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Olympus FE-120

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Olympus FE-120 Compact Camera

Olympus FE-120
Artwork: Rick Rizner, Chris Manners

You might assume that a budget camera like the $230 (as of 2/6/06) Olympus FE-120 takes subpar photos. But you'd be wrong: In our tests this 6-megapixel unit delivered very attractive photos, earning top points from our jury of reviewers, who were impressed with the accurate colors and spot-on exposure of its images. The jurors' only complaint was that the images lacked sharpness, with some high-contrast edges and fine details having 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.

But 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, much less than the 130,000 on the similarly priced HP Photosmart R517), 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.

And 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.

Though all of these issues are fairly small, 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

This story, "Olympus FE-120" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • Low-cost camera delivers high image quality though few manual controls. Battery life is limited, and LCD is only 1.8 inches.

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