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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


Tuesday, Mar 15, 2004 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Camedia C-5500 Zoom
  • Wrist Strap
  • 4 AA Alkaline Batteries
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • Interface Cables: A/V; USB
  • Instruction Manuals: Basic Manual; Quick Start Guide
  • Software CDs: Olympus Master, C-5500 Advanced Manual

The Olympus Camedia C-5500 SportZoom is ruggedly handsome (looks so much better in the hand than pictures give it credit), solidly built (the lens does jiggle a bit but has not been a problem) and extremely comfortable with a good sized hand grip, plenty of space for your thumb at the back of the camera and a shutter release button placed at the right spot. You also notice the large and bright 2 in. LCD right away.

The Olympus C-5500 is the first camera I've seen that uses the memory card compartment hinge as a wrist strap "eyelet." It works quite well with no extruding part that can sometimes get in the way as on some cameras.

Be aware that the Olympus C-5500 ships with image quality set to HQ which results in more aggresive JPEG compression than the SHQ mode.

Here are how I set the Olympus C-5500:

- ALL RESET = OFF (this will now keep all your preferred settings, otherwise you'll have to set them again every time you power on)

- AE = ESP, AF = iESP

- ISO = 80

- FULLTIME AF = OFF (Full time AF is quite noisy)


- HISTOGRAM = OFF, ON, DIRECT (your choice)

- PICTURE QUALITY/SIZE = SHQ 2592x1944 pixels




- FILE NAME = AUTO (RESET will start back from 1 whenever you change memory card, and will result in duplicate file names if you change cards on the same day)


Note that the ALL RESET = ON/OFF setting is an all or nothing sort of thing, i.e. either the camera remembers all settings (even the ones you set during a shooting session but don't want remembered on power down) or forgets them all. To set your preferred default settings, use the My Mode function where you can save up to 4 different sets of settings. In that case, set ALL RESET = ON, so settings you set temporarily will be reset on power down. I admit it's a bit more complicated than it really should be.

The Olympus C-5500 uses the xD-Picture card and comes with a 16MB xD-Picture card. With 16MB, you get only 4 pictures; with 128MB, only 34 pictures. I recommend you purchase at least a 512MB xD-Picture card, or as large a memory card as you can afford.

Note that the Panorama function is available only if you use an Olympus brand xD-Picture Card. Concerning the Panorama function, it does not display the previous picture to allow you to match pictures on the LCD screen, but it's not really necessary. The stitching in Olympus Master works pretty well as long as you ensure the software has identifiable vertical edges to match.

One thing about the EXIF info I noticed is that Olympus saves the exposure mode as "M" even though I used "P" but dialed in an exposure compensation.

With Windows XP, you don't need to install any software to transfer images from camera to PC. Just plug the USB cable into your camera and PC USB socket. The LCD monitor turns on automatically (you don't even need to turn on the camera); press OK to select PC. The camera is recognized as a drive, and you just use the supplied Camedia Master software to transfer images to your PC (if you want to use it to index your images by date). If you don't care with indexing your images, you can simply use Windows Explorer to drag and drop the images from the camera to anywhere on your hard drive. Before unplugging the USB cable, you need to click the "Unplug or Eject Hardware" icon on the taskbar first.

The Basic Manual is, as its name implies, quite basic, and in very tiny type. To read up on the many features of the Olympus C-5500, you need the electronic version of the Advanced Manual, which is on the CD (in pdf format), and I would encourage you to save a copy on your PC for easy access. The electronic version is nice since it makes searching for a feature quick and easy. I can also enlarge the display to a comfortable viewing size. However, the lack of a printed reference manual means that you are totally clueless in the field.

Easter Bunnies (Sharpened)
7.9mm (38mm), Program, Multi-Pattern, 1/50 sec., F2.8, and ISO 80

The Olympus C-5500 has a 2 in. LCD monitor with good resolution (110K pixels) and fast refresh rate for a clear and smooth display. Unfortunately it does not gain up in low-light situations; use the optical viewfinder in those instances.

P mode, Shutter Speed 2.5 sec., Aperture F2.8, +0.3 EV Exposure Compensation
ISO 80, Super Macro, Flash Off, Single Drive mode
5M HQ, 101 shots left
Frame Assist grid lines on

The other feature I really like is the inclusion of the adjustable AF Area. You can position the AF frame to any of 11 positions down * 13 positions across = 143 positions, i.e. anywhere on the LCD screen (except the very edges). This feature is selected via the menu and unfortunately this setting is not remembered by the camera so you have to set it everytime you want to use it. Since AF Area is my preferred AF mode, I was a bit disappointed. But still, better to have it than not. Also note that you must set the self-timer first before AF Area -- two quite handy features for close up macro shots.

I like the fact that you have to manually pop up the flash for it to fire. I hate being surprised by a flash popping up when I don't want to use flash. Pop it up during the day and you have instant fill-in flash. Leave it closed, and you can use slow shutter speeds. This is fortunate also because of the odd placement of the pop up flash at the very top left corner (viewed from the back) of the camera. This corner is also where your left index finger naturally settles to stabilize the camera, and an auto pop up flash would not pop up with your finger resting on top of it. Because of the unfortunate placement of the flash, you do have to hold the camera differently with the flash popped up.

Note that the Olympus C-5500 does not have RAW or TIFF file format. Set at the highest JPEG mode of SHQ, it will not allow you to take sequence shots nor bracket the exposure (i.e. the Drive Mode is disabled). Drive Mode is available at HQ image quality.

The camera comes standard with 4 alkaline AA batteries, and I recommend that you purchase a set of 4 rechargeable NiMH batteries.

A couple of professional features found on the Olympus C-5500:

  • Multi-metering allows you to meter at up to 8 different points. The aperture and shutter speed are calculated from the average values. For more on multi-metering, see page 55 of the Advanced Manual.
  • White Balance Compensation is possible, with up to 7 increments in both the [RED] and [BLUE] directions.

Some cameras you just love and the Olympus C-5500 is one of those. It feels comfortable and right; it starts up fast (about 1 sec.), has no practical shutter lag; it zooms up to 5x providing above average zoom range; it focuses fast and accurately; it has flexible exposure control; and it produces excellent images with great detail and low noise. But, more importantly, it allows you to get the picture without aggravation. If you are looking for a compact digital camera for the serious amateur photographer, be sure to check out the Olympus Camedia C-5500 SportZoom.

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