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Olympus X-880 review: Olympus X-880

The £99 Olympus X-880 digital camera is exclusive to Jessops, but it's essentially the same as the FE-370, available elsewhere. Olympus FE-series cameras are designed to offer ease of use and 'precision automation'. Highlights include a 5x optical zoom, although the reliance on the xD Picture Card and microSD memory-card formats leaves Olympus out of step with other makers.

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6.5

Olympus X-880

The Good

Inexpensive; well made; speedy zoom and autofocus.

The Bad

Difficult to find the face-detection mode; some control glitches; memory-format support.

The Bottom Line

The Olympus X-880 is a decent camera that produces crisp, colourful pictures. But, while the 5x optical zoom is good, the control interface becomes cumbersome when you dig below the surface, and we can't understand why you have to activate the face-detection mode manually. Overall, the X-880 is good on the surface, but rather odd and clunky beneath it

Positives
For a sub-£100 camera, the X-880 feels really good. It's slim enough to slide into your pocket and the metal finish looks smart and feels durable. The LCD screen is clear and the autofocus is snappy. It slows down slightly at the long end of the zoom range but not by much, and the zoom action itself is fast for a lens with this range.

The X-880 might have only 8 million pixels, which isn't much by today's standards, but, given the tiny size of the sensors in compact cameras, it doesn't make much difference. Its pictures look bright, clear and crisp, although it does generate some pretty wild barrel distortion at the wideangle end of its zoom range. Hardware image stabilisation is built in, which isn't bad at this price.

That barrel distortion at the wideangle end of the zoom range is a worry, but the definition and colours are pretty decent (click image to enlarge)

Although the X-880 is aimed at beginners and photographers who want fuss-free snapping, it has all the usual manual overrides. The 'OK/Func' button on the back pops up a menu at the side of the display, allowing you to change white balance, ISO, picture size and quality. That's about all you need really -- any more-advanced settings can be accessed through the main menu system.

Negatives
But the menu system is where it all goes rather pear-shaped. If you want to use the camera's face-detection mode, you have to dig it out from the very depths of the menu system. If you don't, it's not even activated in the camera's portrait mode. We really can't understand why this is.

The face-detection mode, when you've found it, seems to work alright, although it isn't quite as effective as others we've tried, and it's not entirely clear how the smile mode works. In theory, it should take a picture when your subject smiles, but, when we tried it, the camera just banged out a series of shots in succession.

Our test chart shows average outright resolution but there's not too much sharpening going on in-camera and the detail looks clean (click image to enlarge)

We also couldn't find the continuous-shooting mode. If there is one, it's well hidden -- both in the camera and in the manual.

For some reason, our camera kept refusing to shoot at a higher resolution than 5 megapixels -- the 8-megapixel option was greyed out on the function menu. A reset fixed this problem for a while, but then it came back again. As a result, we had to reshoot many test images that we inadvertently shot at the wrong resolution the first time round.

Conclusion
The Olympus X-880 is alright, but that's about all you can say for it. You're getting a metal-bodied compact with a 5x optical zoom and good basic picture quality for less than £100, after all. But, although it's quick to use when you're just pointing and shooting, you can soon get bogged down when you try to dig a little deeper.

Edited by Charles Kloet