DCRP Review: Olympus D-40 Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: Tuesday, February 5, 2001
Last Updated: Tuesday, February 5, 2002

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The Olympus D-40 Zoom ($699) is a very small 4 Megapixel camera that doesn't skimp on features. In many ways, it works just like the Olympus C-4040Z (see our review), minus the support for external flashes and lenses. Unlike the C-4040Z, this one will easily fit in your pocket, making it a true "go anywhere" camera.

Find out more about the D-40 in our review...

What's in the Box?

The Olympus D-40 has an average bundle, with almost everything you need right in the box. It includes:

  • The 4.0 (effective) Mpixel Olympus D-40 Zoom camera
  • 16MB SmartMedia card
  • One CR-V3 lithium batteries (non-rechargeable)
  • Hand strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Remote control
  • CD-ROM featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and Adobe Photoshop Elements
  • 46 page "Basic Manual" (printed) + full manual in PDF format on CD

The bundle issues with the D-40 are familiar: small memory card, no rechargeable batteries, and no full printed manual.

The camera comes with a 16MB SmartMedia card, which is pretty small for a 4 Megapixel camera. They did the same thing with the C-4040Z. With prices for memory so low, shouldn't they at least include a 32MB card?

The D-40 uses one CR-V3 battery (non-rechargeable) or two AA batteries. Olympus includes the former, which does last a while, but ends up in the trash. I recommend buying a set or two of NiMH rechargeables to power this camera.

The last complaint is one I've been making for a while: Olympus puts a printed "basic manual" in the box, but leaves the full manual on CD. If you're already going to print a manual (in three languages no less), why can't they just print the whole thing instead? The manuals themselves aren't great -- they're pretty confusing for a beginner.

Okay, enough ranting for now. On to nicer things.


Ancient picture of RM-1 remote control

Olympus includes the now familiar RM-1 wireless remote control with the camera, which you can use in both record and playback mode.

Another nice feature found across the Olympus line now is USB Auto-Connect, which allows you to just plug the camera in via USB and transfer pictures -- with no drivers needed. This feature works on most modern versions of Windows and Mac OS. Speaking of which, the camera is fully compatible with both Mac OS X and iPhoto.

Since the camera has a built-in lens cover, there's no need for a lens cap.

With the D-40, Olympus has upgraded the bundled software from PhotoDeluxe to Photoshop Elements. While I didn't have a chance to try it, I consider this a good thing. The Camedia Master software that is also included isn't great.

Finally, there's the topic of accessories. Well, it's a short topic since there aren't any to speak of. You can't use conversion lenses, filters, or external flashes with this camera. If you want that, you'll have to buy the C-4040Z.

Look and Feel

The Olympus D-40 Zoom is a very small camera made of what I'd call "high grade" plastics and metal. In other words, it feels pretty sturdy. Using the camera is a piece of cake with one hand or two, and when you're done with it, it easily slips into your pocket. The D-40 isn't as small as say, the Pentax Optio line, but it's close. The D-40 is lighter than the Optio cameras, though.

Camera Dimensions Weight
Olympus D-40Z 3.4 x 2.6 x 1.7 190 g
Pentax Optio 330/430 3.6 x 2.3 x 1.2 205 g
Kyocera Finecam S3 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.2 165 g
Canon PowerShot S110 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1 190 g
Canon PowerShot S300 3.7 x 2.5 x 1.2 240 g

Let's start our tour of the D-40 Zoom now.

The camera has a built-in lens cover, which doubles as the power switch. If you slide the cover open enough, the lens will extend. To shut off the camera, you close the cover until it hits the lens, which then retracts, and then you can shut it all the way.

The lens is an F2.8, 2.8X optical zoom -- not quite 3X like most zoom digicams. The focal range is 7.25 - 20.3 mm which is equivalent to 35 - 98 mm. The lens is not threaded.

Other items on the front include the remote control receiver, a light for the self-timer, a microphone, and of course, the flash. The D-40's flash has a working range of 0.8 - 3 m at wide-angle, and 0.25 - 1.8 m at telephoto.

The back of the camera should be familiar to users of Olympus cameras. The 1.5" LCD is smaller than average, but then again, so is the camera. The image quality on the LCD is very good.

Just above the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is large considering the size of the camera. There is no diopter correction, however. Just above that is another receiver for the remote control.

