Conclusion - Pros

  • Superb resolution, especially considering smaller sensor and same lens as older cameras
  • Generally good metering, tonal balance will be too contrasty for some but easy to change
  • Color balance good, nice greens and natural skin tones, red blow outs in extreme sun
  • Wide control over cameras internal processing algorithms (saturation, contrast, sharpness)
  • New super-macro mode delivers very good close-ups
  • Excellent 'solid' build quality, feels robust pro-like design features with good control layout
  • Shooting priority play mode (double press of quick view button)
  • Extremely wide range of manual and parameter control, a shutterbug's dream
  • Nice implementation of custom button and selectable 'My Mode' user memories
  • Wide range of forward and backward media support including IBM Microdrive
  • Flash Hot-shoe, flash sync control (slow / curtain)
  • Good night exposures with noise reduction enabled
  • Good flash performance, no color cast and good skin tones
  • Mature product based on experience and user feedback
  • Good software bundled, although more RAW conversion features would be welcome
  • AF assist lamp works well
  • Included Infrared remote control
  • Excellent battery life for an AA powered camera, plus good AA NiMH's supplied

Conclusion - Cons

  • Chromatic aberrations visible in strong contrast shots
  • Red overexposure color shift in direct sunlight
  • Jagged diagonals / demosaic artifacts sometimes visible
  • Color clipped to grey at the highest contrast setting
  • RAW format is welcome but not backed up with a decent RAW converter, no advantage
  • Noise levels higher than the competition, especially unexpected at ISO 64
  • 'Shallow angle jaggies' visible on resolution chart, although not yet seen in 'every day' shots
  • Rubber tripod mount rubber 'shoe' causes the camera to tilt on quick release platforms
  • Status panel is not backlit

Overall conclusion

Here's my rating of the Olympus C-5050 Zoom: (5 megapixel prosumer)

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9
Features 9
Image quality 8
Lens / CCD combination 8.5
Ease of use 8
Value for money 9

The C-5050 Zoom is a first of a kind, it's one of the first prosumer level digital cameras to utilize the new 1/1.8" five megapixel CCD, and to do so with a lens originally designed for lower resolution digital cameras. Credit then where it is due, the Olympus lens and the new sensor are clearly capable of delivering at least as much resolution as we have seen from the best 2/3" CCD five megapixel digital cameras. Other factors of image quality are good except for primarily chromatic aberrations and noise levels, which I'll discuss more below.

As a photographers tool the C-5050 Zoom is a shutterbug's dream, there are a huge number of manual controls, lots of access to controls on the outside of the camera, lots of control over image processing, a customizable button and up to eight user memories for your favourite group of settings. Olympus have obviously spent a long time considering the design and ergonomics of the camera, and I see plenty of owner suggestions going into the C-5050 Zoom.

The C-5050 Zoom however isn't without its problems, the first things which struck me about images from the camera were higher than expected noise levels at a relatively low sensitivity ISO 64 and the visibility of chromatic aberrations in high contrast images, even at small apertures. These two issues are the primary reasons I can't give an otherwise excellent camera our 'Highly Recommended' rating. I love the C-5050 Zoom as a photographic tool, if you feel that the noise levels are acceptable and the chromatic aberrations not an issue in your photography then the compact and ultra-flexible C-5050 Zoom should be high on your list.


So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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