**Back**The 2.5-inch LCD screen consumes at least two-thirds of the Olympus FE-200’s back face and is framed and raised slightly from the rest of the camera body. To the right of the LCD screen along the top edge of the camera is the shooting mode button. Moving horizontally to the right is the review mode button. Both buttons use symbols instead of textual labels that shouldn’t be confusing once the camera has been used a few times. Beneath these two buttons is a mode dial that rises up from the camera body slightly. The right side of this mode dial is exposed to allow for quick scrolling and the textured side should provide enough of a grip to allow for accurate adjustments to be made to shooting modes. This mode dial allows for the user to move between auto mode, image stabilization, portrait, landscape, night portrait, scene, guide, and movie modes without having to reverse since it can be continuously rotated. Beneath the mode dial is a four-way control for navigating the menu structure. These cardinal directions each have an additional control when the camera isn’t in the menu structure. The up arrow of the four-way control engages direct printing, the right arrow will open the flash menu, the down arrow opens the self-timer display and the left arrow opens the macro mode display. Each of these short-cut menus is a semi-transparent overlay and is simple to use and engage without confusion. The simplicity of these control interfaces is great for the novice photographer. In the center of the four-way control is the OK button for setting changes within the menu structure. Under the four-way control is the menu button with the delete button located to the right.
**Left Side**A polished silver bar that extends from the top of the FE-200 wraps down and bisects the left side of the camera. This bar has no functional purpose and is merely an aesthetic presence. There are no features or other design points on the left side of the Olympus FE-200 camera body.
**Right Side**A wrist strap eyelet is located along the top edge of the right side and is set into the camera body so that it won’t snag on clothing or the interior of a carrying case. Beneath the eyelet is a port cover that is opened by flipping a tab located along the back edge of this feature. This port cover is definitely well attached to the camera body and isn’t going to be torn off easily. It’s a bit sticky when closing and it doesn’t have the reassuring click that would make a photographer feel confident that it isn’t going to be opened accidentally when fumbling with the camera. Beneath this port cover can be found the DC-in port and an AV-out port for connection to television, personal computer, printer or other viewing device. These are the only two features located on the right side of the camera body.
**Top **The shutter button is located on the top of the Olympus FE-200 near the right side of the camera body. This large unlabeled button is surrounded by a zoom ring that is controlled by pushing a frontally positioned tab to the right and left to move through the 5x optical zoom range. This zoom control doubles as a playback zoom and multi-up view toggle when reviewing images. To the left of the shutter and zoom control is the small, inset power button. Engraved into the polished silver that surrounds this button is the word "POWER." A more noticeable label that is more legible at angles or in darker shooting situations would help beginning users and those with poor eyesight. The in-camera speaker is located to the left of the power button and is only recognizable because of the eight small holes cut into the camera body.
**Bottom**A port cover is located on the right side of the Olympus FE-200 and can be opened by pressing down lightly and sliding out to the right. Once open, this cover will reveal an xD-Picture memory card slot and a slot for a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The tripod mount is located directly beside this cover. If users finds themselves needing to swap out a battery or a memory card during shooting they will have to remove the camera entirely from the tripod plate to access these slots.
**Viewfinder**The Olympus FE-200 lacks a viewfinder so photographers will need to be a little more aware about battery life because they will have to rely on the battery-draining LCD monitor. This isn’t a huge setback and we’re seeing more and more point-and-shoot camera manufacturers do away with the real-image optical viewfinder. The major reason for this not being a detrimental reduction is primarily because of the framing inaccuracy and the small size of the viewfinders that make shooting a hassle. If you’re a photographer that tends to overlook battery life it might be a wise idea to purchase an additional battery and just carry it in a back pocket when shooting for longer periods of time. **LCD Screen**The LCD screen on the Olympus FE-200 is located on the back of the camera body and measures 2.5 inches diagonally with a total pixel count of 153,600. When shooting with the FE-200, the only visual indication that an image is ready to be photographed is when a small green dot appears in the upper left corner of the LCD. When shooting in more complicated lighting it was often necessary to shoot two or three images before an accurate image could be captured due to the LCD. This was due partially to the display not providing a preview of image quality adjustments like the white balance correction until capture had begun. Solarization wasn’t a huge issue in most situations and the brightness control in the setup menu did help in making the otherwise lackluster screen appear more contrasty. **FlashThe flash is one of the few things that photographers using the Olympus FE-200 will be able to control. This is something that is always nice to have as an adjustable option and especially in the case of the FE-200. When shooting with the flash set to Auto, this camera tends to always engage the flash regardless of how strong the lighting is in the shooting situation. In an overly bright classroom lit with fluorescent lighting the camera engaged the flash as well as when shooting outdoors at one in the afternoon with full sun. The only times that the flash wasn’t engaged was when the camera was pointed directly at a light source. The problem with this is that in addition to always being used in auto mode, the flash is also exceedingly aggressive in its brilliance and strength. Subjects illuminated five away from this flash were cast in a deathly white glow that simultaneously destroyed any nuance in skin tone or three-dimensionality of subject. The flattened results were far from flattering. Luckily this flash is user-controllable and besides image quality it is probably the most important feature a user can learn when shooting with this point-and-shoot camera. The flash settings can be accessed by pressing the right arrow of the four-way control on the back of the camera body to the right of the LCD screen. Pressing this control will activate a full-screen semi-transparent overlay in blue that displays four icons on the left side of the LCD. The rest of the LCD will display textual descriptions of these flash icons and will provide information on when it would be appropriate to engage said flash parameter. The flash settings provided with this camera allow for adjustments between auto, red-eye, fill in and no flash. The fill in flash will engage the flash in every image no matter the lighting conditions. The flash for the FE-200 is horizontal in orientation and positioned above and off-axis from the lens of the camera. This location will complicate any attempt to accomplish an evenly illuminated composition since a strong shadow is normally cast from right to left across subjects when the flash was turned on. The flash working range is 0.7 to 8.2 feet in wide-angle and 2.0 to 5.6 feet in telephoto. It’s advised to position subjects at the longer side of this range however since 2 feet in wide angle is like being lit by a helicopter during a police chase.
**Zoom LensThe zoom lens on the Olympus FE-200 is an Olympus 5x optical zoom lens with maximum apertures of f/3.3 in wide and f/4.8 in telephoto. Other cameras available in this price range can be found to sport a maximum aperture of f/2.8 that can definitely come in handy when shooting in lower light conditions. The zoom lens extends out from the body of the camera when power is engaged. When not in use, the lens will be protected with an automatic lens cover than snaps cleanly over the lens surface. The lens has a length of 4.6 - 23mm (28 - 140mm equivalency in 35 mm photography) with 9 lenses in 7 groups. The zoom length is controlled through a zoom ring that surrounds the shutter button on the top of the camera body. The camera moved smoothly and with relative quickness through the entire zoom range. This camera does not accept conversion lenses of any kind. With a focal lens length of 28mm at its widest, photographers should find that the camera is able to handle larger group portraits. The FE-200 needs image stabilization with the total optical zoom level of 5x and while digital image stabilization is better than nothing it still isn’t as effective as the optical image stabilization found with Panasonic cameras, for example. The digital image stabilization definitely helped out with slight camera shake but blurred images did still occasionally slip through even with this feature engaged. One-handed shooting is especially problematic because of the 5x optical zoom and the utter lack of grip in addition to the bulk and overall build of the camera.
Model Design/AppearanceWhile not a visually stunning design, the Olympus FE-200 gets the job done. This camera isn’t going to stun a crowd of friends or turn heads at the bar but what it lacks in aesthetic creativity it makes up in a straightforward shooting interface and a simple menu system. The camera is a basic rectangular cube and does have a slight rounding edge between the top and front face of the camera and readers may notice a small curve inward at the top of the right and left sides. Polished silver highlights can be found on all but the back and bottom faces of the camera. The minimal external controls, clean lines, un-cluttered exterior and all metal camera frame would indicate both durability and longevity for photographers not interested in dropping a couple hundred dollars every year. **Size/Portability**While certainly not as large as a DSLR, the Olympus FE-200 is still a hefty piece of machinery and one that isn’t going to easily pop into a pants pocket. It could fit into a large coat pocket but the best and safest bet for most photographers will be to purchase a carrying case for this model. The camera weighs 5.4 oz without a battery and when the battery is inserted the total weight jumps to a substantial 7.9 oz. In addition to the overall weight of the camera, the frame itself isn’t small and although there aren’t protrusions the camera still measures 3.9 inches in width, 2.4 inches in height and 1.1 inches in depth (with lens retracted). A wrist strap eyelet is located on the edge between the top and right-side of the camera body and will provide photographers with a short term transportation option. **Handling Ability**With only a small horizontal ridge bisecting the front face of the camera the Olympus FE-200 isn’t a great candidate in the handling ability category. Shooting two-handed wasn’t an issue and it shouldn’t be for a point-and-shoot camera, but when switching to one-handed shooting, it was harder to handle the camera because of its chunky weight and size.
