You could say it’s what’s missing from this camera that now makes it a rarity.
The C-400 was the base-level model of three cameras that marked the entry by Olympus into the consumer digital era in 1996.
They were the first Camedia cameras.
The others were the higher-spec C-400L and the C-800L – the L indicating the presence of an LCD screen.
The C-400 had no screen and a tiny 1mb of internal memory. My guess is that consumers asked themselves “What’s the point of digital if you don’t have a screen?” They gave this orphan a wide berth. Hence not many have survived to become “one of the rarest and first compact digital cameras ever built”, as described by one collector.
Nevertheless, the C-400 produced excellent photographs, with its fast f/2.8 lens and 0.35 megapixel sensor. It’s just that you wouldn’t know that till you’d got your prints back from the photo lab.
Olympus D-600L (1997)
It’s 1997. Twenty years ago, the first Star Wars movie appeared. Now suddenly, from a galaxy far far away, the Rebel Alliance (Olympus) produces this lightsaber, the D-600L.
Sorry for getting carried away — but the appearance of this camera is straight from a sci-fi movie. The classic camera shape is cloaked in a smooth grey plastic that’s out of this world.
What was in the mind of the Olympus people?
We are told that the company wanted to market a camera for the professional user which appeared ultra-modern. It should nevertheless remind the jedi (correction: photographers) of their traditional film SLRs. This is what the designers came up with. Today, the result looks as dated as a stormtrooper costume. At the time, though, the D-600L was very well received for the most basic of reasons. It made beautiful pictures. While the sensor is only 1.4 megapixels, the lens and internal electronics more than compensated. The little LCD screen is great for reviewing images, although not for composing shots. There are buttons everywhere that belie the camera’s limited shooting options. In short, the camera was a success in spite of its Star Wars looks.
I should clarify that this camera has two different model designations. In the USA, it was marketed as the Olympus D-600L (for US$1,299) while everywhere else it was the Olympus C-1400L. There was a lower specification version of this camera, which was marketed as the D-500L (USA) and C-1000L (elsewhere). It had a sensor of just 850 kilopixels.
Olympus C-900 (1998)
A cute feature of this 1998 consumer pocket camera is the pop-up flash head that helped the C-900 to be the most compact 3x zoom camera of the time (or so it was claimed). It was a popular product even though it sold for a considerable $700 in the USA.
Olympus C-211 Zoom (2000)
The C-211 is an adventurous effort from Olympus.
In the 1990s, it might have seemed obvious to put a Polaroid instant printer into a digital camera. For starters, this would allow you to check your photos in the monitor before deciding which ones to print – and Polaroid prints weren’t cheap. Nevertheless, only Fujifilm and OIympus marketed printing digital cameras in 1999 and 2000 respectively. No other manufacturers followed their brave efforts, although Fujifilm persisted with its Instax camera.
At Olympus, they weren’t sure if such a camera was serious or just for fun, so they aimed it at both business people and party people.
The camera has good digital features for its day – a 2 megapixel sensor, TIFF and JPEG file saving, a 2” colour LCD monitor, USB connection and movie capability. More significant is its trend-setting SmartMedia card storage and a little lid that you opened to allow more light into the LCD when shooting in sunny situations.
The printer uses the now-obsolete Polaroid type 500 film. There were printing options not available on standard Polaroid cameras. You can print a proof sheet, a portion of a photo and even a still from your movie. That’s serious fun!