DCRP Review: Olympus C-5000 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: November 12, 2003
Last Updated: November 12, 2003

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The Olympus C-5000Z ($449 street price) is a midrange, full-featured 5 Megapixel camera, taking it's place below Olympus' C-5050Z and new C-5060 Wide Zoom models. The C-5000Z has a 5 Megapixel CCD, 3X optical zoom lens, full manual controls, "super" macro mode, and a hot shoe. Needless to say, this is a pretty crowded segment of the digital camera market, so the C-5000 has its work cut out for it. How does it perform? Find out now!

What's in the Box?

The Olympus C-5000Z has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 5.0 effective Mpixel C-5000 Zoom camera
  • 32MB xD Picture Card
  • LI-10B lithium-ion battery (rechargeable)
  • Battery charger
  • Remote control
  • Neck strap
  • Lens cap w/strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • Basic manual (printed) + full manual on CD-ROM

Olympus includes a 32MB xD card with the camera, which is a good starting point. Even so, you'll quickly want to buy a larger card -- I suggest 256MB as a good size. xD cards currently come as large as 512MB.

The C-5000Z uses the same LI-10B lithium-ion battery as a few other Olympus cameras, namely the Stylus 300/400 and the C-50Z. The battery has 4.0 Wh of energy, which is respectable but not great. Olympus does not publish battery life statistics, though it seemed competitive during my time with the camera.

I'm not a huge fan of proprietary batteries like the one included with the C-5000Z. They're expensive ($40 a pop) and you can't drop in some AA batteries in an emergency. Olympus certainly could've used AAs in this camera -- there's plenty of room for them.

When it's time to charge the battery, use the included charger. It will "fill 'er up" in about two hours. This isn't one of those "plug it right into the wall" chargers -- there's an AC cable you attach and use.

Olympus includes a lens cap and retaining strap, to protect your lens.

The camera also includes the very simple RM-2 remote control. It does one thing: take pictures (no fancy stuff). It has a range of up to 5 meters.

The C-5000Z has a nice selection of accessories available. You can add wide-angle, telephoto, or macro conversion lenses (ranging in price from $160-200), but first you'll need the CLA-6 conversion lens adapter (about $35). Since the C-5000 has a hot shoe, you can add an external flash, or use a PC sync cable and flash bracket. Olympus sells three flashes -- the FL-20, FL-40, and new FL-50 -- ranging in price from $200-550. Other accessories include a carrying case, and various memory card-related items.

Like all of Olympus' recent cameras, the C-5000 is fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP. Most likely, you won't even need to install drivers.

The C-750UZ includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.1 software. The screen shot above will give you a good idea of what this software can do. It's way better than what the old versions of years past.

The 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.

The software is much more responsive than the previous versions. My only complaint is that the interface is non-standard on both Macs and PCs.

If you don't mind parting with $20, 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.

Keeping with recent tradition (unfortunately), Olympus only includes a printed "basic" manual in the box. If you want to view the full manual, you need to look at the PDF file on the CD. The quality of the manual itself is about average, which is an improvement over previous Olympus manuals.

Look and Feel

If there's one thing I can say about the C-5000Z, it's that it won't be winning any beauty pageants. For some reason, it reminds me of a beluga whale (no, this is not a Rorschach test). The unusual design of the camera does have one benefit: it's really easy to hold. The camera body is made of a mix of metal and plastic, and it feels sturdy enough. Controls are well-placed, so you can quickly change camera settings.

The official dimensions of the C-5000Z are 105 x 74 x 46 mm / 4.1 x 2.9 x 1.8 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions), and it weighs about 238 grams / 8.4 ounces empty. The C-5000 is what I'd call a midsize camera -- definitely not something that will fit in your pocket.

With that out of the way, we can now begin our tour of the C-5000Z.

The main event on the front of the C-5000Z is its F2.8-4.8, 3X optical zoom lens. The lens has a focal range of 7.8 - 23.4 mm, which is equivalent to 38 - 114 mm. The lens is threaded, though you'll need the CLA-6 conversion lens adapter to take advantage of it. If the CLA-6 is like the other lens adapters, it will give you access to 55 mm filters (in addition to the conversion lenses).

Up at the top of the picture is the camera's built-in flash. The flash has a working range of 0.2 - 3.8 m at wide-angle, and 0.3 - 2.2 m at telephoto. If you want more flash power, just attach an external flash to the hot shoe that you'll see in a moment.

Below the flash is the optical viewfinder. On either side of that you'll find the remote control receiver and the self-timer lamp. As is the case with most Olympus cameras, there's no AF illuminator to be found.

