Olympus C5050z user reviews


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Karl Johnson's review
Eric Peltzer's review
Alexander Gruener's review
Klaus' review
Hiro's review
Kane's comments

Review by Karl Johnson
Olympus 5050 user group, Dec 20th, 2002

Okay, I'm making the switch from a 4040 to a 5050. The 5050 arrived late yesterday, so these are my initial impressions...

The first thing I noticed is how small the xD-Card is. I hadn't seen a picture of it next to something to give it a sense of scale. Also, no one seems interested in showing the back of it, so here's its backside compared to a SmartMedia card:

The second thing I noticed was, unfortunately, how dim the C-5050Z's LCD is compared to the C-4040Z. I looked through the group's archived messages and noticed someone said the screen of their 5050 looked brilliant compared to a 4040. Mine certainly isn't. It looks washed out. I dropped by a local Circuit City and check out their demo model...same thing. I'm sure it's a different make of LCD screen than the 4040 since it also acts differently when moving the camera around. The 5050 LCD kind of streaks and blurs the image when moved...the 4040's just moves and stays clear. The 5050's LCD would probably look fine if I didn't have the 4040 to compare it to. I suspect the change was made to save on the batteries or because of the movable LCD. Anyway the adjustable screen makes up for the poorer display...but its going to bug me.

[Editor's note: in the subsequent discussion it turns out that the LCD of the 5050 is not as washed out as initially assumed by Karl - check the group's message archives (message 2629).]

I use a wrist strap on my cameras. With the previous models, especially the 3040 and 4040, I was used to slipping on the strap, pulling the camera out of its case, flicking the lens cover off with a finger, turning the camera on, and if wanted, setting the flash, exposure compensation, macro or spot, and turning on the LCD. All of this done with one hand in basically one motion. With the 5050 I can do most of those things, but the flash, exposure compensation, macro and spot modes are two-handed operations. I bet using "my settings" will make up for this.

That's all minor compared to the images. I was concerned about purple fringing, over-sharpening, and noise. So how did it do? Just fine, in fact in one scene I noticed some funkyness in the image from the 4040. Here's a reduced-sized copy of the picture:

In the background there is a house and some trees. Here's the 5050 and 4040 side-by-side shown at 100% cropped to  just that area:

Although the clouds had changed between shots, notice what the 4040 did where the trees meet the sky...weird. You can see the image from the 5050 is slightly sharper than the 4040 in the details of the pine trees. Both shots were with the default settings of the cameras, in HQ mode and the F-stop at 4. I tried some shots with the 5050 at different sharpness settings and didn't get anything conclusive. They didn't look noticeably better or worse to me, just a bit sharper or fuzzier...go figure.

So was the upgrade worth it to me? Time will tell, but I do like the super-macro mode, the tilting screen, and the option to shoot in the RAW (so to speak). I'm definitely getting good images with it. Would it be worth it to you? Only you can answer that...read the reviews...go to a camera store and try one on for size...and hey, have some fun...if you're going to spend that much money, it should be fun, right?


Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Review by Eric Peltzer
Olympus 5050 user group, Nov 27th, 2002

Well I got my new C-5050 yesterday. Kudos to SSDOnline for delivering as promised. So I have some initial observations. Please note that I am a longtime Nikon user including two CoolPix 9xx series as well as film SLRs but the Olympus tempted me away. So I am probably a reasonably objective non-Olympus loyalist ;).

One thing I would say about upgrading - if you already have a decent 4 mp camera like a C-4000 or 4040 then you will not be bowled over by image improvement or anything else. Even the improvement from a good 3.3 mp like the Nik 990 to 5mp is not that overwhelming. To me there were other reasons for upgrading besides mp. The newer cameras are faster operating, the lcd's are better and not as jerky, the higher resolution goes hand in hand with better color, and there are a lot of other improvements. The C-5050 can use a microdrive (more on this later.) The Nikon took FOREVER to save or replay a video and was limited to 40 seconds with no sound. The C-5050 is limited only by the amount of memory and save and replay has almost no delay. Things like this ARE a substantial improvement in your experience with the

Skin tones and colors are much much more natural with the new camera. As I say, I think this has a lot to do with the higher resolution. Skin tone is something that we look at very critically as humans and subtle unnatural color changes can be really glaring. I was most disappointed with my Nik 990 in this regard. White people look excessively ruddy and grainy in the face. Well we ARE kind of pinkish especially after a day at the beach but the camera would really pick up on it. With higher resolution there is simply more color info to work with.

