Just over a month ago I reviewed the Olympus FE-230, a sub-£100 entry-level 7-megapixel compact camera with a minimal set of features. I was as bit disappointed with it, and only awarded it an overall four out of ten, so I wasn't expecting much from its big brother, the 8-megapixel FE-250. However I was pleasantly surprised to discover that an extra £50 buys a much better camera.
Although the two cameras do look superficially similar the FE-250 has a superior specification in almost every respect. As well as having and extra megapixel of resolution, the sensor is of the larger 1/1.8-inch type, offering potential advantages in dynamic range, colour depth and image noise reduction. The LCD monitor is still 2.5 inches, but has double the resolution at 230k pixels, a good anti-reflective surface and Bright Capture technology. The lens has 3x optical zoom, but it has the far more useful zoom range of 35 - 105mm equivalent and a faster maximum aperture of f/2.8 - 4.7. Both cameras are safely into the ultra-slim category, but the all-metal case of the FE-250 is slightly larger, measuring 94.0 x 56.5 x 21.5mm, and slightly heavier, weighing 115g minus card or battery.
The list of features also shows a strong family resemblance, but the FE-250 does have one special party trick of its own. Where the FE-230 had auto-only ISO setting, the FE-250 not only has manual ISO settings, but the maximum ISO is an astonishing 10,000 ISO. I don't know of another digital camera, either compact or DSLR, that has such a high maximum sensitivity. It may only be available at the 2048 x 1536 (3 megapixel) image size, but it's still nearly four times the maximum sensitivity of most other compacts.