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Olympus C-5050 Digital Camera
52mm FILTER ADAPTER TUBE REPLACEMENT FOR CLA-1 New metal adapter tube for the Olympus C-2000, C-2020, C-2040, C-3000, C-3020, C-3030, C-3040, C-4000, C-4040 and C-5050 digital cameras.
61 Reviews from Epinions.com
Jan 15, 2003
Now I Can Kick the Film Habit -- Cold Turkey
Pros: 5MP, F/1.8 lens, hot shoe, Compact Flash, AA batteries, great value.
Cons: None, compared to other cameras in its class, but viewfinder could be better.
The Bottom Line:
Picture quality and many pro features that can replace 99% of my film shooting. I think this is the digital camera that many of us have been waiting for.
A note to the reader:
This review has gotten pretty long and probably will get longer in the days and weeks ahead. To save you a little time (just a little it isnt hyperlinked) here is an outline/table of contents in case you want to skip down to the parts that interest you.
THIS IS ONE SERIOUS CAMERA
· C-5050 Features and Benefits from the Olympus America website
· Specifications from the Olympus America website
Back to my commentary....
· Focus Notes
· Some Purple-Fringed Prose: Chromatic Aberration
· Shutter Lag Issues
· Shutter Button
· Exposure Mode/Playback Dial
· Playback Mode
· Buttons on the back of the camera
· Jog Dial-Controlled "Direct" Buttons on the side and top of the camera
· Camera Menus
· Picture Menus
· Card Menu
· Setup Menus
· Playback Menus
BATTERIES AND POWER
OTHER CAMERAS CONSIDERED
THIS IS ONE SERIOUS CAMERA
Compare the features of digital cameras designed for professional photographers just about all of them share three characteristics: Compact Flash (CF) type I & II compatibility, AA-size Nickel-Metal-Hydride (NiMH) battery power, and a hot shoe for an external flash unit.
Pros rely on their gear to get the shot, and cant be fumbling with restrictive Smart Media (SM) cards or Memory Sticks that wont hold more than a few TIFFs or hi-res JPEGs, especially an a 4-plus megapixel (MP) camera. Compact Flash can hold a gigabyte or more if you want to pay for it, and 256 megabyte (MB) CF cards cost just a few dollar more than SM cards or Memory Sticks that top out at 128 MB.
Same for the power source: AA-size NiMH batteries run about $10 to $15 per set of four, with lots of reasonably-priced recharger options. Proprietary lithium-ion rechargables cost an arm and a leg - and if all of your lithium-ions run out in the middle of a shoot, you have to stop and recharge. If all of your AA NiMH batteries die on location or on vacation, you can always pop in some alkalines from any corner store and keep on shooting.
On-board flash is a convenience, even a lifesaver when you need to take a picture in low light, but the ability to use an external flash unit for more power or to bounce and avoid direct shadows and red-eye can make the difference between a good image and a great image.
Full disclosure, here: I like Olympus alot. My first serious camera was a used OM-1. I was heart-broken when my XA clamshell was stolen, and Ive enjoyed a series of Stylus point-and-shoots that I bought, used for a while, then gave away so I would have an excuse to get another (I just gave my mom a Stylus Epic that I wont be needing anymore I already miss it).
I kept looking at the higher-end Olympus C-series cameras f1/1.8 maximum aperture, manual exposure, not cheap, but great values compared to other serious digital cameras but I stayed away because I was leery of their reliance on SM cards. As their pixel counts increased, so did my suspicions. How many images can you fit on a 128 MB card? It gets a little tight after 3 MP, and close to unusable at 4 or 5 MP.
The C-5050 finally got it all together: Compact Flash-compatible (though it ships with a 32 MB xD-picture card, and it will use all of your old SM cards), and a set of four (4) 1700-mAh AA-size NiMH batteries and charger are included in the box. It has a hot shoe, manual exposure, manual focus, fast aperture and it is the cheapest full-feature 5 MP camera from any manufacturer.
