Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on January 28 2009

olympus fe370 prev

Here’s my review of the Olympus FE370, a budget camera with a 5X zoom lens, 2.7 inch LCD and “Perfect Fix” features trickled down from some higher-end models. There’s also the Olympus FE370 photo gallery, which you may wanna check out at the end of the day as well. Hit the link for the review.


DPInterface Olympus FE370 Review

Brad Soo – January 28th, 2009

olympus fe370 intro

What happens when you take a handful of Olympus FE series cameras and mash them together? You get the Olympus FE370 of course! The new FE370 takes the “best” features of the other FE cameras and puts them all in a single, compact form factor which comes in five colors. 8 megapixels, 5X optical zoom, 2.7 inch LCD and a handful of picture tools (Perfect Fix) are what you’ll get with the FE370.

I wasn’t too impressed with Olympus’ previous attempts at the entry-level camera market. Will the FE370 be any better? Find out now.

Size and Weight

(188.8) 95.4 x 62.4 x 31.0 mm (155 g) –Canon PowerShot A1000 IS
(196.4) 101.2 x 63.8 x 31.4 mm (160 g) – Canon PowerShot E1
(172.5) 92.0 x 57.9 x 22.6 mm (146 g) – Fujifilm FinePix J150w
(192.8) 89.5 x 64.3 x 39.0 mm (164 g) – Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS
(171.0) 93.0 x 54.5 x 23.5 mm (130 g) – Nikon Coolpix S560
(174.2) 94.7 x 56.7 x 22.8 mm (128 g) – Olympus FE370
(192.8) 97.5 x 62.0 x 33.3 mm (141 g) – Panasonic Lumix LZ10
(177.5) 97.5 x 56.5 x 23.5 mm (130 g) – Pentax Optio V20
(174.3) 94.0 x 61.0 x 20.3 mm (140 g) – Samsung TL9
(175.7) 93.7 x 58.0 x 24.0 mm (142 g) – Sony Cyber-shot W170
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card

The Olympus FE370 is compact for a camera with a 5X optical zoom lens. It’s quite a bit smaller than most of the other cameras out there since it uses a proprietary lithium-ion battery (versus 2 AAs). The FE370 is also very slim and light which makes it perfect for stowing away in your pants or back pocket.

Box contents

There’s an average bundle of goodies which come with the Olympus FE370:

  • Rechargeable lithium-ion battery (LI-60B)
  • microSD/SDHC to xD-Picture card adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Olympus Master)
  • User’s manual

The Olympus FE370 doesn’t come with a memory card and has 48 MB of internal memory. The FE370 takes xD-Picture cards but is also able to support microSD/SDHC cards via a bundled adapter. I would suggest sticking with microSD/microSDHC cards since they are more widely used in technology products. A fast memory card didn’t appear to make much of a difference in the FE370’s performance so you don’t really need to spend extra on one.

450 shots – Canon PowerShot A1000 IS
450 shots – Canon PowerShot E1
150 shots – Fujifilm FinePix J150w
250 shots – Kodak EasyShare Z1085 IS
160 shots – Nikon Coolpix S560
200 shots – Olympus FE370
460 shots – Panasonic Lumix LZ10
200 shots – Pentax Optio V20
240 shots – Samsung TL9
390 shots – Sony Cyber-shot W170
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard

The Olympus FE370 uses a proprietary lithium-ion rechargeable battery and comes with a charger. The unfortunate side of a thin camera like the FE370 is that the battery has to be small too, and thus, doesn’t pack a whole lot of power. The FE370’s 200 shot battery life rating (CIPA Standard, along with some of its other ultra-thin peers, falls short of the other half of the group which uses AA batteries.

Accessories

The Olympus FE370 hasn’t got many optional extras available; an AC adapter and various camera cases.


Camera Tour

The FE370 looks like a typical camera with no radical design cues of any sort and bears a whole lot of resemblance to other of its FE-series siblings as well (color included). I almost freaked out when I initially saw this little pink Olympus camera in the box and thought they had sent me the FE360 AGAIN. The FE370 just looked so similar to the FE360 I reviewed a while back; down to the color of the cameras. I finally figured it was the FE370 by looking at the badge on the front, almost got fooled there…

Anyway, the FE370 feels the same as the others as well – plastic construction of average quality and buttons, which are a tad small for my liking. Typical for any compact camera nowadays, the Olympus FE370 comes in your choice of five colors: silver, black, red, blue and pink.

olympus fe370 front

Over here, there’s the 5X optical zoom lens I was talking about. This isn’t the first time I’m seeing this 35 – 140 mm equivalent, f3.5 – f5.6 lens though: it was present on some Olympus cameras of the past as well. The FE370 features sensor-shift image stabilization which should help in reducing blur caused by unsteady hands.

