a bit of delay, I finally got the chance to use the Olympus
C-50 Zoom ($599). This is Olympus' first ultra-compact metal camera,
and also their first to use a proprietary lithium ion battery.
Unlike the Digital ELPHs of the world, the C-50 has quite a few
manual controls. And did I mention the 5 Megapixel resolution?
Read on to learn more about this camera!
in the Box?
Olympus C-50Z Zoom has a very good bundle. Inside the
box, you'll find:
5.0 effective Mpixel C-50 Zoom camera
xD Picture Card
- LI-10B lithium
ion battery w/charger
- Video cable
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
manual (printed, 39 pages), fold-out Quick Start guide, plus
manual on CD-ROM
bundle included with the camera is very good, and would've been
excellent had Olympus provided a full, printed manual.
find a 32MB xD Picture Card in the box. It's enough to start
with, but you'll want a larger card right away, as those 5 million
pixel images take up a lot of space. xD
cards are the smallest memory cards out there, and theoretically
offer some of the best performance as well. Unfortunately, as
of this writing, xD cards aren't any larger than 128MB.
C-50Z is Olympus' first digicam to use a proprietary battery, which
isn't surprising considering the size of the camera. I'm not a
huge fan of such batteries (they are $70 a pop), but they are
unavoidable with cameras this
The LI-10B has 4.0 Watt/hours of power.
it's time to recharge, just pop the battery in the included charger,
and plug it into the wall. This isn't one of those chargers with
a built-in plug, by the way. Charging the LI-10B takes about two
built-in lens cover is part of the C-50's stylish design. The
cover also doubles as the power switch. I did find it a little
to easy to bump it -- especially when opened -- thus turning
the camera off.
nice item in the bundle is the good old RM-1 wireless remote.
This remote has been around forever (so has the picture above),
but it's very helpful for taking pictures away from the camera,
on a television while you sit on the couch.
1/26/03: As with many ultra-compact cameras, the accessory
selection is limited.
The only things I could find were an AC adapter, soft case, and
various xD-related accessories. An underwater case is also available
(model # PT-014, $300), allowing the C-50 to go up to 40 m underwater.
all of Olympus' recent models, the C-50Z is
compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases, you won't
even need to install drivers.
C-50Z includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.0 software. If you've
used older versions of this software, you'll be pleasantly surprised
with the changes in this one.
editing tools included with Camedia Master are impressive. You can
change all kinds of things like brightness, contrast, and color
balance. There are also red-eye reduction and "instant fix" options.
software is much more responsive than the previous versions.
only complaint is that the interface is non-standard (doesn't follow
human interface guidelines) on both Macs and PCs.
$20 more, Olympus will upgrade you to the "Pro" version
of the software. This adds contact sheet printing, image e-mailing,
HTML albums, panorama stitching, and slide shows.
with recent Olympus tradition (unfortunately), the only printed
manual you get is a "basic" manual. If you want more
depth, you've got to load up the one included on CD. The manuals
have been improved over previous Olympus manuals, but are still
C-50Z is reminiscent of Olympus' D-400/500 series of cameras,
except it's smaller and with an all-metal body. The metal body
of the C-50 gives it a really solid feel, but watch out, as the
surface scratches easily.
camera is super easy to hold, and fits in your pocket with ease.
Controls are generally easy to reach (more on this later).
official dimensions of the camera are 3.9 x 2.3 x 1.6 inches
and it weighs 194 grams empty. For the sake of comparison, the
Canon S45's numbers are 4.4 x 2.3 x 1.7 inches and 260 grams,
start our tour of the camera now:
C-50 has an F2.8, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal range is 7.8
- 23.4 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. As with all ultra-compact
cameras, the lens is not threaded.
above the lens is the optical viewfinder. To the left of that
is the self-timer/remote control lamp.
at the top right is the built-in flash. The working range of
the flash is approx. 0.2 - 3.4 m at wide-angle, and 0.3 - 2.0
at telephoto. Since I've been unofficially comparing the C-50
to the S45 thus far, I will say that the flash range is substantially
better on the S45.
below the flash is the remote control receiver. Sadly there's
no AF illuminator on the C-50Z, which the S45 and a few other
similar cameras do have.
now is the back of the C-50Z. It has an average-sized 1.5" LCD
display, which is bright and fluid. The resolution is very good
as well. The brightness is adjustable via a menu option.
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is larger than average
for a small camera. It does lack a diopter correction knob,
but then again, so does most of the competition.
the right of the optical viewfinder you'll find two buttons,
with the following function (from left to right):
mode (Auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, slow synchro,
slow synchro w/redeye reduction, flash off)
- Spot metering
+ spot metering
to the right, you can see the mode wheel, with quite a few options
on it. These include:
most menus items locked up
For portrait shots
|Landscape + Portrait
||Landscapes with people in front
|Landscape + Scene
||Standard landscape mode
night shots. Tripod required. Will use slower shutter speeds
than all other modes except full manual.
For action shots
||Turn the camera on yourself
||More on this later
||Quick access to your favorite settings
||Program, aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual
modes. More in a second.
I wish Olympus would keep the P/A/S/M options separate on the
mode wheel, but I guess there was no room.
(P) mode is still automatic, but you have full access to the
priority (A) mode allows you to choose an aperture from a range
of F2.8 - F8.0, and the camera picks the appropriate shutter
speed. Olympus notes that shutter speeds cannot go slower than
1/30 sec (at wide-angle) or 1/100 sec (at telephoto) when the
flash is on.
priority (S) mode is the opposite. You choose a shutter speed
between 1/2 - 1/1000 sec, and the camera chooses the aperture.
I don't like how Olympus won't let you use the
full shutter speed range in shutter priority mode. If you're
using flash slow sync, the shutter speed can go as slow as 4
sec, but otherwise it's 1/2 sec. You can use the Night Scene
mode, but most of the camera controls will be locked up.
full manual (M) mode, you set both the aperture and shutter speed.
The aperture range is the same, but the shutter speed range increases
to 8 - 1/1000 sec.
quick word about My Mode: this is a handy way to save your favorite
settings. You can either save the current set, or customize it
yourself, and then you can use them anytime by simple switching
to My Mode on the mode wheel.
to our tour now. To the lower-left of the mode wheel is the Display/Quick
View button. Press it once in record mode, and the LCD turns
on/off. Press it twice and you'll enter playback mode. If the
lens cover is closed, you can press it once to enter playback.
I did not like how the button was placed "below the surface"
on the body -- it's too hard to press the button. You'll understand
when you try it in person.
final item on the back of the camera is the four-way switch.
You'll use this to navigate the menus and adjust settings. The
button in the middle activates the menu system and is also the
"OK" button once there.
is the top of the C-50Z. Up here, you'll find the shutter release
button and zoom controller. It takes about 2.3 seconds to move
the lens from wide-angle to telephoto. The lens moves quietly
-- totally opposite of the last Olympus camera I reviewed (the
this side of the camera, you'll find the DC-in port for the
optional AC adapter.
on the other side, you'll find the rest of the I/O ports. THese
include video output and USB. The plastic cover feels a little
cheap compared with the rest of the camera.
here is the bottom of the camera. Behind another cheap-feeling
plastic door, you'll find the battery and xD slots. You can see
both of those over to the left.
in the middle of the camera is the tripod mount. With the C-50's
nice metal body, I was surprised to see that the tripod mount
was made of plastic.
the Olympus C-50 Zoom
camera takes just over 4.5 seconds to extend the lens and "boot
before you can start taking pictures -- about average. Auto focus
speeds are also fairly average. Expect about a one second delay
in good lighting, and longer if the AF system has to hunt a bit.
As you might expect on a camera without an AF illuminator, the
C-50 had some trouble focusing in dim light.
lag was variable, depending on the shutter speed being used.
With faster shutter speeds, it was barely noticeable. As shutter
speeds got slower, some lag was definitely there, so a steady
handy and/or tripod is very helpful.
speed is good -- you'll wait just under two seconds between shots
in SHQ mode. Taking a photo in TIFF mode will lock up the camera
over 25 seconds.
is no option to delete photos as they are being written to the
card. You can, of course, go to playback mode and do it there.
and quality options are much simpler on the C-50Z than on the
recently-tested C-5050Z. Also note that the C-50Z does not have
the RAW mode of its more expensive sibling.
photos on 32MB card (included)
||1600 x 1200
|1280 x 960
uses one of the better file numbering systems that I've seen. Files
are named Pmdd####.jpg, where m is the month (1-9, A-C), d is the
day, and #### is 0001-9999. This way your file numbers are always
unique (well, for one year at least). File numbering is maintained
as you erase and switch memory cards.
C-50Z uses Olympus' customizable menu system. When
you first press the menu button, you are presented with the above
screen. Well, not necessarily that one, as you can customize
three of the four items (mode menu always stays). You can put
almost any option from the mode menu into the menu above.
here is that mode menu.
It can be somewhat confusing to navigate,
as you've got to hit "OK" to choose and option and then
back out of the menu. Here are the menu options:
- Self-timer/remote control (Off, self-timer, remote control)
(Single-frame, sequential, AF sequential,
auto bracketing) - see below
(Auto, 80, 160, 320)
- move between program, aperture priority, shutter priority,
and full manual mode
strength (-2EV to +2EV in 1/3EV increments)
zoom (on/off) - using the 4X digital zoom will reduce
of your images
- helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded
in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten,
(Soft, normal, hard)
(Low, normal, high)
(the interesting ones, at least)
reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
(on/off) - shows extra info in record/playback mode
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
Mode setup - save your favorite settings for easy retrieval.
Choose to save the current settings, or customize them manually
naming (Auto, reset)
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
cut - configure the first page of the menus, as I explained
output (NTSC, PAL)
you read the C-5050Z review, you'll notice that several items
are missing on the C-50Z, most notably, manual white balance
control. That's too bad, as most of the competition now offers
C-50Z has two continuous shooting modes. Regular sequential
lock the focus and exposure settings on the first shot,
and fire up to up 3 shots at 1 frames/second.