To the right of the viewfinder are controls for:

  • Flash [record mode] / delete photo [playback mode]
  • Macro + Spot Meter [rec] / Protect image [play]

Continuing to the right, we have probably the biggest mode wheel ever found on an Olympus digital camera. In addition to basic options, there are multiple scenes which choose the best settings for common situations. The choices on the mode wheel are:

  • Auto record - camera chooses best settings, locks most manual controls
  • Program mode - camera chooses best settings but manual controls available
  • A/S/M (aperture priority / shutter priority / full manual mode) - more below
  • My Mode - stores your favorite settings - more below
  • Movie mode - more in movie section of review
  • Self-portrait - scene mode for taking picture of yourself while holding camera
  • Night Scene
  • Landscape
  • Landscape/Portrait - gets both the subject and background in focus
  • Portrait

When you put the camera into A/S/M mode, you can go to the menus to choose which of the three you want. Here's more:

  • Aperture priority mode - you choose from aperture range of F2.8 - F8.0 (depends on zoom setting), camera picks appropriate shutter speed
  • Shutter priority mode - you choose from shutter speed range of 4 sec - 1/1000 sec, camera picks appropriate aperture
  • Full manual mode - you choose both the aperture and shutter speed. Aperture range is the same, shutter speeds now as slow as 16 seconds.

I still wonder why Olympus will only let you do the really long shutter speeds in full manual mode.

The My Mode is something new to Olympus cameras. Basically it lets you store your favorite settings, and easily access them just by turning the mode wheel. I found this feature to be pretty handy. Even in the other modes (except Auto and the scene modes), the camera can store the last settings used.

Getting back to our tour now. Below the mode wheel is a button for turning the LCD on and off. Just below and to the right of that are the menu navigation buttons. These buttons (left and right) also change the exposure compensation in playback mode (-2EV to +2EV, 1/2EV increments).

"Now here's something you don't see everyday." Most tiny cameras do away with the LCD info display to save space, but not the D-40. Thank you, Olympus, for realizing that people do like to see basic camera settings without having to turn on the main LCD! Here, the display is showing flash, ISO, battery life, quality, and remaining shots.

Just to the right of that is the familiar zoom control / shutter release button. The zoom mechanism is quite, but a little on the slow side for my taste.

On this side of the D-40, you'll only find one thing: the speaker.

And on the other side, you'll find the I/O ports. I'm a bit worried about the plastic door over these -- it seems like it could bust off easily. The ports here are USB and DC in (for optional AC adapter).

Finally, here's the bottom of the D-40. You'll find the battery compartment, SmartMedia slot, and the plastic tripod mount down here. Let's take a closer look...

Here's the battery compartment and SM slot opened up. Note that the 64MB card is not included with the camera.

Using the Olympus D-40 Zoom

Record Mode

The D-40 takes about five seconds to extend the lens and "warm up" before you can start taking pictures. Olympus has gotten flashier on the D-40 - there's now a startup screen and sound, and even one for turning the camera off. You can customize these in a limited way.


(I apologize for the poor quality on these screen shots. My usual camera is "in the shop" at the moment.)

When you depress the shutter release halfway, the camera generally locks focus in under a second. I didn't have any major problems focusing in sub-optimal lighting conditions, even though the camera has no AF assist lamp. There's a bit of shutter lag when you press the button fully -- probably half a second or so. One thing that may help you get the shot is to turn off the phony shutter sound, so you don't move the camera prematurely (since the sound plays before the shot is taken).

Shot-to-shot speed is very good on the D-40. You'll wait about 3 seconds between shots at SHQ, but most people will use HQ for everyday shooting, and the delay there is shorter. Recording a TIFF image, however, will lock up the camera for over 30 seconds.

Speaking of image quality, here's a look at the resolution and size choices available on this camera:

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 2288 x 1712 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

In addition to these choices, the D-40 can also "enlarge" images to 2560 x 1920, 2816 x 2112, or 3200 x 2400. In case you're wondering how a 4 Megapixel CCD creates an 8 Megapixel image, it's done through interpolation. In other words, the camera guesses what the data would be, in order to produce the larger image. As a result, the quality of interpolated images is not great. They also take more space on the memory card.

