When Olympus announced the 5.1mp Camedia 5060 Wide Zoom compact digital camera back in September, it seemed like the excellent C-5050Z would just be fitted with a wider-angle lens. Actually it’s a major revision, with a new, fully articulated swivelling monitor, and it’s been tuned for faster start-up and shutter response, too. The lower-cost C-5060Z is still available.
The new 4:1 zoom lens is equivalent to a 27-110mm lens on a 35mm camera. Olympus claims this is the widest standard digital compact camera lens around – most rivals max out around 35mm. However, Nikon’s CoolPix 5000 and 5400, and Minolta’s Dimage 7 and A1 models do have 28mm equivalents, which are only marginally narrower.
The black magnesium body is taller, and looks bulkier, to accommodate the new swivel monitor. A new lens mount accepts screw-on filters and accessory lenses. It’s lost the neat styling of the C-5050Z and is bigger all round than Nikon’s CoolPix 5400, which has broadly similar specifications.
When you switch the camera on, it extends its lens and boots up in 2.8 seconds. Olympus says that the shutter response including autofocus is 0.4 seconds. Even so, waiting nearly half a second can lose you some action shots. For nearer-instant response you must half-press the shutter first, to activate the autofocus.
As with most digital compact cameras, the manual focus system is almost useless. There’s a live distance scale and an enlarged central area on-screen, which you use to judge sharpness while you press selector buttons up or down. The enlarged area is too indistinct to judge much at all.
The sensor’s ISO rating is a useful 80 to 400 ISO and the shutter speed ranges from 16 seconds to 1/4,000th. The controls are basically the same as the 5050Z, with plenty of dedicated function buttons, a thumbwheel for selecting major settings on either the top panel or the main monitor, and a four-way selector for choosing on-screen menus. The animated on-screen user interface is well-thought-out.
The hotshoe on the top panel can accept a standard flashgun, with direct interfaces to the exposure system if you use an Olympus model.
There’s a choice of storing JPEG compression, uncompressed TIFF files, or Olympus Raw format. There are two memory card slots, one for Compact Flash or Microdrives, the other for the mini xD PictureCard. A 16MB xD card is supplied. The interface port is sadly only a USB 1.1.
The larger body allows Olympus to fit a big 7.5v lithium-ion rechargeable battery in place of the 4x AAs that earlier models use. An external charger is included. This battery is similar to those used by digital SLRs, and has a very good charge life.
As with most models in this series, there’s a small remote control unit for triggering the shutter. It works at much longer range than others we’ve tried – up to at least 10m – though it can’t now control image playback through a TV.
Olympus Master 4.1 software is supplied to download and open files with basic editing. Its user interface is very consumer-looking, in contrast with the Viewer software supplied with the Olympus E-1 pro SLR camera. Master is needed to open and convert Raw files, as the Raw converter in Photoshop CS can’t recognise these. Ulead PhotoImpact 7 SE editing and album software is provided, but for Windows only.
Image quality is excellent, especially with TIFF and RAW formats. The new wide-angle lens shows very little edge distortion, and fringing around fine lines is no worse than many normal lenses. The exposure system coped well with difficult exposure conditions in the low January sun, and lens flare wasn’t obtrusive.