Olympus FE-280 Digital Camera Review

Ideal for pubbing, clubbing and general people snaps, the FE-280 from Olympus is a budget-price camera designed to make photography fun and easy. It includes Face Detection for the precise focus and exposure of faces as well as 20 pre-set scene modes.

Olympus FE_280 FrontOlympus FE-280 Specifications

  • Sensor: CCD – 8.0Mp
  • Zoom: 3x optical
  • Image Size: 3264 x 2448px
  • Lens: 36-180mm f/3.1-5.9 (3x zoom)
  • Focus: TTL Auto – 5 cm Macro
  • Exposure: Prog. AE/ 20 Scene
  • Metering: ESP
  • ISO Sensitivity: 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • White Balance: Auto, Sunlight, Overcast, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, 2 and 3
  • Scene Modes: Night Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Behind Glass, Cuisine, Documents, Auction, Smile Shot plus three Underwater modes.
  • Macro: 5cm
  • Monitor: 2.5in TFT LCD
  • Movie Mode: Yes
  • Storage: 48Mb Internal, xD Card
  • Batteries: Lithium-ion
  • Video Output: Yes
  • Transfer: USB

At £119, the FE-280 includes an 8Mp sensor, Face Detection technology and 20 scene modes. At the same price is the Fuji FinePix Z10FD with 7.2Mp and 3x optical zoom and the Nikon Coolpix L14 with 7.1Mp and 3x optical zoom . For £10 less you can get the Canon PowerShot A560 which has 7.1Mp, 4x optical zoom and also includes Face Detection technology.

Olympus FE-280 Modes and features
Olympus FE-280 Angle The FE-280 is a budget range camera that is big on appearance. Slim and compact and available in a choice of four colours, it is specifically aimed at the fashion conscious sector of the market, and those who want an easy to use point-and-click camera.

The FE-1280 packs a lot into its tiny body. As well an 8Mp sensor, it includes Olympus’ TruePic III image processor, Face Detection, 3x optical zoom and ISO settings if up to 1600 for better results when available light levels are low.

20 scene modes are available here including Night Portrait, Macro, Candelight, Fireworks, Self Portrait, Behind-Glass, Sunset, Cuisine and Smile Shot. Smile shot is a relatively recent feature which automatically detects when the subject is smiling. It then fires a sequence of three high speed shots from which the best shot can be chosen.

Alongside the scene presets are the regular modes which feature Auto, Movie Mode, Landscape, Portrait, Anti-Shake Mode, Program and Shooting Guide. The Shooting guide is a mode which offers advice on which settings to use in various conditions and changes them according top the conditions you have selected. The program mode offers limited creative control allowing adjustment of white balance, ISO settings and AF mode.

Olympus FE-280 Build and handling Olympus FE-280 Screen
Housed in a compact stainless metal body, the FE-280 is lightweight, stylishly designed and could easily be fitted into a bag or pocket although it does feel slightly on the flimsy side.

Zoom is operated by a small zoom rocker on the top of the camera besides the power on/off button and alongside the shutter release. Zoom functions operate smoothly and swiftly between wide angle and telephoto shots.

The back of the camera is simply laid out. Firstly there is a small controls wheel where the various modes can be selected. These include Auto, Video, Shake Reduction, Portrait, landscape and a selection of 20 different scene modes. In my opinion, the Shake-Reduction function would have been more useful as an additional control to all other modes but as it is, is offered as a mode of its own.

Settings such as ISO and white balance can further be altered by selecting the menu button towards the bottom of the camera. Also on the back of the camera is the a large easy to use functions dial offering metering control, flash options, macro function and self-timer select. Switching between playback and camera mode can be done easily by two buttons on the top of the camera. On the bottom is the card and battery slot which comes across as slightly flimsy with it’s precarious plastic cover.

Functions and menus are easy to follow on the FE-280 and it would be ideal for a first-time digital camera user. There were however a couple of things that annoyed me about the camera. Firstly, when a setting is changed in the menu, you are not automatically taken back to the viewfinder, and instead have to back out of the menus until back to the original screen – a tiresome process. Also, when self-timer is selected, once a shot has been taken in that mode it automatically goes back to to single-shoot mode without saving the preference. This means self-timer mode has to be selected every time you wish to take a shot in that mode.

Olympus FE-280 Side Olympus FE-280 Flash options
Four flash options are offered here which include Automatic Flash which fires automatically when light levels are low, Fill-in Flash which fires with every picture, Flash with Red-Eye Reduction and Flash Off.

These options are available throughout the range of settings and scene modes. Working range of the flash is 0.1 – 5.5m at telephoto, and and 0-6 – 2.8m at wide angle.

Olympus FE-280 Performance
The landscape mode for some reason has selected an aperture of f/4.6 for the landscape shot, meaning that only a small part of the image, notably the winch, is in focus. There also appears to be some blur from the movement of the trees but at a shutter speed if 1/160s this shouldn’t really have been a problem.

Another aspect of the shot that is displeasing is the notable fringing in areas of colour contrast, and particularly around the white steps. Overall, an unsatisfactory result.

In the portrait shot test, portrait mode has selected an aperture of f/3.9 and a shutter speed of 1/2s, causing the image to be slightly less than sharp. In program mode the same aperture was used and a shutter speed of 1/8s rendering it slightly sharper.

Image blur in fact seems a consistent problem with the Olympus FE-280 and it seems impossible to produce a sharp image despite use of pre-set modes and a tripod. Another problem I found with the camera is the absence of a continuous shooting mode making it unable to test performance of the camera’s buffer.

In the colour chart test the reds and resulting colour mixes were extremely accurate, while the blues appeared slightly brighter and greens slightly darker.

Olympus FE-280 Colour Chart Test
The colour chart test

Portrait Without FlashPortrait mode used without flash gives a very soft result giving the skin a flawless appearance.

Portrait Program No FlashProgram mode gives a slightly sharper result at a shutter speed of 1/8s but still appears to have a slight blur.

Olympus FE-280 landscape shot

The landscape shot provides unsatsifactory results with colour fringing and too big an aperture.

Olympus FE-280 Noise tests
The FE-280 gave pleasing results across the range ISO tests, and even at high ISO’s the levels of noise were quite low. Although noise starts to appear at ISO200, it is only very slightly around the edges of the petal, and hardly noticeable at all.

It’s not until the ISO is bumped up to 800 that the noise become evident. At 1600, it is very visible but not as much as you would expect for ISO1600 and there is still a good amount of detail.

Olympus FE-280 ISO50
The ISO50 test.
Olympus FE-280 ISO100
The ISO100 test.
Olympus FE-280 ISO200
The ISO200 test.
Olympus FE-280 ISO400
The ISO400 test.
Olympus FE-280 ISO800
The ISO800 test.
Olympus FE-280 ISO1600
The ISO1600 test.

Olympus FE-280 Verdict
Reviewer picWhile the Olympus FE-280 is a stylishly designed camera with an impressive set of features, in reality it fails to perform on many accounts. While it scored well in the ISO and colour chart tests, I was unimpressed by the constant problem of blur and evident colour fringing in the landscape test.

The camera also lets itself down with minor details such as the fact that it has no continuous shooting mode and the considerable lag between pressing the shutter release and the shot being taken. At a price of £119 the Olympus FE-280 is a budget price digital camera but with this list of significant problems, I wouldn’t even pay that.

Olympus FE-280 Plus points:
Positive ratingStylish, ultra-compact design
Positive ratingEasy to follow menus
Positive ratingGood ISO Results
Positive ratingAccurate colour rendition

Olympus FE-280 BottomOlympus FE-280 Negative points:
Negative rating Flimsy card and battery cover
Negative rating No continuous shooting mode
Negative rating Lag between pressing shutter and firing
Negative rating Backing out of menus is time consuming
Negative rating Constant problem of blur
Negative rating Purple fringing in landscape shot

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The Olympus FE-280 costs £119 and can be found at the ePHOTOzine shop here.

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