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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus C-5500 Zoom


Olympus C-5500 Zoom Review

Review Date: Apr 14, 2005

Category: Serious Amateur

Photoxels Editor's Choice 2005 Award 


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 cameras.

5x Optical "Sport" Zoom
Wide-angle 7.9mm
(38mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 39.5mm
(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.

Macro Super Macro
Wide: 3” (0.08m) – 1.9’ (0.6m)
Tele: 1.9’ (0.6m) – 3.9’ (1.2m)
Wide 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.

Super Macro
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.

White Balance Indoors
AWB Manual WB

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 light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 80
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

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).

Chromatic Aberrations

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 fringing.

On the positive side, the amount of detail present is simply excellent.

Long Shutter Speed
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 background.

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 occasion.

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.

One 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 are:

2592X1728 [3:2]
2592X1728 [3:2]
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 bandwidth. Thanks!



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