Olympus FE-5050 review: Olympus FE-5050

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The Good Inexpensive;. Truly compact;. High resolution and broader than average focal range;. Robust construction;. Punk 'magic filter'.

The Bad Image quality merely average;. No handgrip, so tricky to hold steady and avoid camera shake.

The Bottom Line The Olympus FE-5050 is a low-cost, 14-megapixel point-and-shoot with a wild side. The camera's punk-effect filter may be an inspired flourish, but image quality is variable and critical sharpness mostly lacking.

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6.5 Overall

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Joining a recently announced Olympus trio of beginner compact cameras is the slender, mostly metal-build, 14-megapixel FE-5050. Slipping comfortably into a top pocket, it also boasts a 5x wide-angle optical zoom, offering a focal range of 26-130mm in 35mm terms. This range is wider than most, supported by digital image stabilisation to avoid blur at the telephoto end, and reduce noise in low-light conditions.

The FE-5050 goes up against the likes of the Nikon Coolpix S5100 and Pentax M900, though it's more compact than both with a depth of 18.8mm. Pricing for the Olympus FE-5050 is in the region of £120, falling between its two rivals.

Rainbow warrior

The Olympus is available in the usual rainbow of colours. We had the subtle champagne gold version in for review, though starry silver, classic black and dusty pink are the options.

Although the buttons at the back are a tad plasticky and the layout is on the basic side, from the front, the FE-5050 is surprisingly elegant given its price point. It feels solid when gripped, despite -- like so many other models in its class -- lacking a handgrip.

Instead, your thumb comes to rest on the zoom rocker at the rear, with only the raised Olympus logo providing a place for your forefingers to park. While we anticipated camera shake to be problematic, its slim dimensions and compact size ensure that roughly a third of the camera is resting in your palm at any time, so it doesn't feel like it could easily fly from your grasp. The positioning of the built-in flash at the edge of the camera, however, means your fingertips can stray in front as you attempt to grip it.

With a press of the small lozenge-shaped on/off button, the FE-5050 powers up from cold in just over a second, which is fast for its class. Its retractable lens offers a focal range equivalent to 26-130mm in 35mm terms, so it's useful for landscapes as well as group shots. A half press of the shutter-release button determines focus and exposure in a second, sound-tracked by a quiet yet audible mechanical buzz. Fire the shutter and a full-resolution JPEG is written to memory in a further two seconds.

Point and shoot

Pictures are composed via an adequately clear, 2.7-inch rear LCD, with a 230k-dot resolution and 4:3 aspect ratio -- there's no alternative optical viewfinder. Operation is pretty much point-and-shoot all the way, thanks to the camera's 'i-Auto' mode. In this mode, the camera compares the subject with five on-board parameters, biasing focus and exposure accordingly. These include common scenes, autofocus tracking, and advanced face-detection technology for recognising up to 16 human faces in the frame.

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