First Ill present an annotated (by me) list of features and tech specs from the Olympus America website (http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_product.asp?more_info_lobby=1&p=16&bc=2&product=890 ), then more of my commentary.
C-5050 Features and Benefits from the Olympus America website [with my comments in brackets]:
· Super bright f1.8, 3x all-glass aspherical zoom lens and 5-Megapixel CCD help produce high-quality results
[This is a big deal to me: the fast aperture coupled with the ISO 400 sensitivity means great flash-off low-light shooting. Pretty standard zoom range. Subjectively, I think the lens is sharp enough for 5 MP resolution, though Im not an optical-resolution expert.]
· All-Magnesium body provides durability and a solid, comfortable feel
[Feels great in my hand it reminds me of the solid mechanical feel of my 35mm OM-1 SLR, and thats a good thing.]
· Multi-position LCD lets you capture overhead, low-angle, and other usually difficult shots before the opportunity passes
[Not as versatile as up/down/side articulation Nikon Coolpix 5000/5700 and Canon G3 but it is versatile enough to do what it says and might be a bit more solid than the afore-mentioned articulated LCD screens]
· Full camera control, including aperture priority, shutter priority, and programmed automatic
[Like the fast maximum aperture, key features in my book. Easy to change settings with the thumb jog switch.]
· Three Scene Program modes for easy setup when shooting in Sports, Night scene, Portrait and Landscape mode
[For all my praise of the manual settings, I use these program modes frequently and when I hand it off to someone else to use, I set it on one of these.]
· Easy to use Auto-Connect USB computer connectivity with Windows XP and Mac OSX compatibility
[I use a dual slot CF/SM SanDisk ImageMate card reader most of the time, but this is nice when I need it for things like the panoramic mode which is only supported by the xD-Picture Card or a proprietary Olympus SmartMedia card.]
· Supports various removable media: SmartMedia, xD-Picture Card, CompactFlash type I or II, and 512MB/1GB IBM Microdrives
[Another key feature: upgrade to the biggest Compact Flash card you can afford and use all 5 MP of resolution.]
· TTL hot shoe for FL-40 flash
[ or very serviceable manual/auto flash operation with almost any other auto flash unit.]
· TruePicTM Technology for the best image quality at all resolutions
[ Ill take their word for it the images look great.]
· Noise Reduction technology for beautiful image quality with slow shutter speeds
[ I think it noticeably reduces digital noise in longer exposures (1/2 sec. or more) at higher ISO settings (200-400), but I have no figures to support my perception.]
· Both Optical and LCD viewfinders in a compact body
[I carry several sets of batteries and just use the power-hungry LCD, but this could save your bacon if you get caught short and need to stretch batteries.]
· Video out
[ People run screaming from the room when I hook it up to the TV and threaten a slide show and no pesky blown bulbs in the Kodak Carousel. The infrared remote works in playback mode so I can sit on the couch and control the camera from across the room.]
Specifications from the Olympus America website:
5.0 Megapixel Effective
5.2 Megapixel (Gross)
Size (in inch) 1/1.8 (.55) CCD
Olympus aspherical glass 3x zoom lens 7.1mm-23mm
(35-105mm equivalent in 35mm photography)
Seamless Digital Zoom
Seamless to 10x (3x optical and 3.4x digital combined)
Auto: 1/1000 sec. 1/2 sec.
Manual: 1/2000 sec. 16 sec.
Night Scene: 1/1000 sec. 8 sec.
Auto: 100/200/400 (equivalent)
Still image: EXIF 2.2 JPEG, TIFF, and Raw file formats
DCF (design rule for Camera File system)
QuickTime® Motion JPEG (Movie Mode)
Wave format support
3200 x 2400 (OIE Mode),
2560 x 1920,
2560 x 1696 (3:2 aspect ratio mode),
2288 x 1712
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
1024 x 768
640 x 480
320 x 240 @15fps QuickTime Motion JPEG in HQ mode
160 x 120 @15fps QuickTime Motion JPEG in SQ mode
DPOF (Digital Print Order Format)
Print Reserve, All print reservation, Display Date information
Optical Image Enlargement
Image Adjustment Modes
Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation, Each adjustable plus/minus 5 steps
B&W, Sepia, Black board, White board
Up to 10 frames stitchable with CAMEDIA Master software when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card
1.7fps for max of 11 frames in HQ recording mode
3.3fps for max of 4 frames HQ in "high speed" continuous mode
Optical real-image viewfinder with autofocus/backlight mark
1.8" 110,000 low-temperature poly-silicon used for viewing, reviewing or editing images.
