With hi spec cameras becoming more accessible, phone cameras now capturing in high definition and running their own image editing apps you have to wonder what on earth is the point of owning an actual compact camera. Unless you have a camera with wi-fi and GPS for geo-tagging and direct uploading to social network sites the fact is they are virtually redundant. Of course there are still people who fear the ubiquitous mobile and the endless advances in converging technology, like my mum, who struggles with text messages though managed to change her traditional ring tone in the 'A Team' theme?
I believe the compact digital camera is always a holiday essential, you can never have too many pictures of something you save all year for. The handbag is also a place where you could perhaps dump it for impromptu portraits and funny moments. So unless you are an avid photographer who always carries a camera of some sort the compact is really a back up plan for your main device.
With the Olympus FE-25 we have a smallish form camera that carries a distinguished brand name with strong heritage. Of course bearing the name Olympus does not automatically define a great product but you would think it was a good starting point. The FE-25 is an entry level camera with a 10Mp CCD sensor and a 3x optical zoom. The plasticky body alludes to the low cost and the rear LCD is small at 2.4" but the unit feels comfortable and balanced in the hand.
The internal memory is a non-existent 19Mb but it accepts Xd cards up to 2Gb and possibly higher though the 4Gb card I tried wouldn't work. This may be addressed with a firmware update but as flash memory is so cheap it's simple just to have a spare card. There are several shooting modes notably the night scene but they are all variations on a theme and do not give quality pictures without some tweaking and reshoots. Tech heads are not really catered for with device with only some low level functions such as ISO adjustment and white balancing and these are presets.
Essentially, like any cheap digital compact camera, the Olympus FE-25 is capable of taking very good pictures in the right conditions. Quite how you quantify what these 'conditions' are is the problem you face. Bright, ambient, sunny light gives nice pictures on occasions but then some will be inexplicably dull or lacking definition. The darker environment can give some nice moody shots but others could be best described as 'grey'. The chances of getting consistently premium quality shots is more of a lottery.
The menu system is simple to navigate and logical in nature but constant alterations to settings or frivolous use of the preview screen will take its toll on the batteries. Unfortunately this is the killer blow for this camera. Unless you are prepared to walk around with a huge rucksack filled to the brim with AA's you will soon become annoyed at the constant reminders of the cameras imminent demise. Initially I played with the settings, took 4 pictures and then complained loudly as it died. The use of good quality rechargeable batteries will remedy this but be prepared to carry a couple of sets.
CCD Size (inch) 1/2.33
No. of effective pixels (mega) 10.7 megapixels
Removable memory xD-Picture Card
Internal memory (MB) 19MB
Recording file format JPEG
Recording image size (pixels) [max.] - [min.] [4:3] 3648x2736 - 640x480
Lens focal length *2 (mm) 36-108mm
Aperture range f3.1(W) - 5.9(T)
Zoom (Optical / Digital) 3x / 4x [12x]
Focusing System CCD contrast detection
AF mode iESP/Face Detect
Focusing range (Normal / Macro /Super Macro) [Normal] W0.6m-∞/T1.0m-∞
[Super Macro] 0.05m f=7.4mm(focal length fixed)
Sensitivity (Standard Output Sensitivity approx. ISO) ISO100/200/400/800/1600/AUTO
Light metering system ESP
Exposure compensation ±2 EV in 1/3 EV steps
Shutter speed (sec.) Auto: 1/2-1/2000 (Candle Scene: Longest 4 Sec)
White balance Auto, Preset (6 types)
Shooting modes Portrait, Landscape, Night, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cusine, Documents
Movie (pixels) [AVI Motion JPEG] 640 x 480 (30 fps/15 fps)
320 x 240 (30 fps/15 fps)
Still image edit functions Resize, Trimming
TFT colour LCD monitor 2.4-inch
Flash functions Auto / Red-Eye Reduction / Fill-in / OFF
Power supply AAx2
Dimension (W x H x D)mm 92.8 x 62.2 x 29.1mm
Weight (g) 116g
This should be a good camera in principle but it fails to deliver on many levels. The heavy drain on AA batteries is appalling and will leave you feeling fleeced unless you use rechargeable ones. The other flaw is the bizarre nature in which picture quality is dictated. It is so utterly random that even Stephen Hawking would have trouble explaining it. The best course of action is shoot hundreds of pictures and hope to get fifty good ones which is at odds with the power drain. Olympus has failed with this one I'm afraid.