DCRP Review: Olympus C-4040Z
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Monday, September 24, 2001
Last Updated: Friday, October 26, 2001

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The C-4040Z ($1099) is the first 4 Megapixel camera from Olympus. They've also released the D-40, a small 4MP camera, as well as the professional 5 Megapixel E-20N. The 4040Z is essentially a 3040Z with a higher resolution CCD and a few other features. The 3040Z was one of my favorite 3 Megapixel cameras -- is the same thing true for the 4040? Find out in our review...

What's in the Box?

The C-4040Z has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Olympus C-4040Z camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • 2 CR-V3 lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Lens cap w/ strap
  • Neck strap
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Remote control
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
  • 200 page manual (PDF format) and 49 page Basic Manual (printed)

Olympus has been one of the big "offenders" when it comes to the stuff included in the box. The 3.3MP C-3040Z had a 16MB SmartMedia card, and so does the 4.1MP C-4040Z. Canon, on the other hand, includes a 32MB card with their 4MP camera.

Another complaint is batteries. Olympus includes two CR-V3 lithium batteries, which do last for a quite a long time. But they end up in the trash and eventually our landfills. Do yourself and the environment a favor and pick up some NiMH rechargeables.

The manual, while better than those included with older Olympus cameras, is only available on CD. There's a basic manual which covers, well, the basics, but if you want to view the whole thing you've got to load up Acrobat.

Another minor quibble is the lens cap. While they do include a retaining strap for it, the darn thing is super-easy to bump off the lens.

Now on to the good points:

The thoughtful folks at Olympus have always included the RM-1 remote with their higher end cameras, including the C-4040Z. You can control the camera in both record and playback mode (where it's most useful) with it.

I covered Olympus' Camedia Master software in a previous review. Overall, I found it to be better than the average software that comes bundled with the camera, but you won't be throwing out your copy of Photoshop. And you get a copy of Photoshop with the camera, too -- version 5.0LE. I think you'll like it a lot more than the Camedia Master Software.

The C-4040Z uses what Olympus calls USB AutoConnect. What that means is that if you're using a modern Mac or Windows system, you won't need to install any drivers.

The 4040Z is compatible with Mac OS X.

As far as accessories go, the C-4040Z can use a whole lot. That includes external flashes, lenses, and filters. You may need a step-up ring before you can use some of these lens accessories.

Look and Feel

I believe the only change to the body of the C-4040Z over the C-3040Z is a grip around the lens barrel. I don't find it that helpful in holding the camera, though (it already was pretty easy to grip). The camera is a mixture of metal and plastic, and it feels pretty solid.

The dimensions of the 4040Z are 4.3 x 3.0 x 2.7 inches, and it weighs 320 grams empty. It's not a big camera, nor is it pocket-sized... it's right in the middle.

Let's begin our tour of the camera now!

The F1.8 "super bright" 3X optical zoom lens, introduced on the C-2040Z and C-3040Z, promises improved low light shooting. The focal range is 7.1 - 21.3mm, equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. The lens is threaded, I believe at 43mm.

Those little holes just above the lens make up the microphone.

The flash seen at the top of the photo has a range of 0.8 m – 5.6 m at full wide-angle, and 0.2 m – 3.8 m at full telephoto. If you want to use an external flash, there's a 5-pin flash sync port that you'll see in a minute.

If there's an item missing from the front of the camera, I'd say it would be a AF illuminator, a small lamp which aids in low-light focusing.

On the back of the camera, little has changed from the C-3040Z. The 1.8" LCD is very good - bright and fluid, and easy to see except in direct sunlight. Nose and finger smudges may be a problem, though.

The optical viewfinder is large, and has crosshairs for framing your images. Diopter correction is also available for those of us with glasses.

To the right of that are buttons for:

  • flash [rec] / delete [play]
  • macro & spot metering [rec] / DPOF print marking [play]

Just right of that is the four-way switch, used for menu navigation and changing settings in manual mode.

Below that you'll find buttons for:

  • Menu / OK / Manual Focus
  • LCD on/off
  • AE Lock / Custom Button [rec] / Image Protect [play]

This "custom button" is set by default to AE Lock, but you can change it to any number of other functions via the menu system.

Holding down the OK button will activate manual focus. The LCD also shows a bar with the current focus setting.

The top of the camera is familiar territory as well. The LCD info display shows the items that you'd expect such as quality and shots remaining.

Just right of that is the mode wheel, which has the following options:

  • Off
  • Program Mode
  • A/S/M Mode (aperture priority, shutter priority, full manual)
  • Movie Mode
  • Playback Mode

I would have preferred to have A/S/M as separate choices, rather than having to use the menu system to change between them. They definitely have space available on the mode wheel.