This has a lot to do with the INTERPOLATION which ALL of these cameras have to do ALL THE TIME. They all use Bayer pattern sensors and this means each pixel location only senses one of the three colors. To make a finished photo there has to be software that takes each pixel, looks at the surrounding pixels and makes it's best guess as to what the OTHER TWO colors should be for that pixel. Definitely not an ideal sensor design. When you realize what is really going on here it's kind of amazing they get a decent image out of these sensors at all. The only sensor that does not have to do this is the Foveon X3 and it is only in one camera so far, the very new Sigma SD-9. This sensor has all three (R,G,B) color sensors at each pixel. It looks very promising but until all of our favorite camera makers use a similar sensor, the only way to better image quality with a Bayer pattern sensor is to higher mp on denser chips.

So to get to the point this makes me think that the Olympus scheme of Optimal Image Enlargement is not that crazy. Why not change the interpolation software a little bit to give a slightly larger file size? The real purpose is probably to allow people to print larger photos directly out of the camera when you don't have the time or patience or laptop to do resampling in PhotoShop.

That is also the purpose of in-camera sharpening. If you are going to print directly from camera, or if you don't want to run every photo through PhotoShop, this is very necessary for decent looking photos. The C cameras are very flexible and you can turn off all sharpening and contrast adjustments. The C-5050 even goes further than that and allows you to save as an non-interpolated RAW file and later save to TIFF or JPEG with different resolutions, sharpness, contrast, wb, and cropping applied ALL WITHIN THE CAMERA and without overwriting the original RAW file. This is very cool!

Of course if you don't want to mess with all this stuff, just slap it on P with medium sharpening and save as a JPEG. If you need the best image possible for some reason and are planning to spend the necessary time with your computer software, then save it as RAW and decide later. That's what's nice about this camera, it's as simple or as complex as you need it to be.

Of course all these features and possibilities mean this is not a simple camera to master. I spent a lot of time last night getting to know the menu system and buttons which are quite different from the Nikon. Changing flash settings requires you to push a small button on the left and then rotate the little thumbwheel. You also have to wait for the lcd display to come on (if it isn't already) to change most settings - this is too bad, it would be better and faster to have the top lcd handle a lot of these basic cameras settings without involving the color one.

Also it would be much better if the camera remembered all of its settings on each mode when you turned it off. This is just annoying. This camera doesn't seem to remember anything unless you . . .

[Editor's note: the 5050 can remember the settings if you disable the reset-on-power-up option.]

USE THE User Modes. There are 8 available user modes and I think I will be using these almost all the time. Pretty much every possible setting including lens zoom, focus distance, aperture, P-A-S-M etc can be saved, and with 8 custom modes available that can cover all my needs. In effect you can have a "Family flash indoor photo mode with Slow Flash and Aperture priority set to f/2.8" saved to MODE 1, while you have a "Sports Mode but use ASA200 only with Shutter Priority set to 1/1000th" saved to MODE 2,  etc etc. This is very cool as I am pretty particular about this stuff but pretty consistent in how I use them. Excellent.

The only thing that is too bad is that you cannot label or rename the user modes. You will have to write it down or simply remember.

As far as the Microdrive goes, it is a thing of wonder BUT - there is an increased delay before every shot as the disk spins up to speed. This does not happen until the shutter button is half-pressed for about 3 or 4 seconds. I can deal with this but be forewarned.  One thing you can do on the C-5050 is have a decent-sized xD or SmartMedia card in the other slot and use it for shooting, then if and when you fill it up move it all over to the microdrive. I will have to experiment to see if this is practical.

The two slot design is very clever. This also means that it may be possible (at least in some cases) to take OTHER peoples cameras and copy some of their photos over to your cards, just using your camera, no cables or computers needed. Cool.

I have not even scratched the surface yet with this camera. So far so good.

   - Eric

Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Further comments by Eric on Dec 2nd, 2002

After spending a few more days with the camera I have some further observations.

Thanks to those who pointed out that little "ALL RESET" function, which should have been the first setting I changed to OFF. Vast improvement. This is one drawback to having such a wealth of features and settings and a 200 page manual. It is all too easy to miss the some of the basic stuff. Also blame my newness to Olympus digicams. I can't believe how long it took me to figure out how to switch between alteration of aperture and shutter speed on "M", and how to work the manual focus. Definitely need to look at the manual because it is not exactly intuitive. In fact I think I have already forgotten.

As far as image quality, I will have to say that C-5050 is certainly capable of some stunning shots. I found myself at first zooming to 100% on my monitor and thinking that, well this is not all that much better than the Nikon 990. This is probably true - at 100%. However, zooming back to "fit on screen" you see how much more image you have to work with and then it really sinks in how much better 5mp is than 3.3mp.

One area this makes a difference is the factor of chrom. aberration. I don't know who said their Nikon 990 didn't suffer from this problem but mine sure did and most sub-SLR digicams I have seen all have it under similar circumstances. However, I would have to say that it is on a similar pixel scale, such that the greater the number of pixels you have, the smaller will appear the CA artifacts in relation to overall picture size. So this is yet another argument in favor of getting as many pixels as you can.

