A low-cost camera with a wideangle 5x zoom, the Olympus FE-5020 also boasts 12MP and comes in a range of colours. WDC’s Olympus FE-5020 review reveals how it performs
Olympus has re-launched its budget FE series with this ultra-compact 12-megapixel camera featuring a 5x zoom lens with a 24mm wideangle setting. It’s designed to appeal to the cost-conscious shopper who is looking for a stylish and versatile camera but doesn’t want to spend too much. The Olympus FE-5020 is currently selling for around £125 from most outlets, although it is possible to find it for as little as £109 from some of the discount websites.
A very slim and lightweight camera, made for slipping into a shirt pocket for a night out, the Olympus FE 5020 is designed with an eye to style. It has an all-plastic body, and is available in a range of four colours: black, brown, metallic blue or white, with chrome trim. The overall build quality is not particularly impressive, and the camera feels flimsy and fragile, especially the battery/card hatch which feels like it could snap off with little provocation.
The shiny finish of the body feels unpleasantly slippery to the touch and is difficult to grip securely, while the crowded rear panel leaves no room for the thumb. It’s also very difficult to hold the camera one-handed without blocking the flash with the right middle finger. The controls on the back are especially nasty; rounded transparent plastic buttons which feel cheap and provide little tactile feedback.
Nobody would expect a budget-priced camera to be loaded with advanced features, but the Olympus 5020 is poorly equipped even compared to other low-cost models. To its credit it does have a zoom range equivalent to 24-120mm, and may well be the cheapest camera to feature such a wideangle lens, but the optical quality is pretty poor, with visible corner blurring, wideangle distortion and chromatic aberration.
Other than the lens, the Olympus FE5020 doesn’t have much to offer. The LCD monitor is adequately sharp at 230k, but the viewing angle is extremely limited. The camera has no continuous shooting mode, only a low-quality digital image stabilisation option, and the video mode is limited to VGA resolution at 30fps with mono audio via a very tinny internal microphone. Other menu options include 14 basic scene mode options, some extremely unpleasant filter effects, a tracking AF system that doesn’t work particularly well, and a panorama stitching mode. Despite this dearth of useful options, the menu system still manages to be pointlessly complicated, spreading what little it has to offer over no less than six sub-menus.
The Olympus 5020 does have a surprisingly fast start-up time of approximately 1.6 seconds, but the shot-to-shot time of 3.4 seconds in single shot mode is quite slow. The autofocus system is fast enough in good light, but isn’t terribly accurate, often focusing on the background rather than the subject. In dim light it slows right down, taking several seconds to realise that it can’t actually focus at all. It has no AF assist lamp, so it’s pretty much useless for social snapshot photography. The flash is also underpowered.
Image quality is equally disappointing, with consistent over-exposure resulting in burned-out highlights and pale washed-out colours. Image noise is a problem even at low ISO settings, and at 400 ISO images are so noisy as to be barely usable.
The Olympus FE-5020 costs little and offers less. Design, build quality, features and image quality are all very disappointing, especially considering this camera comes from the same company that makes the E-620 and Pen E-P1. If you want something that will fit in your pocket for taking quick snaps on a night out you'd almost be better off using your mobile phone.