Here are the options you have in these manual modes:

  • Aperture priority: F1.8 - F10 at wide-angle and F2.6 - F10 at telephoto.
  • Shutter priority: range of 4 sec - 1/800 sec
  • Full manual: same as above for aperture; shutter speeds 16 sec - 1/800 sec.

Just above the mode wheel is the zoom control / shutter release button. The zoom control takes a moment to start moving the lens but once it's moving, it's smooth and precise.

On this side of the camera, you can see the various I/O ports. That includes:

  • Flash sync (covered up)
  • DC in
  • A/V out
  • USB

If you'd like to add an external flash, you'll need the FL-40 flash as well as a flash bracket, both of which are sold by Olympus. You can use third party flashes, but Olympus warns against it in the manual.

The other side of the camera is where you'll find the SmartMedia slot (shown here with the included 16MB card). The slot is spring-loaded so the card comes right out. The door and hinge to this compartment seems a bit flimsy, though. You can use cards as big as they come, which as of this writing is 128MB.

And finally, the bottom of the camera. Down here you'll find the battery compartment as well as a metal tripod mount. One of the CR-V3 batteries is shown at right.

Using the Olympus C-4040Z

Record Mode

The camera takes approximately 4 seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. When you depress the shutter release halfway, it usually takes less than a second to lock focus. Depressing it fully will yield a photo almost instantly. In HQ mode, there's about a 2 second wait before you can take another shot, which is pretty good for such a high resolution camera.

Here's a look at the many resolution and quality options on the C-4040Z, and how many fit on the included 16MB card.

Record Mode # of Pixels File Format # of photos
on 16MB card
TIFF 2272 x 1704 TIFF 1
2048 x 1536 1
1600 x 1200 2
1280 x 960 4
1024 x 768 6
640 x 480 16
SHQ 2272 x 1704 JPEG 5
HQ 2272 x 1704 16
SQ-High Quality 2048 x 1536 7
1600 x 1200 11
1280 x 960 18
1024 x 768 27
640 x 480 66
SQ-Normal Quality 2048 x 1536 20
1600 x 1200 32
1280 x 960 49
1024 x 768 76
640 x 480 165

As you can see, there's a whole lot of choices. Do note that full-size TIFF files take nearly 30 seconds to write to the card, and you cannot take additional photos during that time. They take just as long to appear in playback mode.

There are actually more photo quality options available that I didn't put in the chart, since they're "interpolated" to higher resolutions. In SHQ or HQ mode, you can "enlarge" the images to 3200 x 2400 or 2816 x 2112. Do note that the quality of the image will be reduced in the process.

The C-4040Z uses the new menu system that was first seen on the C-700 Ultra Zoom. It's harder to pick up at first, but I think you'll like it more in the end. You can customize buttons and menu choices for easy access to your favorite settings.

When you first press the menu button in record mode, you are presented with the screen above. The Drive, Quality, and White Balance choices are customizable, so you could put whatever setting you want in those spaces. The Mode Menu choice enters the "regular" menu system at the top level.

Here's the full menu. There are tabs on the left for Camera, Picture, Card, and General settings. In the main area you'll actually change the settings. There's lots of button pushing in this system, and I'm not sure if I like it that much.

Here's a look at all the choices available in the menu, and what they mean:

  • Camera Settings
    • Drive (Single-shot, sequential shooting, AF sequential shooting, self-timer/remote shooting, auto bracketing)
    • ISO (Auto, 100, 200, 400)
    • A/S/M (chooses the manual mode to use)
    • Flash intensity (-2.0EV to +2.0EV)
    • External Flash (internal+external, external only)
    • Slow flash settings (first or second curtain)
    • Noise reduction (on/off)
    • Multi-metering (on/off)
    • Digital zoom (on/off)
    • Full-time auto-focus (on/off)
    • AF mode (iESP, spot)
    • Sounds after stills (on/off)
    • Sound with movies (on/off)
    • Panorama helper (requires Olympus-branded SM card)
    • Function (black & white, sepia, black board, white board)
    • Remote movies (on/off) - whether to use self-timer/remote control with movie mode)
  • Picture Settings
    • Quality (see chart above)
    • White balance (auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent, manual)
    • White balance color - makes color bluer/redder
    • Sharpness (hard, normal, soft)
    • Contrast (high, normal, low)
  • Card Settings
    • Card Format
  • General Settings
    • All Reset (choose which camera settings are stored, or if they're all reset to defaults)
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Rec View (shows picture after it's taken - on/off)
    • File name (reset, auto)
    • Pixel Mapping (on/off)
    • LCD brightness
    • Date/time
    • Measurement units (m/ft)
    • Short Cut (lets you customize that first menu screen, as described earlier)
    • Custom Button (change the AE Lock button to something else)

Two new features to talk about here: pixel mapping, and noise reduction. Pixel mapping is a feature which removes dead or hot pixels from your CCD. Olympus recommends running this feature once a year. Noise reduction starts working on exposures slower than 1/2 sec, and it helps to reduce, you guessed it, the "noise" that appears in these shots. Do note that it will take twice as long to record an image with noise reduction turned on.

