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Olympus FE-240 Digital Camera Full Review
by Ben Stafford -  5/7/2007

The Olympus FE-240 is another 7.1 megapixel model in Olympus’ latest line-up of four digital cameras in the FE line.  This one distinguishes itself from it’s cheaper sibling, the FE-230, by adding a 5x optical zoom.  The FE-240 also has a 2.5 inch LCD.  The Olympus FE line is well-suited to entry level digital photographers, with well-built cameras and plenty of easy to use features, like a built-in Guide system. 

olympus fe-240
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If you like the FE-240, but want a slightly better resolution LCD and an additional megapixel of resolution, you can pay just a bit more for the Olympus FE-250.  However, the FE-250 doesn’t have the 5x optical zoom.

NUTS & BOLTS

Image Sensor

The FE-240 is a 7.1 megapixel camera.  The maximum size of an image is 3072x2304 pixels.  There are two compression levels (SHQ and HQ) at this size, but you can also choose from 2048x1536, 640x480, and 1920x1080 (16:9 aspect ratio).

LCD

The 2.5 inch LCD on the back of the FE-210 has 115K pixels of resolution.  The display is pretty fluid and gains up or down depending on lighting conditions.  Colors are represented well.  There is no optical viewfinder of any type on this camera.

Zoom

The FE-240 has a 5x optical zoom lens (38 – 190mm in 35mm terms).  Thirteen steps along the optical zoom range provide a fair amount of control over your framing.  The lens has a maximum aperture of f3.3 at wide angle.

Focus Modes and Focus Ranges

In normal focus mode, at wide angle and telephoto, you can focus on objects as close as 27.6 inches.  In macro mode and wide angle, you can focus as close as 7.9 inches.  With macro and telephoto, it moves out to 23.6 inches.  In super macro mode, you can focus as close as 1.2 inches.

Flash

The built-in flash has a wide angle range from 0.66 feet to 11.8 feet.  At telephoto, the flash range is 2 – 7.9 feet.  The flash can be set to auto, red-eye reduction, fill (always on), and off.

olympus fe-240 sample image
Flash shot at around 8 feet (view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
Flash shot between 10 and 12 feet (view medium image) (view large image)

Memory Media

Images can be stored on xD-Picture Card (up to 2GB) media or you can use the internal memory, which is just enough to store about 3 images at SHQ quality setting.

Image/Movie File Format(s)

Images are stored as JPEG only.  Movies are captured as AVI Motion JPEG with audio files.

Connectivity

There is a multiconnector for USB 2.0 Full Speed out and AV out.

Power

The FE-240 is powered by the LI-42B lithium-ion battery pack (740 mAh).

EXPOSURE

Auto Mode

The FE-240 is truly just a point and shoot digital camera.  There are no other exposure modes other than auto and scene modes.  In auto mode, you can adjust the flash mode, focus mode (normal, macro, or super macro), exposure compensation, and self-timer mode (12 second timer).

There is also a digital image stabilization mode on the mode dial that is essentially an auto mode, but it will bump up the camera’s sensitivity in order to minimize blur.


Without digital image stabilization (view medium image) (view large image)

Digital Image Stabilization mode (view medium image) (view large image)

If you need additional guidance with your shots, Olympus has also included their Guide system on this camera.  The Guide menu prompts you for the type of shot or effect that you want and will set the camera accordingly.

Scene Modes

There are plenty of scene modes to choose from on the FE-240.  They put three of them (portrait, landscape, and night portrait) on the mode dial for easy access.  If you want more, there is a “scene” entry on the mode dial that gives you access to a larger menu of scene mode options.  You can choose from Portrait, Landscape, Night & Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Sunset, Sport, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Behind Glass, and Auction.

Movie Mode

The FE-240 can capture 640x480 movies at 30 frames per second and 320x240 at 30fps.  Unlike its little sibling, the FE-210, you can capture movies with audio.  If you do want to capture audio, then optical zoom is not available (but digital zoom is).  If you’d rather have the optical zoom, you can disable sound capture (so you don’t capture the sound of the zoom motor).