iESP multi-pattern AF (autofocus) TTL system (contrast detection), Spot AF, Selective Spot AF, Full Time AF, Manual focusing by gauge
Standard AF 31 Infinity (80cm Infinity)
Macro Mode 8 to 31 [20cm to 80cm]
Super Macro 1" to 8 (.02m - 0.2m)
Program auto/Aperture priority/Shutter priority (f1.8 - f8, 1/1000 sec. - 1/2 sec.)
Manual (f1.8 - f8, 1/2000 sec. - 16 sec.)
Exposure compensation: /- 2 steps EV by 1/3-stop settings
Auto bracketing: 3 or 5 images /- 2 steps EV by 1/3 stop settings
AE lock (exposure lock)
Digital ESP Multi-Pattern Meter, Spot meter, Multi-point spot
White Balance System
iESP Multi-pattern auto TTL
Pre-set manual settings: Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten and 4 Fluorescent settings
Manual one touch white balance settings
Built-in Flash, TTL hot shoe for optional FL-40 TTL flash, or sync to studio strobes with optional hot shoe to PC sync adapter and cables
Auto Flash for low and backlight
Red-eye Reduction Flash
Slow Shutter Synchronized Flash (first curtain)
Slow Shutter Synchronized Flash (first curtain) w/red-eye reduction
External Flash with FL-40 and new flashes
Flash Working Range
15 at wide, 11 at tele
Flash Charging Time
Less than 6 seconds (at normal temperature with new batteries)
Removable Media Card
3V (3.3V) xD-Picture CardTM card (16, 32, 64, and 128 MB)
32-MB card included
3V (3.3V) SmartMediaTM card (8, 16, 32, 64, 128 MB)
Compact Flash Type I or Type II
IBM Microdrive 512MB/1GB
12-second delay with built in self-timer
Reset to default settings, Hold changes
Mini B USB connector (Auto-Connect), Video Out, DC input for optional AC Adapter
Compatible with Windows 98 rev2/ME/2000 Pro/XP-MacOS 8.6-9.01/OSX
Index display, up to 4X enlargement, Slide-show, Scene rotation
Operation: 32°F -104°F (0°C - 40°C) 30-90% Humidity
Storage: -4°F - 140°F (-20°C - 60°C) 10-90% Humidity
Power SupplyMain Power Source:
4 AA NiMH Batteries with Charger Included
2 LB01 (CR3V) Lithium Batteries
4 AA Alkaline Batteries
C-7AU AC Adapter
Simultaneous recording into image date
Automatic up to the year 2099
4.5 W x 3.0 H x 2.7 D (113.5mm W x 79.5mm H x 69.5mm D)
13.4 oz (380g.) without batteries and media card
32MB xD-Picture CardTM removable media
Digital Camera Win/Mac USB Cable
(4) AA NiMH Batteries and Charger
Lens Cap/Retainer Cord
(1) CD-ROM - CAMEDIA® Master 4.0 Software, Camera Reference Manual, Windows 98 Rev 2 Driver
Basic User Manual
Quick Start Guide
RM-1 Remote Controller,
Back to my commentary....
What's so great about the C-5050?
This is a case where more IS better, and while several hundred dollars is nothing to sneeze at, this is a great value for a quality 5MP camera.
The C-5050 has a magnesium body with a rubberized handgrip and a rubberized guard/grip around the retracted lens. The media-card cover and battery-compartment cover are plastic and are probably the most vulnerable part of the body (excluding the lens and fold-out LCD monitor and frame). With the CLA-1 accessory tube and 43mm-55mm step-up ring and filter permanently affixed over the lens (more on these below), I think the whole package is much less vulnerable to damage, but hardly indestructible.