And now onto the back of the camera. Here you'll find a large and high resolution 1.8" LCD display. The LCD has 134,000 pixels -- very nice. As you'd expect, images on the LCD are sharp, and movement is fluid. If the brightness isn't good enough for you, you can just adjust it in the setup menu.

Directly above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is good sized. Unfortunately, it lacks a diopter correction feature, which will focus the image you see through the viewfinder.

To the right of the viewfinder are three buttons. The topmost one controls the flash (auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill-in flash, slow sync, flash off) and also deletes photos.

The two buttons below that one are for:

  • Macro + spot metering {record} / Protect image {playback}
  • AE Lock or custom button {record} / Rotate image {playback}

The AE lock button will lock the exposure until a picture is taken. You can also redefine the function of this button, allowing you to change other functions without a trip through the menus.

The little button with the screen-looking icon is the display button, which toggles the LCD on and off. Below that is the four-way controller, which is used for menu navigation, selecting manual controls, and adjusting exposure compensation (-2EV to +2EV, 1/3EV increments). The "OK" button in the middle of things is also used to enter the menu system.

Manual focus

Press and hold the OK button and you will activate the manual focus feature. You can then adjust the focus yourself, using the four-way switch. The camera enlarges the center of the image on the LCD so you can make sure the subject is in focus. There is also an indicator showing you the current focus distance.

The big new feature here is the hot shoe, as I mentioned earlier. It supports Olympus' own flashes, plus third party flashes as well. Do note that if you use a non-Olympus flash, you'll need to use both the camera and the flash in manual mode.

To the right of that is the mode dial, which has the power switch underneath it. The items that you'll find here include:

  • Playback mode
  • Auto record - point-and-shoot, many menu options locked down
  • Portrait
  • Sports / Action
  • Landscape-Portrait
  • Landscape-Scene
  • Night Scene
  • Self Portrait
  • Movie mode
  • My Mode
  • A/S/M modes
  • Program mode

Many of those items are what are called "scene modes". You pick a scene and the camera uses the best options for that situation. For example, you'd use Night Scene for taking the night shots found later in the review (it gives you shutter speeds as slow as 4 secs). Self Portrait mode is good for, well, self portraits.

Auto record is pretty much point-and-shoot. You can't change many options.

In program mode, you have full control over everything except the shutter speed and aperture.

In aperture priority mode, you choose an aperture, and the camera picks an appropriate shutter speed. The apertures available range from F2.8 - F8, depending on the zoom position.

Shutter priority mode is just the opposite; you choose the shutter speed, and the camera selects the aperture. The shutter speed range is 1 - 1/1000 sec, which really drives me nuts. Olympus, please give us access to the full shutter speed range in this mode! If you want to do exposures longer than 1 second, you must use either full manual mode or the aforementioned night scene mode.

In full manual (M) mode, you set both the aperture and shutter speed. The aperture range is the same, but the shutter speed range changes to 16 - 1/1000 sec.

While it's not as unique as it once was, the My Mode feature is a great one. This feature allows you to store your favorite settings right on the mode dial, for easy retrieval.

To the northeast of the mode dial is the zoom controller, with the shutter release button inside it. The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 2.6 seconds. By pressing the lever quickly, you can make very precise adjustments.

Finally, at the bottom-left of the picture, you'll find the Quick View button. Pressing this enters playback mode without having the change the mode dial. If you want to take more pictures, you can either press Quick View again, or slightly press the shutter release button.

On this side of the camera are the I/O ports, found under a rubber cover. The ports are DC-in (for optional AC adapter), USB, and video out. The camera uses the older and slower USB 1.1 standard (though most other cameras do as well).

Nothing to see here!

That leaves us with the bottom of the camera. Here you'll find a plastic tripod mount, as well as the battery and memory card slots. The plastic door that covers the two slots seems fairly sturdy.

The included LI-10B battery and 32MB xD card are shown on the right.

Using the Olympus C-5000 Zoom

Record Mode

It takes the C-5000Z 4.5 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures -- that's about average.

In good lighting, the camera's autofocus speed was competitive, with about a 1/2 second lag when you halfway press the shutter release button. Despite the lack of an AF-assist lamp, the C-5000 was able to focus on subjects around the house in dim lighting.

Shutter lag (the time between a half-press of the shutter release button and when the photo is taken) was low at fast shutter speeds, and slightly noticeable at slower shutter speeds.