**Control Button/Dial Positioning/Size**The external controls on the Olympus FE-200 are large and overall well placed for easy and concise access during shooting. The only major concern that arose when using this camera was the embossed labels used for the four-way control and the power button. The embossing was hard to read in low light and often it was just easier to poke randomly in the hopes that the proper option could be found without going to find a bright light. Other than this, the controls have been limited in number to the essential minimum and their size and placement allows for room even with larger fingers. With so much room on the back of the camera left open, it’s somewhat surprising that the mode dial wasn’t made slightly larger. In this incarnation the mode labels on the dial seem cramped and a bit undersized in comparison to the amount of room given to other controls like the four-way control or the menu mode. While it doesn’t impede adjustment physically it is a bit visually cluttered on a camera that seems to have been designed to eliminate this common problem for digital cameras. **Menu**The menus that come with the Olympus FE-200 are in a word, simple. They have few choices to be confused and feature both large icons and sizeable text labels that should almost eliminate any chance of being confused, regardless of skill level. The shooting menu for the Olympus FE-200 is accessed by pressing the menu button located beside the lower right corner of the LCD screen on the back of the camera body. The shooting menu displays six sub-menu options when opened and users can scan between these icon/text sub-menu choices by pressing the arrows on the four-way control. The playback menu system can be entered by first switching the camera to the playback mode. The playback menu has more options than the shooting mode menu system but even with eight sub-menu options the system is still easy to move through and comprehend. The playback menu uses the same icon/text system of the shooting menu and novice photographers shouldn’t be confused by the options listed here. The final menu to be flushed out will be the setup menu, which uses a more traditional text-based interface to aid photographers in making adjustments to image and camera parameters. This menu, although visually different from playback and shooting mode menus, is not as intuitive as the other menus. Adding to the incoherency of some sub-setting menus will be the utter lack of documentation of said features in both the basic manual and the .pdf user manual included on CD-ROM. **Ease of Use**This camera definitely excels in the ease of use category with a simple image-based menu structure, a heavily promoted preset shooting mode and few manual controls to confuse novice users. The preset shooting modes are accompanied with full text descriptions of their function as well as a color image example of a scene where the setting could be engaged. Although definitely geared for ease of use, the Olympus FE-200 isn’t able to provide its users with a comfortable transition out of auto modes into manual control settings. Direct printing was a simple process to engage and transferring images to computer for editing and sorting was also accomplished without any strain or stress. The exterior controls are well sized and minimal and will allow for users to move between options without needing a magnifying glass.
**Auto Mode**The auto mode for the Olympus FE-200 is accessed via the mode dial located on the back face of the camera body. The auto mode is fully automatic, but its defaults can be altered to a couple of image parameters. The alterable parameters when shooting in auto mode allow for adjustment to exposure compensation and flash settings. There are no other manual controls available in this mode or any other mode when shooting with the point-and-shoot FE-200. The default setting for flash in auto mode is obviously auto flash and this can be the one setting that stops the novice user from capturing a quality image. The auto flash tended to fire regardless of lighting conditions and subjects were subsequently washed out. Switching the camera to flash off will produce images that are immensely better and consistently more accurate in both color and tonal structure when shooting in well-lit situations where the flash destroyed an otherwise well balanced image. The auto mode isn’t fast to the draw but none of the shooting modes found with the FE-200 are; patience and a steady hand are essential when shooting images with this camera. **Movie Mode**Movie mode for the Olympus FE-200 is another area where underwhelming specifications make it a less than desirable purchase when compared to the 640 x 480 full resolution, 30 fps rate found with many lower priced digital cameras currently on the market. With the FE-200, photographers will have to rely on resolutions of either 320 x 240 at 30 fps or 160 x 120 at 15 fps. The resulting image quality is grainy and shooting in brightly lit conditions is highly recommended since lower levels of light resulted in a nearly indecipherable playback image. Audio can be recorded when shooting movie clips. The microphone for this camera is located below and to the left of the lens barrel when facing the front of the camera body. Recording video footage is accomplished by pressing the shutter button once. Once this has occurred, a small timer will appear in the lower left corner of the LCD screen that displays how much recording time is left on either internal memory or memory card. It is possible to review images and monitor audio in playback mode and the user can play, pause and scan within the review mode. Editing of video files is not possible in-camera and photographers would need to export their files to a post-production editing program like I-Movie or Avid Free (not included) to make basic alterations to their video footage. **Drive/Burst Mode**This camera comes with no burst mode and photographers looking to capture images quickly and efficiently without delay should definitely