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Olympus FE-3010 review: Olympus FE-3010

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MSRP: $149.99

The Good Nice design, build quality; very good color, white balance.

The Bad Slow performance; soft photos.

The Bottom Line The Olympus FE-3010 is a good-looking ultracompact camera that takes pictures--eventually.

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6.2 Overall
  • Design 8
  • Features 6
  • Performance 4
  • Image quality 5

What's worse in a sub-$130 camera: slow performance or mediocre photo quality? With the Olympus FE-3010 you don't have to decide because you get both. All joking aside, for me, it's about performance, and more specifically shutter lag, as cameras around this price point generally don't deliver excellent photo quality. The FE-3010 is one of the slowest cameras we've tested in this class. If your photo subjects tend to be moving or too impatient to wait a second after you press the shutter, you'll want to give it a pass. However, if what you need is a very small, lightweight, easy-to-operate inexpensive camera for well-lit slow-moving or still targets and the results are bound for a favorite social-networking Web site or 4x6-inch or smaller prints, by all means consider this camera.

Key specs Olympus FE-3010
Price (MSRP) $139.99
Dimensions (WHD) 3.7x2.2x0.7 inches
Weight (with battery and media) 4.4 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 12 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots/None
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.1-5.9, 36-108mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG (.AVI)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,968x2,976 pixels/ 640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Digital
Battery type, rated life Lithium ion rechargeable, 190 shots

The design, controls, and interface on the FE-3010 are the best things going for it. Particularly, its sturdy ultracompact build is slight enough to slip in even a small pants pocket. It's available in black and pink versions and both look classier than their price tags. All that's on top are a power button and shutter release. To the right of the LCD on back is a small zoom rocker; a Display/Info button; Shooting mode and Playback buttons; a square four-way directional pad with an OK/Function button at its center; and Menu and Delete/LCD backlight boost buttons. The OK/Function button brings up a shooting-mode-specific menu, but even at its most expansive there are only four adjustable settings. The general menu system has an attractive graphical interface, though its submenus are more generic looking lists. Fairly straightforward stuff, but there's not much to twiddle with in the first place.

Olympus continues to cling to xD cards for storage, which only has capacities up to 2GB. However, if you've already invested in a microSD card for another device, a small adapter is included, allowing the camera to use those cards as well. These cards also allow for larger storage capacities.

General shooting options Olympus FE-3010
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent 1, 2, and 3
Recording modes Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Digital Image Stabilization, Scene, Movie
Focus modes Autofocus, Face Detection AF, Macro, Super Macro
Metering Evaluative, Face Detection AE
Color effects None
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) None

Unless you tell it to save your settings, the FE-3010's default shooting mode when powered on is Program Auto--an odd thing for such a basic camera. Program gives you control over exposure compensation, ISO, white balance, flash, and timer. One of the nicer features on Olympus's point-and-shoots is the real-time view of changes to exposure and white balance, which is included on this model. You also get an Intelligent Auto that determines the correct scene mode for what you're shooting, or if you want to choose it yourself, there are 15 scene modes to pick from including three underwater modes; a little peculiar considering the underwater case costs nearly the same as the camera. You get a basic VGA-quality movie mode (digital zoom only, though) as well as a Digital Image Stabilization option that primarily boosts the ISO--something you really don't want to do on this camera.

The performance from this camera is so sluggish that I can't recommend using the FE-3010 for anything other than still or extremely slow subjects. The wake-up time to first shot is the fastest it gets at 2.5 seconds. The shot-to-shot times using an Olympus M-type 2GB xD card was 7.3 seconds without a flash and 8.7 seconds with the flash. However, anecdotal testing using a microSD card and the included adapter cut the flash-off time in half. (We're not entirely sure why, but it did.) The shutter lag is the biggest hurdle, though, at 0.9 of a second in bright conditions and 1.2 seconds in dim lighting. That lag is fine for portraits, landscapes, and the dead; however, for sports, small children, and pets, it's not acceptable. Lastly, there's no continuous shooting or burst mode to speak of, which sort of makes sense given how long the shot-to-shot times are.

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