Most of the other features mentioned above should be familiar to DCRP visitors. The sequential shooting mode can take up to 8 shots at 2 frames/sec, in HQ mode. If you want the camera to refocus each time, you can turn on AF sequential shooting, though the frame rate is lowered. The manual white balance feature lets you shoot a white or gray piece of paper to get better white balance in those places with strange lighting.

Now onto our photo tests.

The C-4040Z did a pretty good job with the macro test, but how about those bad pixels? You'll see them at the base of the figurine, as well as around the "heart". I guess that's where that new pixel mapping feature comes in handy!

You can get as close as 20 cm in macro mode on this camera.

Since I took the C-4040Z on vacation with me a few weeks ago, I have a untraditional night shot test for you from Disney's California Adventure. I can't remember if the noise reduction feature was turned on or off - I think it was off.

The Super Bright F1.8 lens really helps out with shots like this!

It also helped with the excellent photo quality on the C-4040Z. Once in a while I ran into chromatic aberrations (see this picture), but overall things were very good. Check out the normal gallery as well as the special Disneyland gallery to judge for yourself!

Movie Mode

The C-4040Z's movie mode is exactly the same as on the C-3040Z. That means you can't use the optical zoom during filming, since sound is recorded and you'd hear the lens mechanism.

The chart below tells you how many seconds of video you can record:

Quality Resolution Secs on 16MB+ card
HQ 320 x 240 32
SQ 160 x 120 130

Movies are recorded at 15 frames/second.

Talk about a rarity on the DCRP - an interesting sample movie! I had one taken during the drop of Splash Mountain at Disneyland but this one is better.


Click to play movie (QuickTime format, 2.5MB)

Playback Mode

The C-4040Z's playback mode covers all the bases. There's slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, zoom & scroll, and more.

The camera takes about one second to go between photos. It goes straight to the high res shot too, no low res image is shown. You can zoom out to 9 thumbnails at once, or zoom in to take a closer look at your photo. The zoom & scroll mode, as I call it, is pretty good - you can zoom in as far as 4X, and then move around inside the picture. The only wish I have here is that the scrolling around was a bit snappier -- you've got to hold the four-way switch down for a bit before it really starts moving.

If you want to get more info about a photo, jump into the menu and choose Info. While not as detailed as some cameras (e.g. no histogram) , I think most users will be happy with the information given.

How Does it Compare?

The Olympus C-4040Z is a worthy 4 Megapixel successor to the already excellent C-3040Z. There aren't a whole lot of new features, but the pixel mapping and noise reduction are two much-needed ones. Image quality and the feature-set of this camera are first rate. My only real complaints are about the poor bundle and the new menu system. If you were to compare the camera with Canon's PowerShot G2 or Sony's DSC-S85, I'd probably rank the Canon first, and maybe a tie with the S85 for second place. The Canon has a few more bells and whistles, and with its CompactFlash Type II slot, it can hold a whole lot more photos than a SmartMedia card or Memory Stick. But either way you choose, you win -- so I'd check out all three and pick your favorite.

What I liked:

  • Super Bright Lens means better low light shooting
  • Excellent photo quality
  • Manual white balance (and everything else)
  • Support for external flash (requires a bracket though)
  • Uncompressed TIFF format
  • Useful pixel mapping, noise reduction features
  • Movies with sound!

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical zoom in movie mode
  • No rechargeable batteries included; manual is on CD
  • Menu system can be confusing

Other 4 Megapixel cameras you'll want to consider include the Canon PowerShot G2, Casio QV-4000, Fuji FinePix 6900 Zoom (not really 4MP but still worth a look), Olympus D-40 Zoom and E-10, Sony DSC-S85, and Toshiba PDR-M81.

As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the C-4040Z and its competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our regular and Disneyland photo galleries!

Want a second opinion? How about a third?

Be sure to read Steve's Digicams review of the C-4040Z. If that's not enough, the Imaging Resource has one too.

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.

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