DCRP Review: Olympus FE-190
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The Olympus FE-190 is a compact, stylish point-and-shoot camera with a street price of around $185. That's pretty cheap for an all-metal camera, in case you're wondering. The FE-190 has a 6 Megapixel CCD, 3X zoom lens, 2.5" LCD display, digital image stabilization, and numerous scene modes. If it's manual controls you're after, you'll likely be disappointed with this camera, though -- it has none.
Is the the FE-190 a great camera for the money, or did Olympus cut too many corners to keep the price down? Find out now in our review!
The FE190 is known as the X-750 in some countries.
What's in the Box?
The FE-190 has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Like many cameras these days, Olympus has built memory right into the camera instead of bundling a memory card. The FE-190 has 22MB of onboard memory, which holds a grand total of five photos at the highest quality setting. That means that you'll want to get a memory card right away. Like all Olympus cameras, the FE-190 uses xD Picture Cards, and I'd suggest starting out with a 512MB card. There's no need to get a high speed (Type H) card for use with this camera.
The FE-190 uses the familiar LI-42B lithium-ion battery. This compact battery holds a paltry 2.7 Wh of energy, which is about as low as you'll find these days. Here's how that translates into battery life:
While not horrible, the FE-190's battery life is still a bit below average.
As you may know, I'm not a huge fan of the proprietary batteries used by cameras like the FE-190. They're expensive (around $38 each), and you can't put in a set of alkalines to get you through the rest of the day like you could with an AA-based camera. Then again, you'd be hard pressed to find an ultra-thin camera that uses AAs.
Olympus includes the above external battery charger in the box with the FE-190. This charger is pretty slow, taking a whopping five hours to fully charge the LI-42B. It doesn't plug directly into the wall like some chargers -- you must use a power cable.
Like all ultra-compact cameras, the FE-190 has a built-in lens cover, so there's no lens cap to deal with.
Being an entry-level camera, you shouldn't be surprised by the FE-190's lack of optional accessories. There's an accessory kit (priced from $45), which includes a leather case, extra battery, and a metal strap. You can also buy the metal strap on its own (priced from $16), and there are three camera cases to choose from as well, in red, black, and brown.
One thing that appears to not be available: an AC adapter. The camera appears to support one (there's a hole for a DC coupler cable to go through) but I can't find any evidence that such a thing exists.
Olympus includes their very nice Olympus Master software in the box with the FE-190. When you first start it up you'll be presented with the screen above. Options here include transferring images from a camera or memory card or browsing, sharing, and printing photos that have already been transferred. A backup option will save your photos to your hard drive or CD/DVD disk.
Here's the main image browsing screen. In the left pane you can choose how images are viewed: by date or category. Powerful searching features let you find images in a number of ways. The thumbnails in the center of the screen load quickly and you can adjust their size in real time. On the right side you'll find shooting data as well as links to Olympus and their partners.
Items in the toolbar include rotation, editing, printing, and e-mailing. There is also a handy panorama stitching tool that will combine several photos into one.
Here is the editing screen, where you'll find rotation and cropping, "instant fix", redeye reduction, and color balance options.
The Master software can be updated to the "plus version" for $20 more. This adds movie editing capabilities, HTML album creation, improved image e-mailing, more printing options, and the ability to make Video CDs.
While Olympus actually included a full, printed manual with their Stylus 750 camera, FE-190 owners are not as lucky. While there is a printed "basic" manual in the box, the book with the really useful details is found only on a bundled CD-ROM. The quality of the manuals are decent, I just don't like having to load it up on my computer when I need to look something up.
Look and Feel
The FE-190 has a stylish, ultra-compact metal body that is more commonly found on cameras costing nearly twice as much. The only parts of the camera that aren't metal are the flimsy door over the memory card / battery compartment and the tripod mount, both of which are plastic. Even with those two weak spots, the camera is quite well built for its price.
The important camera controls are where they should be, and there aren't too many buttons to confuse you. The only complaint I have regarding ergonomics is that the zoom controller could be larger.
Now, here's a look at how the FE-190 compares to other ultra-compacts in terms of size and weight: