Olympus FE-5020 Review

August 24, 2009 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Olympus FE-5020 is a new 12 megapixel compact camera with a 5x super wide-angle optical zoom lens in an ultra-slim body. Providing a versatile focal length of 24-120mm, Digital Image Stabilisation is also available to help prevent blur caused by camera shake, and In addition the Olympus 5020 features a 2.7 inch LCD screen, auto-focus tracking, i-Auto mode for beginners, Advanced Face Detection Technology which can detect up to 16 faces, and some creative Magic Filters - Pop Art, Fish-Eye, Sketch, and Pin Hole - to help add an artistic flair to your images. Available in Pure White, Dark Grey, Mocca Brown and Ocean Blue, the Olympus FE-5020 retails for £169 / $160.

Ease of Use

Looking for an inexpensive pocket snapshot to supplement your all-guns-blazing main kit, or to hand to the kids and not be too upset if it doesn't last so long?

Barely larger than a business card at 24.7mm 'thick', the 'auto everything' 5x wide optical zoom 12 megapixel Olympus FE-5020 may be one of the company's affordable budget models at a suggested UK price of £169, but at least in the metallic finished white-fronted version we had on test (grey, brown and blue alternatives also available), it doesn't show it. Perhaps style and value for money aren't always mutually exclusive. And the camera is lightweight rather than insubstantial too at 107g.

While that augurs well, also in the FE-5020's favour is a newly introduced ingredient to the Olympus compact range: magic. Or to be more precise, a set of what the manufacturer has perhaps slightly patronizingly termed 'magic filters'. Put simply these are the art filters found in the company's E-series DSLRs and the E-P1 renamed. Again, with a press of the 'menu' button we get a choice of extra vivid Pop Art and corner shading Pin Hole camera, plus here a perspective distorting Fish Eye and a new grainy black and white 'Sketch' mode.

The other features Olympus is flagging up on the FE-5020 include an 35mm equivalent lens reach of 24-120mm (broader then than the average snapper), AF tracking function to in theory deliver sharp images even if your subject is moving (not 100% effective as it happens) plus 14 user selectable scene modes including 'cuisine' and 'pet'. As expected, also along for the ride are 640x480 pixels movies with sound at a maximum transitional speed of 30fps. Shame not to see a High Definition video capability, but then at this price we can hardly complain.

Suggesting the camera is perhaps aimed at those upgrading from taking snaps on their mobile phone, a plastic adapter for use of a microSD card is provided. Any card is of course an optional extra – no removable media is provided in the box. Acting as back up though is a 48MB internal capacity.

Advanced Face Detection for up to 16 people in the frame at once is additionally on board, aiming to deliver perfectly focused and exposed portraits, while an increasingly ubiquitous intelligent Auto (iAuto) option affords point and shoot operation  - the camera automatically recognising and adjusting settings for five common scenes and subjects.

Olympus FE-5020 Olympus FE-5020
Front Rear

Unlike the equally new Mju 7010 we had in to review at Photography Blog Towers at the same time, the FE-5020 only features digital image stabilisation rather than the additional mechanical variety of its more expensive sibling; nor do users get the benefit of automatic shadow adjustment (which may in fact be a blessing). This pocket camera does however boast the same light sensitivity range as its bigger brother, running from ISO64 through to a maximum ISO1600.

In the absence of an optical viewfinder, picture composition and review are both via the same 2.7-inch LCD screen. And, to avoid confusing potential users young and old, Olympus has given a more swish cartoon-ish make over to its on-screen menu icons for both capture and playback modes. Each had, in truth, been looking a little tired of late.

Examining and handling the FE-5020 in more detail, the front of the camera is clean and unfussy – the full extent of the lens largely hidden within the body when not in use, and the faceplate shrouded in a layer of clear plastic so that the Olympus insignia seems almost to hover above the bodywork. Set into this layer are a pin prick for built-in microphone bottom left of the lens surround, plus a thin sliver of a window for the on-board flash, located top left.

This moulded see-through layer extends up and over the top plate, into which a rectangular shutter release button and much smaller on/off button are embedded.

Press the FE-5020's power button and, like its 7010 relative, with a brief musical flourish the rear LCD almost instantly bursts into life, zoom lens extending to its maximum wideangle setting. This fast response extends to the a quick determining of focus and exposure with a half press of the shutter release button; the on-screen AF point illuminating in green and a beep of affirmation letting the user know it's OK to go on and take the picture. With barely discernable shutter lag the FE-5020 is marginally slower however to commit a full resolution JPEG to memory. There's a wait of between three and four seconds, the screen freezing on a display of the captured image while the orange indicator light directly above flashes like crazy.