Epinions asks a reviewer to choose between several durability designations, including:
"4 - Good; solid it will last until new technology develops"
"5 - Excellent; solid and unbreakable it will last forever."
I struggled a bit with this one. I dont really think any digital camera I have picked up and held in my hands is going to function as long as my OM-1N, which still functions as flawlessly as it did the day it left the factory. But when compared to other digital cameras, the C-5050 feels rock-solid. If any digital camera has a chance of using a fair portion of the calendar settings to 2099, I think this is in the running. If I could have, I would have chose "4-and-a-half" or "4-and-three-quarters," but this is as solid as any digital camera I have handled, and I think it rates closer to "5" than "4."
The tripod socket is metal surrounded by a nice, grippy, postage-stamp-sized rubberized mat that helps hold the camera steady on a tripod. The tripod socket seems to be secured by two small screws and looks to replaceable if damaged. It would be perfect were it not placed about ¾ of an inch to the side of the lens center axis. This could be an issue for panoramic shooting, but may be mitigated for most photographers by Olympuss proprietary panoramic software that works in conjunction with Olympus-brand SmartMedia or xD-Picture cards.
Overall, the body feels very comfortable in my right hand, and the guard/grip surrounding the lens is a natural place to steady the camera with my left hand. The controls seem well-arranged. My wife has substantially smaller hands, but had no difficulty reaching the controls. She did say that the camera was a bit heavy for her to carry all day in one hand. Of course, I've never seen her carry a camera all day, something I frequently do.
The lens in probably the most important part of any camera, certainly any fixed-lens camera, and this is a good one. The 8-element/6-group or 10 element/7 group (I've seen both stats in several places and Im not sure which is right, though more web sources seem to favor the latter), f/1.8 to 2.6, 7.1mm to 21.3mm (3X zoom) lens is equivalent to a 35mm-format 35mm-105mm zoom lens. The f/1.8 maximum aperture might make this the fastest fixed-lens digital camera at any resolution. When powered on, the lens telescopes out about an inch. Since focus and zoom are internal, the lens doesnt move in or out any further with as you focus or zoom. You must remember to take off the lens cap before powering on, or the lens attempts to telescope and automatically retracts when it cannot, emitting an irritating beeping signal to help you remember next time. I cant help but think that forgetting too often isnt good for the camera.
To use filters or a lens hood, an accessory adapter tube (Olympus part # CLA-1, $20) screws into the 41mm threads in the rubber-covered collar surrounding the retracted lens. The tube accepts 43mm filters directly, but since this might cause vignetting at the extreme wide-angle end of the zoom range with some filter/hood combinations, a 43mm-55mm step-up ring that accepts 55mm filters and accessories (Olympus part # SUR43-55, $17) reduces that possibility. With adapter tube and filter attached, the lens is less vulnerable to damage and scratches, which aint a bad idea with a fixed-lens camera that costs $700 or $800. To avoid the irritating beeping (and any potential damage from forgetting several hundred times), I leave the tube/step-up ring/filter arrangement in place all the time it makes the lens stick out an extra inch-and-a-half, but I think it is worthwhile.
Olympus has not published any focus-step figures for the C-5050, as far as I can tell. Steves Digicam review of the C-5050 (http://www.steves-digicams.com/2002_reviews/c5050_pg2.html) says that the normal focusing range (31 to infinity) has 240 focus steps. This is the only focus-step figure I can find anywhere in print or on the web (Steves Digicam website (http://www.steves-digicams.com), is an excellent and comprehensive digital-imaging web resource).
There is a red autofocus-assist lamp for low-light focusing, which can be turned off (a menu adjustment).
Fulltime AF set to on (a menu adjustment) continuously adjusts the focus (this reduces shutter lag at the cost of reduced battery life). When Fulltime AF is turned off, the shutter button must be depressed halfway to focus.
