capsule review

Olympus FE-120 camera

Despite its $230 price tag, this 6-megapixel unit delivered very attractive photos, earning top points for its accurate colors and spot-on exposure. However, the images lacked sharpness: some high-contrast edges and fine details had a blurry, indistinct appearance.

The FE-120’s case resembles a bar of soap, with rounded edges and recessed buttons. At just over 1.4 inches thick, it’s slim enough to fit into a coat pocket or handbag, and at just over 5 ounces, it won’t weigh you down. Its 3X zoom lens telescopes out of the front when you turn it on, and the controls sit nicely under your fingers when you hold the camera. Two buttons to the right of the screen allow you to flick quickly between Playback and Recording mode, and the mode dial is just below the Zoom control; all are within easy reach of the thumb.

In order to keep the price down, Olympus has cut some corners. For one thing, the FE-120’s 1.8-inch LCD screen is rather weak: It’s small, low in resolution (85,000 pixels), and hard to see in daylight—even indirect sunlight makes the display look pale and washed out. There is also no microphone for capturing sound to accompany the video the camera can record.

Photographers who want manual controls won’t like this camera, as all of its controls are automatic. You can’t set the ISO manually, and you get no shutter- or aperture-priority modes and no manual focus. White balance is fully automatic as well; you can neither set it manually nor use presets. The FE-120 also omits a video output for viewing images on a TV.

performance

Image Quality Very Good
Battery Life Flawed

Scale = Excellent, Very Good, Good, Flawed, Unacceptable

How we tested: The image-quality rating of the camera is based on a panel of judges’ opinions in five categories: exposure, color, sharpness, distortion, and overall. Battery life testers follow a precise script, including shots with and without flash, until the battery dies.—Tested in conjunction with the PC World Test Center

specifications

Resolution 6 megapixels
Zoom/Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 3x optical (38-114 mm)
Battery Type AA
Media Slots xD Picture Card (1)
Size (wxhxd) 4.2 x 2.2 x 1.4 inches
Weight 6.7 oz.

Macworld’s buying advice

The Olympus FE-120 is a low-cost camera that delivers good image quality, though it offers few manual controls. Its limited battery life and small LCD detract from its other fine qualities. In the end this camera will appeal mostly to people who are happy with automatic modes. Experienced photographers would likely find the lack of manual controls frustrating.

[ Richard Baguley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in PC World, Wired, and JIWire.com. He also maintains a Camcorder blog.]

Olympus FE-120
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