Nearby is the FE370’s built-in flash which coughs up some fairly powerful numbers (albeit at ISO 800) At wide-angle, the flash covers a range of 10 cm to 3.8 m and at telephoto, it drops to 60 cm to 2.6 m. Next to that is the camera’s self-timer lamp – that’s right, no AF-assist lamp to be found on the FE370 folks! To the bottom right of the lens is the camera’s microphone (you can’t really see it clearly here).

olympus fe370 back

The Olympus FE370 has a 2.7 inch LCD which has a nicely usable resolution of 230,000 pixels. The screen’s visibility in low-light is decent while outdoor visibility is very good thanks to the backlight boost function.

The first things I’d like to highlight are the camera’s activity indicator light and two small buttons to enter shooting mode and playback mode respectively. That’s followed by the mode dial:

  • Program mode
  • Night portrait mode
  • Portrait mode
  • Landscape mode
  • Scene mode
  • In-camera guide
  • Movie mode
  • Intelligent Auto (sounds a bit Panasonic-ish, doesn’t it?)

The half-moon shaped button near the mode dial is the FE370’s Display button used to toggle the information shown on-screen as well as bring up a help tooltip of camera settings in the menu. There’s the round five-way controller used to navigate menus and browse pictures as well:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 EV in 1/3 steps)
  • Down – Self timer of 12 seconds (On/off)
  • Left – Macro mode (Off, normal macro, super macro)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, red-eye reduction, on, off)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

olympus fe370 scr1

The function menu

The center button brings up a brief list of options (to be exact, four things) you can adjust in shooting mode:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, tungsten, 3 fluorescent options)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, high auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • Image size and compression

One thing of note before we move on is that the Olympus FE370’s ISO 3200 mode lowers resolution down to 3 megapixels. The last two are the MENU and Backlight boost buttons. The backlight boost function increases the FE370’s LCD brightness with just a press of a button, making it easier to see outdoors. The same button here doubles to delete photos in playback too.

olympus fe370 top

There’s nothing much to see at the top of the Olympus FE370… you’ll find the camera on/off button and shutter button with a zoom controller wrapped around it.

olympus fe370 side

There’s nothing to see here other than how thin the FE370 is for an entry-level camera.

olympus fe370 port

On the other side of the camera are the wrist strap loop and a single connectivity port hidden under a plastic door. The port is used to connect the camera to your television set or computer (the FE370 supports the USB 2.0 High-speed standard) via the bundled cables.

olympus fe370 bottom

Down here are the FE370’s battery/memory card compartment, plastic tripod mount and speaker. The plastic compartment door doesn’t feel too solid.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

The Olympus FE370’s display is pretty bare with merely a handful of shooting information viewable. The camera lacks a battery indicator and a live histogram. There are multiple image resolutions to select from; 8 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, VGA and widescreen, with two compression options (Fine and Normal).

olympus fe370 scr2olympus fe370 scr3

The FE370 has only two “camera menu” pages with shooting functions:

  • White balance
  • ISO sensitivity
  • Fine zoom
  • Sensor-shift image stabilization (On/off)
  • Voice clip recording (On/off)
  • Panorama mode – Line up and take up to 10 photos to stitch them into a single panorama later. An Olympus braded xD-Picture card is required for panorama mode.
  • Autofocus mode (iESP auto, spot, face detection)

The Olympus FE370 has an Intelligent Auto mode which, as you can tell from the name, detects the scene you’re shooting and automatically selects one of five modes (portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro and sport) to suit the scene. The camera also features the apparent “must-haves” on all cameras nowadays: Face Detection which detects up to 16 faces and Smile Shot where you press the shutter button and the camera will wait until your subject smiles before taking three pictures in a row.

The Olympus FE370 has both sensor-shift and digital image stabilization. You’d be better off activating sensor-shift stabilization but staying away from the digital image stabilizer mode as the latter merely boosts ISO to freeze action. Typical for an Olympus camera, the FE370 also has Perfect Shot Preview which shows the effects of different settings simultaneously in a grid of 4 previews on the LCD.

Besides the three main scene modes on the camera’s mode dial earlier, the FE370 has numerous other scene modes which include night scene, sport, indoor, candle, self-portrait, sunset, fireworks, behind glass, cuisine, documents, auction and smile shot. There are no manual controls on this fully automatic compact camera… if you wanna take night shots, the night scene mode will select a shutter speed automatically up to 4 seconds.

As with some other Olympus cameras, the FE370 has two macro modes. The first “normal” macro mode isn’t that great with the closest focusing distance being 10 cm at wide-angle and 60 cm at telephoto. Super macro mode is much better with a minimum focusing distance of 3 cm, though the lens will be locked at wide-angle in this mode.

