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Olympus Camedia C-500 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 08/04/05
Rating: Highly Recommended!

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Introduction: The Olympus Camedia C-500, also known as the Olympus D-595, is available from £151 including VAT - the C500 is a fairly compact 5 megapixel digital camera, with a 3x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.8" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver plastic body. It records unlimited 320 x 240 / 30fps videos with sound. The camera's quite compact with the following size: 104.5 x 60.5 x 36.5 mm. (without protruding parts), and weighs 150g (without the battery and memory card)

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"Flexible yet still easy to use, the C-500 ZOOM gives hobby photographers plenty of room for creativity with full manual control. Thanks to its 5.0 million pixels, you can capture subjects in extraordinary detail and the addition of TruePic TURBO technology guarantees rich, high-definition shots. Explore your artistic side further with the movie recording function – popping in an optional 256MB xD-Picture Card will give you up to 9 minutes to express your personal vision with sound."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of silver plastic.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)

Front - Camera off.

Front - Camera on, lens extended, flash, microphone, optical viewfinder and led.

Back - the 1.8" TFT screen, optical viewfinder, zoom control, photo mode, play mode, flash/delete button, macro/rotate button, ok/menu button and 4 way controller, mode dial.

Top - power and shutter release.

Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount, and the memory compartment.

Left Side (from back) speaker.

Battery compartment, USB/AV out and DC in.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Size comparison next to the Panasonic Lumix LS1. (both cameras use AA batteries)

Specifications / Features:

  • 5 megapixels
  • 3x optical zoom lens (equivalent to 38 - 114mm)
  • Optical viewfinder
  • Help function
  • Super macro up to 2cm
  • 1.8" LCD screen
  • Unlimited 320x240/30fps movie mode with sound
  • 14mb internal memory

View the full specifications on their website.

Box Contents:

  • Camera
  • Strap
  • USB Cable
  • AV Cable
  • AA alkaline batteries
  • Olympus Master software
  • Basic Manual

Average box contents - 14mb is a small amount of memory for a 5 megapixel camera.

Battery usage: Battery life seemed good with a pair of 2100mah Ni-Mh rechargable batteries - I recommend you invest in a set of at least 4 high power rechargable AA batteries and a charger for this camera to get the best performance out of it.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen is a fairly decent resolution, and updates smoothly - the colours appear accurate. There is a live histogram available and the screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: The electronic viewfinder is a bit small for me as I wear glasses. It has a dioptor corrector which helps.

Menu options are: White balance (including custom), Sensitivity, Picture size, Quality, Audio recording, Metering mode, AF mode, Continuous AF, AF Trigger, AF Assist lamp, Digital zoom (on/off), Colour effect (Cool, Warm, Black and White, Sepia), Picture adjust (Natural, Standard, Vivid), Stabiliser mode (off, Mode 1, Mode 2), Flip Animation.

Scene modes Setup Menu

Scene modes: (shown on the left, above) Portrait, Sports, Scenery, Night scenery, Night portrait, Panning, Fireworks, Party, Snow.

Setup menu options: (shown on the right, above) Monitor, Auto review, Play on LCD, Power save, beep, shutter, volume, clock set, no. reset, reset, USB mode, highlight, video out, scene memu, language.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is quick. The zoom is quick up to 16x.

Playback menu options: Rotate, Protect, DPOF Print, Slide show, Audio Dub, resize, trimming, format.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 14mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
5mp (2560x1920 SHQ) 3
5mp (2560x1920 HQ) 11
2mp (1600x1200 SQ1) 28
VGA (640x480 SQ2) 144
Video 320x240 30fps 20 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is an poor choice of image sizes, and there is almost no choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 128mb or 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Olympus Camedia C-500:

128mb xD - £16.99,
256mb xD - £23.99,
512mb xD - £39.99 from Amazon.co.uk.

