Test review of the Olympus X-890 digital camera
Olympus is a prolific manufacturer of digital cameras, with over two dozen compacts and seven digital SLRs in its range. It also makes exclusive cameras for retailers, such as this Jessops-only model, the X-890.
The X-890 is basically a 10-megapixel version of the 12-megapixel FE-3010, a lightweight ultra-compact with a 3x zoom lens, 2.7in 230k monitor, and a distinctly limited feature set.
Priced at £129 the X-890 is a relatively cheap camera, and it feels even cheaper. The plain box-like body shell is made of fairly thin plastic, and the build quality is not good. The front facia especially feels very flimsy and flexes alarmingly when squeezed. The see-through plastic controls look and feel cheap and tacky, the flimsy battery hatch has no clasp and comes open with little provocation, and the whole thing has a distinctly toy-like feel to it. There are £65 Chinese imports sold in supermarkets that are more solidly constructed than this.
The X-890 is supposed to be a simple, easy-to-use camera, but even so it offers only the most basic list of features and options. The fiddly and annoying main menu, which has been tarted up slightly by the addition of a minimally animated front page, offers a choice of program auto, scene mode with 12 scene programs, iAuto mode which selects automatically between five common scene programs, and the DIS mode, which is supposed to be digital image stabilisation, but in fact seems to just boost the ISO setting to the maximum 1600, which gives a faster shutter speed but produces horrible image quality. There is also a movie mode, shooting VGA resolution at 30fps with mono audio recording, although there is no audio playback on the camera.
There is also a quick function menu that allows control over white balance (six presets and auto, no manual), ISO setting (auto and 100-1600), image size and compression quality. Secondary functions on the Dpad control flash mode, macro, flash mode and self timer (10 seconds only).
The X-890 has no continuous shooting mode, not too surprising considering that its shot-to-shot time in single-shot mode is over five seconds, even when using a high-speed xD card. The autofocus system is slow even in good light, taking over a second to lock on to a high-contrast target, and in low light it’s even worse. Unsurprisingly the X-890 has no AF assist lamp, however this barely matters because the LCD monitor is so dark it’s impossible to aim a shot in low light anyway. It has a brightness control, but it really doesn’t help. The monitor also has a very limited angle of view vertically. It’s fine from side to side, but lift the camera over your head and the monitor view is lost.
Image quality is also very poor. The lens is so dim and hazy that I thought at first it had fingermarks on it, but it was spotlessly clean, just not very good.
It produces chromatic aberration and appalling barrel distortion at wide angle, massive corner blurring at all focal lengths, and is extremely prone to lens flare. Colours look pale and washed out, and many pictures have a slight blue colour cast. Image noise is also poorly handled. There is noise visible in shots even at 100 ISO, and it gets progressively worse as sensitivity is increased. Shots taken at 400 and above look like they were shot on a mobile phone
Although its price makes it look like a bargain, the X-890 is a very low quality camera, with sub-standard build quality, slow performance, terrible image quality and a general lack of useful features. There are much better cameras that cost even less.