Olympus FE-110 Review

 
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Olympus FE-110 Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Oversaturated color, with a fairly strong warm cast.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Olympus FE-110 oversaturates color quite a bit, as you can see in the diagram at right. Warm colors appear to be the most affected, though the greens are also skewed.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The FE-110 produced very warm color throughout my testing with its Auto-only white balance, which to my eye was too warm. The chart at right shows the camera pulling reds, browns, oranges, and even greens toward a warmer tone. Even cyan is pulled in that direction. You could spend time color correcting on a computer post-capture, but the point-and-shoot nature of the FE-110 shouldn't require so much attention. While beauty is always in the eye of the beholder, I'd rather have a more accurate Auto white balance here.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Reddish overall color, and higher than average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.3 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was just a bit warm and reddish overall, resulting in pinkish skin tones. The Olympus FE-110 required a +1.3 EV exposure compensation boost to get a good exposure, which is a little higher than average for this shot. The warm, reddish cast also makes the blue flowers very dark and purplish, which is a common outcome with this shot. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Warm color balance, though bright colors. High contrast under harsh lighting.

Auto White Balance, +0.3 EV Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the FE-110 tended toward higher contrast images with very warm overall color. Shadow and highlight detail were typically limited as well.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,000 - 1,050 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,000~1,050 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,500. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,200 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Strong detail to 1,000~1,050 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,000~1,050 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Slightly soft images, with blurry detail from noise suppression.

Pretty good definition of high-contrast elements. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.

The Olympus FE-110's images are slightly soft overall, without only a little over-sharpening and edge enhancement noticeable in high-contrast areas. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.) In the foliage above, details are well defined, but just a hint soft.

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing only limited detail, even though individual strands are quite visible against the shadows by her cheek.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise with slightly blurred detail.

ISO 125

The Olympus FE-110 automatically controls its ISO setting, and doesn't report it to the user. The shot above was taken at an ISO 125 equivalent, and shows moderate noise with some blurring of detail. The noise pattern is bright enough to be noticeable in the full frame shot, and fine detail in the darker areas is more strongly affected.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though very high contrast and warm color. Pretty good low-light performance for its capabilities, should capture bright images under average city street lighting.

Normal +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Olympus FE-110 produced very high contrast under the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, with strong, washed-out highlights, very deep shadows, and a limited midtone range. Detail is limited in the bright highlights and dark shadows, with some noise suppression evident as well. The best exposure was obtained with a +0.3 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which produced better midtones in Marti's face than the default exposure. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
250
Click to see FE110LL03.JPG
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f3.0
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Low light:
The FE-110's maximum one-second shutter time resulted in some limitations in the camera's performance here, though images were bright to 1/2 foot-candle (about half as bright as average city street lighting at night). Color balance was slightly warm from the Auto white balance setting, but still fairly good. The camera's autofocus system worked down to the 1/4 foot-candle light level quite well, though it had trouble at darker light levels. (The FE-110 does not have an AF assist function.) While a tripod is always useful for longer exposures, the FE-110's maximum one-second shutter time doesn't necessitate one. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

Flash

Coverage and Range
A limited flash range, requiring more exposure compensation than average.

38mm equivalent 106mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.7 EV Night Scene Mode +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle but better at telephoto. On the Indoor test, the FE-110's flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment, which was still quite dim. Overall color was quite pink, and the flash produced a bluish cast as well. The camera's Night Scene mode produced brighter and more even results, though with a stronger warm cast from the room lighting.

Even at eight feet, our closest test range, flash power was just slightly dim. However, intensity actually remained about the same throughout the test range.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
Click to see FE110FL08.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 125
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f5.0
ISO 125
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f5.0
ISO 125
Click to see FE110FL11.JPG
1/100 sec
f5.0
ISO 160
Click to see FE110FL12.JPG
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ISO 160
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ISO 160
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ISO 200

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, good color, very usable 11x14 inch prints. Pretty sharp 8x10s.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Olympus FE-110, our "proof-is-in-the-print" concept was proved again. Images that looked just okay onscreen looked great printed at 8x10. At 11x14, its prints were a bit pixelated, but more than adequate for wall or table display. The FE-110 doesn't allow a manual high ISO setting, but in our low light tests we managed to push it up to ISO 250. These prints would be acceptable up to 8x10, showing some mottled color from a distance.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus FE-110 Photo Gallery.

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Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus FE-110 with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Olympus FE-110

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