Olympus C-4000 Zoom Review
The C-4000 Zoom is an affordable 4-Megapixel camera that has all the features found on more expensive models. It has a high-quality 3x optical zoom lens and robust image processing firmware. It could use more RAM to better do sequence photography but it features exposure options from point and shoot simplicity to full metered manual with a multitude of options inbetween. It's small enough to take with you wherever you go, light enough to hang around your neck all day but not so small it is hard to handle. We find the size and weight a huge plus. It has what it takes to produce a very good large image.
The C-4000 Zoom's full size and large finger grip gives it a secure and stable feel in your hand. The major controls like the mode / power dial, zoom lever and shutter button are ergonomically placed and easy to operate. Particularly useful is the "My Mode" option where you can "set-up" 4 different "MY MODES" to your favorite combination of image size, quality, operational mode, lens start-up position, EV compensation, flash mode, and most every other camera option available. This can be your startup default when you turn the camera on which is very handy from power on to power off or during battery or memory card changes.
Recording options are plentiful with a myriad of combinations of still image capture sizes (2288 x 1712, 2288 x 1520(3:2), 2048 x 1536, 1600 x 1200, 1280x960, 1024x768, 640x480) and quality/compression settings (uncompressed TIFF, SHQ-JPEG, and HQ-JPEG, SQ1-JPEG and SQ2- JPEG). Olympus has attempted an "enlarged" size at 3200 x 2400(7.7MP) which is an interpolated 2288 x 1712 image and looks it. We found none worthy of posting on the sample images page as the 2288 x 1712 image was so superior in every detail. They were not terrible, just noticeably beneath the standard that every other image we shot could be held up to. There's also the HQ 320x240 and SQ 160x120 QuickTime movie modes at 15 fps but without sound. Movie recording time is limited only by the capacity of the SmartMedia card you're using. The movies are sharp and clear and, because it doesn't record sound, you can use the optical zoom. Most digicams having a movie mode that records sound preclude the use of the optical zoom because the microphone will pickup the mechanical noise of the lens.
Drive modes include: Single, Continuous, AF Continuous, AE Bracketing (3 or 5 frames with +/- 0.3, 0.6 or 0.7 and 1.0 stop increments), and Self timer. Burst mode is good for around 1.2 fps up to three full sized JPEG-compressed pictures in the SHQ mode. The RAM could be a little larger to facilitate more in a sequence. It is not useable in TIFF mode. When using an Olympus brand SmartMedia card there is also a special Panorama mode available. In combination with their software, packaged with the camera, you can stitch together up to 10 images.
The C-4000 Zoom's performance is over-all OK. The start-up time is under seven seconds measured from turning on the power, the lens ratchets out and you capture the first image. The shot to shot time is just over three seconds at the largest image size and highest quality. Add about another second or two if using the flash. The time it takes to write to the media becomes an issue as you take the second and third shot in a quick sequence. There is a 3-4 second wait for it to finish emptying its buffer to the card before taking the next image. To capture a little faster action sequences there's the Continuous mode that can capture up to 3 full size, 4-megapixel images in about two and a half seconds. It then is about a 10 second delay for processing and writ ting to the card as the small buffer is full. All consumer digicams are optimized for handling JPEG images so when shooting in single frame Large/TIFF mode the C-4000 Zoom requires about 19 seconds between shots, which is half the time of most consumer digicams. Overall performance is OK as the buffer is small yet the processor is fast, meaning this is not the camera to take to sidelines for action shot sequences but better for beautiful enlargements.
Exposure options include Programmed Automatic, a point and shoot mode where the camera chooses the best combination of shutter speed and aperture that range from 1/1000 - 4 sec and F2.8 - 11. If you want more control, you can pick from Aperture-priority (F2.8-F11), Shutter-priority (1/1000 - 4 sec's) or full Manual (f/2.8 - f/11 and 1/1000 - 16 sec's). These modes are easily chosen from the "Virtual Dial" menu in the A/S/M mode. When in Manual mode the exposure compensation display becomes the indicator as to how many stops from suggested correct exposure you are. It is displayed on the LCD screen in the top right.
