Olympus FE-4050 review: Olympus FE-4050

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CNET Editors' Rating

3 stars Good
Pricing Unavailable

The Good Affordable;. point-and-shoot simplicity;. 'Magic filter' digital effects are fun.

The Bad Inevitable plasticky feel;. Optical zoom disabled when shooting VGA movie clips;. Some loss of sharpness at maximum wide-angle setting.

The Bottom Line The user-friendly Olympus FE-4050 is a marginally pared-down version of its big brother, the FE-5050, with slightly wider dimensions and a more plasticky build.

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Want a digital camera that will deliver better quality than your camera phone, but don't have much spare cash? The FE-4050, the baby of three new compact cameras from Olympus, could be what you're looking for. Delivering 12-megapixel images rather than 14, the lightweight FE-4050 combines out-of-the-box usability with a smidgeon of style for a sub-£100 price point. It's available in a range of colours: starry silver, classic black, wine red and pure white.

Wide boy

Feeling lightweight in the palm at just 112g with lithium battery and optional media card (92MB internal capacity provided), the camera powers up from cold in just over a second. It's a fast response that impresses as much as it did on the FE-5050 . A greater degree of plastic in the build, disguised to an extent by a metallic silver finish, is no surprise given its low price. What is surprising is that the FE-4050 retains the more intriguing aspects of its marginally more expensive siblings -- the FE-5040 and FE-5050.

Some slight curvature at the edges of the frame is visible at this wide-angle setting, plus a general softness overall, but there's not too much wrong with this test image. (Click image to enlarge)

Like its peers, the FE-4050 shoehorns in a wide-angle optical zoom, which retracts within the body when the camera is inactive. In this case, the focal range offered is an equivalent 27-104mm (4x optical) rather than the marginally broader 26-130mm of the 5040 and 5050. This is supported, once again, by digital image stabilisation, boosting the shutter speed/ISO rather than shifting the sensor or lens elements to avoid blur. The camera is slightly fatter than the FE-5050 at 19.9mm, but nigh identical in width.

It could be Magic

Also shared with its FE brethren are six 'magic filters' -- fish eye, pop art, sketch, pinhole, and the brand-new soft focus and punk filters, as found on the FE-5050. The latter produces a crude, photocopied look with a pinky-purple colour wash. It might sound awful but it's actually quite effective. These are fun, if inessential, extras that help this model stand out from the crowd -- which includes direct rival suchs as the Pentax M900 .

Like the Pentax, pictures are composed via a 2.7-inch, 4:3-aspect-ratio LCD screen that takes up the lion's share of the camera's back plate. The default setting is the scene- and subject-recognising 'i-Auto' mode for pure and simple point-and-shoot operation. The FE-4050 is slightly slower to write a full-size JPEG, at around three to four seconds. Olympus also offers face detection of up to 16 faces in the same frame, and autofocus tracking to maintain focus on a subject as they move about.

JPEGs are committed to a removable SD or SDHC card rather than the higher capacity SDXC, a slot for which is provided next to the battery. This is also where you'll find an exposed output port next to an off-centre screw thread for attaching a tripod. A convenient USB charger is supplied in the box, which means you can charge the camera without having to remove the lithium-ion battery itself.

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Where to Buy

Olympus FE-4050

Part Number: CNETOlympus FE-4050

Typical Price: £90.00

See manufacturer website for availability.