I really wish Olympus would make up its collective mind about the FE range of mid-priced digital compacts. Are they supposed to be good, or are they crap? Last August we saw the disappointing FE-230, then in September we had the really rather good FE-250. In January this year we saw the truly horrible FE-290. Logically, extrapolating that trend to the top-of-the-range FE-340, it should be really, really good. But then again, logic is little tweeting bird chirping in meadow. Logic is wreath of pretty flowers that smell bad.
The FE-340 is an 8.0-megapixel, 5x zoom compact camera with a 2.7-inch, 230k monitor. It has an aluminium body and is available in a range of colours including black, grey, silver and the rather fabulous metallic pink of my review sample (and boy did I get some funny looks while testing it!). Currently available for just £120 it is definitely towards the budget end of the price spectrum, comparing well with similarly-specified cameras like the Pentax Optio L50 (£130), the Nikon CoolPix S550 (£150), the Sony Cyber-Shot S800 (£150) and the Samsung i85 (£160). Of the major brands only the new Fujifilm FinePix J50 is cheaper at around £106. However the low price is reflected in the camera's features and capabilities. If you're looking for sophistication and versatility then the FE-340 is not for you.
It also has to be said that even in pink it's not a particularly attractive camera. The design is an asymmetrical lumpy mish-mash of parts that look like they've been stuck onto the body as an afterthought. It is fairly light and compact though, measuring 96.9 x 57.5 x 22.6 mm and weighing only 131g including the battery. It is fairly easy to hold, with the chrome detail on the right edge providing some purchase for the fingers and the mode dial on the back doing double duty as a thumb rest. However while the overall build quality is good, the finish has some uncomfortably rough edges.