|The navigation buttons are hard to press with the pad of your finger.||Eyeglass wearers beware: There's no diopter adjustment for the optical viewfinder.|
The camera's design and menu system provide intuitive, efficient access to its features. Sliding the lens cover open powers on the camera for shooting; closing it partly or fully retracts the lens and lets you access playback mode by pressing a button on the camera's back. This is a handy method for protecting the 3X zoom lens, and you get used to it in no time. Controls are conveniently positioned under your right thumb on the back of the C-50. The camera's Mode dial provides quick access to six scene presets to optimize settings for typical scenarios, such as Portrait and Sports/Action. You cycle through flash, macro, and metering options by repeatedly pressing dedicated buttons. Switch the Mode dial to Program, and you can select aperture-priority, shutter-priority, or manual-exposure mode from a menu. You use the four-way buttons to adjust exposure compensation and manual exposure, as well as to navigate the menu, but they're a bit awkward to press--you have to use a thumbnail rather than the pad of your finger.
The menu system is easy to navigate once you decipher the symbols on the initial four-icon screen. The printed documentation is pretty basic, so we recommend loading and reading the electronic manual that's included on the CD in order to discover this little camera's many advanced functions.
If you like to use a tripod, look elsewhere--this Olympus is very tripod-unfriendly. Not only is the combo battery/xD-Picture Card hatch on the bottom of the camera, but when the C-50 is screwed snugly onto a tripod, you can't slide the lens cover to turn the camera on and off. That drawback and the aforementioned feel of the navigation buttons are our few complaints about the camera's design. Whether you're looking for point-and-shoot simplicity or manual control--aperture- and shutter-priority as well as full manual--the C-50 delivers. And its zoom range of 38mm to 114mm (35mm camera equivalent) covers enough territory to handle most shooting situations.
|The C-50 Zoom's scene modes include the rather unusual self-portrait mode.||You can save a group of settings, then call them up via the MyMode entry on the command dial.|
We particularly like the exposure-bracketing implementation, which not only allows you to choose how much compensation to apply on both sides of the metered value--0.3-, 0.7-, or 1-stop intervals--but also lets you pick whether to bracket once (for three shots) or twice (for five shots) on each side. In addition to pattern metering, the C-50 supplies spot metering. You can also adjust flash intensity in 1/3-step increments; such a feature should be mandatory on all digital cameras.
The C-50 offers several quality and compression settings, including uncompressed TIFF. But if you want to e-mail a high-quality image, you can easily make a smaller (320x240 or 640x480 pixels) copy in-camera. Making a sepia or black-and-white copy of a shot in-camera is equally convenient.
A number of cameras, including the C-50, have a customizable mode that allows you to save specific groups of settings that you can call up without having to go through the menus. But this Olympus's MyMode goes a step further by allowing you to choose which four options appear on the top level of the menu system. So, if you like to play with ISO settings, for example, you can have those appear when you press the menu bottom, along with three other options.
In addition to a remote control, the C-50 offers other bonuses; you can shoot two-in-one pictures, create panoramas of up to 10 images, adjust contrast and sharpness, and force the autofocus to update during sequential shooting. The C-50 also has a pixel-mapping feature, which Olympus recommends using once per year to check and adjust the camera's CCD and image-processing circuit.
If you like to shoot movie clips, the C-50 offers two resolution options, so you can capture either 16 or 70 seconds of video. There's no audio, though, and while sound isn't at the top of our wish list for this camera, it would be a nice addition. But we'd also love to see a histogram display, along with selectable metering and focus points. Performance runs about average for a high-resolution point-and-shoot model. Start-up takes about 4 seconds, including time for the lens to extend. Shot-to-shot time for JPEG capture takes between 2 and 5 seconds, depending upon resolution, compression, and flash settings; in HQ mode with flash, it takes slightly more than 3 seconds. Shooting TIFF files, however, requires a lot of patience--we clocked file-saving time alone at about 25 seconds. But since the included 32MB card holds only two TIFFs, chances are you won't be shooting that type of file unless you get a bigger card.
On the other hand, the camera's autofocus locks in quickly and accurately--even when photographing clouds through a smudgy airplane window--and the lens zooms smoothly but not quickly.
This is the first Olympus camera to use a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.
The camera's rechargeable lithium-ion battery holds it own through an average shooting day and recharges in about two hours. The C-50 delivers well-balanced, detailed, and--for the most part--evenly exposed images on both auto and manual settings. This Olympus gets high marks for sharpness and detail; however, under tungsten lights, the camera's white-balance algorithms tend to deliver a greenish cast using the Tungsten preset and a yellowish cast using the automatic setting. In outdoor shots using flash, the images look far more balanced and neutral.
The C-50 Zoom's white balance tends toward a greenish cast, and its dynamic range appears a bit compressed.
Our test pictures displayed uniform exposures, though they were a bit on the dark side. This results in an apparently compressed dynamic range, especially in the whites and the highlights. But flash exposures look quite good, showing consistent illumination across the scene and correct compensation for sidelighting.
Pictures come out sharp and nicely detailed.
Some noise is evident, even in shots taken at ISO 80. That's a little disappointing but typical when you step up from a 4-megapixel sensor to a 5-megapixel one. That said, we noticed only minor chromatic aberration, with a minimum of purple or green fringing at the edge of high-contrast areas. We did see some distortion at the wide-angle (38mm, 35mm camera equivalent) end of the zoom range, but it's fairly subtle.
We spotted a tad more noise in the shadows than we'd like, even at ISO 80.