Manual-focus mode presumedly uses the same number of steps, but lets you control focusing. A magnified window appears in the middle of the LCD along with a focusing scale (on page 100, the manual states that this distance scale is for reference only I thought the whole manual was for reference only). The magnified image didnt make me feel good it seemed difficult to tell if the image was really in focus on the LCD but the downloaded images proved to be well-focused (and this was flash-off, indoors, at maximum aperture aperture, so I could not attribute it to tiny-aperture-widened depth-of-field. Outdoors in bright sunlight seemed a bit easier to see, perhaps because there were pinpoint highlights to focus on, and much of that shooting was at infinity, anyway. If all you ever use this for is an infinity-lock, it is a useful feature.
Normal: 31 to infinity.
Macro: 8 to 31. As J. Andrzej Wrotniak, in his excellent Olympus Camedia C-5050Z: An annotated technical review ( http://www.wrotniak.net/photo/c5050/c5050-rev.html ) points out, the C-5050 focuses continuously from 8 to infinity without selecting this mode, albeit somewhat more slowly.
Super Macro: 1 (actually 1.2) to 8. Pretty amazing. It focuses so close in Super Macro mode that it is sometimes difficult not to cast a shadow on the subject with the camera but thats not the cameras fault.
Some Purple-Fringed Prose: Chromatic Aberration
As noted in the comments accompanying this review, I am not a professional photographer, printer, or lens designer, so I cannot make any authoritative judgment on this issue. I have observed chromatic aberration (purple fringing) in strongly-backlit (interior shots of subjects silhouetted against a brightly-sunlit window), wide-open (f/1.8-2.0) full-resolution, 5-MP images downloaded and viewed on my computer. This aberration was not visible in unedited 4x6 photos of the same images professionally printed at a photo lab. I have not systematically tested for chromatic aberration at various apertures or focal lengths, nor have I had any larger photos printed. I will expand and revise this review as I learn more.
Auto and manual shutter-speed settings are limited to 1/1000 sec., unless the aperture is at the minimum f/8, at which point, the shutter speed can be set to 1/2000 sec. A continuous range down to 1/2000 sec. would be preferable, but the 1/1000 sec. is better than most comparable digital cameras.
Shutter Lag Issues
Any auto-focus, auto-exposure camera suffers from shutter lag, and digital cameras are especially notorious in this regard. The more auto functions used, the worse the lag, and the more manual functions used, the less the lag. With the C-5050, lag can be reduced (but not entirely eliminated) in three ways:
1) by framing the image in the optical viewfinder or LCD and depressing the shutter button halfway shortly before taking the picture (by pre-focusing, the camera does not in theory, at least have to re-focus)
2) by using the fulltime AF setting on the camera menu, the camera maintains a near-continuous focus
3) by manually setting the focusing distance and exposure (you set both shutter speed and aperture).
The optical viewfinder is the most-often maligned feature of the C-5050. It is no worse than others in this class, and probably better than many, but most digital cameras are weak here. It zooms with the lens with 85-89% coverage of the actual image (according to which source one chooses to believe), and no parallax correction, but I think it is adequate. A dial beside the optical viewfinder adjusts diopter settings for those of us who need it.
The 1.8 TFT (which stands for "thin film transistor" if you are curious) color LCD monitor on the rear of the camera flips out for over-head or waist-level shooting. It shows the entire image, or pretty dang close. It is difficult to see in bright sunlight, but I do see an improvement over my three-and-a-half-year-old Coolpix 800. The monitor also indicates a wide variety of status and settings, including an luminance-distribution histogram of the image on the monitor, if desired. The monitor can be turned off to conserve power (or to not advertise that the camera is on). When shooting with the LCD monitor off (or even with it on), you can check the top-deck monochrome LCD for icons, abbreviations, and numerical values that indicate the status of:
· battery power
· shutter speed
· exposure compensation
· macro mode/focus mode
· noise reduction
· AE lock/AE memory
· Metering mode
· manual ISO selection sensitivity not specified
· white balance
· flash intensity
· flash status
· sequential shooting mode
· card media type
· sound record
· card capacity remaining expressed in # of exposures
Olympus touts their dedicated FL-40 electronic flash unit that allows TTL exposure and camera-controlled flash-head zoom, and probably for good reason, but it might be a while before I spend $250 to $300 on a new flash. Until then, my ancient Vivitar 283 flash bounces nicely off the ceiling through its four auto range settings when I set the cameras exposure manually to the appropriate aperture (determined by the flashs auto-range setting and the cameras ISO setting) and sync at 1/250 sec. (the manual recommends 1/200 to 1/300 sec.). If you have an old Vivitar or Sunpak auto flash in your camera bag, it will probably work with the C-5050, too.