For example I took a really nice shot of my brother and his girlfriend against a lovely rushing stream background. It was a fairly wide angle shot and the people only filled about 1/4 of the frame height. I liked the wide shot as a possible 8x10", but the first thing my brother wanted to do with it was crop it WAY down to just the two of them and print it to a 4x6". With the N990, cropping this much would have produced a mediocre snapshot-quality 4x6, but with this camera there was more than enough detail and color fidelity to make it a satisfying photograph.

For the record this was shot on P with fill flash, f/2, 1/100. I did not manage to center the subjects perfectly. However, again the 5mp saves me. I can crop pretty freely and fix the situation and still get a really stunning 8x10. Yay! This is the first digital camera I have used that has given me this kind of ability.

Also in this shot there were some bare aspen tree branches against a bright grayish sky in the upper section of the frame. Yes there was quite a lot of CA visible as purple and blue fringeing. Looking at the histogram there is significant highlight clipping and this is probably most of the problem. However overall the shot is exposed quite well so I am not sure that deliberate underexposing would be the fix. I fixed it with masking and desaturating because this is a real keeper shot. On a lot of other less important shots I would probably not notice or care so much. It can always be fixed later if you want to print it large. That being said - this is probably my biggest disappointment with digital cameras at this point in time and definitely needs to be fixed. At least it only appears at the edges and not generally in the center of the frame. I may try and do some experiments with aperture settings and maybe even try an IR blocking filter to see what minimizes it. Has anyone done some tests like this, like is there an aperture that minimizes the problem?

About file size and formats. I really like the flexibility of all the different file sizes and quality settings. I shot mostly onto the microdrive so I had plenty of storage space. So I used SHQ which is JPEG with absolute minimum compression. This is a big advantage to me as the N990 had a JPEG compression that even on finest setting was more aggressive, and when shooting to TIFF it was unbearably slow. I have never been able to tell a highest-quality JPEG file like this from a TIFF anyway, so I can hardly see ever using TIFF even with a microdrive. The C-5050 on SHQ produces files that are about 3mb. For comparison, on HQ they are more like 1 mb - thought they still look awfully good.

Someone mentioned that less sharpened pictures take up less space in a JPEG file since there is less detail to record. I have often noticed this when experimenting with JPEG compression levels. SHQ files actually vary between about 2.4mb and 3.8mb depending on the amount of fine detail in the image and how much sharpening has been applied.

I have not experimented with RAW files yet. As someone pointed out the camera software cannot actually manipulate these files out of camera at this point so I am not sure about the advantage of RAW at this point. It would be very useful to me if I had RAW software in future. Someone will surely come up with a plugin or something even if Olympus doesn't, as has happened with most other cameras capable of saving RAW files. For the moment SHQ with -5 sharpening is almost as good for my needs as RAW anyway.

I actually like the viewfinder and use it a lot more than I did on the N990. It's on the left side of the camera so I can brace it hard against the right side of my nose and get it good and steady and still see through it. This really saves batteries. I shot about 80 pictures all weekend with some lcd reviewing and the batteries are still going strong. The only little thing I really don't like about this camera I mentioned before. The fact that you have to wait for the color LCD turns on to adjust a lot of  camera settings like flash or self timer. I often want to change things from shot to shot and the way this is set up is just unbearably cumbersome. This is what the top lcd is for and Olympus should use it that way as much as possible. It is that way when set to A and changing aperture (the top lcd changes instantly.)

I have seen no hot pixels. The N990 had about 5 scattered about and I had made a macro in Photoshop to remove them via cloning. I ran the "pixel mapping" function on the C-5050 when I first got it. Either the sensor is perfect or this function really works.

I love the little remote. It's just as good for showing a slide show on tv as it is for self-portrait shots. Apparently Oly is not including this in all countries, heaven knows why not.

So in short I think I am really going to like this camera and will get a lot of great shots with it. This will be my professional as well as recreational camera for the next year or two, until I can afford a full-frame-sensor SLR like the new Kodak 14n or an EOS 1Ds. Maybe when this kind of thing drops down to the $2000 level in a couple of years I will bite. Even after that I can see hanging onto the C-5050 as a travel camera and backup.

Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Review by Alexander Gruener
Olympus 5050 user group, Nov 28th, 2002


after receiving my 5050 two days ago (in germany) - here are my short impressions. I had a 4040 before.

After opening the box I finally had my new camera. Looking to all the paper that came with there is not much very useful. The little handbook is written in four languages. But the info is short a short reference. The CD has a full pdf manual which seems to be quite good even things are often repeated in different chapters.

So I looked for the remote control and did not find one ! On the box it was not written that there should be on in -> great disappointment compared to my 4040. Good thing are the 4 batteries and a charging unit (I have these things already).

