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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 5:Optics

Review First Posted: 11/21/2003

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The Olympus C-5060 Wide Zoom has an all-glass, aspheric lens design. The 4x, 5.7-22.8mm lens provides a focal range equivalent to that of a 27-110mm zoom on a 35mm film camera. This about the widest-angle zoom lens available in the prosumer market (if only by a millimeter of equivalent focal length), great for capturing interior shots, landscapes, and other wide-angle subjects. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/4.8, depending on the zoom setting.

Focusing distances range from 2.6 feet (0.8 meters) to infinity in Normal mode, and 8.0 inches to 2.6 feet (0.2 to 0.8 meters) in Macro mode. A Super Macro mode lets you get even closer to your subject, as close as one inch (3.0 centimeters), an impressive performance. In my tests, minimum capture area was 3.04 x 2.28 inches (77 x 58 millimeters) in normal macro, and a very small 1.32 x 0.99 inches (33 x 25 millimeters) in super macro mode. The autofocus system works through the lens, apparently using a combination of contrast detection and phase detection. (Phase detection is a more advanced autofocus method than contrast detection, as the camera can tell not only whether the subject is in or out of focus, but in which direction the focus needs to be adjusted, and by approximately how much. The result can be faster autofocus, so this may explain some of the C-5060 Wide Zoom's improved autofocus speed.) Given that autofocus is based on image data extracted from the main sensor, the autofocus will work properly with auxiliary lenses, such as the excellent wide- and telephoto adapters offered by Olympus themselves. The green LED next to the optical viewfinder glows solid as soon as the subject is in focus (flashing means there's a problem focusing and you may need to switch to Manual Focus or Macro mode). Although the C-5060 Wide Zoom doesn't feature an independent focus lock, you can manually lock it by centering the target portion of the subject in the frame, pressing the Shutter button halfway, and then recomposing the image while continuing to hold the Shutter button halfway down. (Note that there is a separate Auto Exposure Lock button though, which does separate the focus and exposure-lock functions.) An AF assist lamp helps the camera focus in dark shooting conditions, a very welcome if recent addition to the Olympus camera lineup.

The Focus button on the top panel of the camera accesses the normal AF mode, as well as both macro modes and the manual focus settings. As with the rest of the 5060's user interface, the focus mode setting uses a "virtual dial. Pressing the button and turning the Command dial rotates the available focus options across the LCD screen as if they were on a dial projected in a semi-3D perspective view onto the LCD screen. The screen shot above right shows the individual settings in sequence, but doesn't portray the animation that mimics a rotating dial.)

In manual focus mode, a distance scale appears on the LCD monitor, showing distances in meters or feet. Pressing the up and down arrow buttons adjusts focus when manual focus is enabled. As you focus, the image is automatically enlarged in the LCD monitor to better see small details. The manual focus option includes two modes, a normal one, with the focus range extending from infinity down to eight inches, and a super-macro manual focus mode, which extends the focusing range down to one inch, while still permitting focusing all the way out to infinity. Once the focus is set manually, you can save the focus setting by pressing the Menu / OK button.

A Full-Time AF mode, selected through the Shooting menu, keeps the autofocus constantly engaged as you move the camera from subject to subject, instead of waiting for the Shutter button to be depressed halfway. This might be useful for photography involving moving subjects, but it is an additional drain on the battery because the focusing mechanism is constantly at work. Like the continuous-AF modes on essentially every other prosumer digicam I've tested, this mode on the 5060 offers absolutely no advantage in terms of reduced shutter lag when shooting stationary subjects. Also, practically speaking, the C-5060's AF speed isn't sufficient to track any rapidly-moving object, leading me to question the actual utility of the Full-Time AF option in the first place.

Besides the manual focus and full-time AF modes, the C-5060 also lets you designate whether the camera determines focus from a small, local area of the image (Spot) or the entire image area (iESP), by choosing the appropriate AF Mode option in the Shooting menu. Once in Spot AF mode, you can move the AF target by holding down the Focus button and using the arrow keys to move the target around on the LCD monitor. (To reset the AF mark to center, press the Menu / OK and Focus buttons simultaneously.)

The C-5060 Wide Zoom's exterior lens barrel has a set of fairly large accessory threads that couple to Olympus' lens adapter tube, the CLA-7. An Accessory option in the LCD menu system (under the "camera" tab) sets up the camera for working with auxiliary lenses, and features an Underwater setting as well. The optional CLA-7 adapter provides a bayonet mount that projects out from the camera body far enough for any auxiliary optics to clear the telescoping lens assembly. Unlike Olympus lens adapters though, it bears noting that the CLA-7 offers only a proprietary Olympus bayonet mount, not conventional filter threads. This means that you'll be forced to rely upon Olympus-branded auxiliary lenses, at least until some third-party manufacturer comes out with an adapter barrel to mate with the C-5060. (Suppliers like CKC Power should be good bets for an adapter in fairly short order though, I'd think.) The CLA-7's price hadn't been set at the time of this writing in mid-November, 2003, but is estimated at being on the order of $30. Two auxiliary lenses are being planned for the 5060, the 1.7x teleconverter TCON-17C, which extends the maximum telephoto focal length to the equivalent of a 187mm lens on a 35mm camera, and the 0.7x wide converter TCON-07C, which extends the maximum wide-angle coverage to the equivalent of a 19mm lens on a 35mm camera. Both lenses are slated to carry a retail price of $199.95. (Late-breaking note: Olympus has told me that they will have 40.5 mm protective, UV, and polarizing filters that will attach directly to the camera's body threads, so you'll at least have the option of using those types of filters with the 5060. - But there will be no thread to accommodate non-Olympus lenses or filters, barring a third-party solution of the sort I mentioned above.) An Accessory option in the LCD menu system (under the "camera" tab) sets up the camera for working with auxiliary lenses, and features an Underwater setting as well.

The C-5060 Wide Zoom also provides as much as 3.5x digital zoom, which can be enabled via the Shooting menu. Once activated, the Zoom scale on the right side of the monitor changes to accommodate the expanded range for the digital zoom. The bottom half of the scale (colored white) indicates the optical zoom range, while the top half (colored red) specifies the digital zoom. The 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 or RAW modes.

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