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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 4:Viewfinder

Review First Posted: 11/21/2003

The C-5060 Wide Zoom offers both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, 134,000 pixel, TFT color LCD screen. The optical viewfinder accommodates eyeglass wearers with a diopter correction adjustment and a modestly high eyepoint, although I'd really like to have seen just a little more space between the eyepiece and my own eyeglass lenses. I don't have any way of measuring the range of dioptric adjustments, but can say that the one on the 5060's eyepiece seems pretty balanced in its coverage of both "farsighted" and "nearsighted" needs - It actually came surprisingly close to being able to cope with my own 20/180 vision.

In my testing, the C-5060 Wide Zoom's optical viewfinder was rather tight, showing only 77 percent of the final frame area at wide angle, and 81 percent at telephoto. By contrast, the LCD viewfinder is very accurate, showing 97 percent of the final frame at both wide and telephoto lens settings.

While the optical viewfinder zooms along with the lens, it naturally does not show the operation of the digital zoom, which can only be enabled when the LCD monitor is on. A central autofocus target helps to center your subjects, and two LED indicators (one orange and one green) are adjacent to the viewfinder window, indicating camera status with either glowing or blinking lights. A blinking, green LED indicates trouble with either the memory card or the autofocus. 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 that there is a potential of camera shake, while a solid orange LED shows that the flash is fully charged and ready to fire.

As described earlier, the C-5060 Zoom's LCD monitor tilts upward 180 degrees. It can also swivel laterally 270 degrees. The LCD on the C-5060 deserves special commendation for its usability in bright lighting. Whereas most digicam LCD screens wash out and become unusable in bright daylight, the one on the 5060 is usable even in direct sunlight. Very nice, a display I wish more digicam manufacturers would adopt!

A detailed information overlay reports a number of exposure settings, including the currently selected f/stop, shutter speed, and exposure compensation adjustments across the top of the LCD screen. When first entering a record mode, a more detailed information display appears for a few seconds, showing the image attributes (contrast, sharpness, and saturation), flash exposure compensation, ISO, flash mode, drive mode, and focus mode settings. In Aperture and Shutter Priority modes, the chosen aperture or shutter speed appears as a constant, while the second, automatically determined exposure value changes whenever the Shutter button is half pressed (based on exposure compensation and changing light levels). The Manual mode 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 value is reported in the upper right corner, showing the amount of over- or underexposure. The exposure values flash red when the camera disagrees with the setting. In Manual Focus mode, a distance display scale appears on the LCD monitor, which helps to adjust focus in low-light situations.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom's LCD monitor also offers a live histogram display with a couple of unusual options in record mode, which is helpful in determining any over- or underexposure, and for analyzing the tonal distribution in your images. Histogram displays are generally very useful for determining whether your overall exposure is over or under, but are less helpful in telling when you have small parts of the image that are outside the acceptable exposure range. - This is be because a small portion of the image represents relatively few pixels, and so won't produce a large (or even visible) spike on the histogram graph. To counter this, Olympus has added two innovative options to the C-5060's histogram function. The first of these introduces a small rectangle that you can scroll around the frame, to take histogram readings from a limited local area. This box is activated whenever you hit one of the arrow keys with the histogram active. A separate histogram of just the area covered by the rectangle appears in the display, highlighted in green. This amounts to the histogram equivalent of spot metering, and is very useful for examining exposure values in detail.

The second innovative display Olympus has built into the 5060's histogram function is a little more unusual. Called "Direct" mode, it overlays a red or blue grid on the LCD viewfinder image, showing areas that are in deep shadow (blue) or overexposed highlight (red). The resulting display (see inset above right) is unique, to say the least. It does do a pretty good job of giving you a heads-up as to where you might have exposure problems, without obscuring subject detail. I'd need to spend more time with it to know how I ultimately feel about it, but my initial reaction is that it's clever, but I really prefer the blinking highlight/shadow method of warning about exposure extremes.

Fortunately, the C-5060 offers a blinking highlight/shadow exposure warning display in playback mode. - Selecting the "Direct" option from the histogram menu item in playback mode produces the familiar animated display. Actually, while a number of prosumer digicams offer a blinking overexposure warning for lost highlight detail, I'm not offhand aware of any that offer an underexposure warning for the shadows as the C-5060 does.

Besides the histogram and exposure warning displays, the C-5060 also has a gridline function that divides the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically, as well as a set of framing assist options. Two of the Frame Assist modes outline the shape of a person's head in the center of the LCD monitor, one for vertical alignment and the other for horizontal alignment. A third looks like a black outline bullseye, in the center of the LCD monitor.

Pressing the Monitor button on the rear panel turns the LCD viewfinder on and off, as well as the information display. This button also optionally cycles through a position in which a detailed list of camera settings is shown in lieu of the viewfinder display. This display is very reminiscent of the back-panel display of Olympus' original E-10 and E-20 SLRs, and provides a wealth of information about the camera's settings and status. (This display is enabled by turning on the "Dual Control Panel" option in the camera's setup menu.)

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 extremely 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 menu setting. A Playback histogram display shows the tonal distribution of the exposed image, with a list of basic exposure settings off to the right. The same histogram options are available in this mode, as well as the Frame Assist guides. A very handy "Quick View" function lets you check the last picture taken in Shooting mode by pressing the Quick View button on the camera's rear panel. The image will remain displayed on the LCD monitor until you revert back to Shooting mode by pressing the Quick View button again, or by half-pressing the shutter button.

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