exposure features found on Olympus' larger models. Full manual exposure control and the range of preset scene modes gives users as much or as little control as they want, while the 5.0-megapixel CCD provides high resolution for sharp enlargements. Overall, the C-50 Zoom is a great camera for anyone wanting a capable, compact digicam, and is one of the very few models available for people wanting full "enthusiast" control in a compact design.



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