Olympus C-4040 Zoom Review

Steve's Digicams

Olympus C-4040 Zoom

Playback Modes and Menus

When you switch the Mode dial from record to Play you are shown a fullscreen review of the last image you captured like the one above.

Olympus C-4040

From the menu you can select the INFO option and turn it on. You will now see the following information displayed on top of each picture. This picture was shot in SHQ mode, the filesize is 2272 x 1704 pixels, the aperture value was F2.6, the shutter speed was 1/100 second, the exposure compensation was 0.0, the white balance was automatic and the ISO sensitivity was set at 100. Next line is the date and time and on the bottom is the folder and filename.

Olympus C-4040

To quickly search through your stored images you move the zoom control lever to the wideangle position and it brings up a thumbnail index page. Using the 4-way jog switch you can select an image and then display it fullscreen. This display can be set for 4, 9 or 16 thumbnail images per page.

Olympus C-4040

While viewing an image fullscreen you move the zoom control lever to the telephoto position and magnify the image up to 4x. You can now move around the image using the 4-way jog switch to examine the picture for color, detail or focus.

Olympus C-4040

This is a fullscreen playback of a HQ quality 320x240 QuickTime movie clip. The icons tell you that it is a movie file and that it was recorded with sound. On the bottom is the running time - we're at 2 seconds of a 17 second clip. Just like playback of still images you can enable the playback info to be overlayed on the screen to show the size/quality, white balance and the run time info.

You can edit the movie clips in the camera. You mark the desired start and end frames and then either overwrite the original file or create a new one.

Olympus C-4040

You can also create an index file from a movie clip. You pick the desired images and a 1024x768 still image is created with nine frames from the movie.

Olympus C-4040

Play mode MENU options:

    - Slideshow playback start

    INFO - Enable or disable the camera and exposure information shown in playback mode.

    MODE MENU - Go to the full menu, see next frame.

Olympus C-4040

    - Play sound clip for picture being displayed.

    CARD SETUP - Delete images or format SM card.

    ALL RESET - Reset all settings to default.

    - Beep sound: Off, Low, High

    - Adjust LCD backlight intensity

    - Set the time and date

    - Thumbnail display: 4, 9 or 16 images

Steve's Conclusion

The C-4040 Zoom is basically a C-3040 Zoom with a 4-megapixel imager and a newly improved menu system. It is equipped with the same ultra-fast F1.8 Super Bright 3x optical zoom lens which gives it better performance in low light conditions and extends the working flash range. The C-4040 Zoom builds on everything that Olympus has perfected in the C-3xxx series of cameras and gives the user an almost mind-boggling choice (twenty-two!) of image sizes from VGA to 3204 x 2400 in JPEG or uncompressed TIFF. The 3204 x 2400 images are the product of in-camera interpolation, the highest "real" image resolution is 2274 x 1704. Considering that most of us were happy to pay $900 for a camera with a top resolution of 1280 x 960 only a couple of years ago, these new 4-megapixel cameras are an amazing deal.

No matter what you want in the way of features this camera has got it -- from the point and shoot simplicity of Program AE to shutter speed priority (4-1/800 sec), aperture priority (F1.8-F10) or full manual with shutter speeds as long as 16 seconds. Metering options of matrix, spot and a unique multi mode that lets you take individual readings from up to 8 points to calculate the final exposure. Autofocus or manual focus with a distance gauge and a magnified LCD display to aid in critical focusing.

The C-4040 is small enough to take with you wherever you go and light enough to hang around your neck all day. A common statement made by folks seeing it for the first time was, "It doesn't look like a digital camera." Hearing that I would turn it around and show them the picture I just took on the color LCD. Even my semi-pro photography buddies were impressed with the C-4040's features and image quality. Cameras like this when used with the new breed of photo inkjet printers definitely puts digital on the same level as film for consumers who want to do it themselves in their own "lightroom" at home.

The C-4040's large finger grip gives a real 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 new Custom Mode option where you can "dial in" your favorite combination of image size, quality, operational mode, lens startup 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.

