Olympus C3040 & Fujifilm FinePix 4900 Zoom

(03/05/2001) – Although photography may not seem like a significant activity at most large organizations, it does play an important part in many traditional areas, such as human resources, training and public relations.

In IT operations, digital photography allows the capture and storage of reference images of equipment, from server innards to end-user PCs to wiring closets. At a former employer of mine, the IT department and the manager of our testing lab both used digital cameras to document newly arrived equipment, close-ups of specific hardware and configuration items, even details of how cases went together. This was helpful for later reference and for posting on the company intranet so that anyone who needed hardware information about a specific machine could quickly get it.

Moreover, a digital camera can be an invaluable tool for many research and development operations, allowing people to easily document many activities, prototypes and products.

I mention this to preface a look at two new digital cameras that are well suited for IT documentation as well as general use.

Olympus C3040

CDN$1499 estimate

Olympus America Inc.

Melville, N.Y.


The Olympus Camedia 3040 is a refinement of the camera line that began with the C2000 [Exec Tech, Aug. 16, 1999].

The new model features higher resolution (3.34 vs. 2.11 megapixels for the older camera) and a better, faster f/1.8 3X zoom lens for operating in lower light. I was favorably impressed two years ago with the C2000, but I’ve used many digital cameras since then and have raised my standards for quality and ease of use. I didn’t much like the new model, even with its significantly better specs. In fact, the 3040 handles a lot like the 2000, but I now find it cumbersome, and the controls and menus are more confusing than they need to be.

The comparably-featured Kodak DC4800 is much easier and quicker to use, and it just feels better in my hands.

I recognize that this is a highly personal consideration, so I urge readers thinking of buying a digital camera to handle the actual model – this is one area where specifications don’t tell the whole story.

Fujifilm FinePix 4900 Zoom

CDN$1499 estimate

Fuji Photo Film U.S.A. Inc.

Elmsford, N.Y.


This is a very different camera from the Olympus – or, for that matter, from any other digital camera I’ve used. It’s bulkier, and all of that bulk goes into the lens, which has a 6X optical zoom, equivalent to a 35- to 210mm lens on a 35mm camera. Moreover, the FinePix features a higher resolution – 4.3 megapixels – resulting in sharper, more detailed images.

Like the Olympus, it uses SmartMedia cards for recording images. At the highest resolution, each picture consumes up to 2MB. This is one camera where you definitely want the biggest memory card you can find. SmartMedia cards currently top out at 64MB, which is ample for most purposes but may prove a limitation if you’re taking pictures in the field for several days without a chance to download.

You’ll appreciate the FinePix if you’re accustomed to single-lens reflex cameras, where you can see exactly what you’re getting when you hold the camera to your eye.

The eye-level viewfinder here isn’t an optical viewer, but shows a small LCD panel, much like camcorders do.

When you use the viewfinder in conjunction with the camera’s manual focusing capabilities, you can be very sure that the focus is sharp where you want it. This is especially helpful in close-up photography near the camera’s limit. Here, the Fuji focuses down to about an inch from the front of its lens. In another nice touch, Fuji included two sets of controls for the zoom function, making it easy to use when shooting in either a horizontal or vertical format.

All in all, I like the FinePix 4900 Zoom a lot. It’s now my No. 1 pick for the digital photographer who wants maximum control over images and focus. It may be overkill, as well as more than a little intimidating for the average user, for whom I still recommend the Kodak DC4800. w

Resolving Resolution

The FinePix 4900’s 4-megapixel resolution is measured a little differently than for other cameras, so it’s not entirely clear to me if they can be compared. The Fuji sensor is a 2.4-megapixel charge-coupled-device (Fuji calls it Super CCD) augmented by a technology called PxGA. Developed by Fuji and Norwood, Massachusetts-based Analog Devices Inc., PxGA provides more accurate and faster image processing, producing a final image of 2400 by 1800 pixels.

Still, these images produced by the 4900 were subjectively better than the 3-megapixel images made by the Olympus, so I guess that 4-megapixel rating is accurate enough.

The Holy Grail of digital photography – images comparable in sharpness, contrast and color accuracy to those you get from a good 35mm film camera – is to be found with an image of about 8 megapixels. With its 4-megapixel images, this Fuji is halfway there. And, since the 4900’s introduction, Fuji has also announced a 6-megapixel camera. In practical terms, the Fuji’s 4-megapixel resolution means you can print images at 13- by 19-in. with color and sharpness that are excellent, maybe even outstanding.

Prices listed are in Cdn currency.