The Olympus Camedia C-4040Z is the latest in a series of compact digital cameras to share the same basic chassis, starting with the 2-megapixel C-2000 launched back in 1999. The C-4040Z is a 4-megapixel update of the successful 3-megpixel C-3040. It’s not the first 4-megapixel camera from Olympus. That honour goes to the Camedia E-10, which also claimed the accolade of being the industry’s first 4-megapixel consumer camera when it was launched in the second half of 2000. But while the E-10 is a ‘pro-sumer’ SLR (single lens reflex) costing around £1,200, the £799 C-4040Z is a high-end consumer model.
One of the first things you notice about the C-4040Z when you pick it up is just how light it is, yet it doesn’t feel at all flimsy. Parts of the body have a tough-looking anodised metal effect finish, but if you want a camera that looks ‘space age’, the C-4040Z may be a bit conservative for your liking; it’s more functional than elegant.
You could say that Olympus has stuck with a more traditional style of compact camera compared to some of its competitors. The lens doesn’t recess flush with the body and there is no automatic lens protection. The knurled rubber finish to the barrel of the lens looks a bit retro and it doesn’t actually do anything, since all focussing and zooming are either automatic or push-button controlled.
The 3x zoom lens is made by Olympus itself and boasts one of the widest maximum apertures, f/1.8, for a camera in this class, so you will be able to get by without using flash too often in low light conditions. You also get a 2.5x digital zoom that boosts the overall range to 7.5x.
Physical knobs and buttons are kept to a minimum, so you rely heavily on the camera’s command menu. Olympus has responded to criticism of its menu systems in the past and revamped its offering to good effect. You can now assign more frequently used functions to a programmable button, for example.
Other new features of the C-4040Z include a noise reduction mode for night time or low light shooting without flash, an interpolated image mode boosting pictures to over 7 megapixels, plus a sensor re-profiling function to maintain optimum performance of the camera’s CCD. The C-4040Z is compatible with Epson’s new PIM (Print Image Matching) protocol that is designed to optimise print quality. You can also take video clip sequences.
A 16MB SmartMedia memory card is supplied, but this is only capable of holding around 7 or 8 higher quality (SHQ) mode pictures. While Olympus does feature dual Compact Flash and SmartMedia capability in some models, you only get the increasingly outdated SmartMedia format in the C-4040Z. A USB cable is supplied for connecting to your PC. There is no hot shoe for an external flash, but a flash cable connector is provided.
But what about picture quality? We have very high expectations these days for 4-megapixel cameras. Unfortunately, our C-4040Z’s results, while being adequate, did not shine. The image was softer than we had expected, but more serious was a noticeable deterioration in corner sharpness. Chromatic aberration (blue-ish fringing in fine detail) was not well controlled either. The macro mode is OK, but we’d have liked to get closer still.
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