The C-4000 Zoom's sensitivity will change automatically by default to suit the conditions or you can manually lock it in at ISO 100, 200 or 400. Using ISO 200 or 400 with shutter speeds longer than 1/8 of a second will result in varying amounts of CCD noise that will appear as speckles and Christmas lights (red, green and blue hot pixels.) The Noise Reduction mode must be selected from the record mode menus. We shot a 1.6 second exposure at f/2.8 in available light with the camera set to program, auto film speed (camera set itself to ISO 200) with the Noise Reduction ON and was very impressed with the lack of "Christmas lights".
Metering can be Digital iESP Multi-Pattern Meter or Spot. White balance options are: Automatic, daylight, cloudy, incandescent, three fluorescent modes and the added feature of one touch manual preset. The built in speedlight's output can be controlled (+/- 2.0 in 0.3 increments) and offers Auto-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in, slow sync flash 1,2 (1 and 2 denotes the flash fires at the beginning or the end of the exposure), red-eye reduction slow sync 1, or Flash Off modes. Its working range is excellent from macro out to about eleven and three quarters feet and with little to no redeye problems. These flash ranges are very impressive and far from over stated like most manufacturers tend to do. We shot a flash picture in almost no light at sixteen feet at full telephoto and we were very satisfied with results. Kudos for Olympus - a flash in a digicam that does at least what the specs say - a new concept in digital photography. There is an external TTL flash connector that allows full Through-the-Lens (TTL) flash metering and low light focus assist illumination to about 30 feet when using the TTL cord and FL-40 flash. The FL-40 is not an inexpensive flash but it has a lot of output power and features.
The all glass, 3X optical zoom lens covers a focal range of 6.5-19.5mm (32-96mm equivalent in 35mm photography) and is very sharp. We were impressed with its edge to edge sharpness (the corners are where most lenses fall short.) It exhibits a small amount of barrel distortion in full wide angle and a moderate amount of pin cushioning at full telephoto. The motorized zoom mechanism is relatively smooth and positive. At power down, the lens retracts into its barrel and the user snaps on the included lens cap which can be attached to the camera with the included 'leash'. The rubber barreled lens cap from Dancraft (mentioned on Features and Controls Page would be an excellent "first" accessory purchase.
Autofocus is TTL using a contrast detection system. The autofocus range is from 31 inches to infinity in normal mode, 8 to 31 inches in macro mode, 0.8 inch to 8 inches in Super Macro (set from a menu) or you can switch to manual focus (set from a menu). When manual focusing, you have a slider scale overlaid on the color LCD. The indicator moves as you adjust the distance. The autofocus is accurate and usually performs its job in a second or less even in macro mode. Focus Assist illumination built into the camera would be a big plus but the AF system does work well down into fairly dim lighting conditions.
The 1.8-inch color LCD is one of the "Wide view" displays and is much easier to see from the side or above than earlier LCDs. It has excellent resolution and the back light can be adjusted to suit a wide range of viewing conditions. The refresh rate is real time so there is no herky-jerky display even when fast panning. Screen visibility is good in all but direct sunlight where you should be using the optical viewfinder unless you need to access the menus. We found it quite easy to shield the screen by cupping my hand around it when we had to change settings in the great outdoors.
Speaking of optical viewfinders ... the C-4000 Zoom uses the same eye level coupled optical viewfinder as the C-2xxx and C-3xxx series. There is a diopter adjustment knob on the side and it is a large and bright viewfinder so even those wearing glasses will have no problems using it. It shows about 85% of the final image. Olympus did straighten out the problem they had in the C-3020 where the viewfinder wasn't centered on what the lens saw. The C-4000 is almost perfectly centered unless your are in Macro and, as in all cameras, you should be using the LCD for a viewfinder then.
Unfortunately, Olympus still wants to package the two LB-01 CR-V3 Lithium batteries with the camera. They work fine but they are not rechargeable so you'll end up dumping them in the land fill and spending a lot more money in the long run if you continue using these type. You should purchase a set (or two) of high capacity NiMH rechargeable batteries and a charger to complete this otherwise good camera system.
The bottom line is that this is an excellent camera and possibly one of the best in the current $500 and below price category. As we said at the beginning, it has what it takes to produce a very good, large image and it would be one of the cameras that I'd recommend to those seeking a mid-level but fully-featured digicam. It's easy to use in Auto mode and for those seeking more control, you'll find that at the turn of a dial.
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