The C-5050Z Service Advisory

My other pages related to the Olympus C-5050Z, C-5060WZ, and X-7070WZ

I wasn't really planning to write on this subject, as the story has been widely publicized; yet as I'm still receiving related emails, here is a brief note. I hope it may help you to sort things out.

The Sony CCD problem

In October 2005 it became known that a large number of Sony CCD imagers used by many digital camera manufacturers between 2002 and 2004 had construction defects. The problem, most probably, had its sources in chip packaging technology used (although there is no consensus on this), and has been corrected by Sony since.

The affected sensors begin misbehaving only after two years or so of service; this was why the problem was not discovered sooner. Hot and humid weather increase the probability of a failure. The symptoms include either no image capture at all, or easily recognizable "wash-down" of the recorded image, possibly with serious color distortion.

The makers involved: Sony, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Fuji, Ricoh, and Olympus, reacted quickly by announcing lists of more than fifty (!) models affected, as well as generous repair policies. (I suspect one of the reasons may be that Sony is picking a hefty part of the bill.)

Olympus C-5050Z

Olympus was no exception here, although only two models (the C-5050Z and C-730UZ) are on the list. In a nice move, the company provides sensor replacement even in cameras with no symptoms showing, as long as they are identified as using the faulty chip series.

According to Olympus, the symptoms are:

"In picture taking mode, the camera will produce pictures that are of a gray or purple tone or the pictures will be completely black. If the LCD monitor [...] is used to compose the picture, the preview display will be also dark.

If your '5050 was purchased less than four years ago (it was introduced in November, 2002), even if it is still working properly, you should contact the Olympus repair service (888-553-4448 in the U.S.). Have your serial number (shown on a small silver sticker on the camera bottom) handy; it will allow the service to check if you have one of the bad sensors. If yes, the repair is free of charge; if no, there is no need to do it.

(I believe Olympus standard policies require that you also send in a copy of the purchase receipt, although in this case I would't imagine why. All these cameras are less than four years old at this time.)

Olympus posted the official repair advisory as a PDF file.

If you are not sure...

If your '5050 is working just fine (like mine does), you may be reluctant to go through the trouble. Still, do it. The problems might still develop in time. Even if not, the replacement procedure includes the standard check, cleaning, and adjustment — a nice bonus.

After more than three years I still consider this camera to be one of the best models ever made, and it still delivers results better than most of the current models on the market. Used ones fetch good prices (and are not easy to find); definitely, your '5050 is a keeper, even as a backup to a bigger, heavier, and more capable SLR.

Olympus asked the users to wait until the end of January, to avoid the yearly repair rush. In early MArch, 2006, I called them to check if my '5050 is affected. Within a minute I was able to reach a live human being; a minute later he had the verdict: no, my C-5050Z is not among the cameras with faulty imagers; end of story.

You may also check out a related story by my British friend, John Foster. He uses a C-5050Z along with the E-1, and you may want to see his experiences.


My other pages related to the Olympus C-5050Z, C-5060WZ, and X-7070WZ

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Posted 2006/02/26; last updated 2006/03/12 Copyright © 2006 by J. Andrzej Wrotniak