The FE-150’s performance is also somewhat below par. It starts up in around three seconds, which is a little slow but not too bad, however the shot-to-shot time is appalling. The camera has no continuous shooting mode, and it’s easy to see why. In good light and shooting a high-contrast subject, the autofocus system takes three seconds to lock on, over twice as long as most other modern compact cameras, and then when you take a shot even in the lowest quality setting it takes four seconds for the camera to process it and save it to memory before you can take another one. That’s a shot-to-shot time of around seven seconds. I’ve got an old Ricoh RDC-5000 from 1999 that’s quicker than that.
So far the FE-150 isn’t looking too good, with a very limited list of features, one of which didn’t work, questionable build quality, a very poor movie mode and performance that would have seemed sluggish seven years ago. Perhaps image quality can save the day?
Or perhaps it can’t. Although five megapixel resolution should be more than adequate for quality snapshot photography, the FE-150 still manages to be below average. In SHQ mode, image files are around 2.5MB and look reasonably good, and in that setting a 128MB xD card provides enough space for 35 shots. In the default HQ mode the same card can hold 102 images, but with a file size of around 900KB they are very compressed, and are full of visible compression artefacts, destroying much of the fine detail.
Incredibly for a camera with a maximum automatic ISO setting of only 320, image noise is also a problem, with shots taken above 160 ISO showing extensive colour speckling in darker areas.
Colour rendition is extremely shaky, with skin tones looking red, and bright reds looking orange. Pictures look over-processed, as though they’d been burred and then sharpened a few times, probably part of some half-assed noise reduction system. There is also purple fringing on highlights, as well as some evidence of chromatic aberration. About the only nice thing I can find to say about it is that the lens performs well at wide angle, with a minimum of distortion. Overall exposure is also reasonably good, although the limited dynamic range of the CCD means burned out highlights and reduced shadow detail.
Flash range and metering are good, which is important on a camera that will probably be used mostly for party snapshots. It is easily capable of illuminating subjects up to five metres away, however this is spoiled by the total inability of the AF system to function in low light, even in a well-lit restaurant. Unfortunately, the camera will still take a photo even if the AF hasn’t locked on, so nearly all the flash shots I took were out of focus. There were also major issues with image noise due to the automatically increased ISO setting when shooting in low light.
If the FE-150 didn’t have the Olympus badge on it, I’d have thought it was from one of the less reputable of the no-brand Chinese importers. For a major name in the photographic industry it is a shockingly bad camera, with very poor image quality, dismal low light performance, virtually no features or options (one of which didn’t even work), the worst movie mode I’ve seen in a year and performance that can only be summarised as crap. There are much better cameras available for the same money, so buy one of them instead.