The 5.1-megapixel Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom takes very good pictures and offers some impressive features, making it a good choice for enthusiasts on a budget.
The C-5500 has a solid feel, and an oversized grip makes the camera comfortable to hold, but the flash is located on the top left of the camera, leaving no comfortable place for your left hand when the flash is open. The generous 2-inch LCD is bright and easy to read, and the menus are easy to navigate. A live histogram helps you adjust exposure, and you can opt to display over- and underexposed areas directly on the image. Exposure compensation is adjusted directly using the controller pad; you don’t have to access a menu.
The C-5500 is beginner-friendly while offering full manual controls. The mode dial offers Automatic, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, My Mode, Scene, Movie, and Playback modes. The My Mode option lets you access one of four sets of settings you define. Scene mode offers ten options, including standard modes (like Portrait and Landscape), as well as less common ones (like Fireworks, Candle, and Sunset).
The 5x optical “sport zoom” extends from a 38mm f2.8 to 190mm f4.8. The lens is more impressive than most in this class, but the Konica Minolta Z20 offers an 8x zoom (290mm telephoto) for close to the same price and has a top shutter speed of 1/2000 second—faster than the C-5500’s top shutter of 1/1500 second—for freezing sports action.
There are three autofocus (AF) modes—iESP (focus based on the entire picture), Spot, and Area. In Area AF mode, you can target any of 143 zones, so your subject will be in focus wherever it is in the frame. An AF illuminator assists focusing in low light.
The C-5500’s speed is about average. Turn on the camera and you’re ready to begin snapping in a couple of seconds. The shutter lag is noticeable, but not significant. A sequential shooting mode can take up to five pictures with the camera’s High Quality setting every 1.2 seconds.
The C-5500’s pictures were very good, with accurate color and sharp details, but the images appeared slightly underexposed. The ISO ranges from 80 to 400, and noise becomes apparent at 200 ISO. I also noticed mild purple fringing and some barreling (outward bulging of the image). I didn’t have a problem with red-eye, but there’s an in-camera red-eye fix that can be applied after you take the shot.
You can shoot video at 320 by 240 pixels and 30 frames per second to the capacity of your memory card, and an antishake feature reduces the jitters. The quality is decent, but I expect higher-resolution, 640 by 480 video capture in this class.
The C-5500 requires xD-Picture Cards. A 512MB xD card will set you back about $70, compared to about $50 for a SD card.
Macworld’s Buying Advice
The Olympus C-5500 SportZoom takes very good pictures. Its combination of automatic features for beginners, and advanced features (like live histogram and exposure warnings) and full manual controls for enthusiasts, make it a solid choice at a reasonable price.
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Olympus C-5500 SportZoom
||5.0x Optical (38mm to 190mm)
||4.9 inches x 3.3 inches x 3.9 inches