Olympus C-4000 ZoomOlympus introduces a top-of-the-line four-megapixel model with superb *configurability* great image quality, and an impressively low price.
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C-4000 Sample ImagesReview First Posted: 8/27/2002
Digital Cameras - Olympus C-4000 Test Images
(Original test posting: 08/27/02)
|I've begun including links in our reviews to a Thumber-generated index page for our test shots. The Thumber data includes a host of information on the images, including shutter speed, ISO setting, compression setting, etc. Rather than clutter the page below with *all* that detail, I'm posting the Thumber index so only those interested in the information need wade through it!|
High contrast at the default setting, but good color and detail.
The extreme tonal range of this image makes it a tough shot for many digicams, which is precisely why I set it up this way. The object is to hold highlight and shadow detail without producing a "flat" picture with muddy colors, and the C-4000 responded with very high contrast. The shot at near right was taken with the C4000's default contrast setting, and a positive exposure compensation of 0.7EV. The shot at far right was taken with a +0.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, and a -5 contrast adjustment, showing significantly better tonality throughout the image.
I chose the Auto white balance setting as the most accurate overall, although it produced results quite similar to those obtained with the Daylight setting. Manual white balance produced a very warm image.
Although just slightly warm, the color here is really excellent. Marti's skin tones look very good, and the hue of the blue flowers in the bouquet is almost dead-on. (Great results, as this is often a difficult blue for digicams to get right.) The red flowers in the bouquet are a little bright, but the high saturation there doesn't seem to wash out any detail. Fine detail is impressive throughout the frame, especially in the flowers and Marti's skin, as well as in the shadow areas. An excellent job!
To view the entire exposure series from +0.3 to +1.0 EV (with a -5 Contrast adjustment), see files C40OUTAP1CONM5.HTM, C40OUTAP2CONM5.HTM, and C40OUTAP3CONM5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Excellent detail. Default contrast is again high, but the contrast adjustment brings it down to a reasonable level.
Results here are similar to the wider shot above, and the C-4000's 3x zoom lens helps prevent distortion of Marti's features. With its default settings, the camera again produced very high contrast in response to the harsh sunlight, but the contrast adjustment once again worked very well. The shot at right was snapped at the default exposure, with a contrast adjustment of -3 units. (Here's a sample image at the default contrast setting.) Resolution is even higher in this shot, with incredible detail in Marti's face and hair. Shadow detail looks great as well, with very low noise.
Indoor Portrait, Flash:
Good flash intensity, and accurate color.
The C-4000's flash is quite strong, even at the default exposure setting (shown at right). Although the flash brightness almost overpowers the subject, color looks very good on Marti and the background wall is free from any color casts due to the incandescent room lighting. I also shot with the camera's Slow-Sync flash mode, which combines the flash with a longer shutter time. Because more ambient light is allowed into the image, the background wall picks up an orange cast from the household incandescent lighting. Color looks nearly accurate on Marti, though with orange tints from the background light and blue tints from the flash.
As a side note, the trick for dealing with this sort of color balance conflict between room and strobe lighting is to use an orange gel to shift the color temperature of the strobe down to near the level of the room lighting, then use the Incandescent white balance setting on the camera. The flash and room lighting will be close to the same color, and the camera's white balance system will bring the overall color into line.
The slow-sync shot at right has a +1.0 EV exposure adjustment, as the default setting was much too dim.
To view the entire exposure series, from -0.3 to +0.7 EV in the normal flash mode, see files C40INFM1.HTM through C40INFP2.HTM on the thumbnail index page. For the exposure series from zero to +1.0 EV in the Slow-Sync flash mode, see files C40INFSP0.HTM through C40INFSP3.HTM.
Indoor Portrait, No Flash:
Slight color casts with each white balance setting, but good exposure.
This shot is always a very tough test of a camera's white balance capability, given the strong, yellowish color cast of the household incandescent bulbs used for the lighting. The C-4000's white balance system had a little trouble with it, but overall much less so than most cameras I test. None of the white balance options were completely off the mark, but by the same token, none of them really nailed the color either. I chose the Auto setting for the main example for this test, despite a slight pink cast. The Manual setting produced a slight greenish cast, while the Incandescent setting resulted in a warm, yellowish coloration. The main shot has a +1.0 EV exposure adjustment, which brightens the midtones without losing detail in the highlight areas. Although a little pink due to the overall color cast, Marti's skin tones are nearly right, and color in the flower bouquet isn't too far off either. With just a little color correction in a post-capture software application, results would be just about right. (Note too though, that you could always use my trick of using a slightly off-white reference for the Manual white balance option, to compensate for the slight color cast it shows here. - A very pale green "white" card would lead the camera to correct the color back toward neutral very nicely. See my picture-analysis page for the Fuji S602 for an example of this.)
To view the entire exposure series from zero to +1.7 EV, see files C40INAP0.HTM through C40INAP5.HTM on the thumbnail index page.
Slightly warm color balance, but good detail and resolution.
As with the previous test, none of the white balance settings got it exactly right here, but none of them were too far off either. The Auto white balance resulted in a pinkish cast, visible in the roof shingles and white trim, and intensifying the color of the red bricks. Both the Daylight and Manual white balance settings produced slightly yellowish images. I chose the Daylight setting as the best overall.
The tree limbs above the roof show very good detail, as does the shrubbery in front of the house. Even fine details in the brick pattern are quite distinct. The corners are rather soft, particular the upper left, but details are reasonably sharp throughout the rest of the frame. Overall resolution is just a notch below the very best four megapixel cameras I've tested, but it's entirely acceptable and in fact sharper than many. A very good performance.
Excellent detail and resolution, with good color and exposure.
This image is shot at infinity to test far-field lens performance. NOTE that this image cannot be directly compared to the other "house" shot, which is a poster, shot in the studio. The rendering of detail in the poster will be very different than in this shot, and color values (and even the presence or absence of leaves on the trees!) Will vary in this subject as the seasons progress. In general though, you can evaluate detail in the bricks, shingles and window detail, and in the tree branches against the sky. Compression artifacts are most likely to show in the trim along the edge of the roof, in the bricks, or in the relatively "flat" areas in the windows.
This is my ultimate "resolution shot," given the infinite range of detail in a natural scene like this, and the C-4000's 4.0-megapixel CCD and very good lens picks up outstanding detail. Fine foliage details in the tree limbs and front shrubbery are very well defined, with clear and distinct leaf patterns. There's once again some softness in the upper left corner of the frame, and more coma and chromatic aberration than I'd like to see, but I think some of that is caused by the foreground foliage being so close to the camera lens. (There's a branch that hangs out there, quite close to the camera position. As a result, it's out of focus, which aggravates the chromatic aberration around the edges of its leaves.) Contrast is just a little high here, with the strong highlight of the white-painted trim on the bay window just edging over into being blown out. Shadow detail is quite good though, and as you can see in the contrast series below, dialing down the contrast slightly brings the highlights into check. Color looks just about perfect, with accurate hues and appropriate saturation. A great job overall. The table below shows a standard resolution and quality series, followed by examples of ISO, Sharpness, Saturation, Contrast, Effects, and White Balance variations.
White Balance Series:
Lens Zoom Range
Typical 3x zoom range, good detail with the digital zoom.
I routinely shoot this series of images to show the field of view for each camera, with the lens at full wide angle, at maximum telephoto (3x, in this case), and at full telephoto with the digital zoom enabled. The C-4000's lens is equivalent to a 32-96mm zoom on a 35mm camera, slightly wider-angle than the usual 35-105mm range. Following are the results at each zoom setting.
Very good color with Manual white balance, nice detail.
This shot is often difficult color-wise, as the abundance of blue in the composition often tricks white balance systems into producing a warm color balance. The C-4000's Auto setting did just that, producing a warm, yellow image. Alternatively, the Daylight and Manual settings produced more natural-looking color, though with very slight magenta tints. Skin tones are the most accurate with the Manual setting, and the blue robe looks about right as well. Though the blue background has faint reddish tints, and the deep shadows of the blue robe are a little purplish, overall color looks good. The camera picks up a lot of fine detail in the embroidery of the blue robe, as well as in the flower garland and beaded necklaces of the other models. Corner softness is only slightly visible in the left corners, and doesn't extend far into the image area.
Excellent macro performance, though too close for flash.
Thanks to an "ultra macro" option, the C-4000 performed very well in the macro category, capturing a tiny minimum area of only 1.68 x 1.25 inches (42.6 x 31.9 millimeters). Resolution is very high, with excellent detail on the dollar bill. (Dust is even visible on top of the smaller coin.) The close shooting range and limited depth of field blur the larger coin and brooch, but printing details are sharp on the bill. That said, the upper and lower left corners are rather soft. Exposure and color both look good. I didn't shoot with the flash, as the close proximity of the camera to the subject would render it ineffective.
Good exposure, excellent color.
The Auto white balance setting produced the best color here, with almost perfectly neutral grays on the MacBeth chart portion of this target. The Daylight and Manual settings both resulted in warm casts, with yellow and greenish tints.
The C-4000's automatic exposure system performed well, preserving both highlight and shadow details while keeping midtones where they belong. The camera captured the subtle tonal variations of the pastel swatches Q60 target very nicely. The camera's slightly high native contrast results in darker shadow values, most evident in the charcoal briquettes at bottom center. Despite the very dark shadows though, the C4000 managed to capture a lot of shadow detail there. Image noise is very low across the full tonal range.
Colors are very accurate, about the only criticism I can find to make is that the yellow block is just slightly undersaturated. (This seems to be a tough color for digicams though: Most get the hue right, but saturation low, as did the C4000.)
This is really an excellent performance overall, on a target that's very revealing of a variety of potential digicam failings.
Excellent low light performance, all the way down to the limits of my testing (1/16 foot-candle).
With manual-mode exposure times stretching to 16 seconds, and an effective noise-reduction system, the C-4000 Zoom does an excellent job at low light photography. (And the numeric distance scale really helps in getting the focus right, when it's too dark (less than ~1/4 foot-candle) for the autofocus system to work reliably.) The camera captured bright, clear images at light levels as low as 1/16 foot-candle (0.67 lux) at ISO 200 and 400, and at levels as low as 1/8 foot-candle at ISO 100. The dark-frame subtraction noise reduction system works well, although in common with most such systems, pixels that are entirely saturated (white) in the raw image are rendered as black in the processed image. (See Mike Chaney's Qimage Pro software program for a more sophisticated dark-frame subtraction system that avoids this problem.) Still, the C-4000 Zoom is an impressive low-light shooter, producing surprisingly good color balance and low noise overall. The table below shows the best exposure I was able to obtain for each of a range of illumination levels. Images in this table (like all of our sample photos) are untouched, exactly as they came from the camera.
Flash Range Test
Good intensity to about 12 feet from the target, usable further though.
The C-4000's flash remained fairly bright at the maximum 14 foot distance I test to, with the first noticeable falloff occurring around 12 feet. Below is our flash range series, with distances from eight to 14 feet from the target.
The C-4000 performed well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, though it started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 600 lines per picture height horizontally and around 800 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,150 lines horizontally and 1050 lines vertically. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred at approximately 1,450 lines.
Geometric distortion on the C-4000 is lower than average at the wide-angle end, as I measured a 0.35 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared very slightly better, with a 0.27 percent pincushion distortion. (This is a pretty good performance: Most digicams I test average around 0.8 percent barrel at wide angle, although pincushion at telephoto is generally almost nonexistent. Olympus seems to have opted to trade off more pincushion at tele for less barrel at wide, but the net result is less distortion overall.) Chromatic aberration is a bit higher than average, showing 4-5 pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) That amount of chromatic aberration is a but high, but not unusual. More bothersome was the fact that it persists fairly far into the central portion of the frame, as there were a couple of pixels of color around the numbers marking the high-frequency resolution wedges, fairly close to the target's center. The strongest optical distortion I noticed was increased softness and "coma" (a smearing of high-contrast edges) on the left side of the frame.
Overall, the C4000's lens is a mix of good and bad. It delivers high resolution and good sharpness with better than average geometric distortion, but shows more chromatic aberration and coma than I'd like to see. The lens is the only thing that keeps me from being wildly enthusiastic about this camera. (I'm still like it a lot, but a better lens would have really put me over the top...)
Resolution Series, Wide Angle
Viewfinder Accuracy/Flash Uniformity
An accurate LCD monitor, but tight optical viewfinder.
The C-4000's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing approximately 80 percent of the frame at wide angle and telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder were also slanted slightly toward the lower left corner, indicating a slightly shifted CCD in our evaluation unit. (The rotation was about 0.8 degrees.)The camera's LCD monitor fares much better, showing approximately 99 percent of the frame at both wide angle and telephoto. Given that I generally prefer LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the C-4000 performs well here. The flash shows a fair amount of falloff in the corners of the frame at wide angle, but is very even and fairly bright at telephoto.