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Olympus FE-120 X700 - Digital Camera Quick Review
Review Date: 29/11/05
Rating: Recommended
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Introduction: The Olympus FE-120 (also known as the X700), is available from around £120 / $199, and is a medium sized point and shoot 6 megapixel digital camera, with a 3x optical zoom lens and a 1.8" TFT screen. The camera is enclosed in a silver plastic body. The Olympus 3x optical zoom lens is equivelant to 38-114mm on a 35mm camera. It records unlimited 320x240 / 30fps videos without sound. The camera's size is: 106 x 56 x 36 mm, and the camera weighs 140g (without batteries).

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"Combining 6.0 million pixels and ease of use, the FE-120 is ideal as an introductory digital camera for those on a budget - but who want more than just the basics. The large 4.6cm LCD monitor makes it easy to frame the shots you want, while 16 scene modes and a movie recording function let you experiment."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's fairly compact and made out of shiney silver plastic.
(Photos of the camera taken with a Panasonic Lumix FZ3)

Front - Camera off.

Front / Side - Camera on, lens extended, led, flash.

Back - 1.8" TFT, record / play button, delete, zoom control, mode dial, 4-way controller and OK/Menu button in the middle.

Top / Side - power button, and shutter release.

Battery compartment, and USB / DC in ports.

Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount and the memory compartment.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera.

Size comparison.

Size comparison.

Size comparison with the ultra compact 6 megapixel Panasonic Lumix FX9.

Specifications / Features:

  • 6 megapixel resolution
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 4x digital zoom
  • 1.8" screen
  • 2cm macro mode
  • 320x240 30fps movie mode without sound
  • 16 scene modes (Portrait, Landscape, Sports or Night.)
  • ISO: Auto (50 - 320)
  • 14mb internal memory, XD card slot

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Neck Strap
  • USB cable
  • AA Oxyride batteries
  • 32mb XD Card
  • Software / Manual CD-ROM
  • 29 page Printed Basic Manual
  • 2 year warranty card

Average box contents - a larger memory card and a case would have been nice.

The Camera in Use:

Battery usage: Battery life on alkaline batteries was fairly poor. Battery life on high power 2350mAh Ni-Mh batteries was much better, allowing over 250 shots to be taken. As with pretty much all digital cameras that take AA batteries, you will need to buy high power rechargable batteries and a charger in order to get the best battery life.

Speed: The camera switches on and becomes ready in roughly 3 seconds. Flash recharge time is good, allowing a shot every 2 or 3 seconds. The screen updates are fairly quick and smooth even in low light. The playback mode is a bit sluggish, but zooming isn't too slow. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 5x. The camera has a continuous shooting mode that takes unlimited* photos at roughly 1.3fps without flash.The general shot to shot time was fairly good and allowed a photo to be taken every 2 seconds. The camera shutter response seemed fairly sluggish. Focusing was also quite slow and slower in low-light, but always seemed successful, even in low-light. * I took 17 photos continuously then gave up.

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use. The controls on the back of the camera are very easy to use. The camera is fairly compact and pocketable in baggy trouser pockets. The menus are easy to use, and the options are easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a fully automatic mode as well as lots of scene modes for simple point and shoot operation. The camera is an excellent example of a point and shoot camera, with very little in the way of more advanced controls, it would be very easy to use for beginners making good photos atainable every time.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled well - I especially like the clear "Photo" and "Play" buttons. I thought the camera felt good ergonomically. The buttons are a good size, and aren't too small, unlike quite a lot of cameras. There is a small indentation to rest your thumb in, and a small handgrip on the front that make it easier to hold.

Screen / Viewfinder: The 1.8" screen is fairly clear with accurate colours, and updates smoothly, it becomes brighter in low-light. There is no optical viewfinder.

Image Quality:

Image quality generally: Outside image quality was good, colour was rich and saturated, and the pictures had good contrast and detail, although images were slightly soft. Noise was quite low. Indoors - image quality was good - with quite low noise in photos. Focusing was good, although slow. Images were generally fairly soft, and may benefit from sharpening. The maco mode was excellent allowing you to be as close as 2cm away from the subject, pictures had good colour, with very good detail, although lack of custom white balance may hinder some people. Have a look at the Olympus FE-120 / X700 Sample Photo Gallery.

Image quality issues: There was some purple fringing, slightly higher than average.

Zoom: The camera's 3x optical zoom is slightly louder than normal. It has 13 steps between wide and telephoto. The camera also has a 4x digital zoom that enlarges the image degrading image quality.

Movie: The movie mode offers 320x240 / 30fps without sound. The movie mode is average, and unfortunately without sound it means videos are much less appealing. If the movies featured sound it would make this camera a better all-round digital camera.

Size + Compression options: The choices are 6mp (2816x2112), 2mp (1600x1200), VGA (640x480). Compression options are SHQ (Super High Quality) / HQ (High Quality) - available on the 6 megapixel setting - and SQ1 and SQ2 available on the 2mp setting and VGA setting. There's a small choice here regarding size / compression, and there is no 3:2 aspect ratio which is useful for people wanting to print their images at the traditional 6"x4" size.

Flash Performance: The flash performed quite well in the photos I took and performed better when the subject was closer to the camera - however I wouldn't expect the camera to light up large rooms, or groups very well. The flash was disabled in super macro mode, meaning there shouldn't be any problems taking macro photos, as long as you can get enough light. Flash charge time was quite quite at around 1-2 seconds.

Value for Money: Currently at around £120 / $199 the Olympus FE-120 / X-700 offers excellent value for money for a 6 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens, and is one of the cheapest 6 megapixel digital cameras from a mainstream brand.

Alternative compact digital cameras: The highly recommended 6 megapixel Fuji FinePix F10/F11 at £199 is definitely worth considering if you have more to spend and want a quicker camera. It has a 3x optical zoom lens, a 2.5" screen, long battery life, excellent image quality and high ISO settings allowing excellent low-light performance. The budget 5 megapixel / 3x optical zoom lens Olympus FE-110 / X705, at £99 is also worth considering for those on a tight budget. Check amazon.co.uk / amazon.com for the latest prices. See more suggestions sorted by megapixels here.

Conclusion: The Olympus FE-120 / X700 is a compact 6 megapixel digital camera with a 3x optical zoom lens and is excellent value for money, however, even more impressive is that the camera produces good to very good results, with good quality pictures with good colour and detail. The camera is consistantly able to focus, even in low-light although slow focusing may put some people off - the high success rate should compensate for the delays. The huge number of scene modes make this already easy to use camera even easier to use, and help achieve very good results. The Olympus FE-120 / X700 is definitely a bargain, and is definitely recommended for those looking for an easy to use point and shoot camera capable of making large prints.

Olympus FE-120 X700 Rating: Recommended
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What I like:

  • Impressive image quality for the price
  • Excellent value for money
  • Excellent super macro mode
  • 2 year warranty
  • Focuses well in low-light (albeit slowly)
  • Very easy to use
  • Takes AA / CR-V3 batteries - good battery life with high power ni-mh rechargable batteries
  • High speed continuous shooting (at roughly 1.3fps)
  • Lots of scene modes

What I don't like:

  • Videos lack sound
  • Lacks advanced controls (lacks custom white balance, ISO settings, etc)
  • Slow playback mode
  • Slow focusing

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the Olympus FE-120 / X700 Sample Photo Gallery.