Olympus is one of the original “Big Five” camera companies, with a history dating back to 1919. Over the years it has produced many classic cameras, such as the Trip 35mm compact and the extremely popular OM series of 35mm SLRs. It was also one of the first to get into digital cameras, launching its first model in 1996, and was the first to abandon film camera production in favour of digital. True to form it has produced many highly-regarded digital cameras, such as the superb C series, the mju-Tough series of waterproof compacts, the SP series of ultra-zoom cameras, the E-system Four Thirds digital SLRs, and more recently the Pen E series of compact system cameras. However it also makes a range of budget compacts, the FE series, which have won rather fewer accolades. Some have been merely adequate, while others have been among the worst cameras I've ever seen. Today I'm taking a look at the latest in the line, the new FE-5050, so will it be a good one or a bad one?
On first appearance alone the FE-5050 certainly looks like a good one. The basic specification is an upgrade from the previous FE-5020. It has an f/2.8 – f/6.5 5x zoom lens equivalent to 26 – 130mm, a 14-megapixel CCD sensor and the same 6.9cm (2.7in) 230k LCD monitor. Thankfully Olympus has ditched the ghastly candy-wrapper plastic shell of the FE-4000 and FE-5020 in favour of a slim and attractive metal body, available in sliver, champagne, pink or the matt black seen here. It's a massive improvement, and immediately makes the camera look and feel ten times classier than its predecessor.
The FE-5050 is a very small camera, certainly qualifying for the title “ultra-compact”. It's roughly the same size and weight as my current favourite ultra-compact the Casio EX-S12, measuring 92 x 55 x 18.8mm and weighing 114g including battery and memory card. The overall build quality is very good, with tight panel seams and a metal hinge on the battery/card hatch, although the tripod bush is made of plastic. The body shell is aluminium front and back, with plastic panels on the sides and a strip of chrome plastic trim on the top.