Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on September 16 2009

olympus fe3010 prev

Here’s my review of the Olympus FE3010, an entry-level 12 megapixel camera. Head on to the Olympus FE3010 photo gallery for full-size pictures too.


DPInterface Olympus FE3010 Review

Brad Soo – September 16th, 2009

olympus fe3010 intro

The Olympus FE3010 is a super-budget camera with 12 megapixels, a 3X zoom lens and 2.7 inch LCD. The camera is fairly slim and stylish for a camera this price but is it really a good deal? Find out now.

Box contents

The Olympus FE3010 comes with an average bundle:

  • LI-42B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • microSD to xD-Picture card adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD (Olympus Master)
  • User’s manual

The Olympus FE3010 has 19MB of built-in memory and doesn’t come with a memory card. The Olympus FE3010 supports xD Picture cards natively, as well as microSD cards via the included adapter, though xD-cards are needed to make full use of the camera’s VGA movie mode. To be honest, I’m not a fan of proprietary memory card formats at all.

The Olympus FE3010 uses the same LI-42B lithium-ion rechargeable battery, as some of Olympus’ Stylus models, and comes with a charger in the box. The camera is rated to last only 180 shots per charge (CIPA Standard), which is below average.

Accessories

Besides various camera cases, there’s also a waterproof case available for the FE3010 that allows you to bring the camera as deep as 40 m. Ironically, the waterproof case costs more than the camera itself!


Camera Tour

The Olympus FE3010 is a very slim camera with a simple design and decent build quality. The camera is made almost entirely of plastic but doesn’t have many ‘weak’ spots except the memory/battery compartment door. Ergonomics were average for a compact camera too, there’s plenty of space for holding the camera, though its controls may be a bit small for some.

The FE3010 comes in your choice of three colors: black, silver or pink. The camera measures 93.0 x 58.8 x 17.8 mm and weighs 108 grams empty.

olympus fe3010 front

The Olympus FE3010 is like a mash-up of the FE45 and FE5010 cameras I reviewed this year. The camera has a very familiar 3X zoom lens, equivalent to 36 – 108 mm, f3.1 to f5.9. There’s no image stabilization here, sadly.

To the lower right side of the lens is the camera’s microphone. The flash unit and self-timer light are positioned to the upper left side near the Olympus logo. The flash has a fairly powerful at wide-angle, covering 20 cm to 4.5 m at wide-angle and 60 cm to 2.3 m at telephoto. Those numbers are at ISO 800, so the range may go down a bit when you use lower ISO settings.

olympus fe3010 back

The FE3010 has a nice and sharp 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels (possibly the same thing I saw on the F5010). The LCD has good visibility in low-light and bright light as well thanks to the LCD Brightness Boost feature.

Next to the LCD are FE3010’s various buttons. First off is the nicely sized zoom controller followed by the DISPLAY button, used to toggle what you see on the LCD. The DISPLAY button doubles to bring up a help screen/tooltip when you’re using the menu or browsing through scene modes.

Next are the buttons with red and blue icons on them; they’re for switching to shooting mode and entering playback respectively. That’s followed by the square five-way navigation pad where each direction offers quick access to a shooting function:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 exposure in 1/3 step increments)
  • Down – Self-timer (Off, on – 12 seconds)
  • Left – Macro (Off, normal macro, super macro)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, auto with redeye reduction, on, off)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

olympus fe3010 scr2

The function menu

The function menu on the camera is brought up by pressing the center button on the navigation pad:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent 1,2 & 3)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Image size and compression

Two more buttons are located to the very bottom of the FE3010. The left one brings up the camera’s MENU while the one on the right is the Backlight Boost button. Press the button and the LCD brightness gets turned up so you can see the screen image outdoors/in bright light. The Backlight Boost button doubles as a “delete photo” button in playback.

olympus fe3010 top

The top of the Olympus FE3010 is simple: all you’ll find are a power button and shutter button.

olympus fe3010 side

This side of the camera is blank, while there’s the speaker and wrist strap loop on the other side of the FE3010.

olympus fe3010 bottom

At the bottom of the Olympus FE3010 is a plastic tripod mount and memory/battery compartment door. The compartment door is of average build quality. There’s also a single port used for both USB and A/V Out connectivity here.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

olympus fe3010 scr1

Shooting screens (from Olympus Stylus 6000 review)

The Olympus FE3010 displays a good amount of on-screen information. You’ll get to see exposure and shooting details, 3 X 3 gridlines, zoom indicator and a simple battery indicator.

The image resolution options available on the FE3010 are 12 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP (normal and widescreen), 1 MP and VGA; along with two image compression options; Fine and Normal.

olympus fe3010 scr3olympus fe3010 scr4

The FE3010 has your standard issue Olympus menu system with a nice splash of purple to make things look a lot more interesting. As a basic, entry-level offering, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the FE3010 has just one camera menu page:

  • White balance and ISO – I’ve talked about these when discussing the Function menu
  • Sound memo (On/off)
  • Panorama mode setup
  • Face detection On/Off

The Olympus FE3010 has a panorama mode which allows you to take up to 10 pictures in a row and then later stitch them into a single, large panorama using the bundled software Olympus bundles with the camera.

The camera has a Perfect Shot Preview feature which comes up when you’d adjusting exposure compensation. The camera basically splits the screen into four separate previews to show you the effects of different exposure compensation values.

