Olympus's line of digital cameras span the range from affordable entry-level units right the way up to single-lens reflex models aimed at professional use. The FE-series, launched with three models in late 2005, emphasises competitive pricing and ease of use in a compact body. The start of 2006 saw the addition of two further FE- models, the Olympus FE-130 and FE-140.
Both cameras share much the same body and lens, an Olympus-branded 3x optical zoom with a 38 - 114mm equivalent focal length range and F3.1 - 5.9 maximum aperture. The Olympus FE-140 couples this with a 6.0 megapixel imager and 2.5" LCD display that has 110,000 pixels. Likely to help keep price and complexity down, this LCD is the sole method of framing images, as the FE-140 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder.
As you might expect from a camera aimed at beginners, the FE-140 keeps things simple by retaining automatic control of most image parameters. Autofocus is via contrast detection, while ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 320 equivalent under automatic control - although this can be extended to ISO 800 in what Olympus calls "Digital Image Stabilization" mode. Note that this should not be mistaken for true hardware image stabilization, where either lens elements or the image sensor are moved based on sensors that detect camera shake - the FE-140 is simply boosting ISO sensitivity to gain a faster shutter speed, which will reduce blur at the expense of noise and/or image detail.
Exposures are determined with Olympus' Digital ESP multi-pattern metering, although the user can tweak the exposure with +/-2.0EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/2000 to 4 seconds, and white balance is also controlled automatically. The FE-140 also includes a four mode internal flash, and offers some further control over images courtesy of a rather generous twenty scene modes. As well as still images, the camera can also capture movies at QVGA or lower resolution, at a rate of fifteen frames per second. The FE-140 also has a twelve second self-timer to let you get into your own pictures.
The Olympus FE-140 stores images on xD-Picture cards, or 22MB of built-in memory. The camera also offers video and USB computer connectivity, and compatibility with the ImageLink standard for printing photos on compatible printers that feature a standard ImageLink dock connection. Power comes from two AA batteries, with disposables in the product bundle - so you'll want to budget for a set of rechargeable batteries if you don't already have some. Olympus Master software comes bundled with the camera.