consider another option. The lag time for focusing, adjustment and capture was lengthy even in well-lit situations and the amount of time needed to properly adjust in low light increased noticeably. If quick shooting is necessary, consider a camera like the Canon PowerShot A530. Its predecessor, the A520, had a continuous burst mode of 1.9 fps for up to eight images. The Canon A530 is also priced more reasonably than the A520 and is available for around the same price as the Olympus FE-200. In addition to this, the A530 will also give photographers access to a number of manual controls and other features like a My Colors digital effects mode that outdoes the limited effects on the FE-200. **Playback Mode**Reviewing and making minor modifications to images post-capture is accomplished by pressing the playback button located in the upper right corner on the back face of the Olympus FE-200. The most recently captured image will appear immediately upon entering playback. The menu structure is opened via the same menu button used in shooting mode and photographers will find eight sub-menu options. The rotation and resize options are easy to use and engage while the slideshow displays images in a default playback speed and in chronological order. By pressing the zoom ring to the left, captured images can be viewed on single full frames, as four images, nine images, sixteen images or twenty-five images in thumbnail format. Scanning through images in any of these display methods can be accomplished by pressing any of the cardinal directions located on the four-way control. In addition to this display setup, users can also choose to engage the zoom toggle in the opposite direction to zoom in on an image. Playback zoom for the FE-200 has a range of up to 10x and the display frame can be moved through the image by using the four-way control. Deleting pictures and video files is pretty straightforward and users can select a single image by pressing the delete button on the back of the camera directly beneath the four-way control. Multiple or single image deletion is also possible by entering the playback menu and opening the Erase sub-menu. Users can erase all images at once or make selections from here. The select image option will display images as a six-up thumbnail display where users can choose images for deletion by pressing the OK button. If an incorrect image is selected, users must press the OK button again to de-select before continuing their purging process. Once all the appropriate images for deletion have been selected, the delete button must be pressed to open a display that will ask whether users wish to delete selected images. All in all this process works great, especially when you’ve captured a couple hundred images. The select image method will enable users to delete quickly and get back to shooting without wasting time which is great when on a hike, photographing group portraits, or shooting sporting events. Movies can be watched in playback mode with audio via a small monaural speaker positioned on the top of the camera body to the left of the power button. Movie playback allows for the user to play, pause, and scan when viewing video files. There are no editing options available in-camera for movie files and users will have to export video to personal computer if alteration is necessary. **Custom Image Presets**The custom image presets for the Olympus FE-200 can be accessed and altered by switching the mode dial to the scene setting in addition to selecting from three options that are listed on the mode dial itself. Located on the mode dial are scene modes that cover portrait, night portrait and landscape modes. Additionally there are ten scene modes that cover basic lighting and subject matter. Many compact digital cameras have 12-15 scene modes, with some Casio cameras boasting 34 preset shooting modes. The Olympus FE-200’s scene modes are displayed as a series of icons on the left side of the LCD while the currently selected icon will display an example image and accompanying textual description that fills most of the screen. For instance, a text example is the sports mode description: "Captures fast-moving action without blurring." Obviously this mode is helpful in other situations beyond a sporting event. The scene mode settings found with this camera will cover the following situations: sports, indoor, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, behind glass, cuisine, documents, and auction. The problem with the scene modes comes when trying to switch to a different mode once a scene mode has been set. Re-entering the scene mode display can’t be accomplished by pressing the menu button. Pressing the menu button will merely open the standard shooting menu found in auto mode. Re-accessing the scene options can only be accomplished by switching the mode dial to a different mode and then back to scene mode or by pressing the playback and the shooting mode button. This is really irritating when trying to work quickly and it seems that Olympus could have put more design thought into an area that is pretty much essential for most point-and-shooters.
Manual Control OptionsThis is an area where the Olympus FE-200 falls drastically short of the competition. The only manual controls that remain accessible by the photographer are the flash settings and the exposure compensation. If considering a move into the realm of manual control, the FE-200 should be avoided. Without these manual controls that can drastically improve image quality and accuracy, users will be forced to rely entirely on the automatic settings of the FE-200 that can be problematic depending on the lighting and composition. **Focus***Auto Focus*The Olympus FE-200 has some distinct restrictions when it comes to manual control in general, and the lack of nuance and subtle control is also limited in the auto focus. The FE-200 relies entirely on a center zone focal system for capturing images and has no other focal zones or areas. Users looking to make gross adjustments to focal depth will find the