capsule review

Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Olympus Camedia C-5500 Sport Zoom Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom
Photograph: Rick Rizner

While putting the boxy and hefty Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom through its paces, I found much to like about its design. The sizable grip feels comfortable, and the positioning of the buttons and camera navigation wheel allowed me to use the camera one-handed without difficulty. The 2-inch LCD screen displays vivid, crisp images, and a button to the right of the screen provides a quick means to play back images.

Much of this camera's appeal lies in its wide array of features, many of which are rare in a point-and-shoot camera priced at $320. You get ten scene modes--including sport and candle--plus auto and program modes, and shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual modes for greater control over the image. You can even customize the camera by creating your own shooting preferences as a setting, and by creating shortcuts to often-used options within the menu system.

The C-5500's outstanding image quality is another strength. In our tests, the camera rendered sharp images with balanced color and exposures. The camera's four AA alkaline batteries lasted for 261 shots, which is about average.

Unfortunately, many aspects of the camera disappointed us. Though the camera prompts you when a flash is appropriate, it doesn't pop up the flash automatically. The button to activate the flash is bulky and, like the flash itself, feels poorly constructed.

The camera's erratic focusing mechanism was another source of frustration. When in focus, images appeared crisp and clear. But the camera made it too easy to take out-of-focus shots--surprising, given that Olympus bills this model as its Sport Zoom. But even if you're not shooting action, you may want to use the continuous burst mode to mitigate this problem.

Also, the camera's autofocus often took a long time to lock onto the action, causing a lag in the shutter response (the time between when you try to take the picture to when the camera completes the shot). This tendency was especially evident in settings with low to moderate light.

The C-5500's menu system's setup takes some getting used to, and you may need to consult the advanced manual on the CD-ROM for an explanation of some features and icons. You'll certainly want to consult the manual for a detailed explanation of the image quality settings: The SHQ, HQ, SQ1, and SQ2 options each give you different resolution choices, but the approach is more confusing and convoluted than it needs to be.

The display shows a slew of settings, so you don't have to switch between screens or wonder what settings the camera is on; at a glance, you can see the ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, and resolution. Oddly, nowhere on the screen do you get a countdown of how many images your XD Picture Card still has room for.

With a 5X optical zoom that offers the equivalent of a 38mm-to-190mm lens--a generous reach for a camera in this class--a movie mode with image stabilization, and an impressive number of manual controls, the C-5500 does little to box you in creatively. But its poky response time might leave you dissatisfied.

Lots of manual controls and great image quality are offset by the C-5500's sluggish response time.

Melissa J. Perenson

This story, "Olympus C-5500 Sport Zoom" was originally published by PCWorld.

To comment on this article and other TechHive content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    Accurate colors, exposures, and long zoom range are this model's strengths. Autofocus locks well on moving subjects.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon