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Olympus C-4000 Zoom

Olympus introduces a top-of-the-line four-megapixel model with superb *configurability* great image quality, and an impressively low price.

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Review First Posted: 8/27/2002

Executive Overview

Following in the footsteps of previous Camedia C-Series digicams, Olympus presents the C-4000 Zoom, an only slightly scaled-down version of the previous C-4040 Zoom model. Besides its four-megapixel CCD, the C-4000 Zoom also offers a 3x zoom lens and wide range of creative exposure options. The C-4000 Zoom maintains the classic rangefinder-style body that's the hallmark of Oly's C-Series cameras, measuring only 4.3 x 2.9 x 2.6 inches (110 x 76 x 66.5 millimeters) and weighing just a bit over 10 ounces (295 grams). While it's more of a handful than Olympus' D-series compact models, the C-4000 Zoom is still fairly easy to stash in a large pocket or purse. I do highly recommend purchasing a soft cover or small camera bag for better protection, though.

Like its slightly more advanced cousin, the C-4040 Zoom, the C-4000 Zoom offers a wide range of user controls, including a Multi-Spot metering mode that averages up to eight selectable spot readings, a one-touch white balance function (with a very useful white balance adjustment feature for minor color adjustments), spot autofocus, wide-ranging contrast and sharpness adjustment, and QuickTime movies. It also incorporates an advanced Noise Reduction System, which uses dark-frame subtraction to minimize background noise in long exposures shot under low light conditions. An "Optimum Image Enlargement" mode boosts file sizes to 3,200 x 2,400 pixels -- creating files large enough for 16 x 20-inch prints, although there's little actual increase in detail relative to the C-4000's uninterpolated 2,288 x 1,712 pixel images. Finally the C-4000 adopts Oly's new "virtual dial" menu navigational system for convenient access to a variety of camera shooting modes.

The C-4000 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, color TFT LCD monitor, with 114,000 pixels. When the LCD monitor is engaged, it automatically displays detailed exposure information, with the current exposure mode, f/stop setting, shutter speed, and exposure compensation overlaid on top of the viewfinder display (a nice feature not found on every digicam) and the number of images available in the current resolution setting, at the bottom of the monitor. Two options are provided for the information display, letting you choose whether more or less information is shown. The C-4000 also provides a very helpful numeric/bargraph distance display when using the Manual Focus option, as well as a digital zoom bar (activated when digital zoom is on) that shows the camera's 3x optical zoom in operation, and the progress of the digital zoom whenever you zoom past the range of the optical telephoto.

The 6.5-19.5mm 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 32-96mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a f/2.8 maximum aperture. In addition to the C-4000's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged up to 3.5x with the digital zoom, depending on the image size you've selected. (Users should be aware that digital zoom is not the same as optical zoom, since the digital zoom is merely cropping and enlarging the center portion of the CCD. As a result, digitally enlarged images are invariably "softer" than ones enlarged via a zoom lens.)

The C-4000's image file sizes include: 2,288 x 1,712; 2,048 x 1,536; 1,600 x 1,200; 1280 x 960; 1024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels in normal mode, and 3,200 x 2,400 pixels when using the Optimum Image Enlargement (interpolated) setting. Image quality options include two JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed TIFF format that produces full-resolution images free of compression artifacts.

The C-4000 Zoom offers all the exposure control you could ask for, including Program (P), Aperture Priority (A), Shutter Speed Priority (S), and Manual (M) exposure modes. Program mode controls both aperture and shutter speed, with exposure times as long as one second. Aperture and Shutter Priority modes give you control over aperture or shutter speed, while the camera chooses the best corresponding settings. When used in A or S modes, apertures range from f/2.8 to f/11.0 and shutter speeds from 1/1,000 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but offers shutter times as long as 16 seconds. There's also a selection of preset Scene modes, to make it easy to snap good-looking photos in what might otherwise be challenging conditions. Scene Program modes include Self-Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape / Scene, Landscape / Portrait, Sports, and Portrait modes (all accessed via the "virtual dial" mentioned earlier). Finally, the My Mode feature provides for up to four custom setups for the camera, letting you select complex combinations of settings with a single menu choice.

The C-4000 provides four ISO options (light sensitivity settings) of Auto, 100, 200, and 400 in all modes, automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP and Spot metering modes, Single and Multi-Spot Metering AE Lock modes, plus exposure compensation from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Daylight Fluorescent, Neutral Fluorescent, Cool Fluorescent, or Quick Reference (aka custom or manual white balance adjustment) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions, while a white balance color adjustment function lets you fine-tune the color balance across a wide range from red to blue.

Image contrast, sharpness, and saturation adjustments are available through the Shooting menu, and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white or sepia tone (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits.

Having just mentioned them, I want to call special attention to the various image adjustments provided by the C4000. With the ability to manually "tweak" color balance, contrast, color saturation, and in-camera sharpening, the C4000 lets you customize it to fit your specific preferences and shooting style to an really exceptional degree. For people who care about the particulars of color & exposure, the value of this sort of flexibility is hard to overstate.

The C-4000 Zoom's Movie mode records QuickTime movies without sound, for maximum times dictated by its internal buffer memory, in either SQ (160 x 120 pixels, maximum duration ~148 seconds) or HQ (320 x 240 pixels, maximum duration ~35 seconds) modes. A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to 1.6 frames per second in HQ mode (based on my own measurements, actually a bit faster than Olympus' spec of 1.5 frames/second), and a Panorama mode allows you to take up to 10 formatted shots for merging with Camedia's Panorama Stitch software in the computer. (Note that the panorama option is only available when you're using Olympus-branded SmartMedia cards.) The "2 in 1" mode captures two individual images, saved as a single split-screen image.

The camera's internal flash offers four operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, and Slow Sync), with flash range extending to approximately 11.8 feet (6.3 meters). The Slow Sync flash mode uses a slower shutter speed with the flash, to allow more of the ambient lighting into the photo, and includes the option to fire the flash at either the beginning or end of the exposure, as well as add a Red-Eye Reduction pre-flash. A proprietary sync socket lets you connect an Olympus-branded external flash unit when additional flash power is needed, and Olympus offers an accessory adapter cable with a standard PC-sync connector on it for use with generic strobes. You also can increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Shooting menu.

The Olympus C-4000 Zoom ships with a 16MB SmartMedia memory card for image storage (larger capacity cards are available separately). You can connect the camera directly to your computer via a high-speed USB interface to download images, and the Olympus "Auto Connect USB" interface means the camera will automatically appear on your computer's desktop, if you're using Windows Me, XP, or 2000, or Mac OS 8.6 or later. A video output jack and cable let you play your images back on an external video monitor, which can also be used as a super-sized viewfinder in capture mode. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.0 utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Macintosh and Windows are also supplied.

While not offering quite the range of capabilities of the C-4040 Zoom (primarily in the form of a "slower" lens and slightly slower continuous-mode operation), the Camedia C-4000 Zoom offers exceptional creative control, great low-light capabilities, and large file sizes for maximum print output. When you factor in its excellent image quality, the C-4000 amounts to one of the best deals in the entire digicam marketplace, at least as of this writing, in mid-August, 2002.

 

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