inclusion of a landscape mode and two macro mode settings. The landscape mode is opened through the mode dial on the back of the Olympus FE-200 while the macro mode settings are opened by pressing the left arrow on the four-way control. The macro mode menu will reveal two options: one for shooting in close range with zoom still controllable and the other for shooting subjects a few inches from the lens of the camera. This second option locks the zoom in place prior to switching into this mode. In regular and macro shooting modes, the shooting range will allow for distances between 7.8 inches to infinity in wide-angle and 1.7 feet to infinity in telephoto. In super macro mode the range narrows to 2 - 7.8 inches in wide-angle. *Manual Focus*There is no manual control over focus when shooting with the Olympus FE-200. If interested in finding a camera with manual focus in this price range, consumers could consider the Canon PowerShot A520 or its replacement, the A530, as a possible alternative to the nearly full-automatic Olympus FE-200. **Metering**The metering system for the Olympus FE-200 is restricted to shoot only in the Digital ESP metering mode that seemed to emphasize the center of the composition over the edges of the image. The lack of metering control will mean that images with more complex lighting or multiple sources of light will be compromised when shooting with this camera. The only ways to compensate for situations like backlit subjects is by using the less than stellar fill-in flash setting or by adjusting the overall exposure compensation. The problem with the second option (suggested by Olympus in the help menus of the camera) is that this will adjust the exposure compensation of the entire image which means that if you adjust for a darkened subject the resulting image will feature a more properly exposed subject and either an overly dark or overly washed out background, neither of which is actually a positive result. The flash option resulted in images that were horrifically washed out and merely added to the already poor image quality shot without the flash turned on. The best bet when caught shooting in backlight or with complicated lighting with this camera is to literally simplify the scene. Move the subject of the image or turn off or re-direct light. This isn’t always possible but is certainly a far better option when compared to the fill flash or exposure compensation adjustment. **Exposure**Exposure can be controlled when shooting with the Olympus FE-200 with an exposure compensation adjustment complete with a live view. The exposure control is accessed by pressing the menu button on the back of the camera next to the lower right corner of the LCD beneath the four-way control. The exposure compensation parameter is located on the first screen to appear once the menu is open. The exposure compensation range on this camera is +/- 2 EV with incremental steps of 1/3 EV and 1/4 EV depending on the position within the exposure compensation scale. The EV scale is displayed as a horizontal overlay on top of a live preview and adjustments are made efficiently through the left and right arrows of the four-way control.
White Balance **Users looking for a manual control over white balance will need to look elsewhere because this setting is controlled automatically by the camera. The auto ESP white balance showed varied success when shooting indoors using incandescent lights; it produced everything from a strong yellow tone to a more accurate white. Scenes lit with fluorescent lighting appeared to fare much better than the incandescent results, especially when lit evenly. Outdoors the camera seemed to produce more consistent results in both cloudy and sun-drenched scenes. If white balance is important this camera probably shouldn’t be on your short list of digital photography options: there aren’t even preset options. ISO******There is no manual control over ISO when shooting with the Olympus FE-200 and users will find that using the exposure compensation control will help temper and complement this fully automatic image parameter. Olympus states that the ISO range is ISO 64 to ISO 640 and this range should be able to handle most lighting situations. In lower light situations where higher ISO levels were used, the resulting image did display a noticeable increase in noise levels. Manual ISO control is almost always found with point-and-shoot cameras and it comes as a pretty big surprise to not find it included with this $250 model by Olympus. Kodak even includes an ISO control on budget novice-centric cameras like the EasyShare C310 that has a retail price of $94.95. **Shutter Speed**Shutter speed on the Olympus FE-200 is not manually controllable, but if faster or slower shutter speeds are wanted the user should consider the preset shooting mode options like sport (fast), night or fireworks (slow) as options for at least partially dictating the shutter speed of this automatic camera. The shutter speed for this camera is reported to have a range of 1/2000th of a second to 4 seconds, which should provide at least some success in poorly lit scenes. Darker scenes will necessitate the use of the in-camera flash that has a tendency to overwhelm the image with its harsh level of brilliance. A noise reduction feature automatically engages when shooting at shutter speeds slower than a half second, but even with this in place noise was still apparent. **Aperture**The photographer shooting with this digital camera won’t be able to manually adjust the aperture. This shouldn’t come as a surprise when the lack of manual control of the entire camera is taken into consideration. The automatic aperture range for this camera is also a bit truncated when compared to other options out on the market with f/3.3 being the maximum setting available. Considering that the sub-$100 Kodak EasyShare C330 has a maximum aperture of f/2.7, the under-whelming specs of the Olympus FE-200 in addition to a price of $250 MSRP make this camera a hard candidate to campaign for in yet another category.