Face and smile detection
The Olympus FE3010 has a pretty straightforward face detection system that can find up to 16 faces in a frame. Unlike the FE5010, the Olympus FE3010 does not have smile detection.

Scene modes and macro
The Olympus FE3010 has two macro modes. Normal macro mode allows you to go as close as 10 cm to a subject at wide-angle and 60 cm at telephoto. Super macro is much better as it lowers minimum focusing distance down to 5 cm, though the lens is fixed at wide-angle in this mode.

The Olympus FE3010 has no manual controls, only a bunch of scene modes which include portrait, landscape, night scene, night + portrait, sport, indoor, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, underwater and underwater macro.

The camera has an Intelligent Auto mode which selects one of five preset scene modes automatically (portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro or sport) so all you need to do is press the shutter button.

Video Recording

The Olympus FE3010 has a standard-issue VGA movie mode which should be fine for most people. You can record VGA (640 x 480) movies with sound at 30 FPS – the catch here is you MUST use an xD-Picture card, otherwise, you’re forced to stick with other settings (either by reducing frame rate to 15 FPS, lowering resolution to QVGA (320 x 240) or both).

Exposure is automatically adjusted as expected, but you cannot use optical zoom while recording a movie. Video and audio quality were both decent, nothing to brag about here.

Performance

All performance testing of the Olympus FE3010 was performed using a 1 GB Olympus xD-Picture card.

The Olympus FE3010 has an average start up time of 2.5 seconds. The camera’s autofocus was good in bright conditions (taking 0.3 to 0.5 seconds to focus) but rather crummy in low-light. Expect a lot of focus hunting and inaccuracy when trying to take pictures in dim conditions.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.6 seconds, so-so
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 5 seconds on average

As if the xD-Picture card requirement for the camera’s movie mode wasn’t agonizing enough, the Olympus FE3010 doesn’t have any burst mode either! Bottom line here is the Olympus FE3010 is not a fast camera. Its performance hovers around the ‘average’ and ‘poor’ levels, and it’s disappointing that the camera lacks a burst mode.

Image Quality

Moving on, we’ll be taking a look at the Olympus FE3010’s image quality:

iso100

ISO 100 (f3.1, 1/20 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f3.1, 1/40 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f3.1, 1/60 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f3.1, 1/160 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f3.1, 1/320 sec)

The Olympus FE3010 is off to a not-so-smooth start with some noticeable grain at ISO 100. Image quality here is suitable for general printing though. More color noise appears at ISO 200 and it just gets worse as we approach ISO 400.

For general use, I would recommend sticking to the ISO 100 to 400 range. Image quality at ISO 800 and ISO 1600 becomes just too unacceptable with high noise levels and plenty of details destroyed.

chart

I noticed high levels of chromatic aberration (color fringing) and softness produced by the FE3010’s lens. I’ve knocked this specific 3X zoom lens (36-108 mm, f3.1-5.9) many times, and for a good reason too – it seems to be super ‘cheap’ and brings image softness and color fringing to every camera that uses it.

From what I see here and comparing results to the Olympus FE5010 I reviewed just last week, the Olympus FE3010 produces softer, less detailed results with more visible noise (strange, they both use the same 12 megapixel sensor, I think. The camera’s image quality in other areas also suffers thanks to the crummy lens – lots of color fringing and un-sharp results.

Photo gallery

Have a look at full-sized photos in the Olympus FE3010 photo gallery!


Playback

olympus fe3010 scr6olympus fe3010 scr7

The Olympus FE3010 has a very basic playback mode with run-of-the-mill functions such as print marking, slideshow, voice clip attachment, image cropping, resizing and rotation. Photos can be magnified by 10X for detail inspection.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos or in sets of 4, 9, 16 or 25 thumbnails. There’s just one photo editing feature here on the FE3010 – that’s a tool to brighten photos (some additional noise may appear) – and no movie editing tools.

olympus fe3010 scr5

The Olympus FE3010 tells you pretty much everything about your photos (shooting and exposure information) minus a histogram.

Conclusion

If you *thought* of saving a few more bucks by going for the FE3010, I’d advise you to rethink your decision. The Olympus FE3010 is more than just a 3X zoom version of the FE5010 (which has a 5X lens), it’s a huge step down in many ways.

Both cameras have a few things in common: 12 megapixels of resolution, a nice 2.7 inch LCD, simple point-and-shoot operation, VGA movie mode and built-in help tooltips… but the differences end there. The Olympus FE3010 has even fewer menu options, playback tools and produces lower quality images versus its 5X zoom sibling. You also lose the latter’s sensor-shift image stabilization if you pick the FE3010.

I’ll cut to the chase here – Olympus makes great SLRs, decent compact cameras but they have a long way to go with ‘super cheap’ cameras. I’d pass on the FE3010 as you can find better cameras out there. For the same price as the FE3010, you could pick up a Canon A480 or one of the Panasonic LS/FS cameras which perform better in terms of speed and image quality. Not to mention they don’t compromise on features such as burst mode.

What’s hot:

  • Easy to use; Intelligent Auto picks a scene mode for you
  • 2.7 inch LCD with good visibility
  • Perfect Shot Preview and in-camera help tooltips

What’s not:

  • No manual controls
  • Crummy battery life
  • No real image stabilization
  • Soft, noise images; lots of color fringing
  • No burst mode
  • So-so movie mode, memory card requirement
  • Below average low-light focusing

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB xD-Picture or microSD card


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