No histogram to be found in record mode

Shot-to-shot speed was very good, with about a 1.5 second delay between shots, assuming you have the Rec View feature turned off. If it is turned on, you can half-press the shutter release button to resume taking pictures.

There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You can, however, use the Quick View feature to do so.

You have many image resolution and quality options on the C-5000Z, as you'll see below:

Quality Resolution # photos on 32MB card (included)
TIFF 2560 x 1920 2
2272 x 1704 2
2048 x 1536 2
1600 x 1200 4
1280 x 960 8
1024 x 768 12
640 x 480 30
SHQ 2560 x 1920 8
HQ 2560 x 1920 26
SQ1 - High 2272 x 1704 10
2048 x 1536 12
1600 x 1200 22
SQ1 - Normal 2560 x 1920 32
2048 x 1536 40
1600 x 1200 66
SQ2 - High 1280 x 960 34
1024 x 768 54
640 x 480 140
SQ2 - Normal 1280 x 960 104
1024 x 768 156
640 x 480 396

As you can see, there's a TIFF (but no RAW) mode. Unless you're a real perfectionist, using JPEG mode is more than adequate. If you do use TIFF mode, note that there's a 30+ second delay while the image is saved to the memory card. The camera doesn't tell you that it's locked up, but it won't let you take another picture.

Olympus uses one of the more sensible 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, at least a year). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.

The C-5000Z uses Olympus' customizable menu system. When you first open the menu, you're presented with four choices:

  • Self-timer / remote control
  • Mode Menu
  • White balance
  • Image quality

Don't like those choices? With the exception of Mode Menu, you can put whatever you want in that menu.

The Mode Menu is where most of the options on the C-5000 are located, and it can be a little intimidating and hard to navigate at first. Here's what you'll find in this menu:

  • Camera Setup
    • Self-timer / Remote control
    • Drive (Single-frame, sequential, AF sequential, auto bracketing) - see below
    • ISO (Auto, 50, 80, 160, 320)
    • A/S/M - switches between aperture priority, shutter priority, and full manual modes
    • Flash strength (-2.0EV to +2.0EV, 1/3EV increments)
    • External flash (Internal + external, external only)
    • Flash slow sync (1st curtain, 1st curtain w/redeye reduction, 2nd curtain)
    • Noise reduction (on/off) - reduces noise in photos with shutter speeds 1 sec or slower
    • Digital zoom (on/off) - using the 4X digital zoom will reduce the quality of your photos
    • Super macro mode (on/off) - more later
    • Panorama - helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded xD card
    • 2 in 1 - combine two shots into one
    • Function (Off, black & white, sepia) - various photo effects
    • AF Area (on/off) - lets you choose the AF target by using the four-way switch. Must put camera in spot metering mode first.
    • Info (on/off) - toggles info shown on LCD

  • Picture Settings
    • Quality (see chart above)
    • White Balance (Auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent x3, manual)
    • White balance compensation (-7EV to +7EV in 1EV increments) - fine tune white balance
    • Sharpness (-2 to +2, increments of 1)
    • Contrast (-2 to +2, increments of 1)
    • Saturation (-2 to +2, increments of 1)

  • Card Setup (Format)

  • Setup
    • All reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
    • Language (English, Français, Deutsch, Español)
    • PW on/off (on/off) - turn startup screen on and off
    • Rec View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Sleep (30 sec, 1, 3, 5, 10 min)
    • My Mode setup - save your favorite settings for easy retrieval
    • File naming (Auto, reset)
    • Pixel mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
    • Monitor brightness
    • Clock set
    • Units (meters, feet)
    • Video output (NTSC, PAL)
    • Short cut - configure the first page of the menus, as I explained above
    • Custom button - customize what the AE Lock button does. You can use almost all of the above menu options

Some further explanation is required on some of those. First, the drive options. There are three continuous shooting modes. Regular sequential mode will lock the focus and exposure settings on the first shot, and will take 5 shots (or more) at 1.7 frames/sec. AF sequential mode will redo the focus and exposure for each shot, which slows the rate down considerably (to roughly 1 frame/sec).

Auto bracketing will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different exposure compensation value. You can set the EV increment (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1EV) in the setup menu.

The fine-tunable white balance lets you make the selected white balance redder or bluer. This is a feature rarely seen on digital cameras. The C-5000Z has a manual (preset) white balance option as well, which let you use a white or gray card to ensure perfect color in any lighting.

Okay, enough about menus. Let's take a look at some photo samples now.

The C-5000 did a fine job at the night shot test. Noise is very low and the camera captured plenty of light. In fact, I should've used a slower shutter speed. Purple fringing was not a problem. Keep in mind that the only way to take long exposures like the one above (8 sec) is to use manual (M) mode.

