Olympus Camedia C-4000; Feature-Filled 4-Mp, 3x Zoom With Familiar Look And Feel

While subcompact digicams are nice, many of us may feel they're too small to work easily with, and often too costly, given a similar feature set. The C-4000 provides a workable alternative--not too pricey and compact, but not overly so. On top of that, the camera sports 4-Mp capture with a 3x optical zoom (3.5x digital/10x combined), and with just the right array of features in a familiar point-and-shoot design. Considering this camera is perhaps the last in a long line of SmartMedia cams, expect it to become even more affordable, making it that much more enticing.

With the C-4000 in program mode, I'd decided to give this Central Park (New York) scene more of a quaint feel in these series of shots (at +0.7, with autoexposure bracketing in 0.7 EV increments).
Photos © 2003, Jack Neubart, All Rights Reserved

Friendly And Familiar
There's no guessing how to grip the C-4000: The contoured grip makes it obvious, easy to hold and shoot with even when using one hand. In low-light situations, a two-handed grip is practically mandated, of course, but a camera of this ilk provides enough room for that purpose. The grip does reflect where Olympus shaved off some of the cost: It's not rubberized or textured, making it a tad slippery with sweaty hands.

Physically, the camera largely follows Olympus convention and not much appears to have changed in a long line of digicams from this company, at least in terms of batteries and design. The C-4000 accepts either AA batteries or lithium packs, so you're never out of power wherever you go. This camera has one memory card slot, for SmartMedia, which can be limiting even with the maximum 128MB card when used at the highest quality setting. (Any wonder Olympus is moving toward a new standard?) The interface on back of the camera is very familiar, as is true of card loading/unloading and the card chamber--at least to users of existing Camedia cams.

Essentially, all function buttons are easily within reach of one hand or another without forcing you to divert attention away from your subject. Exposure compensation is directly at your disposal, with a press of the left or right cursor button. Instantaneous playback is also available for review and quick deletions. The only controls on top of the camera are the mode dial and in front of that is the tactilely responsive shutter button, surrounded by the zoom lever.

The menu closely follows the D-40, namely being graphically inviting and user-friendly. While the camera lacks a standard top panel data display, the C-4000 makes up for that by displaying the flash and focus mode settings on the main monitor, and does so very clearly. If the color display is turned off, it flashes on momentarily to indicate the settings and then quenches again.

Auto white balance produced better results with this close-up flash exposure on the Olympus C-4000 than did cloudy white balance. That said, the picture still needs a little more red to make these chocolate-covered strawberries truly tantalizing (no corrections applied). Holding the camera at an angle to the glass captured some streaks, most of which were cropped out.

Overall Performance
Optically, the C-4000 produces the crisp, sharp pictures we've come to expect of Olympus digicams. There are, however, some annoying problems related to the electro-mechanics of the lens. My biggest pet peeve is when I forget to remove the lens cap. The camera beeps at me, and then takes forever to turn itself on once the problem is corrected. For that matter, turning this camera on and off is time consuming in and of itself, taking a good six seconds each way.

The other problem is autofocusing. Leave the display on and focusing is virtually instantaneous. Turn it off, and autofocusing takes almost two full seconds--a bit long for breaking action. Otherwise, the camera is
fairly responsive.

All in all, the C-4000 is on track. It may not be the smoothest ride, but it appears to be a well-oiled machine.

· Easy to use
· Inviting menu interface, with customizable settings
· Full range of drive options, including autoexposure bracketing
· Full range of exposure options, including manual mode and spot metering
· Enhanced functionality, including noise reduction, super macro (flash disabled but faster focusing than conventional macro), 2-in-1 (two pictures/one frame), histogram display, external dedicated flash connectivity, pixel mapping (to restore dead pixels), sharpness/contrast/ saturation overrides

· Slow focusing with optical finder alone (turn the LCD on for better performance)
· Leaving lens cap on when switching on seemingly wreaks havoc
· Lackluster design
· Lacks overrides for auto sleep mode
· No audio recording

· Model: Olympus Camedia C-4000 Zoom
· Image Sensor: 1/1.8" CCD; 4.13 megapixels
· Recording Modes: TIFF and JPEG
· Memory: SmartMedia
· Lens: 6.5-19.5mm, f/2.8, (32-96mm on 35mm camera); autofocus; macro & super macro; 3.5x digital
· Shooting Modes: Program, aperture/shutter-priority, manual, 4 My Modes (user-customized), movie/picture modes
· Exposure System: Digital ESP metering, spot metering; exposure compensation; multi-metering; autoexposure bracketing
· Apertures: f/2.8 to f/11
· Shutter Speeds: Used with mechanical shutter--1 to 1/1000 sec (M mode: 16 to 1/1000 sec; S mode: 4 to 1/1000 sec); Movie: 1/30 to 1/8000 sec
· Sensitivity: Automatic, preset (100/200/400)
· White Balance: Auto, preset (daylight/cloudy/tungsten/fluorescent x3), custom; red/blue bias
· Flash: Auto, redeye reduction, fill, off, slow sync (front/rear); 1st curtain w/redeye reduction; flash intensity override; accepts FL-40 flash; 6-sec recycle
· Special Functions: Noise reduction, pixel mapping, histogram, 2-in-1 (2 images/1 frame), sharpness/contrast/saturation overrides
· Dimensions: 4.3x3.0x3.1"
· Weight: 0.6 lb (w/o batt/card)
· Price: $499 (street)

Olympus America, Inc.
(800) 622-6372