As part of our Olympus Digital Camera review we compare the Sony Mavica........ &FOTOgraphic presents

Olympus 400z... a Home Run!


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While my main friend at Olympus is telling me the 2-megapixel Olympus C-2500L will be available in the summer, we're still very impressed with the $799 D-400 Zoom camera.
The 400's 1.3 megapixel CCd captures a splendid image at 1280 x 960, and will fill the needs of most intermediate desktop publishers and virtually all shutterbugs -- while being quite stylish looking, and easy to carry.

What we liked best about this model is the clam-shell design and tidy functionality. (Those twisting body part cameras sort of bother me with a little queasy feeling when the camera is being handled by the kids, or unaware people. One feature I wasn't in love with on the Nikon or the Agfa. And, that's actually where the camera failed on the Cassio we reviewed three years ago ... now dead in the closet.)
. . . Olympus has also made substantial strides in their interface and software add-ons. You'll remember in our last report on the D-600, the software was all but unacceptable. The software shipping with the 400 came through with flying colors, and even the Flash Path Floppy Disk Adapter wowed us with it's performance. Way't go, Olympus.
. . . But there are a lot of other nice features most reviewers don't notice. We have agonized over putting batteries into every digital camera that's come along... not the 400. There's no question about sequence since the batteries are in-line -- you could do it in the dark. Nice little creature comfort feature.
. . . Additionally, for some reason the 400z seemed to be more efficient with battery use. We were able to get through a full card, download to the computer, and manipulate the camera quite a bit on a single load of batteries. Or, maybe our batteries were better. I wised up to these digital cameras back last year and bought a Radio Shack NiCad battery charger and $20 worth of batteries. I haven't bought a battery since. The Nikon wouldn't quite make it to the computer on the first round of batteries.
. . . The position of the tripod receiver is also much handier than the others. We were comfortable with the camera both vertical and horizontal. It handled well in the studio too -- very clear operation: instant close-ups, time release and exposure overrides. Although I'll note that the best photos -- in all situations -- were with the default exposure setting. We could not seem to improve on the already excellent exposure latitude no matter how much we twiddled with the settings.
. . . While it's only a 3x zoom, it worked flawlessly and smoothly. We didn't seem to yearn for greater focal length,although perhaps a 6x would be nicer. The best thing about the zoom is the focus. There's a generous viewfinder and both the viewfinder and the LCD preview update the focus along with the zoom. Nice. The zoom switch is a little rocker switch right next to the shutter release, with a very positive feeling for zooming. In many of the others the zoom is a little difficult to understand, or easily confused with other controls. Here, you rock it back to pull out and rock it forward to zoom in. X-Files Button
. . . Close-ups worked very well too, with clear lens performance right down to nearly touching. (at right, see a lapel button we're shooting for a client's website... that button is less than a half inch!
. . . The unit's got a built-in lens cover, and the lens retracts back into the body allowing for coat or purse pocket carry along... a huge benefit to the smaller clam-shell design. Picture quality is all there. The optics are very clear and seem to match the quality of the more expensive 600 siblings, as well as the Nikon 900 we reviewed. In fact in the type test there was virtually no difference in image quality.
. . . In parting, I'll mention once again -- there wasn't an AC adapter nor a carry case with this unit. Again we say c'mon Olympus... a 99-cent case and a 3-dollar adapter won't break you. They want as much as $100 for the accessory kit with case, adapter, 8MB Smart Media card and Pictra software. (Note: the 450z did fit perfectly into a padded sunglasses case from the "Sunglasses Shack" you'll find at most bigger malls for under $12.00)
. . . The 400z is fast, it's easy to use and all our reviewers agreed seems to be sturdy and durable enough to be a good "family" camera as well as a respectable studio camera.
. . . I can recommend the 400z to anyone who is looking for a super, all-round quality digital camera in the intermediate range.
Nice work, Olympus.

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