Video Recording

The Olympus FE370 has an average movie mode which records VGA (640 X 480) video clips with sound at 30 FPS. To extend recording time, you have the option of lowering the frame rate of movies to 15 FPS, cut the resolution in half to QVGA (320 X 240) or both.

Video and audio quality was average in quality. You cannot use optical zoom or image stabilization while recording a movie though.

Performance

All performance testing of the Olympus FE370 was performed using a 1 GB Olympus xD-Picture card.

The Olympus FE370 extends its lens and is ready to go in two seconds. Autofocus speeds can vary from 1/4 to a full second, depending on lighting and lens zoom position. In low-light, the camera had a hard time focusing thanks to the lack of an AF-assist lamp on the FE370.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.9 seconds, barely average
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 5 seconds on average

One thing I found disappointing on some previous FE-series cameras was they lacked any sort of burst mode. Unfortunately, the Olympus FE370 is no better as it lacks a burst mode as well.

Zooming speed from wide-angle to telephoto took around 2 seconds while shutting down the camera with the lens at telephoto took close to three seconds. Overall, the FE370 can be considered to be a wee bit faster than previous FE-series cameras but still doesn’t come close to many other cameras of its class in terms of speed (and it lacks a burst mode too).

Image Quality

Let’s see how the FE370 performs in terms of image quality now:

iso200

ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/5 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/10 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/20 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f3.5, 1/40 sec)

iso3200

ISO 3200 (f3.5, 1/100 sec)

The Olympus FE370 still produces decent pictures at ISO 200, though we see a bit of fuzziness here. At ISO 400, we see even more “fuzzy” noise. At ISO 800, there’s some smudging (see how the borders between the individual color boxes aren’t that visible). ISO 1600 is very noisy, I doubt you can do anything with this setting. ISO 3200 is worse as image resolution is lowered to 3 megapixels and things are VERY noisy.

Barrel distortion in photos was moderate while there was little pincushion distortion to be seen. On the positive note, there are low amounts of chromatic aberration (color fringing) and redeye can be removed via the redeye removal tool in playback mode. Overall, image quality on the Olympus FE370 was generally good up till ISO 400.

Photo gallery

Visit the Olympus FE370 photo gallery to view full-sized sample photos.


Playback

olympus fe370 scr5olympus fe370 scr6

The Olympus FE370 has a playback mode which features some elaborate functions. There’s the usual browsing of pictures and video playback with sound available plus image protection, rotation, print marking, voice clip attachment and a simple slideshow function. Photos can be magnified by 10X and scrolled around using the 4 navigational buttons.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos, in sets of four, nine, sixteen or twenty five thumbnails. You can also tag photos under the “My Favorites” so you can quickly access them later on.

In addition, there’s a bunch of editing functions in the FE370’s playback mode which Olympus calls “Perfect Fix”. Under this area, you can remove redeye, brighten photos (Lighting fix), edit expressions (which literally turns frowns upside down), resize and crop photos. A Face Focus function detects faces in your photos and automatically crops the photo to where the face is (though this works best with one or two faces only).

olympus fe370 scr4

The Olympus FE370 shows you various shooting details and exposure information (with shutter speed and aperture value) about your photos in playback but does not include any histogram.

Conclusion

The Olympus FE370 is a very small camera with a 5X stabilized zoom lens and it costs less than $200. The FE370 has some pretty run-of-the-mill features which include an 8 megapixel sensor, 2.7 inch LCD and point-and-shoot operation with many scene modes.

The good points of the FE370 are the viewable LCD, its ability to support microSDHC (I’m saying this because xD-Picture cards are so proprietary) via the bundled adapter and various playback tools. No doubt the FE370 produces some pretty decent photos (some competition can do better though) but the camera still compromises other key areas of shooting such as performance and battery life.

To answer my own question at the beginning of the review; yes, the Olympus FE370 feature (very) slight improvements compared to previous cameras in this line BUT despite that, the camera is still behind in terms of battery life, performance and doesn’t even have any burst mode compared to the competition. Unfortunately, the FE370 does not get my recommendation – there are better cameras around that you can buy for the same money.

What’s hot:

  • 5X zoom lens in an ultra-compact form factor
  • Good image quality till ISO 400
  • Viewable 2.7 inch LCD
  • Supports xD-Picture card and microSDHC (via included adapter)
  • Perfect Shot Preview and playback editing tools

What’s not:

  • No manual controls
  • Below average battery life
  • Camera lacks a burst mode
  • Sub-par performance

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB microSD/xD-Picture memory card
  • Extra lithium-ion rechargeable battery


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