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Olympus C-4040 Zoom Digital Camera Review

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Category: Compact Cameras
Product: Olympus C-4040 Zoom

Olympus C-4040 Zoom - Olympus C-4040 Zoom test

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Olympus C-4040 ZoomThe Olympus Camedia C-4040Zoom is one of several new 4 megapixel cameras entering the market, and therefore faces some strong competition. This model is in the top of the consumer range, retailing for around 800 and has some unique features. Some of its main features are listed below:

Main features

  • 3x multivariator zoom lens 7.1-21.3 mm, f/1.8-f/2.6, 10 lenses in 7 groups (equivalent to 35-105mm lens in 35mm camera).
  • 1/1.8 inch CCD solid-state image pickup 4.13million pixels (effective 3.98 million pixels).
  • 1.8 inch colour TFT LCD monitor with 114,000 pixels made of low-temperature poly-silicon. Brightness adjustment is possible.
  • Uses smartmedia cards.
  • 320g without batteries or Smart Media card.

What you get in the box:

  • C-4040Zoom camera
  • Strap
  • USB cable
  • Lens cap
  • Lithium battery CR-V3(2x)
  • RM-1 Remote control
  • AV cable (PAL)
  • Software CD-ROM

Handling
Handling is subjective, with things like hand-size and requirements influencing people's opinions. We all liked the Olympus, it feels solid and ergonomically friendly and we got positive feedback from friends who tried the camera too. The best thing about the feel is the large hand grip and overall light weight.

Compared to the Canon G2 we tested at the same time, the
C-4040Z feels more comfortable. The grip on the G2 is smaller (shown in the animation to the right) and the camera feels unbalanced because of this. The Olympus grip feels very ergonomically friendly, but we'd always recommend you trying several cameras out for handling, as it's an often overlooked quality.
Camera Modes

Remote ControlThe camera comes with a remote control, which many manufacturers only offer as an optional extra. Great move Olympus, as it's really useful to use the remote instead of the timer mode for family shots where the photographer also wants to be in the frame. It's also good to use to prevent camera shake when the camera is mounted on a tripod.

As well as a shutter release the remote also has a zoom lens controller. Indoors the remote works fine up to eight meters with the camera facing you. This is reduced to about four meters outdoors. But when we tried to use the system to take pictures of some birds bathing in a stream about four meters away with the camera pointing away from the remote it wouldn't work. This is because the receiver is on the front of the camera and indoors can rely on light from the contoller bouncing of nearby walls to trigger, but outdoors it's useless. Manufacturers should consider placing the receiver somewhere where the remote can be used from any angle.

Menus
Digital cameras are often not the most user friendly devices, caused mainly by the wealth of features they can have and the difficulty in presenting all these to the user in a simple fashion. Manufacturers all have Menudifferent systems of user interface, and they are applied with varying degrees of success. Having used many different digital cameras, I can say without a doubt the Olympus system is one of my favourites. They have added very useful features, such as customisable shortcuts which allow you to reconfigure the initial menu screen shown to the right (excludes mode menu):

The mode menu is divided into the following sections:

Menu Function settings
Menu
Camera
Drive mode, ISO, A/S/M, Flash intensity, Slow flash, Noise reduction, Multi-metering, Digital Zoom, Fulltime AF, AF Mode, Sound, Panorama, Picture colour.
Picture settings
Picture
Record mode (Quality settings), White balance, Make colour bluer/redder, Sharpness, Contrast.
Card Format card.
Setup
Setup
All reset, Beep low/high/off, Record view on/off, File name reset/auto, Pixel mapping on/off, Monitor brightness, Date/time, Measurement units m/ft, Short cut, Custom button.

Camera modes

Camera Modes

On the top of the camera is the mode dial, this is easily switched while holding the camera with your right hand. It allows you to select from:

Program shooting: In this mode the camera automatically sets aperture and shutter speed.

A/S/M mode: Selecting this lets you select aperture, shutter speed or both at once.

Movie Record: Allows you to record movies in QuickTime format.

Play mode: For reviewing the shots you have taken.

The LCD display on the top of the camera is useful when you choose not to use the colour LCD screen. It shows information on the flash mode, focusing mode, flash intensity, battery level, white balance, ISO, Exposure compensation, Auto-bracket, macro mode, spot metering mode, shooting mode, record mode and number of pictures remaining.

Viewfinder and LCD screen
The viewfinder is a standard one with diopter adjustment, which I didn't find worked as well on some other cameras. The dipotre control wheel is tight and fiddly to set and the size of the viewfinder is small, making it uncomfortable to use.

Viewfinder and LED screen

The LCD screen, however, is bright and detailed allowing you to easily check the focus of shots. Unfortunately though it sticks out further than any other area on the back of the camera, so when placed down on a surface it can easily become scratched. You can adjust the brightness of the screen using the menu and turn it on or off using a button on the back of the camera.

