It’s easy for digital camera manufacturers to quote the size of their CCD at you – 4 megapixels in this case – and leave it at that, but the resolution of the camera rarely tells the full story. For example, a camera might produce output that is over-compressed, leading to a loss of detail. Or the colour balance might be completely incorrect, or the lens might be so poor that the focus fluctuates across the image, or any one of a number of problems could occur.
Ultimately, then, the only way to be sure of the quality of a camera is to actually test it; resolution numbers are only for the “mine’s bigger than yours” brigade. Even so, the starting spec of this Camedia C-4000 Zoom is pretty impressive. Top resolution images are stored as TIFF files (without the lossy compression associated with JPEGs) and the maximum image size is 2,288 x 1,712 pixels. Other modes are available, right down to 640 x 480 in JPEG format, and there’s even one that’s 3,200 x 2,400, but that’s interpolated from a lower resolution, so there isn’t actually any more detail present.
The Camedia C-4000 Zoom is pretty compact and, as the name suggests, has a motorised 3x zoom lens that pops out of the front of the unit. The zoom motor is a tad slow, so you sometimes have to wait a second or so for your adjustments to kick in, but it’s backed by a 3.5x digital zoom that allows you to zoom in even further, although you will lose detail compared with using the optical zoom feature alone.
At the back there’s an optical viewfinder that you can use to conserve batteries, plus the usual LCD screen that’s bright enough to use in daylight. An initially bewildering array of buttons, jog dials and other switches starts to make sense when you read the manual and play with the on-screen menu system, which is reasonably intuitive if you’re used to digital cameras in general.
The menu system is complex because it has to be; there are so many features vying for your attention. Exposure control, light metering, white balance, resolution, sensitivity, flash mode and more can be set using the menu, and there’s the option of recording short video sequences in QuickTime Motion JPEG format. This will quickly eat up the available memory, though (about 3 seconds per megabyte), and since you only get a 16MB SmartMedia card in the pack, an obvious upgrade is to pick up a couple of 64MB cards, or a 128MB card.
For less demanding users, there’s the option of using one of the preset image type modes to handle particular photographic situations. But whether you’re using automatic or manual mode, what really matters is the image quality. We were impressed; the pictures that emerged from the supplied software (alternatively you can access the camera directly as a SCSI drive via USB) showed excellent levels of detail, right down to the fibres in carpets and curtains. The colour balance was good even in the automatic mode and the camera did a good job of handling the ambient light conditions.
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