DigitalCameraReview.com
Olympus FE-250 Review
by Ben Stafford -  5/10/2007

The Olympus FE-250 is the current top of the line FE model from Olympus.  The FE-250 features 8 megapixel resolution, a 3x optical zoom, and a 2.5 inch LCD.  A slim, metal body and good construction give it the feel of a more expensive camera.

olympus fe-250
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The FE-250 is the latest FE model that I’ve reviewed, and it’s the most expensive.  It sets itself apart from the slightly cheaper FE-240 by adding a megapixel of capture resolution and by having a slightly higher resolution LCD.

olympus fe-250
FE-210, FE-230, FE-240, FE-250 (view large image)

olympus fe-250
FE-210, FE-230, FE-240, FE-250 (view large image)

NUTS & BOLTS

Image Sensor

The FE-250 is a 8 megapixel camera.  The maximum size of an image is 3264x2448 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-250 has 230K 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-250 has a 3x optical zoom lens (35 – 105mm 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 f32.8 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 23.6 inches.  In macro mode and wide angle, you can focus as close as 11.8 inches.  With macro and telephoto, it moves out to 19.7 inches.  In super macro mode, you can focus as close as 3.9 inches.

Flash

The built-in flash has a wide angle range from 0.98 feet to 14.1 feet.  At telephoto, the flash range is 1.6 – 8.5 feet.  The flash can be set to auto, red-eye reduction, fill (always on), and off.


Flash shot at around 8 feet (view medium image) (view large image)

Flash shot at 10-12 feet (view medium image) (view large image)

Memory Media

Images can be stored on xD-Picture Card (up to 2GB) media and approximately 20MB of internal memory.

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-250 is powered by the LI-42B lithium-ion battery pack (740 mAh).

EXPOSURE

Auto Mode

The FE-250 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, self-timer mode (12 second timer), ISO setting, and drive setting (single or burst).  The burst mode can take up to 12 images at the SQ1 quality setting (2048x1536) at 5 frames per second.

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.

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-250.  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, Pet, and Auction.

Movie Mode

The FE-250 can capture 640x480 movies at 30 frames per second and 320x240 at 15fps.  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-250.

White Balance

The white balance setting is fully automatic on the FE-250.

Sensitivity

On the FE-250, you can set the ISO to Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, and 10000.  If you set the camera to ISO 6400 or 10000, the resolution gets bumped down to the SQ1 setting.

ISO 64ISO 100ISO 200
ISO 400ISO 800ISO 1600

 

In-Camera Image Adjustment

Really the only thing you can change during image capture is the exposure compensation and ISO setting.  During image playback, you can resize and rotate images. 

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The FE-250 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 0.88" D and weighs 4.1 ounces without battery or a media card. 

olympus fe-250
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olympus fe-250
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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-250
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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-250
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The top of the camera has the power button, zoom control, and shutter release.

olympus fe-250
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The bottom of the camera has the battery/media compartment and tripod mount.

olympus fe-250
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The right side of the camera has a plastic door covering the USB/AV out multiconnector.

olympus fe-250
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Included

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

PERFORMANCE

Overall, the image quality from the FE-250 was similar to the other FE models that I’ve reviewed recently except that it tended to overexpose things just a bit.  Because of this, colors were just a bit flat, but still accurate.  Details were generally sharp with just a touch of softness at the edge of the frame – nothing to worry about unless you’re really looking for it.  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 levels were very low, better than the FE-250’s brethren. Default white balance indoors was a little spotty, as you can see in the left shot below. To combat this, you can try some of the other white balance settings until color casts are gone.


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Barrel distortion (left) and pincushion distortion (right) very well under control. Sorry about the white balance on the left shot.

Timing/Shutter Lag

The FE-250 was just about average in the speed department.  Start up was right around 2.5 to 3 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-250 was taking up to 2 seconds to focus.  The cycle time (time between shots) was about 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 much better than any of the other FE cameras that I tested.  When paging through images, it was just about instantaneous vs the 3-4 seconds it would take with the other cameras.

Additional Sample Images

olympus fe-250 sample image
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olympus fe-250 sample image
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olympus fe-250 sample image
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olympus fe-250 sample image
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olympus fe-250 sample image
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olympus fe-250 sample image
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Conclusion

The FE-250 is the best performing model in the current FE lineup.  While its image quality results are similar to the other models, it has the best overall operation speed.  In particular, card access times are much better than its siblings.  Otherwise, the FE-250 still has the slim, well-constructed metal body of the other FE cameras and all of the features that make it very usable for entry level users, like the built-in Guide system and plenty of on-screen help and descriptions.

Pros

Cons