2002 was a funny time for film cameras. Technically, they were as good as they could get in terms of specs – most SLRs were autofocus, with multi-zone metering, wide ISO ranges and decent shutter speeds.

Compact cameras had become much better in terms of metering and autofocus, and some were crammed with features and modes to compensate for the lack of manual control. But with the digital revolution kicking off, all of this felt like the sound of deck chairs being dragged along the deck of a sinking ship while a meteor fizzed towards the Earth (and Godzilla filed his nails).

That said, it is in the interest of business to get maximum returns from their investments. In the camera industry, that means varying the offer to consumers while wringing out every last penny of value from completed R&D.

 

 

 

Bridging a gap

Enter the Olympus IS-5000 bridge camera. It comes in the classic Olympus champagne finish, which tends to mark easily. My copy has a few bumps and scrapes, but that’s to be expected: it’s a teenager!

Olympus IS-5000
Olympus IS-5000

Bridge cameras offered almost everything the industry had to give at the time – apart from fast lenses and extreme focal lengths. A full, almost dad-cam, feature set: fresh-looking ergonomic designs, weight saving from not having to drag a bag of lenses around, full manual control in high-end models, close enough in others.

And Olympus was the bridge camera master.

Olympus IS-5000 - Back
Olympus IS-5000 – Back

The IS-5000 is built around a 28-140mm f/4.9-6.9 “5X” zoom lens and does everything it says it does, but the controls are a bit fiddly: tiny push buttons fill the left-hand side of the back, and in manual mode, you are required to press a small button in to change shutter speed instead of the aperture. You must do this while looking at the back – so you have to recompose. This is a design flaw. What this camera needed is a dedicated aperture control ring or an additional thumbwheel to serve the same purpose.

The camera has four exposure modes:

  • Program AE
  • Aerture “preferred” AE
  • Shutter-speed “preferred” AE
  • Manual

In addition, when using the camera’s Program mode, four additional modes become available: Full Auto, Stop Action, Portrait, Night Scene, and Landscape.

 

 

Darkness falls

The viewfinder is darker than most SLR finders, thanks to that slow lens, and the 85% coverage feels a bit tighter than an SLR too. There’s enough information to shoot with (shutter, aperture, exposure, focus confirm, etc) but focus points don’t light up in the viewfinder.

There is a clever feature which I like though: out of focus areas are stippled in the finder – it’s a perfect way to show depth of field and it is very useful for composition. No need for a DoF button here.

Olympus IS-5000 - Lens
Olympus IS-5000 – Lens

The lens is slow and doesn’t find focus well in low-light. The brochure for the IS-5000 describes the 28-140mm f/4.9-6.9 lens as a “masterpiece of optical design that delivers astonishing crispness and clarity”. It also notes 15 elements in 10 groups, with an ED element.


While it is worth remembering that most sales patter like this means close to nothing, it’s also worth noting that the lens design wasn’t knocked up one afternoon down the pub. Even if the lens is slow, it is pretty sharp across the frame when focused.

Well-lit interiors are fine, but any less bright situation will find the lens hunting often. There is no manual focus, so if AF fails, you are stuck. The camera is noisy to focus, and noisier to zoom.

It also has six straight aperture blades, fine when shot wide open or stopped down one stop, but the bokeh isn’t great past that. Portrait mode keeps the aperture wide open whenever possible – as the lens isn’t quick, this was the mode the camera lived in for most of the roll you see featured here (Kodak Pro Image 100).

Tiny niggle about the lens – externally it is all plastic and screw in filters can be over-tightened. I can see this has happened on my copy through a section of thin cracks on the outside of the lens.

 

 

Film choices

Having tested this camera with Kodak Pro Image 100, I would now consider 200 ISO an absolute minimum film speed for everyday use with the IS-5000. The shutter speeds were so low at 100 ISO that even in fairly good light, I was wondering if my pictures would suffer from blur from camera shake at the far end of the zoom range; a few did.

At this point, it is worth noting that Olympus had already built an anti-shake technology in other cameras – a warning system that also prioritized shutter speed to reduce camera shake. The Mju III series is a good example of this implementation.

That feature is not in place here and would have been handy. Perhaps it would have been implemented as a feature on the next model had the burgeoning digital market not killed the line.

 

 

Bottom line: is the IS-5000 a keeper?

I think so. There are lots of nice features (Spot metering? You had me at date back). It’s light, and the lens doesn’t distort too much through the zoom range. It isn’t perfect by a long shot but does cover a lot of ground in terms of what it can do.

If you can find one, I think it’ll work for a long time. The date-back stops recording at the end of 2032…

Why would it lie?

~ Tom

 

 

Olympus IS-5000 technical specifications

Camera nameOlympus IS-5000
Camera typeFully automatic 35 mm autofocus single-lens-reflex camera with built-in 28mm to 140 mm zoom lens
Format35mm film
ManufacturerOlympus Optical Co. Ltd (Japan)
Manufacture dates2002 - ?
Lens28mm to 140mm, f/4.9 to f/6.9 (x5 zoom)
15 elements in 10 groups (4-group zoom construction), 1 ED (Extra-low Dispersion) lens included
52mm filter diameter
ViewfinderMagnification ratio 0.72x (at 50mm)
Finder view field: 85% of actual view field
-2 to +1 diopter adjustment
ShutterElectronic control system, vertical focal plane shutter

Shutter speeds:
1/2,000sec. - 4sec. (Programmed modes)
1/2,000sec. - 60 sec. (Manual mode)
MeteringTTL light metering system
ESP light metering, center-weighed average light metering, spot metering
+/-2EV exposure compensation in 1/2 steps
DX-coded film speed: 25-3200
Exposure modesProgram AE: Full-Auto, Stop Action, Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape
Aperture-Preferred AE
Shutter-Speed-Preferred AE
Manual
Wind / RewindAutomatic loading and winding
Automatic film rewinding (automatic rewind activated at end of film, automatic rewind stop)
Rewinding possible at any point with rewind button
FinishSilver with black leatherette
SelftimerElectronic shutter with 12 sec. delay
Date backData recording system imprints from behind film.

Recording formats:

1) None
2) Year-month-day
3) Month-day-year
4) Day-month-year
5) Day-hour-minute.

External display of recorded data and calendar support to 2032
FlashUnder 1/100sec. (Full synchronization up to 1/2,000sec. with Super FP Activation in Portrait, Aperture-Preferred AE, Shutter-Speed-Preferred AE and Manual modes.)

Built-in IVP (Intelligent Variable-Power) flash system with Super FP Activation; Must be opened manually.

Modes:

Auto Flash (Automatic flash activation in low light, backlight and fluorescent light)
Red-Eye Reduction Flash (same as Auto otherwise)
Fill-in Flash (forced activation)
Super FP Activation.
Flash working range: With ISO 100 color negative film:
Wide angle: 0.6 - 3.7 m Telephoto : 0.9 - 4.1 m
With ISO 400 color negative film:
Wide angle: 0.6 - 7.4 m Telephoto : 0.9 - 8.2 m
PowerTwo 3 V lithium batteries (CR 123A or DL 123A).
Dimensions125 x 87 x 124mm (WxDxH)
WeightStandard model: 650 g (excluding batteries)
Panoramic model: 655g (excluding batteries)
AccessoriesRemote Control RC-300C: 3-second delay, 5 meter range
(RC-200 Remote Control can also be used)

IS/L Lens E-1.3x HQ Teleconverter (extends maximum telephoto power by 1.3x)

 

 

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