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Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom

Olympus makes a strong update to the top of their prosumer lineup

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 11/21/2003

Executive Overview
Olympus' "C-series" digicams have a long, distinguished history, reaching back to the original C-2000. With each generation, Olympus advanced the design a bit further, steadily increasing features and capabilities. The newest addition to the line, the C-5060 Wide Zoom, builds on the successful C-5050 model, but offers a 4x optical zoom lens with a minimum focal length equivalent to a 27mm lens on a 35mm camera, a slightly larger CCD, a Bulb shutter setting, and enhanced histogram and LCD display options. Additionally, the C-5060 sports a slightly different body style, although its looks are still reminiscent of the C-5050's classic rangefinder-style body. Boasting a 5.1-megapixel CCD, the C-5060 captures a maximum resolution of 2,592 x 1,944 pixels, with an Optimum Image Enlargement option that produces interpolated images as large as 3,264 x 2,448 pixels. Measuring 4.6 x 3.4 x 2.6 inches (116 x 87 x 66 millimeters) and weighing 18.1 ounces (512 grams) with battery and CompactFlash card installed, the C-5060 can be stashed in a coat pocket or large purse, but I highly recommend purchasing a soft cover or small camera bag for added protection.

Like its predecessor, the C-5060 Wide Zoom offers many advanced user controls, including a Multi-Spot metering mode that averages up to eight individual spot readings, a one-touch white balance function (with optional manual white balance correction for minor color adjustments), spot autofocus, contrast, saturation, and sharpness adjustments, and a QuickTime movie mode with simultaneous sound recording capabilities. Where the C-5060 Wide Zoom improves on its predecessor is with the markedly wider-angle lens, enhanced histogram display capabilities that really help you determine the best exposure settings, and a handful of other exposure option tweaks.

The C-5060 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, wide-view color TFT LCD monitor, with 134,000 pixels. The LCD appears to be a new design for Olympus, as it's unusually usable under bright conditions, up to and including direct sunlight. The tilting LCD monitor lifts out from the back panel, and tilts up about 180 degrees, then swivels around another 180 degrees for better viewing angles when the camera is held above or below eye level. 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 listed across the top of the monitor (a nice feature not found on all digicams) and the number of images remaining on the memory card in the current resolution setting (displayed briefly when the monitor is turned on), at the bottom of the monitor. The C-5060 also provides a very helpful distance display with numeric indications when using the manual focus option, as well as a zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) that shows both the camera's 4x optical zoom in operation, as well as the digital zoom's progress, when you zoom past the optical telephoto limit. An optional live histogram display shows the tonal values of the subject at your current exposure setting. This is helpful for checking the exposure before capturing an image. A new histogram display option indicates the actual areas of the frame that will be over or underexposed, by highlighting these areas with a series of red and blue outline boxes. The LCD monitor also offers four framing assist guides, with a gridline display and a set of outlines for lining up portraits and center subjects.

The 5.7-22.8mm 4x zoom aspherical glass lens is equivalent to a 27-110mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a f/2.8-f/4.8 (wide angle to telephoto) maximum aperture. In addition to the C-5060's 4x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 3.5x with the digital zoom. (Users should be aware that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom, since the digital zoom is merely cropping and enlarging the central portion of the CCD. As a result, digitally enlarged images are always softer and often show higher levels of noise and artifacts than images that haven't been processed in this way.) The C-5060 Zoom also sports an autofocus assist illuminator that may be enabled or not, at the user's discretion, greatly extending the camera's usefulness for low-light shooting, and a range of focus control options.

