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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.

One of four new additions to the line a year later, the Olympus FE-170, features an Olympus-branded 3x optical zoom with a 38 - 114mm equivalent focal length range and F3.1 - 5.9 maximum aperture. The Olympus FE-170 couples this with a 6.0 megapixel imager and 2.5" LCD display that has 150,000 pixels. Likely to help keep price and complexity down, this LCD is the sole method of framing images, as the FE-170 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder. As you might expect from an entry level $150 camera aimed at beginners, the FE-170 keeps things simple by retaining automatic control of most image parameters. Autofocus is via contrast detection, while ISO sensitivity ranges from 64 to 400 equivalent under automatic control. 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. White balance is controlled automatically, and there's a four mode internal flash, plus thirteen scene modes. As well as still images, the camera can also capture movies (with no audio) at QVGA or lower resolution, at a rate of fifteen frames per second. The FE-170 also has a twelve second self-timer to let you get into your own pictures. The Olympus FE-170 stores images on xD-Picture cards, or 10MB of built-in memory. The camera also offers USB 2.0 Full Speed computer connectivity (rather slower than the USB 2.0 High Speed connections on many cameras these days), while power comes from two AA batteries, with alkaline disposables in the product bundle - so you'll want to budget for a set of rechargeable batteries if you don't already have some.