In addition to the still modes it also has 320x240 and 160x120 QuickTime movie modes at 15fps with sound. Movie recording time is limited to 32 seconds in HQ and up to 148 seconds in SQ quality. The movies are sharp and clear but unfortunately you can't use the optical zoom when the audio is enabled. Wise move considering that it is next to impossible to keep from picking up the noises of the zoom mechanism. Disabling the audio gives you a little more memory to record slightly longer movie clips.

Drive modes include: Single, Burst, AF Burst, AE Bracketing (3-5 frames with +/- 0.3, 0.6 or 1.0 stop increments), Selftimer and Remote. Burst mode is good for 2fps up to eight JPEG-compressed HQ pictures, it is not useable in TIFF mode. When using an Olympus brand SmartMedia card there is also a special Panorama mode available. As with previous models, Olympus has again included the handy RM-1 infrared remote control. You can operate the zoom and snap a picture in record mode or control the camera during playback on the TV from the other side of the room. It is very useful for tripping the shutter when doing macro shots on a tripod to eliminate camera shake and blurring. It was made to be used in front of the camera as that is where the sensor is located but you can often bounce the IR beam off of a wall or window when using it from behind the camera.

The C-4040's sensitivity by default will change automatically 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 1/2 of a second used to result in varying amounts of CCD noise that will appear as speckles and Christmas lights (red, green and blue hot pixels.) The new Noise Reduction feature will give you vastly improved long exposures with significantly reduced hot pixels.

White balance options are: Automatic, daylight, cloudy, incandescent, flourescent or manual preset. The builtin speedlight's output can be controlled (+/- 2.0 in 0.3 increments) and offers Auto-Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in or Off modes. Its working range is excellent from macro out to about ten feet and with little to no redeye problems. There is a 5-pin connector for full TTL control of the optional Olympus FL-40 speedlight. Using this external speedlight gives you much greater working range as well as off-camera bounce for more natural looking flash pictures.

The new all glass, F1.8-2.6 3X optical zoom lens covers a focal range of 35-105mm (35mm equivalent), it is currently the "fastest" lens on any digital camera. (Fast in photographic terms indicates how large the maximum aperture is and this lens when in wideangle is F1.8 and that is very fast.) It exhibits the usual amount of barrel distortion in full wideangle and a moderate amount of pincushioning at full telephoto. The motorized zoom mechanism is smooth and positive although it often seemed a little too fast. The focus range is from 30 inches to infinity in normal mode and 8 inches to 30 inches in macro mode. Filters or add-on lenses can be attached to the C-4040 using the Olympus CLA-1 adapter.

The 1.8-inch color LCD is one of the "Wideview" displays and has excellent resolution and the backlight can be adjusted to suit a wide range of viewing conditions. The refresh rate is realtime so there is no herky-jerky display even when fast panning. It does tend to streak a bit when used outdoors and the sun gets in the frame but this is something we see with most digicams. Screen visibility is good in all but direct sunlight where you should be using the optical viewfinder unless you need to access the menus. The C-4040 uses the same eyelevel, coupled optical viewfinder as the C-3040 (and C-3030 etc). 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 slightly less than 90% of the final image. The LCD if used as a viewfinder shows about 98% of the capture area.

Using the color LCD often means putting a load on the batteries and Olympus has not been supplying NiMH batteries and chargers for some time now. They did include two of their CR3V lithium batteries but they're not rechargeable so you'll end up buying a set or two of NiMH batteries and a charger to complete this otherwise excellent camera system. You'll also be buying at least one larger size SmartMedia card too. Unless you shoot in SQ mode be prepared for some BIG files, the average 4-megapixel image is around 2.5 megabytes. If you shoot in the Enlarged Mode these files are closer to five megabytes and uncompressed TIFF images tip the scale at 12.6MB each.

The Olympus C-4040 Zoom joins a growing list of similar Olympus cameras (C-3040, C-3030, C-3000, C-2040, C-2020) that I have no problem recommending to anybody that is looking for an excellent digicam. These cameras all share the same body style and are loaded with real camera features and controls. They're easy to use in Program AE mode but ready to satisfy the needs of advanced users at the turn of a mode dial. As with all digicams the real bottom line is the image quality and these cameras consistently deliver properly exposed, sharp, true to the original color images.

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