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C-5050 Zoom: simplicity for the serious hobbyist

C-5050 Zoom

Company: Olympus

Price: $799

Very cool. That's the one thought that keeps coming to mind about the Olympus 5050.

The challenge that I set for myself in getting to know this nifty little camera was to put myself in the role of a prosumer, serious hobbyists and some professionals such as myself who want higher-end cameras with both flexibility and features that go beyond point-and-shoot simplicity.

I shot mostly in the automatic program mode. The camera performed flawlessly, choosing the right time to use flash while achieving almost perfectly balanced exposures on a consistent basis.

There weren't many situations that fooled the 5050. A good example is an image of a bride dancing with her husband at a wedding. The image was shot outdoors at dusk with some ambient courtyard lighting in the background. Judge for yourself, but this image probably will become the latest entry in my portfolio.

I found the Olympus menu displays to be bright and easy to navigate. The only thing I longed for were illuminated controls for use in dimly lit situations. (I'm not sure if any digital point-and-shoot offers this, but it sure would be a nice feature to have.)

Olympus improved the video viewfinder, with its ability to pop up and pull out to a 90-degree angle, making it an excellent waist-level finder perfect for capturing super-candid moments.

Still, I found that the viewfinder fell short of other point-and-shoots, such as the Canon G3, which offer a 360-degree swivel monitor, a great tool for expanding the creative potential of your pictures.

The cool factor goes to the movie mode of the 5050. The improvement here is that you no longer have to wait for the camera to "write" the movie before using the camera again.

I had a blast using this feature, including making video clips around the house of our dog Java and his antics. I even used it at the wedding to photograph the couple's kiss and subsequent serenade by well-wishers.

The Olympus 5050's image quality is superb and it exposes better than any of my more expensive professional digital cameras. It's a fun and practical camera to have around, and is capable of some amazing feats on both the consumer and the professional level. It packs a powerful punch in a small package, which makes you want to take it wherever you go.

The Olympus 5050 definitely can find a spot in my rotation of cameras.