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As well as the body, the controls also look and feel cheap. The labels embedded in the transparent plastic buttons are almost impossible to see in low light or at any sort of angle other than perpendicular, and the buttons themselves feel poorly mounted and provide little tactile feedback, especially the appallingly nasty zoom control. It operates with more of a crunch than a click, and actually feels like it's already broken. The layout of the controls is equally poor, leaving no room for the thumb, while also being fiddly and hard to use thanks to the big step in the rear panel next to the monitor.

The menu system is as clumsy and badly designed as ever, and and the on-screen text is poorly anti-aliased and looks slightly blurred, as though it was designed for a different screen resolution. The built-in flash is inconveniently located under the knuckle of the right middle finger when holding the camera in any normal one-handed grip, causing big shadows on most flash-lit shots. The overwhelming impression when using the camera is that absolutely no thought has been given to ergonomics. Did any of the designers even handle the finished camera?

The FE-4000 has only the most basic set of features. The main menu has only one page with just five entries. User input is limited to image size and quality, white balance, AF mode and ISO setting, controlled by a simple live shooting menu. There is no colour adjustment, spot metering, continuous shooting or any of the other small refinements found even on other cheap cameras. Even the self-timer is limited to 10 seconds only. It does feature digital image stabilisation, tracking AF and face detection, but none of these work particularly well.

Other severely limited features include the video mode, which is restricted to 640 x 480 resolution at 30fps with mono audio, although in this mode clips are limited to just 10 seconds in length. Needless to say the optical zoom cannot be used while recording.

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Sean Groarke

January 25, 2010, 8:35 pm

"The Olympus FE-4000 is a lousy camera even by budget compact standards."

Overall: 5/10

You guys crack me up sometimes. What would it have to do to get a 1 or 2? Cause loss of a limb? Blind you? Emit poison gas?


January 25, 2010, 8:36 pm

Isn't a score of 5 rather high for a camera that was berated from start to finish? It certainly didn't sound like a product that could be described as "50/50".


January 25, 2010, 9:02 pm

@Ben - scores aren't averages. Ideally there would be no scores, just the text and people would assign their own score in their heads from reading it and finding was is and isn't applicable to them. Unfortunately everyone likes to look at a score!


January 25, 2010, 9:24 pm

Just after Christmas, my local Tesco Supershed got in two pallets (yes, builders pallets!) worth of these for £89.99 each. They were all gone in a few days!

Thinking aloud, maybe Olympus is being cleverer then we think, the target market (budget and impulse) for this camera will likely only view the images on an undemanding laptop screen, the camera LCD itself, or a low resolution LCD frame. Even if this camera's files are taken to a high street printer, they'll most certainly only be 6X4's, where the massive (to us, at least) flaws won't be so apparent.


January 25, 2010, 9:53 pm

@Sean - glad someone is on the same wavelength/planet :)


January 25, 2010, 10:32 pm

Noodles - you're correct that the target market for this kind of camera will not notice or care about most of the flaws in their cameras, so long as they are better than the average mobile phone camera. Poor auto-exposure is maybe the only thing that would really be noticeable on low-res LCDs or in small cheap prints.

My problem here is that if you wanted a cheap digital camera that offers the bare minimum of features, and don't particularly care about quality, then you could actually buy a better one from a "budget" specialist like Praktica for up to 50% less. Real low-end cameras like this are often generic cameras sold with slight modifications under a variety of different brand names anyway (or at the very least use generic cheap lenses and other components) so there truly is no advantage to buying into a "big name", and a significant disadvantage in the price. So Olympus is certainly being clever (making a clearly substandard product while knowing that many people will happily pay over £100 in the mistaken belief that the brand name is an indicator of quality). Hopefully consumers will be clever too and spend their money elsewhere - but your story about the local Tesco suggests I'm being hopelessly optimistic about that.

Sean Groarke

January 25, 2010, 10:46 pm

I promise I'm not trying to kick off one of those "wot about the scores" arguments. But I cannot let it pass since you actually came out and said "Unfortunately everyone likes to look at a score!"

Well, out of your own mouth... etc. I agree with you. Everyone does like to look at a score, alas. So give sensible scores then! Someone might skim the review, not reading too much. They then see it on offer somewhere, TR gave it 5/10, so it can't be too bad, and buys it. Then finds it's a pile of doggy-poo.

Gordon: either do the scores better or drop them. If the written review is correct (and I tend to believe it as I like your reviews and trust them, scores excepted) then the 5/10 is a nonsense.

Terry Love

January 26, 2010, 12:26 am

What's the chances you got a "Friday afternoon special" and that most other samples would put up a better showing?

I'm perfectly prepared to accept even a company like Olympus could turn out a genuine turkey, (I've developed a brand loyalty since my OM1/OM1n days back in the 70's/80), so maybe I'm just looking for an out for them. Then again, I'm not on struck on their compact models that I've looked at anyway.


January 26, 2010, 1:54 am

Terry - I've used several of Olympus' compacts (some of which are excellent), and generally those in the FE range really are quite poor indeed. But re-reading the article, an 8-second shot-to-shot time sounds unbelievably slow even for a crappy camera like this, so I wonder if perhaps you are right about it being a bad sample?

Chris Reed

January 27, 2010, 4:11 pm

Not really a patch on the Panny Lumix FS-62 I picked up recently for lass than a 100 with a leather case and all metal body and a decent lens.

Where do Olympus get off?

Cliff Smith

January 28, 2010, 3:50 am

Having owned - and subsequently scrapped - a couple of British Leyland cars I take your point about the "Friday afternoon special", but when it comes to digital cameras they tend to either work as intended or not work at all. On the very rare occasions that I've received broken cameras it's been immediately obvious that something was wrong. I'm afraid the FE-4000 is just really, really slow.

The annoying thing is that Olympus can make truly superb cameras when they try. The C-7070 is still one of my favourite compacts of all time.

Chris 14

January 29, 2010, 11:48 pm

I agree about the batty scoring on this review. Why does it get more than 2/10? You say "The build quality is pretty poor even by budget camera standards" yet you give it 6/10 for build quality.

If your scoring doesn't match your reviews then your reviews have no credibility. Yet you call yourself "Trusted Reviews"??

Samuel Lourenco

November 29, 2012, 9:31 pm

I bought one and now I regret. It behaves like a very cheap camera but it is not that cheap. The body is very fragile and, even with great care, it will eventually crack. The shutter is very slow, the auto-focus doesn't always work, especially in dim lighted rooms, but might not work in the average indoor environment as well. The shots are always full of noise, even in ISO100 mode. The picture comes always blurred in the corners. The video quality is even worse!

This is a very frustrating camera to work with and it doesn't worth its price! In other words, its a big NO NO. You can by a much better camera with this budget.

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