Speed: The camera is fairly average speed-wise to switch on and take photos - however the camera can occassionally 'hunt' for the focus in darker indoor conditions. The screen updates are quick and smooth (in good light). The playback mode is also quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 5x. The camera has a fairly quick continuous shooting mode. The camera shutter response seemed quite quick when pre-focused.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options and features. The controls on the back of the camera are fairly easy to use - the menus are responsive and easy to read. The camera is compact although not as compact as ultra-compact cameras. The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's an Auto mode for beginners, a Program mode for more advanced people, and then a fully manual mode for the more adventurous or experienced users.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons - I especially like the red photo and green play buttons as these make it very easy to switch between the two modes. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well. I thought the camera felt quite good ergonomically, and was the correct weight - it seemed lighter than it looked, but not too light. The hand grip seemed quite good.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!


Heather and Flower Group photo

Inside: The camera has good colour. It has a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera was okay at focusing indoors, although in low light it did struggle and seemed a bit slow at focusing correctly. Red-eye didn't seem to be a problem.

Noise: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO50, 100, 200, and 400) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings.

Noise test photo - flash on

ISO50 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels

Noise levels appear low at ISO50 and ISO100. At ISO200 noise becomes more noticable and in my test photos it was acceptable, however at ISO400 noise levels were higher and colours seemed to change, as you can see above, the dark blue parts of the tie have shifted towards purple. Overall though, noise levels, even at ISO400 are quite low for a 5 megapixel digital camera.


Unisys Building Giant Rat

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail. I didn't notice jpeg artefacts in the images.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x optical zoom + 4x digital zoom

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is quite loud when switching the camera on or off, but a bit quieter in use. The lens is fairly quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 13 steps between wide and telephoto. This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I did notice some purple fringing in some photos, however the majority of the time there was hardly any.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode - you can use the macro mode at wide angle, all the way to telephoto. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera also has a Super macro mode in which the lens is set at wide-angle and you can't use the flash. The camera can be roughly as close as 2cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels (100%)

The super macro mode is very good - in normal macro mode the camera does a good job of toning down the flash. Colour and detail is very good.

Movie: 320x240 at 30fps with sound. The movie is recorded as an .MOV file. Unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom whilst recording videos. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is quite good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is good.


Image Quality: Image quality is very good, the images have good colour, saturation, contrast and good detail - however there is some purple fringing. Images tend to come out of the camera looking very good. The camera did a good job focusing - although in low-light did struggle. Noise was on the low side, even up to ISO400, however I did notice a colour shift at ISO400. I didn't notice any vignetting in the corners. There is a small range of image sizes and a very small choice of compression options. The super macro mode is very good. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. Red-eye was controlled quite well. The movie mode is slightly better than average, at 320x240 / 30fps with sound.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well - the camera feels comfortable in my hands. The camera is fairly compact. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. There is a good choice of features and options to suit all levels of experience, from shutter/aperture control to scene modes, as well as manual white balance etc - although some may be dissapointed to find that there is no manual focus. The camera speed is okay, although I would prefer it if it was quicker.

Alternative compact 5 megapixel digital cameras: Sony Cybershot W5 / T3, Olympus Mju Mini Digital S (weatherproof), Olympus Mju Digital 500 (weatherproof), Canon Digital IXUS 500, Canon Digital IXUS 50, Nikon Coolpix 5200 / 5600, Fuji Finepix F450, Pentax Optio S5i / SV (5x optical zoom), Konica Minolta Dimage X50, Casio Exilim EX-Z55, HP Photosmart R707, Panasonic Lumix FX7, Ricoh Caplio R1v (4.8x wide optical zoom). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Olympus Camedia C-500 is a very good digital camera, it produces very good images, is very good value for money and has a wide range of controls that would suit a beginner or an expert. The camera has a very good macro mode. The camera has very good image quality - only slightly let down by noise. The Olympus offers very good value for money as an easy to use, and powerful digital camera that regularly produces good results. Due to the camera being slightly slow, and struggling to focus indoors in low-light - I would recommend this camera, rather than highly recommending it.

Olympus Camedia C-500 / D-595 Rating: Recommended!
Check latest price on Amazon: UK | US

What I like:

  • Excellent super macro mode
  • Very good picture quality (colour, saturation)
  • Good detail
  • Full manual controls (shutter, aperture, custom white balance)
  • 30fps video mode with sound
  • Takes AA batteries
  • 2 year warranty
  • Relatively low noise
  • Good value for money

What I don't like:

  • Struggles to focus indoors
  • Only 14mb provided
  • Can't use panorama mode with internal memory! (only Olympus XD cards!)

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.