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Olympus C-2040 Zoom

Olympus updates an old favorite, producing a "third generation" two megapixel digicam.

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Page 2:Executive Overview

Review First Posted: 2/20/2001

Executive Overview
The Olympus C-2040 Zoom is an excellent update to a digicam we reviewed a year ago (February 2000), the C-2020 Zoom. At first glance, the newer C-2040 appears nearly identical to its predecessor, with the same SLR-style body shape, classic design, and buffed metallic tones. Upon closer examination however, we noticed several new functions and improved camera controls, including a much faster (and longer) f/1.8-2.6 3x zoom lens, speedy USB connection, auto exposure lock, manual white balance, and expanded focusing capabilities. Best of all, the C-2040 Zoom retains the C-2020's light weight and very compact body, which weighs just 14.2 ounces (407g) with batteries and measures 4.3 x 3.0 x 2.7 inches (109.5 x 76.4 x 69.6mm).

The C-2040 Zoom features both an optical, real-image viewfinder and a rear panel, 1.8-inch, 114,000-pixel, TFT color LCD monitor. 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 listed across the top of the monitor (a nice feature not found on all digicams). The C-2040 also provides a very helpful distance display when using the Manual Focus option, as well as a Digital Zoom bar that shows you when the camera's 3x optical zoom is being used and when the Digital Zoom kicks in.

The 7.1-21.3mm aspherical 3x zoom lens is equivalent to a 40-120mm lens on a 35mm camera, with a very fast f/1.8-f/2.6 (wide angle to telephoto) maximum aperture. In addition to the C-2040 Zoom's 3x optical zoom, images can be enlarged an additional 2.5x with the digital zoom (5x in VGA or 640 x 480-pixel mode), bringing the total zoom ratio to a possible 15x (with a noticeable reduction in image quality resulting from the digital zoom). The C-2040's default image resolution is 1,600 x 1,200 pixels, but lower resolutions of 1,024 x 768 and 640 x 480 are also available. Image quality options include three JPEG compression ratios, plus an uncompressed mode that produces full-resolution TIFF images.

The C-2040 Zoom offers a great deal of exposure control, including Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Speed Priority, and Manual 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 AP or SP modes, apertures range from f/1.8 to f/10.0 and shutter speeds from 1/800 to four seconds. The Manual exposure mode provides the same aperture range, but with shutter speeds as long as 16 seconds.

Like its predecessor, the C-2040 provides four ISO options (Auto, 100, 200, and 400 in all modes), automatic exposure bracketing, Digital ESP Multi-patterned and Spot metering modes, plus exposure compensation in all three automatic modes, from +2 to -2 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments. White balance can be set to Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent, or Quick Reference (manual adjustment) to accommodate a variety of lighting conditions, and a white balance color adjustment function enables you to adjust red and blue color shifts in the image.

Image contrast and sharpness adjustments are available through the Mode Setup menu, and a Function menu option allows you to capture images in black and white (with additional White Board and Black Board settings for capturing text). An adjustable Automatic Exposure Lock (AEL) function locks an exposure reading, without having to hold down the shutter button halfway while you reframe the image. AEL can be based on a single exposure reading or up to eight individual readings for more accurate exposures. There's also a 12-second self-timer option for self-portraits.

The C-2040 Zoom's Movie mode records up to 60 seconds of QuickTime movies in the SQ mode (160 x 120 pixels), or about 15 seconds in HQ mode (320 x 240 pixels). A Sequence mode is available for capturing multiple images at up to 1.6 frames per 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.

The camera's internal flash offers four operating modes (Flash Off, Auto-Flash, Forced Flash, and Red-Eye Reduction), with flash power extending to approximately 18.4 feet (5.6 meters) in wide-angle mode and to about 12.5 feet (3.8 meters) in telephoto. Any of these modes may be combined with the Slow Sync option to increase ambient light exposure. A proprietary sync socket allows you to connect an external flash unit when additional flash power is needed. You also can increase or decrease the internal flash power from -2 to +2 EV in one-third-step increments through the Record menu.

The Olympus C-2040 Zoom ships with an 8MB 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 if you want a slightly larger viewfinder (or image playback) display, Olympus has also provided a video output cable for connection to a television set. Software shipped with the unit includes Olympus' Camedia Master 2.5 utility package, which provides minor organization and editing tools, in addition to a panorama "stitching" application. Apple QuickTime and USB drivers for Mac and Windows are also supplied.

Since we were already big fans of the original C-2000 Zoom and C-2020 Zoom digicams (we use the C-2020 Zoom for our own product shots on the website), we immediately fell in love the new and improved C-2040 version. Increased exposure flexibility, a faster lens, AE Lock, and multi-focusing options make this an even more flexible digital camera than its predecessor. You get exceptional creative control with the same straightforward user interface we learned to love on the preceding models. Combine this with first-rate image quality, and you have what we think will be an extremely popular digicam.

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