Without reading the more than 250 pages of the pdf manual I started immedeatly.

So I put my old batteries into the camera and put the jog dial to position "P". Nothing happend. Mmmmmhhh...batteries empty ? Ok, let's take new ones...same again...after one minute I found the way to
switch it on. Immeadeatly I realised that probably I will have to read sometimes the manual even the 4040 was very well known to me.

The objective was moving with an awful sound !! What's that ? Everything semmed to be right. Ok, so let's take a first picture and it was fine.

Afterwards I zommed around and did more photos but the "beeep" was disturbing. So I looked to the menu and found very quickly how to disable the sound. There I also found that the awful sound in the beginning was a special "olympus" sound. It will never come up again including the start picture ;-)

Many features of the 5050 are similar to the 4040. A few things I looked up in the manual but not so much.

The camera has a better LCD (more brilliant) which is very positive. In my hand it feels as well as the 4040 but not identical.

Afterwards I did a few tests for myself -> short preresults:

1. Normal pictures are fine with zoom. No obvious difference (just a feeling so far) to my 4040. I did tests with sharpening from -5 to +5 and looked to the photos. Ok, there is less noise with -5 but e.g.
with +5 you have more details ! The 0 position was in my opinion best for indoor shots.

2. Long exposures
I did various test with 16 sec and ISO changing from 64 to 400 with noise reduction. There was never a hot pixel anywhere. Even after 5 pictures with ISO 400 and 16 sec and 25 degrees Celsius. Very good so far.

3. AF lamp
This is really a nice feature. In all tests the camera did a very good focusing ni low light, even with now AF lamp.

4. Software Controls
The My-Modus is perfect. As far as I think I will up to 99% use this mode (described earlier in the forum).

5. Connecting the camera to my Windows 2000 was very easily. No extra driver was needed. After a few seconds I had a new mass storage device.

I will do more tests the next days and publish a few tests photos then.

So far my personal impressions so far after testing for about 2 hours.


Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Review by dpukz (Klaus)
Olympus 5050 user group, Nov 28th, 2002

since two days I'm testing the new 5050 and I still don't know if I want to keep it or give it back. Before I had a Coolpix 990 and I was very satisfied with the camera.

Now my idea was to upgrade to 5 MP, to be able to get larger prints with more details in it. The 990 had difficulties with low light situations so the 1.8 lens of the 5050 was the reason to go for the Olympus. Here are my test results so far:

At the end I have to say the camera is not all bad. It has some nice features. But I see myself fixing  pictures with Photoshop more than before.

Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Review by Hiro
Nov 28th, 2002

Well, I did it. I bought myself an early Christmas gift, a C5050. I am VERY pleased with it thus far and I do not predict that will change much in the near future. Although I love my C700, it turns out the majority of my pictures did not utilize the 10X and were indoors. The AF assist lamp and a bright lens made the C5050 the ideal choice.

Here is what I like so far:

And here are my dislikes:

I have not run into CA or diagonal jaggies yet but I don't doubt they are present. However, they don't seem to bother me much and will not be present in the majority of my shots. Although I deleted all of my test shots (actually, I downloaded them at a friends house and did not leave the pics on the memory card, d'oh!), here is one super macro shot up at pbase:


This is not supposed to be a well composed picture, just a demonstration of the camera.

Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.

Kane's comments
November 2002

I've tried shooting things in RAW, but Oly fudged up there. Neither the plugin for thevE10/E20 nor the built in Camedia software allows me to convert RAW files.
[Editor's note: it is now possible to convert RAW files. See the RAW file format section for details.]

With regards to the handling and feeling, this is the most satisfying aspect of the camera, and has made it a keeper. The body is 'stocky' and compact. Compared to a G3, it is narrower and thicker, and offers a very good grip and balance. All controls are immediately available, and extremely intuitive.

In Manual Mode, Aperature, Exposure and Shutter speed are very easy to change on the fly without having to get into menus, as are flash control and timer. Another nice feature is that you can switch memory card types with the press of a button.

This weekend, I had a 128MB xD and a 128MB CF card in the camera at the same time, and switching from one to another without having to open the camera was a nice little feature.

I haven't played with the 'My Camera' settings yet, mainly because I don't know what my favourite settings should be.

The photographs are noisy. However, for me, this isn't enough of a deterrent to return the camera. At -5 sharpness, the photographs are acceptable, and with post-processing -- something I would have done with any 'keeper' photographs anyhow, noise is completely eliminated.

And contrary to the Olympus America website, the length of movies is limited only by the size of your memory card. With 2GB xD cards on the horizon and 8 GB xD cards planned, and Microdrives on the cheap, this is a very handy feature.

Questions ? Comments ? Put the in the Olympus 5050 user group.