Olympus C-400 (1996)

Olympus announced three digital cameras on 1996-08-27. The Olympus C-400, C-400L and C-800L (together with the Olympus CAMEDIA P-150 digital color printer and the CAMEDIA T-100 transmission adapter). 
 
Most people are not aware of how many digital camera models Olympus actually marketed in the mid 1990's. Some think it all started with the C-400 series but actually it was the DELTIS VC series that were the first digital models. Olympus also had a knack for giving their camera models different names depending on the continent they were marketed on. I'll highlight these models in the "remarks field". Actually it's only the US market where the names were different, Europe and Japan models were the same. I could not find an equivalent model name in the US so I take it that this entry model was not released in the US at all. The earliest model I could find on the Olympus pages was the D-200L which is equivalent to the Olympus C-400L. (Some websites claim that it was the D-200 but there is absolutely no information available anywhere on a D-200 model).
 
Olympus dropped their business line (VC) in 1995 and starting marketing the first compact consumer digital cameras in 1996. The Camedia line (short for Camera Digital). Olympus realised early on that there was a growing need for high-quality 35mm camera like digital cameras with good optics. Olympus did not rush to market like others but focused on these three key elements and announced the C-400, C-400L and C-800L on 1996-08-27. Alongside with a digital camera printer model Camedia P-150 and a communications adapter T-100. The T-100 allowed users to send images from their cameras (C-400L/C-800L) directly over fixed line or cell phone without the use of a personal computer. A picture of this japan-only and very rare device can be seen above.
 
The C-400 was the basic model without LCD screen and with only 1MB internal memory. A sort of entry level digital camera so to speak. All cameras had a high quality lens with lens cover and the bright and the clear optical viewfinder we all know and love from Olympus. The CCD provided natural color reproduction and rich tones. The camera also provided a built-in flash with red-eye reduction (not every digital camera had that feature back then) and automatic exposure and white balance. On the downside the 1MB of internal memory only held 20 images that had to be downloaded to a computer before more pictures could be taken. The macro mode was 20cm which is not really macro in my opinion. The infinity focus did blur some of the darker spots when images were taken in bright light. The C-400 and C-400L only sported a fixed focus lens where the C-800L had auto-focus.
 
In retrospect I am certain that Olympus probably was the only camera manufacturer that actually made the first professional compact digital cameras. Early Olympus models were always at the top of the price range and most of the cameras provided outstanding picture quality combined with a good camera body design and impressive optics. I own all digital camera models Olympus built in the 1990's and not one of them has ever failed me. All work flawless until this very day. 
 
You can always distinguish professional history websites from poor hobby websites by seeing the author complain about the poor VGA quality of those cameras. Those people still don't understand that this was the standard CCD resolution back then for several years and monitors of that time often only had 800x600 pixel resolution. So a 640x480 image on such a monitor was actually a pretty awesome result. I worked with computers back then and I was always pleased to see a 640x480 image on my SVGA screen. That was HUGE compared to most images that were only 320x240 or less.
 
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Specifications

  • Brand: Olympus
  • Model: C-400
  • First mentioned: 1996
  • Marketed: yes
  • MSRP: $399
  • Imager Type: 0.35MP 1/3" CCD
  • Resolution: 640x480
  • Internal Storage: 1MB
  • External Storage: -
  • Lens: Olympus lens f=5mm /F1:2.8
  • Shutter: electronic shutter
  • Aperture Range: F2.8
  • LCD screen size: -
  • Size: 145 x 72 x 47mm
  • Weight: 295 gr.
  • Remarks: -

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