**Picture Quality / Size Options**The image quality/size options are listed within the shooting mode menus. Because there is only one basic interface for the shooting menu, it can be easily located and opened for quick and painless adjustment. The image size and quality settings are a bit limited with only four total settings available when shooting still images. These options are all for JPEG compression and include an SHQ setting of 2816 x 2112 (less compression), HQ 2816 x 2112 (standard compression), SQ1 2048 x 1536 (standard compression) and SQ2 640 x 480 (standard compression). Although limited, the settings offered allow users to shoot images for a number of different printing and sharing formats from high resolution prints to email and internet profiles. Because of how easy it is to access this essential feature it seems likely that even hesitant novice users will find themselves able to make adjustments to reflect both the shooting situation as well as the final post-capture sharing method. **Picture Effects Mode**Picture effects are noticeably lacking from the Olympus FE-200. This is a surprising omission considering that most manufacturers at a minimum will include black & white and sepia color effects to even their cheapest cameras. Many companies like HP and Canon have used this area and the preset shooting modes as locations to stuff their cameras full of settings and customization that gives basic point-and-shoot photography an air of uniqueness. While this won’t be a huge issue for many novice consumers just looking for color digital images, it would have been nice for Olympus to have at least included the basic sepia and black & white settings. As it is, photographers using the FE-200 will need to upload their images onto PC and edit using either the Olympus Master Software or another editing program like Photoshop in order to get even the most mundane of effects.
**Connectivity***Software*The Olympus Master Software package that comes with the Olympus FE-200 installed quickly and easily without problems. Once open, the initial screen will provide users with the following options: transfer images, print images, browse images, backup images, create and share, upgrade, update software and update camera. When using the browser display, users can select between viewing all images, images by year, images by month and images by day. Additionally, it is possible to organize images in a variety of preset and customizable collection bins. On the right side of the screen are links to support, shop @ emporium, online lessons, Olympus Ofoto, software downloads, photo printers and photo school. A basic and easy interface makes moving through the browser a breeze and reviewing images and selection for printing or editing a simple and logical process. Options listed along the top of the browser window will allow for altering the image view, checking properties, rotation, find, edit, raw, print menu, email, art, 3d, transfer and help. The great inclusion with this software is the image properties option listed in this toolbar. This will allow users to examine individual images for their file name, camera model number, color space, format, image size, color depth, file size, file location, date updated shooting date and comments. In addition, a histogram of the captured image is displayed above these options on the right side of the screen. It’s possible to create automatic panoramas when in Olympus’ software setup, although it will have been necessary for the user to have shot the images originally in the camera as a "panorama" image and with an Olympus xD-Picture card. The automatic panorama feature was easy to use and just required the user to drag and drop the appropriate images into their appropriate location. Once that step was completed the user only had to click the stitch button to complete the process. Image editing processes include a RGB color balance, auto tone, instant fix filter, crop, rotate, print, save, and redeye. There are also art effects which aren’t available to users without the upgrade to Olympus Master Plus software. This upgrade isn’t cheap; it sells on Olympus’ website for $39.99 and while the art effects and 3D option are amusing for a short term this reviewer can’t quite honestly say that this upgrade is necessary or essential. The necessary image alteration features like brightness and contrast, color balance, tone curve, gamma, instant fix, auto tone correction, hue, saturation, monochrome, sepia, sharpness, blur and distortion are all available within the filter menu located in editing mode and at no additional cost. If cheesy "art" effects are needed, find an alternate shareware program with similar features, but save the forty clams for the upgrade and use the money to buy an xD card to enable the far more interesting panorama option. *Jacks, ports, plugs*There are two ports located beneath a plastic port cover on the right side of the Olympus FE-200. This port cover is well constructed and is connected via a rather sturdy hinge system to the body of the camera. The ports located beneath this cover allow for connection to optional DC-in power and to connect the camera via either USB or RCA cables to television, personal computer, printer or other viewing devices. The cover lacks a catching mechanism that would firmly lock it into the body of the camera when not opened purposely and it did come open accidentally once or twice during handling. Another port cover is located on the bottom of the camera. This cover can be opened by pressing lightly on the cover and sliding it to the right away from the body of the camera. The cover reveals the slots for both the lithium-ion rechargeable battery and the xD-Picture memory card slot. *Direct Print Options*Direct printing can be engaged by connecting the Olympus FE-200 to PictBridge printers and by pressing the up-arrow on the four-way controller once the appropriate image has been selected in playback mode. This is as easy as it can get for printing and allows users to print and share images without having to transfer images to PC and then to a printer. In addition to this printing process, it is also possible to select multiple images in playback mode and the number of prints wanted for each image prior to printing in order to streamline the process and make