I found the dials and buttons sensibly arranged, easy to reach, and they had a positive feel in keeping with the solid heft of the camera body.
The shutter release can be depressed halfway to activate auto-focus and auto-exposure. Pressing it all the way results in inevitable shutter lag (but not excessive for this type of camera). The zoom control toggle switch surrounds the shutter release.
Exposure Mode/Playback Dial
This dial is just behind the shutter button and on top of the power switch and the jog dial.
Basic point-and-shoot automatic program mode for snap-shooting; camera sets aperture and shutter speed; user can select flash mode, drive mode, and other functions.
You set the aperture, camera sets the shutter speed.
You set the shutter speed, camera set the aperture.
You set both aperture and shutter speed.
Not an actual exposure mode, this option lets you quickly select from up to eight user-programmed profiles of exposure modes and just about any other settings (flash mode, drive mode, focus mode, ISO setting, zoom length, etc.) you care to select. This can save a lot of time and aggravation otherwise spent scrolling through menus. Ive set up several: one for full-resolution shutter priority, one for memory-stretching 2-MP resolution, one for manual exposure with external flash, one for black and white, one for full auto-program exposure.
Records 15fps QuickTime motion JPEGs with sound; automatic focus and exposure; 320x240 pixels or 160x120 pixels.
Automatic program mode for low-light scenes uses slower shutter speeds than basic P to capture ambient light at night.
Automatic program mode for landscape scenes; enhanced blue and green color saturation
Automatic program mode for sufficient depth-of-field to capture foreground subject and background landscape.
Automatic program mode for fast-moving action.
Automatic program mode for in-focus subject with soft-blurred background.
Review captured images at up to 4X magnification in 1/2X steps, scroll around magnified images; 4-, 9-, or 16-image index view for convenient navigation and manipulation of images.
With my eyesight, I find the 4-image index view the most useful, the 16-image view is pretty tiny. Others with better eyesight might feel differently.
Also, basic image resizing and cropping as well as RAW image editing of white balance, sharpness, contrast, and saturation. Copy images between media cards (xD or SM to or from CF or Microdrive).
Buttons on the back of the camera:
Horizontal/Vertical Arrows/Menu button
The four arrow buttons (north, south, east, west) surround the OK button that brings up menus on the LCD. Use the arrow buttons to navigate and select menu items.
Locks exposure settings but not auto focus, allowing you to recompose image and shoot at locked exposure settings.
Turns monitor on or off to save power; also switches monitor to playback without exiting record mode.
Media Card Selector
Cycles between cards in the xD/SM slot and the CF/Microdrive slot.
Jog Dial-Controlled "Direct" Buttons on the side and top of the camera:
Direct Buttons are pressed down while using the thumb jog dial to quickly adjust (illustrated by a virtual dial on the LCD) exposure compensation, flash mode, flash intensity, focus mode, metering mode, self-timer/remote activation, and a custom user-programmable button.
auto, red-eye reduction auto, fill, slow shutter, flash off
plus or minus 2 stops by 1/3-stop increments
Hold down both Flash and Exposure Compensation buttons to adjust the flash intensity plus or minus 2 stops by 1/3-stop increments.
auto, manual, macro, super macro, manual super macro
ESP matrix, spot, multi-spot
12-sec self-timer or infra-red remote (trips shutter, activates zoom, use for playback-mode slideshow remote control)
I set it up to change ISO settings without going into menus.