The macro test shot was also very good. Colors are accurate, and the subject is detailed.

The C-5000 has two macro modes. Regular macro mode gives you a mediocre focal range of 20 - 50 cm at wide-angle, and 30 - 50 m at telephoto. For serious macro shots, you'll want to use "super" macro mode. This locks the lens in place (toward the wide end of things) and lets you get just 4 cm from your subject. Do note that the flash is disabled in super macro mode (understandably).

There's some pretty serious redeye on the C-5000Z. There are two ways to reduce it: first, you can remove it after the fact in software. If you're really into people pictures and have a few hundred dollars laying around, pick up an external flash and use that instead.

The distortion test shows mild to moderate levels of barrel distortion at the wide-angle setting. It also shows hints of vignetting (dark corners), though none of my photos showed that phenomenon.

Overall, photo quality on the C-5000Z was very good. Exposures were good, colors accurate, and purple fringing (chromatic aberrations) were low. One thing I did notice is higher-than-average noise, which gave images a slightly "grainy" look. I would imagine that turning the in-camera sharpening down a notch would reduce this.

As always, let your own eyes be the final judge of photo quality -- so visit the photo gallery!

Movie Mode

The C-5000Z's movie mode is not great -- it's worse than most of Olympus' other cameras as well. You can record 320 x 240 video until the memory card is full, but you can't use the zoom lens at all (not even before recording), and sound is not recorded. You can store about two minutes of 320 x 240 video on the included 32MB xD card (and over nine minutes at 160 x 120).

Movies are saved in QuickTime format, with a frame rate of 15 frames/sec.

Here's an very dull sample movie for you:

Click to play movie (3.3MB, QuickTime format)

Can't play it? Download QuickTime.

Playback Mode

The C-5000 uses the standard (and capable) Olympus playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print marking, thumbnail mode, and image protection are all available.

The "zoom and scroll" feature is here too, allowing you to zoom in as much as 4X into your photo, and then move around in it.

Two other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240) and rotation.

Deleting an image is a piece of cake -- just hit the delete button on the back of the camera. You can delete one photo, or all of them -- but not several at a time.

Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode (above left). When you want more info, you can turn on "info" in the menu. There's no histogram, unfortunately.

Moving between photos on the camera is fairly quick; it takes a little over one second to load another high res photo.

How Does it Compare?

While not without its flaws, the Olympus C-5000 Zoom does what it's supposed to: take quality pictures. Sure they're a little noisy/grainy (try turning down the in-camera sharpening), but both color and exposure were good. Purple fringing (AKA chromatic aberrations) were not a problem. One thing that was a problem was redeye (an external flash would help here). In terms of performance, the C-5000 was competitive with other cameras in its class. It lacks an AF-assist lamp, but still did a fairly good job of focusing in dim lighting. The C-5000 gets bonus points for allowing the use of conversion lenses and external flashes. The included (but limited) remote control is a nice touch, as well.

As I mentioned, the C-5000 is not perfect. For one, there's the redeye and grainy image issues I mentioned above. The movie mode leaves much to be desired (no sound, no zoom). I also don't like how Olympus doesn't allow you to use the full range of shutter speeds in shutter priority mode. A histogram feature in record and playback mode would be a plus. And I'm still disappointed that Olympus is only making the full camera manual available on CD. If you can live with those issues, the C-5000 is worth a look.

What I liked:

  • Good photo quality, though images a little noisy
  • Full manual controls, including white balance which you can fine tune
  • Customizable buttons and menus
  • Handy My Mode feature lets you store favorite settings to spot on mode dial
  • Super macro mode lets you get 4 cm from your subject
  • Hot shoe for external flash
  • Supports add-on lenses
  • Pixel mapping feature blocks out bad pixels from CCD

What I didn't care for:

  • Images on the noisy/grainy side
  • Redeye
  • Slowest shutter speeds only available in full manual mode
  • No AF illuminator
  • No histogram feature (at all)
  • No sound or use of zoom lens in movie mode
  • Full manual only on CD

Some other cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot G3, G5 and S50, Fuji FinePix F700 and S7000 (I suppose), Kodak EasyShare DX6440, Minolta DiMAGE A1, Nikon Coolpix 5400, Olympus C-5060Z Wide Zoom, and the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V1.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the C-5000 and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

Check out the photo gallery for this camera!

Want a second opinion?

Read another review over at Imaging Resource.


Jeff welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.


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