this process more efficient. *BatteryThe battery for the Olympus FE-200 is a rechargeable lithium-ion unit and users will find that this is both a lighter weight and less expensive alternative to having to continuously purchase and carry extra AA batteries or other powering options. This battery comes with a charger. The problem with the charger is that users will have to attach a cable between it and the wall jack. From personal experience this reviewer can state that the chances of leaving that cable at home or in studio or wherever is far more likely than actually remember to haul it along. Having an adapter with the plug built in is a small design change but one that can really help out when traveling and packing. Users may want to purchase an extra battery (about $40), as the Li-12B battery only gets about 175 shots per charge. Memory*The Olympus FE-200 comes with 24 MB of internal memory that will store five images at the highest quality level of 2816 x 2112 pixels. Obviously this memory isn’t going to provide enough space when shooting more than a frame or two but it can come in handy if caught shooting for a day and out of space on an optional xD-Picture memory card and in need of just a couple more shots. In situations like this the 24 MB of internal memory can be a lifesaver. The optional memory card is the xD-Picture format, which is not as commonly used as the SD/MMC format. Users will need to buy an Olympus branded xD-Picture card if they want to use the panorama scene mode on the FE-200. Other Features***Panorama Mode* – The panorama mode can only be used when the optional xD-Picture memory card is in place. Photographers will find the LCD image framed so that as photographs are captured they can be sure that a continuous image is being photographed for later re-construction. Using the automatic panoramic feature in the Olympus Master software will allow users to drag and drop images onto a "time-line" of sorts in the appropriate order of appearance. Once this has been accomplished the user merely presses the "stitch" button and the computer outputs a completed panoramic image. This software cannot be used to stitch together images not captured in the Panorama mode. *Digital Image Stabilization Mode – This camera does come with digital image stabilization. It definitely showed an improvement over images captured without it turned on. Unfortunately, there are two problems with this feature when compared to cameras being manufactured by companies like Panasonic and Canon. The main problem is that Olympus’ stabilization isn’t optically achieved and when compared to a Panasonic Lumix digital camera, the results will pale in comparison and the image compromise that comes with digital stabilization will become apparent. The other problem is that this isn’t a setting that can be turned on and off while shooting in a variety of modes. Instead, this feature is an actual mode that can be found on the mode dial of the camera. It can’t be used in conjunction with other modes (like the Sport scene mode) and users hoping to shoot in night portrait with digital image stabilization will find their intentions thwarted by this odd decision by Olympus. That said, with 5x of possible optical zoom, the inclusion of at least some sort of stabilization system is still better than none at all.
*Value**With a 1/2.5 inch, 6 MP CCD, 2.5 inch LCD screen, 5x lens, a handful of shooting modes, simple external interface and basic menu structure the Olympus FE-200 would have definitely been an impressive option for the point-and-shoot consumer a few years back. Currently though it seems likely the bells and whistles included with cameras by manufacturers like Canon with their My Colors mode or Casio with their umpteen hundred scene modes are going to put out a better first-impression than this stripped-down $250 digital camera. It has great construction quality and an all-metal body that will take a beating and still produce images successfully. But when in the face of so many similarly priced digital cameras that have a plethora of preset and manual control options, the allure of the FE-200 seems to fade. Cameras by manufacturers like Kodak give users the same ease of use found here but additionally give beginners the opportunity to begin accessing controls like ISO or longer shutter speeds for low light shooting – and at lower prices. The Olympus FE-200 has thirteen preset scene modes that may have been impressive a few years back but with manufacturers pushing near forty on some point-and-shoot models, the FE-200 now falls short. The camera lacks features like manual focus, burst mode, control over backlit scenes, in-camera digital effects like those found with Canon, a good movie mode or a functional flash. If it had been released in 2004 this review would be drastically different but with so many manufacturers providing easy to navigate interfaces in addition to a wealth of scene modes and control options at a low price this camera seems destined to be forgotten by consumers in favor of other options. So many other cameras have many more options and come at far lower prices. **Comparisons***Fujifilm FinePix A600* – This digital camera is definitely intended for the point-and-shoot market. It comes with a 1/1.7-inch Super CCD HR with 6.25 MP effective pixels that can capture both still and motion images. The Fuji A600, while lacking manual focus, comes with adjustable AF modes, a more truncated shutter speed range that is fully automatic, exposure compensation, manual control over ISO, auto metering mode, preset white balance modes allows for some alteration by user (although no custom setting), flash control, and a surprisingly more pathetic movie mode when compared to the FE-200 with a top resolution of 320 x 240 at 10 fps. The external interface is illogical and the control design is more problematic than the FE-200. With only four preset scene modes to customize the camera, the A600 doesn’t seem like the right fit for the beginners market looking for easy shooting both internally and externally. This camera was released in February of 2006 and can easily be found for less than $200 online. *Sony Cyber-shot DSC-W70*– With an identical retail price and a 1/2.5-inch 7 MP CCD, the full metal body of the W70 has a similar frame size and design to the