The C-5060's image file sizes include: 2,592 x 1,944; 2,288 x 1,712; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1280 x 960; 1024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels in normal mode, and 3,264 x 2,448 pixels when using Optimum Image Enlargement. (Optimum Image Enlargement resamples the image to a larger size, working from the raw camera data before it has been JPEG compressed. This gives a slight quality edge as compared to resizing images afterward, in a computer, but the difference is frankly pretty minor.) Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus uncompressed TIFF and RAW formats. While RAW images usually require processing via imaging software post-capture, the C-5060 Wide Zoom's Playback menu offers a RAW editing function, which lets you adjust color, sharpness, etc. in-camera. The edited file is then saved as a separate JPEG.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom offers a great deal of exposure control, including Program (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Speed Priority (S), and Manual (M) exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, while Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, and 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 1/4,000 to four seconds. (Note though, that shutter speeds higher than 1/2,000 are only available when the lens aperture is set to f/8.) The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but with shutter times as long as 16 seconds, as well as a Bulb setting that permits exposure times as long as 120 seconds. The C-5060 also has five preset Scene modes, including Portrait, Sports, Landscape-Portrait, Landscape-Scene, and Night modes, for point-and-shoot style shooting. Additionally, in any of the main record modes (P, A, S, M, My, or Movie), the "Scene" option of the Shooting menu lets you apply Night, Portrait, or Landscape characteristics to the shot automatically. Since not all of the Shooting menu options are available in the actual Scene modes, this is a way to let the camera set itself up for a specific kind of exposure without giving up any manual control.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom provides five ISO options (Auto, 80, 100, 200, and 400), automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single and Multi-Spot Metering AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. An advanced Noise Reduction System uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise (particularly in low-light conditions and long exposures). The C-5060 Wide Zoom's white balance offerings are some of the most extensive I've seen on a prosumer digicam to date, with a total of 11 settings (Auto, Shade, Cloudy, Sunny, Evening Sun, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool White Fluorescent, White Fluorescent, Incandescent, or One-Touch, the manual setting). With the manual white balance option, you can save as many as four custom settings, which is useful if you frequently shoot under a specific light source, or if you're in a shooting situation that requires you to move quickly back and forth between two scenes with different lighting. A white balance color adjustment function lets you dial in red or blue color shifts from +7 to -7 steps (arbitrary units) for both the preset white balance options, as well as the Manual settings. This features deserves some added accolades: I've very often found it to be the case that a camera will produce a characteristic color cast under various lighting conditions that would be easy to correct for, if only the control were available to do so. This need applies to Manual white balance settings, as well as preset ones. While Manual white balance options are designed to fully neutralize the color cast of any given light source, more often than not, they instead leave a characteristic color cast of their own behind. Alternatively, you frequently want to remove some of the color cast of the scene lighting, but not all of it, to call to mind the mood of the original setting. Olympus' white balance adjustment option lets you dial-in separate tweaks for each of the camera's white balance modes, including the Manual options. The control offers a very large number (15) of very small steps, letting you make very fine-grained adjustments over a very broad spectrum of available colors.

Image contrast, sharpness, and saturation adjustments are available through the Mode Setup menu, and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). As with the white balance adjustment mentioned above, the contrast, sharpness, and saturation controls offer fairly fine-grained adjustments, meaning you can use them to really customize the camera's response to your needs and preferences, rather than using them only as special effects. An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) function locks an exposure reading independently of the autofocus system, without having to hold down the Shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. This lets you set the exposure using the Spot Metering option, without forcing you to also focus on the particular object you based your exposure on. AEL optionally takes a single exposure reading or up to eight averaged spot readings for more accurate exposures. (Another handy and very powerful feature.) There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits, and an infrared (IR) remote controller with a three-second shutter delay. (The C-5060 ships with the new RM-2 IR remote that offers only shutter control. The camera itself is compatible with the original RM-1 remote though, which provides control of the zoom lens and several other camera functions as well. The RM-1 is still available as an optional accessory.)

The C-5060 Wide Zoom's Movie mode records QuickTime movies with or without sound, at either 160 x 120; 320 x 240; or 640 x 480 pixels. When sound is enabled in movie mode, only digital zoom is available while actively recording, to prevent the noise from the lens motor from interfering with the movie audio. When sound is turned off, the full range of optical plus digital zoom is available during recording. Four-second sound clips can also be recorded to accompany still images, either at the time of capture, or later during image playback. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to three frames per second, and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 sequential shots, formatted for merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. A 2-in-1 capture mode snaps two vertically-oriented images in succession, and saves them side-by-side as a single image. (The effect is like a split-screen view.)

The camera's internal flash offers five operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow Synchro), with a range that extends to approximately 13 feet (3.7 meters) in wide-angle mode and to about 8 feet (2.2 meters) with the lens set to its telephoto position. A standard hot shoe allows you to connect an external flash unit when additional flash power is needed, and the shoe's contact support either generic "dumb" flash units, or Olympus' own dedicated strobes. You can also increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Shooting menu.

The Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom ships with a 32MB xD-Picture Card for image storage (larger capacity cards are available separately, in sizes up to 512MB as of this writing in November, 2003), but the camera also accommodates CompactFlash type I or II cards, including MicroDrives. You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and if you want a larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus provides a video output cable for connection to a television set (which works nicely with the optional RM-1 remote control, for adjusting framing while shooting, or for running a slide show in playback mode). Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, as well as the panorama "stitching" application mentioned above. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

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