Have you noticed how current compact digital cameras are regarded just as much as style accessories as photo capturing machines? The Optio M50 is a classic example as it comes in six chic and fetching colours – cool Black, sleek Silver, cheery Light Blue, smart Dark Blue and ultra girly Rose and Pink – and weighs such an amazingly light 115g that it can be dropped into a handbag and become virtually unnoticeable.
In terms of design it’s almost indistinguishable from a host of others apart from its slimline casing (95 x 55 x 23.5mm). Beside the 2.5-inch display are the expected array of buttons including zoom, playback, a four-way controller and Menu, with the power and shutter as usual on the top right.
However there are two more buttons that may be less familiar to the casual snapper. Just above the LCD is a smiley face icon next to a button that handles Face Recognition. In the first setting this will automatically identify faces, focus and apply exposure compensation, while in the second setting it will also take the picture for you. This is likely to be very popular at parties and movie premieres.
The other relative newcomer is the Green button next to the Menu which allows you to make your own personalised menu by assigning favourite functions and settings. That way, for instance, you can instantly prepare pixel level, white balance, AR metering, EV compensation, sharpness and saturation to your liking without wading through all the standard menu options.
Being 8-megapixels and having a 36-180mm equivalent lens, this places the M50 roughly in the middle of the Optio range. The main improvements over the M40 are the optical 5x zoom range, the increased sensitivity from ISO 64 to ISO 6400 (once ‘Shake Reduction’ is engaged) and some new Picture Modes including Panorama, Movie Edit and Image Recovery.
As with all of the Optio range, the M50 is designed to make ‘point ‘n’ clicking’ as effortless as possible (i.e. via the Full Auto or Green modes) but also to give you a fair range of personal choice (hence the 16 Picture Modes). There’s even a Digital Wide mode that allows you to align two photos vertically and stitch them together into a 35mm conversion equivalent to a maximum of around 28mm.
The quality of the finished images is uniformly sharp and vibrant and the Smile Capture mode of the face recognition facility is particularly good at maintaining clear focus and balanced exposure levels.
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