The D-40 Zoom 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 Self-timer, 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
    • Self-timer / remote control (on/off)
    • Drive (Single-shot, sequential shooting, AF sequential 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)
    • Sounds after stills (on/off)
    • Sound with movies (on/off) - option shows in movie mode only
    • 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 (-5 to +5)
    • Contrast (-5 to +5)
    • Saturation (-5 to +5)
  • Card Settings
    • Card Format
  • General Settings
    • All Reset (on/off) - choose if camera settings are stored
    • Beep (on/off)
    • Shutter Sound (volume, sound) - choose a phony shutter sound and set its volume
    • PW On/off - choose a startup and shutdown screen/sound
    • Rec View (shows picture after it's taken - on/off)
    • Sleep timer (30 sec, 1, 3, 5, 10 min)
    • 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)

Two 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.

Auto-bracketing will take 3-5 shots at varying exposure compensation values, so you can get a properly exposed shot with less pain.

Now onto our photo tests.

I've got two different night test shots for you in this review. One was taken using the D-40's manual controls, the other with the "night scene" mode.


The one above was taken in manual mode, with noise reduction on, ISO of 100 I believe. As you can see, it came out quite well. Don't forget, a tripod is a must for these shots!

And here's the other one, taken with the night scene mode. The ISO has been cranked up (I'm not sure about the noise reduction), and you can tell. I really dig the colors in this shot though.

Next is the traditional macro test shot. The D-40 did an admirable job here too. In macro mode, you can get as close as 10 cm (at wide-angle). The zoom lens is usable in macro mode.

Overall I was very happy with the D-40's image quality. It was able to take good quality images indoors and outside. I only saw the dreaded chromatic aberration problem crop up once or twice in all my test shots. I also noticed that edges can be a little jagged at times. Take a look at the photo gallery and judge for yourself.

Movie Mode

The D-40Z has a pretty standard-issue movie mode. They are recorded, with sound at 15 frames/second. The zoom lens cannot be used during filming. Here's how much video you can fit on a memory card:

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

Here is a thrilling movie of a train arriving.


Click to play movie (QuickTime format, 4MB)

Playback Mode

The D-40's playback mode covers all the bases. There's slideshows, image protection, DPOF print marking, zoom & scroll, and more.


Since the "mode menu" isn't exciting, here's the shortcut menu instead. You can see that it gives you instant access to Slideshow, Info, and DPOF print marking.

The camera takes under 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?

I was concerned when Olympus took a long time to send out the D-40 Zoom for review. My conspiracy-seeking side thought there must be a reason why they didn't want me to see it. Well, as it turns out, it was supply and demand, and the camera was definitely not disappointing in any way. In fact, it's right up at the top of my list for ultra-small cameras. Great photo quality, full manual controls, a movie mode, and a small body make it a winner in my book.

Naturally, people want comparisons between the D-40 and its closest competitors: the Pentax Optio 430 (read review) and Canon PowerShot S40 (read review). I liked all three of them, and ultimately it comes down to your personal preference. The Canon has the nice metal body and Microdrive support, while the Olympus has a lighter, easy to pocket body. The Optio is a nice camera as well but doesn't have as many manual controls as the other two. A negative for the D-40Z in this competition is the 2.8X lens versus the 3X lenses on the other two. All three are nice choices, and I encourage you to read the other reviews, try them out, and decide for yourself.

What I liked:

  • Ultra-small body
  • Tons of manual controls
  • Very good photo quality
  • Movie mode w/sound
  • Pixel Mapping removes bad pixels
  • Noise reduction for better low light shots

What I didn't care for:

  • No optical zoom in movie mode
  • Jagged edges on many images
  • No rechargeable batteries, tiny 16MB SmartMedia card included
  • "Real" manual found on CD (and isn't great to begin with)

Other high resolution, ultra-small cameras worth looking at include the Canon PowerShot S30 and S40, Kyocera Finecam S3, Nikon Coolpix 885 (sort of), Pentax Optio 330 and 430, and Sony DSC-P5.

As always, I recommend a trip down to your local reseller to try out the D-40Z and it's competitors before you buy!

Photo Gallery

So how does the photo quality stand up? Check out the sample photos in our photo gallery!

Want a few more opinions?

Be sure to read the reviews from Steve's Digicams, Imaging Resource, and Digital Photography Review!

Feedback

Jeff welcomes your comments or questions. Send them to jakeller@pair.com. Due to my limited resources, please do not send me requests for personal camera recommendations.

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