Text and Photos by Allison Gibson
A Super Wide-Angle Point-and-Shoot
When shopping for a compact point-and-shoot camera, there are a slew of features to consider, and they vary based on what is most important to you as a photographer. If you have kids who play sports, you probably want to look for a camera that has a fast shutter speed or maybe a scene mode meant for precisely that type of shooting. If you like to have a camera handy for parties, you want to make sure the image quality is good in low-light. Other things to look for are: zoom, flash, shooting modes, video, battery life, display and ergonomics. The slim, 12-megapixel CCD image sensor Olympus FE-5020 is a slick and stylish point-and-shoot that, for only $159.99 (MSRP), boasts high marks in many of the above categories.
The 4.3-21.5mm f/3.3-5.8 Olympus lens lives up to the hype of the FE-5020 being a “super wide-angle” camera, as it’s being billed by the manufacturer. To get closer to specific parts of the action, the FE-5020 offers 5x optical zoom, controlled by a quickly responsive thumb toggle to the right of the LCD. It is an unpleasant but not surprising detail to many photographers who prefer to compose shots with a viewfinder that this low-priced point-and-shoot lacks one. However, the large, bright 2.7-inch LCD offers expansive coverage of the wide shots.
The FE-5020 offers Intelligent Auto (iAuto) shooting mode, Program Auto mode and Digital Image Stabilization Plus mode, as well as a large assortment of specialty Scene Modes, including: Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach + Snow and Pet. Additionally, there are “Magic Filters,” which include: Pop Art, Pinhole and Fisheye—if you can get to them in the LCD menu, that is. You can only access the Magic Filters option from the Menu button if you are in the Program Auto shooting mode, and once you get to them in the digital menu, they are untitled and offer only a dark thumbnail shot of what the filter will look like when applied. But however difficult Olympus makes it to get to the Magic Filters, they do deliver good results once they are in use. The Fisheye filter offers a much truer rendition of the effect that a real Fisheye lens gives, as compared to the Fisheye Art Filter in the recently reviewed Pentax K-x D-SLR.
The FE-5020 also shoots video (640×480, 30/15fps)—though not High Definition—with sound, which does well to capture sharp footage if the available light is sufficient.
Highs & Lows
With its sophisticated looks, compact size, super wide-angle lens and 5x optical zoom, the Olympus FE-5020 is a well-priced point-and-shoot camera, however not without a few issues. The shutter release button has a wobbly, unstable feel to it, making it difficult to focus and take quick, precise shots instantly. The shot-to-shot lag time also leaves much to be desired. The built-in flash is much too bright, washing out shots with its overly harsh light in most ambient lighting situations.
The image quality is good, however, in low-light if you punch up the ISO. From ISO 64-400 it does great, and at 800 only a little noise starts to show up. At ISO 1600 you begin to see heavy noise.
The FE-5020’s AF (auto focus) Tracking, which Olympus bills as “automatically tracking moving subjects and continuously adjusting the focus and brightness to capture them sharply with ease,” didn’t always meet that standard for me in capturing a busy, low-lit Los Angeles outdoor night scene.
A great thing about this camera, though, is the outstanding battery life. It uses a Li-ion Rechargeable Battery (LI-42B), which lasts 150 shots according to the manufacturer, and seemed to last even longer than that for me—which was impressive considering that the LCD is always on due to the lack of a viewfinder.
The FE-5020 has 48MB of internal memory, and is xD-Picture Card and microSD (with optional adapter) compatible, which was admittedly inconvenient for me, as my card reader didn’t read the Olympus xD-Picture Card that I tested the camera with. A more accessible SD or SDHC would be a better choice for Olympus to go with. Of course, the camera comes bundled with a USB cable to retrieve images.
Overall, the thin and lightweight Olympus FE-5020—which comes in an assortment of jewel-toned finishes, including wine red, royal blue and dark gray—is a well-priced point-and-shoot with many of the features you may be looking for, plus more. It has a large, bright LCD, a large assortment of auto shooting modes and filters, advanced Face Detection (up to 16 faces), and the TruPic III Image Processor delivers sharp results that you can blow up to poster sized prints.
- 3.65”W x 2.2”H x 0.97”D; 3.8 oz., without battery
- Image Sensor:
- Still Recording Format:
- xD-Picture Card (1GB, 2GB); microSD (MASD-1 is required)
- 2.7-inch LCD (230,000 pixels)
- Exposure Metering:
- Digital ESP Metering, Face Detection AE (when Face Detection AF is selected)
- Special Features:
- Magic Filters, 14 Scene Modes, Panorama (Up to 10 frames automatically stitchable with OLYMPUS Master software), Perfect Shot Preview, Frame Assist, Voice Recording, Playback Edit Effects (Still Image: Red-Eye Fix, Shadow Adjustment Edit, Beauty Fix, Resize, Cropping)
- Video Recording Mode:
- 640×480 (30/15fps) in .AVI format
- Power Source:
- Li-ion Rechargeable Battery (LI-42B)