Metering

The user cannot change the metering method used by the FE-240.

White Balance

The white balance setting is fully automatic on the FE-240.

Sensitivity

The FE-240 only allows itself to adjust the ISO, but it has an ISO range of 50-1000.

In-Camera Image Adjustment

Really the only thing you can change during image capture is the exposure compensation.  During image playback, you can resize and rotate images.  Also during image playback, the FE-240 has digital image stabilization edit.  When a shot is taken, movement data is captured by on-board gyros.  The camera can use this data to fix blurriness in the image.

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The FE-240 is very slim and pocketable and looks like a much more expensive camera than it really is.  It measures 3.7" W x 2.2" H x 0.79" D and weighs 4.1 ounces without battery or a media card. 

olympus fe-240
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olympus fe-240
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Build quality is excellent and the controls are easy to access.  The zoom control is the ring type of control around the shutter button and is easy to operate.  The shooting mode dial makes it easy to move around various shooting modes quickly and with a glance.  In case you’re not sure, there are plenty of on-screen instructions and descriptions about pretty much everything you can do with the camera.  The 5-way control pad is a little hard to operate, requiring a little more strength to operate than is typical.

The front of the camera has the lens, flash, microphone, and self-timer lamp.

olympus fe-240
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In addition to the 2.5 inch LCD, the back of the camera has two buttons along the top to switch between capture and playback modes.  The shooting mode dial is on the top right of the back.  Right below that is the 5-way control pad.  At the bottom right is the menu button and delete button.

olympus fe-240
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The top of the camera has the power button, zoom control, and shutter release.

olympus fe-240
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The bottom of the camera has the battery/media compartment and tripod mount.

olympus fe-240
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The right side of the camera has a plastic door covering the USB/AV out multiconnector.

Included

Olympus includes a wrist strap, quick start guide, lithium-ion battery, battery charger, USB cable, AV cable, Olympus Master 2.0 CD-ROM, printed basic manual, and advanced manual on CD-ROM.

PERFORMANCE

Images from the FE-240 were very comparable to its cheaper sibling, the FE-230.  Having the 5x optical zoom on the FE-240 is a definitely plus though.  The color reproduction was pleasing and the automatic white balance did a pretty good job.  Details were sharp with just a touch of softness at the edge of the frame – nothing to worry about unless you’re really looking for it.  Default exposure was good.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was visible and about average.  The purple fringing is noticeable only when you zoom in areas where there is a high contrast transition.  Despite the better optical zoom, the lens distortion on the FE-240 was better than both the FE-210 and FE-230 (see shots below).


Wide angle (view large image)

Full telephoto (view large image)

Timing/Shutter Lag

The FE-240 was just about average in the speed department.  Start up was right around 2.5 seconds.  If you do a full press of the shutter, you first have to wait for a focus lock and for the camera to calculate exposure and this took about 0.7-0.8 seconds.  If you do a partial press first (which I highly recommend) to get that critical focus lock, it only takes less than 0.1 seconds to capture the shot after depressing the button the rest of the way.  Under difficult lighting and focus conditions, the FE-240 was taking up to 2 seconds to focus with its 5x optical zoom.  In better conditions, focus time was under 1 second.  The cycle time (time between shots) was about 4-5 seconds without flash, and about 6 seconds with flash.  When I was testing, the battery was in good condition and I was using a Fujifilm M-type xD-Picture Card.  Card access time was my least favorite part – during playback, it would take 3-4 seconds to page through my images.

Additional Sample Images

olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)
olympus fe-240 sample image
(view medium image) (view large image)

Conclusion

If you have your eye on a new Olympus FE model and have a bit more to spend than you would on the FE-230, I would point you towards the FE-240, with its 5x optical zoom.  They’re essentially identical cameras, except for the lens.  While camera speed is not amazing and LCD is not always great outdoors, the camera takes solid, pleasing images.  If you’re also looking for an affordable, slim camera with a 5x optical zoom, the FE-240 also fits the bill.

Pros

Cons