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Olympus FE-200 review: Olympus FE-200

At 6.6 ounces and just over an inch thick, the FE-200's metal body comfortably slips into a pocket, though it's a bit chubbier than other compact cameras. With so few manual settings, the camera's controls are fairly simple--large, flat buttons and a control pad that's comfortable even for large hands.

5.4

Olympus FE-200

The Good

Decent lens; small body.

The Bad

Poor performance; no white balance controls; exposure problems.

The Bottom Line

This extremely sluggish shooter is a poor choice when compared to less expensive alternatives.
If a camera comes with the highest price tag in its product line, you'd think it would be the best. The Olympus FE-200, however, proves otherwise. Although it boasts the nicest lens and costs more than other FE-series cameras, this 6-megapixel shooter wholly disappoints.

The FE-200's biggest selling point is its lens, a nice, wide 28mm-to-140mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens that gives it the best range of the FE-series. Plus, its digital image stabilization mode (not to be confused with the more effective optical or mechanical image stabilization, found in pricier cameras) helps reduce shaking when zooming in. Aside from its decent 5X lens, however, the FE-200 sports few interesting features and even fewer manual controls. Numerous scene presets help you prepare the camera for different shooting situations, but you can't change specific settings beyond exposure compensation and image size. The camera even sets white balance and ISO automatically.

Curiously, the FE-200 lacks the TruePic Turbo image processor found in Olympus' less expensive models, the FE-180 and FE-190. It's a strange omission, although it's clear why the camera suffers from irritating speed and color issues.

While Olympus positions the FE-200 as the flagship of its FE-series, it performs dismally; worse, even, than the disappointing FE-170. We had to wait 4 seconds between turning the camera on and taking our first shot; then, the camera paused an excruciating 7.3 seconds between subsequent shots, regardless of whether the flash was turned on or off. Shutter lag was a just-tolerable 1 second in bright light, increasing to 1.3 seconds in dim light. While we can manage with a sluggish shutter, the time lag in between shots renders the camera almost useless.

Image quality also disappointed us. While the FE-180 and FE-190 produced indoor shots with excellent white balance, the FE-200's shots were beige-colored and dull. With no white balance settings to adjust, the camera is at a major disadvantage when shooting under artificial lighting. Images were also underexposed and overprocessed, so most fine details were obscured or lost. On the bright side, the camera's lens operates well, with virtually no distortion at full zoom and slight barrel distortion at the wide angle position. This does little, however, to improve the camera's otherwise mediocre images.

While the Olympus FE-200 should be the most impressive member of the FE-series, its terrible performance places it far behind the FE-180 and FE-190. Combined with a price that's higher than most budget cameras, the FE-200 just doesn't cut it. If you're looking for a reliable budget camera for less, the FE-180 and FE-190 are better options.

5.4

Olympus FE-200

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 5Performance 3Image quality 5