I dont think there is an ideal menu arrangement for everyone, but the C-5050 lets you customize the menu arrangement to a large degree. I wont go into detail about how to do that here this is a review, not a manual but I found the menus to be sensibly-enough arranged to learn in a relatively-short time. This is not a simple camera, but with some initial time and effort on the photographers part, it can be set up for quick and efficient use.
· Drive (single shot, various continuous and hi-speed shooting, bracketing)
· ISO (64, 100, 200, 400, auto)
· My Mode selection (eight preset profiles)
· Flash settings (2 categories)
· Noise Reduction (on/off)
· Digital Zoom (on/off)
· Fulltime AF (on/off)
· AF mode (iESP/spot)
· Sound (on/off)
· Panorama (on/off)
· 2 in 1 (allows 2 images in the same frame)
· Function (off/B&W/sepia/white board/black board
· Histogram (on/off)
· White Balance settings (3 separate categories)
· Scene Modes (normal/portrait/landscape/night)
· Card Setup (format card)
· All reset
· Power on setup
· Power off setup
· Record view (on/off)
· Play sound
· Edit image
· Copy image
There are two memory card slots in the handgrip and each slot accommodates two kinds of media. The front slot holds either a conventional SmartMedia card or one of the new postage-stamp sized xD-Picture cards. The rear slot holds either a Type I or II Compact Flash card or an IBM Microdrive (512 MB or 1.0 GB, not the older 340 MB).
The major difference between SmartMedia and Compact Flash is the card controller. Compact Flash cards contain a controller chip right in the card. SmartMedia cards do not contain a controller chip; the controller resides in the device using the card. Because of this, Compact Flash-compatible devices can use virtually any CF card at the cards full capacity. SmartMedia-compatible devices will only use SM cards up to the capacity determined by the device-resident controller if the device controller can only read up to 32 MB of SM card capacity, larger SM cards (64 MB and 128 MB) will be read as 32 MB cards, ignoring any capacity beyond 32 MB.
Olympus seems to have suspended development of the SmartMedia format at 128 MB, which they released in 2001. Some older SmartMedia cards operate at 5 volts. Newer SM cards operate at dual voltages, 3.3V and 5V. The C-5050 manual specifically states that the camera is compatible with all 4-, 8-, 16-, 32-, 64- and 128-MB SM cards operating at 3.3V. 2-MB cards or cards that operate only at 5V cannot be used in the C-5050.
As near as I can decipher from the scant information I could find on the web, (mostly from http://www.dpreview.com/news/0207/02073002fujifilmxd.asp ), xD-Picture cards also are device-controller dependent and, therefore, xD-card capacity is device-dependent. The C-5050 manual specifically states that the camera is compatible with all 16 MB to 128 MB xD cards. Plans to release a 256 MB xD card at the end of 2002 were pushed back to the end of January of 2003, and Olympus and Fujifilm claim an ultimate capacity of 4 to 8 GB for future xD cards. I contacted Digital Tech Support at Olympus America about the C-5050s ability to use these greater capacity cards and got this response:
Thank you for contacting Olympus Digital Technical Support. The C-5050 has been rated to work with up to 1Gb of media. This includes Compact Flash, IBM microdrive and the xD media card. It is advised not to exceed 128Mb for smartmedia.
Digital Technical Support
Olympus America, Inc.
There you have it.
The new 256-Mb xD cards are out (March of 2003), and the Olympus-brand card I tried works just fine and supports the panorama mode -- I checked.
BATTERIES AND POWER
The C-5050 takes two (2) CR-V3 lithium batteries or four (4) AA (R6) NiMH, NiCd, or alkaline batteries. The four NiMH AAs and charger included in the new-camera kit are a great deal, or, at least, a great start. You will want at least another set of four NiMH AAs, or as many more sets as you will need between battery-charging sessions. Right now I have six sets of rechargeables and three chargers I can recharge all six sets overnight, and Ive never run out of power yet, but thats the whole point.
