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Olympus FE-340 - Olympus FE-340
The controls are an assortment of standard Olympus parts common to most of the FE range. It has a panel consisting of a D-pad, menu and delete buttons, a mode dial and three extra buttons for display mode, playback and record. The zoom control is a nice smooth rotary bezel around the shutter button, and is very easy to use. However the zoom mechanism itself is stepped, with just eight increments covering the longer-than-average 5x zoom range. Also the digital zoom cannot be turned off, and there is barely any pause between the maximum optical zoom and the danger zone of digital zoom.
Main shooting mode selection is via the small thumb-wheel dial on the rear of the camera, but the choice of settings is quite limited. The main shooting modes are program auto, in which at least some user options are available, a full-auto mode in which all user input is disabled, an ISO-boosting anti-shake mode, and the usual portrait and landscape modes. As well as these there is a scene mode setting offering 13 special scene programs including the latest me-too feature, a smile detection setting. One useful feature found on a lot of Olympus cameras is the guide mode, a built-in tutorial function that helps beginners take better photos.
One feature worthy of praise is the LCD monitor, which is sharp and bright, has excellent contrast and a nice fast refresh rate. It also has an exceptionally wide angle of view, around 170 degrees both horizontally and vertically, which is great both for shooting pictures while holding the camera at unusual angles, and for showing off the results afterwards.
Like the other cameras in the FE range the 340 lacks a number of features that are considered standard on most other cameras. The most notable absence is a continuous shooting mode, but there are other things missing as well, such as a two-second self-timer option, and any sort of colour, contrast or sharpness adjustment. It has no metering mode options and most importantly it has no image stabilisation. I know this is a budget camera and mechanical IS is an expensive extra, but it is becoming more common even on cheaper cameras, and with a telephoto focal length equivalent to 180mm it is a significant omission.
I've moaned about Olympus' dreadful menu systems before, but they never get any better. Considering the very limited range of features and options that the FE-340 offers, the menu system is pointlessly complex and fiddly. Seriously, you don't need eight pages spread over six separate menus when you only have a total of 20 options including initial setup settings. Fortunately there is also a quick function menu, although this only includes white balance, ISO setting and image quality.