FE-200 that should be durable enough to last most users for quite a few years. This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens, multiple auto focus options, a smaller shutter speed range, a better maximum aperture of f/2.8, comparable exposure compensation control, a burst mode (which the FE-200 lacks wholly), white balance preset modes, digital color effects in-camera, manual ISO settings up to ISO 1000, and a handful of scene modes. The movie mode provided with the Sony W70 is a far better option with a maximum resolution of 640 x 480 at 30 fps with audio recording (without the Sony-branded Memory Stick Pro Duo card, however, the frame rate is limited to 16.6 fps). In addition to these image control features and shooting modes, this Cyber-shot has an identically sized, but higher resolution LCD screen. This camera comes in both silver and black for the more style conscious consumer looking for something a bit more unique, and can be found for less than $250 online. *HP Photosmart R727* – The R727 can be currently purchased with rebates through HP for around $200, and other sites are selling this 6.2 MP digital camera for even less. This digital camera is a slender and more streamlined point-and-shoot offering that has a non-extending inset lens located in a terrible position that can be easily covered by fingers of the left hand. This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens, manual ISO with a range that extends to ISO 400, three metering modes, a wider exposure compensation range of +/-3 EV, white balance in both preset and manual modes, and a shutter speed range that spans 16 seconds to 1/2000th of a second. Aperture is automatic and possesses an identical maximum aperture in comparison to the FE-200. Further improvements over the Olympus FE-200 can be found with the 2.5 inch LCD that boasts an impressive 203,400 pixel display for a clearer and crisper image monitoring device. The menu structure isn’t nearly as straightforward as the FE-200 and potential buyers will also find the construction of this camera to be less impressive when compared to either the Sony W70 or the Olympus FE-200, which are going to be able to withstand a beating and keep shooting. *Canon PowerShot A540* – The Canon PowerShot A540 will provide users with an expansive palette of manual controls, a 6 MP CCD and a 2.5-inch LCD for under $200 online currently. This camera is a great option for the reader who finds the lack of control options of the FE-200 to be a limiting structure, but still wants the simple interface. Manual controls found with this camera include focus, exposure, metering, white balance, flash exposure compensation, shutter speed, flash and ISO. For users not wanting to delve into manual controls, the camera comes with a full auto mode and a number of preset shooting modes that are comparable in functionality to those found with the FE-200. Additionally this camera comes with Canon’s My Colors fun digital effects. Considering all of these features, a simple menu system, a similarly sized CCD and LCD, and a better external design for one-handed shooting, readers will find that the A540 is a definite step-up in many ways when compared to the FE-200. **Who It’s For***Point-and-Shooters* – The point-and-shoot crowd is definitely going to be interested in the Olympus FE-200 with simple auto shooting modes and few-to-no manual controls. If consumers want to shoot photos without hassle, the FE-200 could be a tempting option. *Budget Consumers* – The budget consumer may find this camera is a bit outside the price range at $250 MSRP considering the lack of manual controls and the flash that is best left unused in the hands of novice users. Considering the plethora of other less expensive options on the market with more options and features this model is a hard sell for the budget buyer. *Gadget Freaks* – The Olympus FE-200 doesn’t have the innovation found with the features of the Kodak EasyShare-one or the aesthetics of the Olympus Stylus series that would make it desirable for the budding or established gadget freak. The gadget freak is likely to be irked by the poor interface design and the utter lack of controls that could potentially make it a standout in a market already clogged with similar camera designs and features. *Manual Control Freaks* – With control over exposure compensation and flash and nothing else, the Olympus FE-200 isn’t going to register on the radar of the manual control photographer. *Pros/Serious Hobbyists* – There is no reason that pros or serious hobbyists would look to this $250 MSRP priced digital camera for any of their photography needs.
**Conclusion**The Olympus FE-200 turned out to be an interesting point-and-shoot camera that paired a simplified external design with stripped down automatic shooting, a 5x optical zoom lens, digital image stabilization, a 1/2.5-inch 6 MP CCD, and a 2.5 inch LCD screen with a resolution of 150,000 pixels. The camera is constructed of an all-metal exterior that should be able to handle abuse at the hands of the clumsy or the young. This digital camera has an initial MSRP of around $250 but can be found for under $200 currently online. This camera is definitely not intended for photographers interested in manual control. It has an exposure compensation scale and four flash settings, but is otherwise an entirely automatic beast with thirteen preset scene modes to complement the auto mode and provide novice photographers with a bit of nuanced control over some general shooting scenes. The aforementioned lack of manual controls, no burst mode, sluggish focus, underwhelming movie resolution and sloth-like shooting times make this camera fall short of the mark. This becomes especially apparent when compared to the options provided by other manufacturers like Canon and HP that offer full manual control, digital effects, a cleanly designed exterior and menu structure at the same price as the Olympus FE-200. The flash tended to over-compensate when engaged and it was normally engaged regardless of how brightly the scene was lit. Overall, the Olympus FE-200 is constructed fairly well and does have a long zoom lens, but it has otherwise basic specs and not much to offer when compared to similarly priced digital cameras.
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