Single-use CR-V3 lithiums, AA alkalines or rechargeable AA NiCds really arent practical for regular use in power-hungry digital cameras, but you can use them in a pinch an option not available with cameras using proprietary lithium-ion rechargeables. Another consideration: AA NiMH batteries sell for as little as $10 to $15 for a set of four, and you can get a set of four batteries with a charger for $25; proprietary Li-ion bricks can cost $40 to $60 each.
OTHER CAMERAS CONSIDERED
If the rest of the review hasnt made this clear, I put a high premium on power and media cards. I cant afford to pay the better part of a $1,000 on a digital camera and then have to shell out hundreds more for a few spare Li-ion batteries. Media limitations of 128MB on high-megapixel cameras are unacceptable, which ruled out SmartMedia or Sony Memory Sticks. I seriously considered the following cameras (among many others), but rejected them for the reasons listed below each one.
A note on price considerations: My price point at time of purchase was, of course, an arbitrary value that many professionals and serious amateurs with deeper or shallower pockets will adjust upward or downward. I stayed away from many of the lowest-price offers online after reading horror stories of shady dealings from some sleazy, low-ball sellers who seem to be much more interested in charging my credit card than in giving me the camera I want in any sort of timely fashion. I bought my C-5050 from a local camera store that offered it at what I thought was a fair price. I like to deal locally when I can afford to, and I like dealing with a live person across the counter in a place that I can come back to if there is a problem. That last point alone is worth a few dollars to me (and once Ive paid for it, I stop looking at prices, cause theyll only make me cry).
Canon Powershot G3
- four-megapixel maximum resolution
- proprietary Li-ion battery
Sounds like a great camera, (literally) cant wait until it is actually released.
Aparently it has been released to rave reviews. You might want to take a look.
Nikon Coolpix 5000
- proprietary Li-ion battery
Nikon Coolpix 5700
- proprietary Li-ion battery (or very expensive AA-baterry holder/adapter)
Olympus Camedia C-4040
four-megapixel maximum resolution
SmartMedia card limitation (128MB)
Sony Cybershot DSC-85
- four megapixel
- proprietary Li-ion battery
- Sony Memory Stick limitation (128MB) -- I don't know if the new, larger-capacity Memory Stick Pro will work in this camera.
Sony Cybershot DSC-717
- proprietary Li-ion battery
- Sony Memory Stick limitation (128MB) has been solved (or soon will be) with the higher-capacity Memory Stick Pro -- but at a substantially-higher price than comparable compact flash cards (I keep asking myself why would anybody buy a big-magapixel camera that uses anything but Compact Flash?)
I've been waiting years for this camera -- it does nearly everything I want to do photographically (manual exposure, manual focus, external flash), and does it well. The fast maximum aperture with a reasonably-high ISO-400 sensitivity lets me do street shots at night. External flash opens up possibilities indoors and out. The power and media limitations of otherwise-fine cameras have been solved (AA-size batteries and Compact Flash) in a durable, ergonomic, and very capable and compact package, and at a good price - not cheap, but worth every penny.
The versatility of the C-5050 and its customizable controls, menus, and the eight My Mode programmable profiles let you make this your camera, no matter who you are and how you shoot.
Could the optical viewfinder be better? Certainly. My ultra-fantasy-digital-dream camera also has an f/1.4 constant-aperture 20X zoom and ISO-3200 sensitivity, but this is a real-world-I-dont-need-a-fridge-full-of-film camera that I can buy without a second mortgage.
Is there chromatic aberration in very high-contrast situations? Yup, but I can take that out in Photoshop pretty quick, and I still have that dandy f/1.8 maximum aperture -- I don't know of any quick software fixes for an f/3.5 lens that just won't let me take the shot in some low-light situations.
Noise at higher-ISO settings? Yes, again, but no worse than shadow grain in high-ISO film pictures, if you ask me -- and the noise reduction setting for long exposures gets rid of a lot of that.
This camera gets me pictures other cameras can't, so what's the big deal about some CA and noise -- it's a heck of a lot better than no picture at all.
If you demand full control, excellent image quality, durability, common sense design, a reasonable price (getting better all the time), and accessories (storage cards and rechargable batteries) that don't cost the other arm and leg, take a close look at this camera.
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