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Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus C-5500
Olympus C-5500 Zoom Review
Date: Apr 14, 2005
The Olympus Camedia C-5500 SportZoom is
a digital camera targeted to serious amateur photographers.
It has 5.1 megapixel resolution on a 1/1.8 in.
CCD image sensor, and a 7.9-39.5mm (38-190mm,
35 mm equivalent) 5x optical zoom lens, with a
maximum aperture of F2.8(W)-F4.8(T). The 5x zoom
is higher than the average 3x or even 4x zoom,
and earns the marketing moniker "SportZoom".
We find the overall image quality of the Olympus
C-5500 to be excellent for this category of digital
Optical "Sport" Zoom
(38mm, 35mm equivalent)
(190mm, 35mm equivalent)
The Olympus C-5500 provides quite a number of
professional features, such as AF Area (11 down
* 13 across = 143 positions, i.e. anywhere on
the screen); large 2 in. LCD monitor (110K pixels)
with excellent refresh rate for smooth display;
traditional live histogram or "Direct Histogram"
that displays black and white areas directly on
the picture; Manual WB.
3 (0.08m) 1.9 (0.6m)
Tele: 1.9 (0.6m) 3.9 (1.2m)
only: 0.7 (0.02m) 3 (0.08m)
There are two macro modes on the Olympus C-5500:
standard macro at 8 cm (3 in.) and Super Macro
at 2 cm (0.7 in.). You can zoom in standard macro
mode, but not in Super Macro mode.
|7.9mm (38mm), Program, Multi-Pattern,
1/125 sec., F4, ISO 80
Super Macro, Handheld
This Super Macro shot was hand held and I was
not sure I could get it sharp seeing that my hands
were continually moving a bit and therefore changing
the distance between the camera lens and the subject.
The AF locked beautifully and I am quite satisfied
with the result.
With macros, don't expect to be able to handhold
the shot: using a tripod is mandatory (although
I handheld the above shot). Also ensure the subject
is not moving at all (e.g. in the breeze); though
a fast shutter speed can freeze the movement,
the subject may have slightly moved into an out-of-focus
zone. Out-of-focus macro shots are usually caused
by trying to handhold the shot of a moving subject.
As the above two pictures show, the auto white
balance (AWB) indoors under fluorescent artificial
light (since most sites demonstrate tungsten lighting,
we decided it would be more helpful to demonstrate
fluorescent lighting) is exactly what the eye
sees. Manual WB allows us to correct the colours
to real white. AWB works very well in natural
The C-5500 has 4 ISO settings going from ISO
80 to ISO 400. The 100%
crops above (area delimited by the white square)
demonstrate the noise at the available ISO Speeds
of 80, 100, 200 and 400. At ISO 80 and 100, noise
is under control. At ISO 200, noise becomes visible,
but the images are still very usable. At ISO 400,
noise is quite visible. Noise reduction is automatically
applied when the shutter speed is slower than
1/2 sec.; set it on in the Menu (MODE MENU >
CAMERA > NOISE REDUCTION > ON).
At wide-angle, the Olympus C-5500 will focus
at 60 cm (21 in.), which is very reasonable and
avoids the out of focus issues that some users
experience when they take pictures with the subject
closer than the minimum focus distance (with digital
cameras with a long minimum focus distance, e.g.
4ft, a subject placed at a reasonable 3ft away
will be out of focus).
CA is minimal in everyday shots. It's not too
sunny here, but out of our high contrast shots,
we found only one where the corner delimited by
the red square at top left, and reproduced at
100% crop at bottom right, showed some purple
On the positive side, the amount of detail present
is simply excellent.
|7.9mm (38mm), Manual, Multi-Pattern,
15 sec., F8, ISO 80
Manual WB, Macro, Self-timer, Tripod Used
The Olympus C-5500 allows the use of a long shutter
speed of up to 15 sec. in Manual mode, therefore
allowing night photography. Generally, with CCD
image sensors, noise usually becomes more prominent
at slow shutter speeds. The C-5500 has special
noise reduction algorithms that automatically
kicks in at shutter speeds longer than 1/2 sec.
and you'll notice a slightly longer processing
time (approx. twice as long) before the next picture
can be taken.
To test this noise reduction algorithm, we decided
to take a low-light indoors shot. Light is from
two fluorescent energy-saving bulbs on the ceiling.
To obtain a long exposure, I place Bamm-Bamm under
my desk in the shadows.
I experiment a bit in Manual mode to obtain
the optimum exposure, eventually settling on 15
sec. at F8. Even at this long shutter speed, the
C-5500's noise reduction seems to be working great,
producing a nice smooth blurring effect of the
I use the 10 sec. self-timer to negate camera
shake as well as AF Area to position AF frame
on the eyes in the ISO shots above. I found that
if I set the AF Area frame first, and then try
to use the self-timer, the AF Area frame gets
reset to its default central position each time.
The trick is to set the self-timer first, then
set the AF Area frame. Note that AF Area gets
reset after every shot.
The Olympus C-5500 provides full exposure flexibility,
including 10 scene modes. Each scene mode displays
an appropriate picture on the LCD monitor making
it easy to select the right scene mode for the
The auto focus works very well, though it will
hunt a bit in low-light and in low contrast situations.
The AF Illuminator helps in low-light.
feature I really appreciated is the ability to
lock exposure without locking AF. Locking exposure
is as easy as one push of the AEL button , allowing
you to expose for one area and focus on another.
|Histogram - On
||Histogram - Direct
The Olympus C-5500 has two live histograms. You
can display the standard histogram or display
the "Direct Histogram" that indicates
the black (using blue squares) and white (using
red squares) areas directly on the image.
The latter feature not only indicates there
is over- and under-exposed areas in your image,
but also where they are! By changing light metering
mode, you can see which one gives the best overall
exposure for that particular picture you're trying
to take. Or, you can then decide to meter directly
at the problem areas.
The histogram is invaluable to give an indication
of under- and over-exposure (don't rely on the
LCD/EVF since the brightness is adjustable and
may be misleading).
Frame Assist displays a grid (using yellow dotted
lines) to help keep your horizontals and verticals
as they should be. You cannot have both the histogram
and frame assist enabled at the same time.
The Olympus C-5500 does not offer RAW or TIFF
file formats. The image quality/size available
|2288x1712 [High | Normal]
|1280x960 [High | Normal]
Overall, the Olympus C-5500 is capable of producing
excellent image quality for its category and exhibits
a good balance between low noise and maintaining
detail in the images. The images are sharp enough
right out of the camera, with faithful colour
reproduction. The navigation images (at the top
of each page) have been slightly sharpened in
Photoshop Elements and just "pop out"
of the page.
The pictures in the Olympus Camedia C-5500
Zoom Photo Gallery page provide a good sample
of what the camera is capable of. I have provided
samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality
60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the SHQ
2592 x 1944 pixels original size (some images
were taken at the default HQ image quality mode
- file size is less than 1M). Click on the image
for the original version.
You can safely assume that most macro shots
and slow shutter speed shots required the use
of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels
in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended
to the file name (though the original sized image
is, of course, not adjusted).
I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels.
For those who have their monitor resolution set
to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit
and you should not have to scroll to see the whole
image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels
resolution, start the slide show and then scroll
to the right to position the image within your
screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using
Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode,
and the image should fill your screen nicely.
Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor
display back to normal mode.
To return to this page from the Photo Gallery,
click on the animated graphics of the camera.
Please open and download the original size version
only if you need to and only once
to your hard drive -- and save me some precious