Olympus Trip AF 4000: Little, plastic, meh

Olympus Trip AF 4000 front
Olympus Trip AF 4000 from the front. The big viewfinder requires a bump on the top, and the sliding lens cover doubles as a power switch. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Remember back in February, when I went from owning zero Olympus Trip cameras to owning two in a single day? The AF 4000 was the other one.

The first, of course, was the series’ crown jewel, the black Trip 35. The AF 4000 is a tiny plastic also-ran from the late 1990s.

It’s such an also-ran, in fact, that there’s virtually nothing about it online. In fact, I posited when I first introduced the Trip AF 4000 that it might even be a knockoff.

There’s really not a lot to say about this thing, as you’ll see in just a few paragraphs. Consequently, I’m just going to blast right through it and show you some examples.


Let me be completely transparent here and say that, because of the dearth of available information via The Google, everything I’m listing in this section is either marked on the camera, measured or tested by me, or some kind of educated guess.

Trip AF 4000 top cover
The top cover of the Trip AF 4000 includes nothing extra. Except the self-timer, maybe. And I guess you could live without a frame counter. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The lens is a 27mm wide angle. It has a viewfinder. Simple auto-advance with automated loading and powered rewind (switch on the bottom). Sliding lens cover doubles as a power switch.

The AF 4000 has a built-in automatic flash. A small red LED on the front of the camera indicates when the flash is going to fire, and a small orange LED on the back tells you when it’s enabled.

“AF” means autofocus in other Trip cameras of this era, and the AF 4000 has two small orbs next to the front of the viewfinder that appear to be near-infrared sensors, so “AF” might mean autofocus on this one, too.

The top cover has three simple features: a shutter release button, a self-timer button, and a frame counter. There’s a tripod mount on the bottom, opposite the rewind switch.

Trip AF 4000 viewfinder
The viewfinder of the Olympus Trip AF 4000 is huge. And really bright. And the framing guides are really bright. Don’t worry, the top lines are there, they are just hard to photograph with an iPhone. (Daniel J. Schneider)

The camera’s back has a quartz time imprint feature with several modes. I followed the instructions for the slightly newer Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 and the date back on the Trip AF 4000 seems to work the same way. Not something I’d use normally, but could be very useful for documenting some things, say, for insurance purposes or something.

The Trip AF 4000 reads DX-coded film, and similar cameras appear to handle ASA 100, 200 and 400. I tested it with some expired ASA 400 drug store color negative film, and a fresh roll of Ilford FP4+.

Some reports seem to believe similar cameras have a fixed 1/100 second shutter speed, and/or a fixed f/6.3 aperture. My exposures mostly came out pretty well in spite of varied lighting, so one or the other of those two must be adjustable. My guess is it’s the aperture that’s variable.

It takes two AA batteries, and there’s a “mostly-dead batteries” indicator LED on the back next to the viewfinder. It’s also worth noting that the back cover has a little window that shows the loaded film, which would need to be taped over to use this camera with infrared film.

Trip AF 4000 back cover
The back cover of the Trip AF 4000 is spare, aside from the somewhat extraneous date imprinter. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Playing with it

I really don’t know if the Trip AF 4000 is actually autofocus, because almost none of my photos are remotely sharp. Of the ones that are sharp, half are sharp somewhere other than the place I would’ve liked to be sharp. It is totally possible that the autofocus just doesn’t work — or that I don’t know how to use it.

First shot with Trip AF 4000
My first shot with the Trip AF 4000 was of these snowy outside tables at a restaurant in Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood. It’s almost in focus and almost correctly exposed. (Daniel J. Schneider)

It appears that the autofocus system does do something, but it’s not clear what. As you can see below, the focus definitely changes — but it misses the mark about half the time.

I sort of assumed it’s a half-press-the-shutter setup like most autofocus cameras of the last thirty-or-so years. But the shutter release is kind of hard to press down to take a picture, and it’s hard to tell if there’s a half-press stop on it. It hardly seems to move at all, in fact, so maybe it relies on pressure rather than actual motion.

The flash seems to fire virtually always — regardless of the light conditions. And yet it doesn’t seem very powerful.

I got the Trip AF 4000 at a thrift store and it already had batteries in it. It worked, so I didn’t worry about actually checking them until the writing of this review. Turns out they’re Panasonic batteries with fairly generic graphics on them — like the batteries that come included with a TV remote or portable CD player — and they have a January 2007 expiration date. This leads me to believe they may be original. Perhaps they’re too old and worn out to power the autofocus.

The downtown Sheraton and dancers
The dancer statues at the downtown Sheraton are draped in Broncos colors in the run up to the team’s Super Bowl 50 appearance. Expired drug store film is dark and shifted toward magenta. (Daniel J. Schneider)

Regardless, there are no indicators of the autofocus functioning: no LED focus indicator or blinking target in the viewfinder, though the extra big finder and its brightline framing guide are huge and brilliant. My one real complaint would be that the inner surfaces of the viewfinder are quite reflective, so there’s a lot of stray light flying around in there. It’s mostly just and annoyance, and the finder is still very useable. It could be a little better, is all.

The automatic film transport is one of the biggest things the Trip AF 4000 has to recommend it. It’s super-easy to load, advances quickly and fairly quietly, and rewinds quickly and easily, too.

The other big plus is the wide 27mm lens, which is a great focal length for a point-and-shoot.

It’s tiny and weighs next-to-nothing, and though it feels cheap and plasticky, it might be an okay camera to stuff in a fanny day pack for birthday parties and street fairs, assuming the autofocus worked.

So I want to say it would be a great hiking or glove-box camera, and based on my test shots, it could be if only it could take a sharp picture. In that case, I’d give this thing 4 out of 5 stars. Unfortunately, the lack of sharpness better than half the time drops its rating to 2 out of 5 stars.

Here’s the rest of my test photos, so you can see for yourself how off they are (and these are mostly the best of the lot).

Downtown alley lights
The expired drug store film doesn’t handle complicated lighting well, obviously. The little lights strung across this alley for several years are popping up in other alleys now. (Daniel J. Schneider)
DeLaney Community Farm
Hothouses at the DeLaney Community Farm in Aurora, Colo. Once again, not sharp. Disappointing. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Shot from the hip while crossing the street, all I knew at first was the Subaru had a foreign license plate. After hitting the shutter I realized how bizarre it was. Note how wildly out of focus this clearly is. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Gully Homestead stable
Antique tools in the stable of the Gully homestead at Aurora’s DeLaney Farm Historic District. (Daniel J. Schneider)
More tools at Gully farm
More tools and farm equipment in the Gully Farm’s stable. The long shadows and high contrast were well-handled by the fresh FP4+. (Daniel J. Schneider)
16th Street Mall robot guy
The robot guy on 16th Street Mall seems to randomly confront anything that moves, full of robot sound effects and grinding taunts. Broncos colors prior to the Super Bowl. (Daniel J. Schneider)
The Gully home
The Gully Home at Aurora’s DeLaney Farm Historic District. This was the image that first struck me when my test shots were drying — only a little overexposed, but totally out of focus. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Broncos fans await parade
Broncos fans await the team’s arrival at the Super Bowl 50 victory parade in Denver on Feb. 9, 2016. At least the contrast wasn’t affected by the focus and exposure problems. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Denver Pavilions sign
The Denver Pavilions sign is … definitely not quite sharp. The exposure seems better, but the film is still a little too magenta. (Daniel J. Schneider)
Review Summary
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Olympus Trip AF 4000 camera
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