AF sequential mode will redo the focus and exposure for each
shot, which slows the rate down considerably. The Canon S45's
continuous shooting modes were more impressive (1.5-2.5 frames/sec).
bracketing will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different
exposure compensation value (±0.3, ±0.7, ±1.0).
other weird thing: the menus on my C-50Z are English only. There
is no language option to be found.
you tired of menus? So am I. Here are the photo tests.
have no complaints about how the macro test turned out. The subject
is sharp, and the colors are nice and saturated (but not too
much). The focal range in macro mode is 20-50 cm.
View F3.4 image (shown above)
View F4.5 image
limit of 1/2 sec in shutter priority mode means that you'll probably
want to go into full manual mode for most night shots. I did
just that, and got very nice results. You can also use the Night
Scene mode, but keep in mind that most of the controls
are locked up -- including ISO, which could result in some noisy
dome seems a little too blue (compare with this
shot to see the correct color; warning--image is large),
but noise levels were very low. The low noise levels are impressive,
considering that this camera has no noise reduction feature.
There's a bit of purple fringing at the very top, but closing
of that problem.
wasn't surprised to see that the C-50 had trouble with redeye.
After all, the flash is very close to the lens, which is usually
a good predictor of redeye. The shot above (slightly enlarged
and brightened) was taken with redeye reduction turned on.
1/31/03: The shot above is a totally new test I'm trying out.
This board is
shot at the wide-angle setting under natural light from about
2 feet away (give or take). The image is then auto-leveled in
Photoshop. The purpose of this test is to a) illustrate distortion
(barrel and edge) and b) show any vignetting that may occur.
By the way, the red dot is actually on the paper, it was not
added in Photoshop.
isn't much vignetting (darkened corners) to speak of here, and
the barrel distortion seems pretty mild.
test is a work-in-progress, so don't take it as gospel. If
you have suggestions about how this test could be improved, let
me know. I'm also trying to get a color comparison test
going, but I need more consistent lighting first.
image quality on the C-50Z was very good. My test photos were
well-exposed, with good color and detail. Photos are a little
too sharp (and slightly noisy) for my taste, due to the C-50's
in-camera sharpening system. You
tone it down a little, but you don't have as much control
over sharpness as the C-5050Z does (there are only low/normal/high
issue I noticed was occasional jagged edges, as you can see above.
Turning the sharpness to low did not help.
problem the C-50 didn't have was purple fringing... at least
I always say, don't just take my conclusions about photo quality
to be the gold standard. Take a look at the photo
use your own eyes to decide for yourself!
C-50Z's movie mode is very disappointing. Clips are limited to
just 16 seconds at 320 x 240, and sound is not recorded. You
can't use the optical zoom during filming, either.
are recorded at 320 x 240 or 160 x 120. If you use the smaller
size, the time limit goes up to 70 seconds.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.2MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
C-50Z has a very good playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.
zoom and scroll feature is here too, allowing you to zoom in
much as 4X into your photo, and then move around in it.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320
x 240) and rotation.
you don't get much information about your photos in playback
mode. Turn on "info" in the menus and you'll get more. Unfortunately,
you won't get a histogram.
C-50 moves through images at an average pace, with a 2 second
delay between high-res photos. Viewing images recorded in TIFF
mode will take considerably longer.
Does it Compare?
Olympus C-50 Zoom is a very good camera, that has a few
flaws keeping it from excellence. The good news: the C-50 has
a very attractive, small metal body. It's easy to use as a point-and-shoot
or in manual mode. The My Mode feature is something that every
camera should have. Image
quality was very good, and most people will be happy with
it. Jagged edges and noise did appear, but in most cases it was
negatives include the lack of an autofocus illuminator lamp,
no manual white balance or focus, a maximum shutter speed of
1/2 sec in shutter priority mode, and a lackluster movie mode.
are the lack of any diopter correction, and a power switch (via
the lens cover) that makes it too easy to accidentally turn off
closest competition is probably the Canon PowerShot S45 --
a camera which I'd probably rank a little higher than the C-50Z
despite having a lower resolution -- but
both are worth a close look.
well-designed metal body
5 Megapixel images
store your favorite settings to My Mode
playback, scene modes
I didn't care for:
- No AF illuminator
manual white balance or manual focus
problem -- typical of ultra-small cameras.
- Poor movie mode
"jaggies" and noise in images
door makes it too easy to accidentally turn camera off
is on CD
small 4 and 5 Megapixel cameras to check out include the Canon
PowerShot S45, Casio
FinePix F601 Zoom, Kodak
EasyShare LS443, Konica
KD-400Z, Kyocera Finecam S4 and S5,
Minolta DiMAGE F100 and
Coolpix 4300, Pentax
Optio 430RS, and the Sony
always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try
the C-50Z and its competitors before you buy!
a look at our photo gallery
to see how the pictures turned out.
a second opinion? How about a third?
sure to read Steve's
Digicams and Imaging
Resource reviews of the C-50
welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal
recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.