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Olympus FE-5040 Digital Camera Review

Daniel Bell reviews the Olympus FE-5040, with a 5x optical zoom and a 12Mp sensor.

|  Olympus FE-5040 in Compact Cameras
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Olympus FE-5040: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 front

Similar to the FE-5050, the Olympus FE-5040 is an easy-to-use, affordable camera, but as well as being a touch bigger and heavier, it has less mega-pixels and less scene modes. Announced in August and available in silver, black, red and orange, the FE-5040 is available for £119.99. A similar camera to consider at this price is the Nikon Coolpix S570, which also has a 5x optical zoom and a 12Mp sensor and is also available with an RRP of £119.99.

Olympus FE-5040: Features
  • 5x wide optical zoom, 26-130mm (35mm equiv.) lens
  • Digital Image Stabilisation for less blur
  • 12 Megapixel sensor
  • Intelligent Auto Mode
  • Advanced Face Detection
  • 2.7in LCD screen
  • AF tracking
  • Magic Filters
  • 13 scene modes
  • Movie recording with sound
  • Battery charging via USB cable
  • 1/4 - 1/2000 second shutter speed
  • ISO100 - 1600
Olympus FE-5040 features: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 front and lens   Olympus FE-5040 back
There is a 5x optical zoom equivalent to a 26-130mm on 35mm sensor.   On the rear is a 2.7in LCD screen.
Olympus FE-5040 battery compartment   Olympus FE-5040 top
The camera is powered by a LI-70B Lithium-Ion battery.   At just 20.1mm thick you will bearly notice the FE-5040 in your pocket.

Olympus FE-5040: Handling
If you are looking for a small and light weight compact camera then the FE-5040 ticks the box. It's no bigger than the size of your average mobile phone and is perfect for tucking in your pocket when heading out with friends. All the buttons are responsive and easy to use regardless of the size of your fingers and the 2.7in screen is clear in low-light conditions. The menu is easy to navigate and making changes to settings isn't complicated even if you're a photography beginner.

Olympus FE-5040: Performance
Colours are reproduced well by the camera, but at both ends of the lens the detail isn't great and worsens the further away an object is from the camera. At the telephoto length, the detail in the nearest lock and the red building is OK, but the rest of the image does not look sharp at all. Overall, the images produced by the Olympus FE-5040 are more likely to be suitable for websites such as Facebook and Flickr than being reproduced as large prints.

Olympus FE-5040 lens performance: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 wide angle   Olympus FE-5040 telephoto
Wide-angle.   Telephoto.

ISO and noise performance
The ISO and noise performance of the Olympus FE-5040 is quite poor. Even at ISO100, noise is evident, is certainly more evident at ISO200 and it continues to worsen. It is unlikely that you would want to use this camera at ISO800 and ISO1600, infact it would be best to use this camera at ISO100 as much as possible.

Olympus FE-5040 ISO speed test: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 ISO 64
Olympus FE-5040 ISO100 Olympus FE-5040 ISO200 Olympus FE-5040 ISO400
ISO100 ISO200 ISO400
Olympus FE-5040 ISO800 Olympus FE-5040 ISO1600
ISO800 ISO1600  

Using the auto white-balance under tungsten lights gives a warm green colour cast but does a fairly good job when using the tungsten preset, where the white-balance is almost perfect. The camera struggled under the fluorescent lights in our studio, both the auto white-balance and fluorescent presets give a warm green colour, the fluorescent preset being marginally better.

Olympus FE-5040 white-balance: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting   Olympus FE-5040 Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting
Auto white-balance in incandescent lighting.   Incandescent preset in incandescent lighting.
Olympus FE-5040 Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting   Olympus FE-5040 Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting
Auto white-balance in fluorescent lighting.   Fluorescent preset in fluorescent lighting.

Lens performance
There are quite a range of scene modes available. They are portrait, landscape, night, sport, indoor, candle-light, self-portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents and pet. There is also six magic filters including pop-art, pin-hole, fisheye, drawing, soft focus and punk. The magic filters didn't produce anything special, the best one being drawing. The scene modes will give the novice user a better chance of taking a good picture, although some of the filter modes seemed a touch pointless.

Olympus FE-5040 magic filters & scene modes: Click on the thumbnail for the larger image.
Olympus FE-5040 portrait mode   Olympus FE-5040 landscape mode
  (Left) Portrait mode

(Above) Landscape mode


Olympus FE-5040: Verdict
For the low price of this camera you can't complain at a 5x optical zoom and 12Mp sensor. The camera is easy to use and will certainly appeal to those who are new to photography and buying their first camera. On the downside, the images produced aren't fantastic and the noise and auto white-balance performance isn't great either.

Olympus FE-5040: Pros
Easy to use
Small and light
5x optical zoom

Olympus FE-5040: Cons
Poor auto white-balance performance
Noise evident through the ISO range


Olympus FE-5040: Specification
Price From £96.99 (02/12/2010)
What comes in the box Rechargeable Lithium-Ion Battery, AC Adapter, USB Cable, AV cable, Handstrap, Warranty Card, Instruction Manual, Image Management Software.
Lens 5x optical zoom, 4.7 - 23.5mm, (26 - 130mm 35mm equiv.)
Resolution 12 Megapixels
Max. Image size 3968 x 2976
Aspect ratio 4:3
LCD monitor size 2.7in
Focusing system TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection
Focusing modes iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking
File types JPEG
ISO sensitivity ISO100 - 1600
Metering system ESP light metering
Metering modes Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Pet
White-balance Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV
Shutter speed range 1/4 - 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Candle scene)
Anti-shake mode Digital Image Stabilisation
Movie mode 640 x 480 / 30 fps Recording time: no limit
320 x 240 / 30 fps Recording time: no limit
Media type SD / SDHC
Interface A/V & USB
Power LI-70B Lithium-Ion Battery
Size (wxdxl) 96.0 x 57.8 x 20.1mm
Weight (with battery) 130g

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