Although the LCD screen is fixed, it has a very wide viewing angle. This means if you hold the camera say at 20cm up or down from eye level you can still see the display clearly. On some other cameras like the Nikon 885 you must hold the camera directly at eye level to see it clearly.

Connections

Underneath a cover there is a DC-IN jack, A/V OUT jack (mono) and USB connector. On the side of the camera there is a covered 5-pin flash socket which has a screw on cover (taken off for this picture). No DC adaptor is provided with the camera, so this will have to be added to the cost if you want one.
Also shown in this picture is the diopter adjustment dial for the viewfinder and the protruding LCD screen.

Connections
Battery and SmartMedia compartments are to the right of the camera in the hand grip, aiding its weight distribution. Both holders are solidly built and easy to operate. Memory

Battery-life performance
The batteries provided are Lithiums, so are not rechargeable and no other batteries are provided. This means you have to budget the price of a rechargeable set of 4 AA batteries and a charger. We'd recommend you get some high capacity Ni-Mh batteries as these will give good performance. The supplied ones are best left as a backup so that if your rechargeables run out you don't miss that critical shot.

When using Ni-Mh batteries we obtained good performance. With one set of batteries lasting through a trip away of three days. This trip involved flash shots, many standard shots, and much reviewing of images on the LCD screen.

Image quality
There are a large amount of image quality settings, 17 in total. The image types are Tiff and JPG (SHQ, HQ). The resolutions available are 640x480, 1024x768, 1280x960, 1600x1200, 2048x1536, 2272x1704 and using interpolation 2816x2112 and 3200x2400.

We wanted to test if there were any advantages to using the camera's own interpolated mode. To do this we set up a test scene, and took two pictures, one in the true 2272x1704 size, and one in the interpolated 3200x2400 size. We then increased the size of the true file in Photoshop using bicubic interpolation, to compare the results side by side. Only a specific area of the original is shown in the below two pictures, this area is shown in the red square to the right.

There is little difference between the two pictures, the 2272x1704 picture shows a minute amount more detail. For everyday purposes most people will want to use the true resolution of the CCD and save space on their memory card, the interpolated shot was 4.32Mb compared to 2.11Mb.

Sample
Sample Picture Sample Picture
2272x1704 (increased using Photoshop bicubic interpolation to 3200x2400) C-4040Zoom internally interpolated 3200x2400

Other people may want to use the benefits of the increased resolution for larger print sizes, and not want the inconvenience of editing their pictures before printing them.

One major issue we have with this camera, and it reflects heavily on the image quality is its lens. At first we were pleased to see f/1.8 on the specification, then on closer inspection of the resulting image quality we were less pleased. What we found particularly disappointing was the amount of lens movement when it was touched lightly, as most people do accidentally sometimes.

Even cheaper cameras from other manufacturers do not have this much movement, and it's something we hope Olympus will rectify on future models.

Lens

Sample pictures

Sample Pictures

Shown on the right is an enlarged area of the picture above (highlighted by the red square).

The purple areas are chromatic aberrations, and are quite distracting. However they are not visible on all shots taken with the camera, and could, with some effort, be edited out digitally.

In other areas of the picture, colours are under saturated and dull. Detail is not as good as we'd hope for a camera costing this much, combined with a 4Mp CCD.

Sample Pictures

Sample Pictures
This house shot was taken at around 6pm, and the image highlighted in red to the bottom right shows approximately how dark it was. Using a one second exposure the camera has done a good job of capturing the scene, and the noise reduction has kept noise levels down well.

Sample Pictures
Setting the camera to its smallest aperture for this shot, we were disappointed by the softness of the trees and the bland colours. Looking at the results from other cameras for this shot we could clearly see the C-4040z is let down by its colour reproduction. One redeeming feature is that the camera's multi-metering worked well.

Sample Pictures
Using the manual mode for this shot we were able to set a shutter speed of 1/10sec resulting in a blurred effect with the water. The problem with colour reproduction remains and overall the photograph appears a little dull and soft.

Slightly over exposed the shot of this sculpture shows some more redeeming features of the
C-4040z's image quality. Namely although not as sharp as some of the competition noise levels are low, and the camera achieved focus quite accurately and quickly, as it did in the majority of cases.
Sample Pictures

Verdict
We found a lot to like about this camera, it handles very well and is easy to use. However the negative points concerning image quality cannot be overlooked. Unless you really want a 4Mp camera with a f/1.8 lens we'd recommend checking out the other contenders first. Namely the Sony DSC-S85 if you want to use memory sticks, and the Olympus C40z, Canon PowerShot S40 and Pentax Optio 430 if you would like something more compact. There is also the Canon PowerShot G2 if you'd like LCD swivel ability. If resolution is very important to you and price is not such a big concern, there are some 5 megapixel models out now as well.



Lexar memory was used in this review.

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