Olympus FE-5020 Olympus FE-5020
Front Top

The back-plate of the FE-5020 is dominated by a 2.7-inch LCD screen of adequate visibility for the class of camera, right of which is a familiar smattering of user controls running from top to bottom. What's notably missing here, however, is any form of mode wheel.

Instead, users get a toggle switch just below a similar control for the zoom, with a camera icon (for image capture) on the left and a playback icon (for reviewing images) on the right. A press of the camera icon brings up a toolbar of options that would otherwise be located on a mode dial top left of the screen display.

The user scrolls through this, left to right, with subsequent presses of the same shooting mode button. This takes a little getting used to; the natural instinct is to try and tab through the choices provided with the four-way control pad lower down the camera back, as one would normally. In any event, the selectable options found here are Program, intelligent Auto for purely snapshot operation, image stabilisation, scene mode and video capture.

Of course a 5x optical zoom is better than that found on most digital compacts and, like the rest of the camera's operation, it's quick and responsive too, gliding from maximum wideangle to extreme telephoto in a couple of seconds, sound-tracked by a quiet mechanical whirr.

As an aid to composition, with a press of the 'display' button at the back users can call up a nine zone compositional grid to practice the Rule of Thirds, while if pressing the same button when tabbing through on screen menu options, a brief on-screen text explanation of each is provided to beginners. That said the camera is surely intuitive enough as it is.

Olympus FE-5020 Olympus FE-5020
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Yet, given the beginner market the FE-5020 is aimed at, you'd have imagined its manufacturer would have wanted to make it as easy to use as possible. And while it is, for the most part, Olympus has stubbornly provided a slot at the base – shared with the camera's rechargeable lithium ion battery – for the now outdated xD Picture Card only, rather than the more readily accessible SD or SDHC. As we mentioned at the beginning a teeny plastic adapter is additionally provided for use of microSD, but we can see this being quickly lost down the back of the sofa.

Beneath the image capture and playback icons on the camera back is that aforementioned square four-way control pad with an OK/function button at its centre. Identical in layout to that also found on the 7010, at 12 o'clock on the pad is a means of manually adjusting exposure compensation (again a choice of +/- 2EV) with thumbnail images on screen helpfully providing a neat visual representation of the effect incremental changes will have.

At three o'clock we get a means of selecting from the camera's modest flash modes: auto flash, red eye removal, fill-in or off. Also modest is that the self timer control that follows at 6 o'clock on the dial can merely be set to on or off, while last but by no means least at nine o'clock we have a choice of macro or super macro settings.

Tucked just beneath this pad is the self-explanatory 'menu' button, next to one for deleting unwanted images in playback mode. The base of the camera again features an expected screw thread for attaching a tripod if wanted, plus an unprotected slot for connection of a USB cable. As on the Mju 7010, a sliding catch locks the hatch for the joint memory card and battery slot – the battery itself the same Li-42B cell found in its pricier sibling.

At the end of the day, the FE-5020 is another undemanding, inexpensive point and shoot, but the Magic Filters save it from being 'just' another. However, do the images it provides raise the bar, or lower the tone? Read on to find out…

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

Since there's not a great deal of this slender, slippery surfaced camera to get a completely firm grip on, there were occasional instances of camera shake visible in our test shots, even when shooting in a seemingly sufficient amount of daylight.

And, as we've found with Olympus cameras in the past, white balance can disappointingly vary between shots - and this is more noticeable than on competitors. Flesh tones too can look a little cool and pallid, while overall the images could do with more visual punch.

This can be provided of course by dipping into the set of Magic Filters - but again results vary. Whilst Pop Art delivers much needed saturation, as you'd expect colours are a bit retina searing. Our attempts at Pin Hole returned images that looked like they had been doused in Victorian soot, whilst Fish Eye too needs to be used in moderation. The worry is that these are effects users will play with for five minutes, coo briefly at, and then forget they ever existed. Still at least Olympus is offering something a little different, even if it's not 100% successful.

As expected from a pocket snapshot, purple fringing is readily evidenced between areas of high contrast, and highlights are often blown. There is a reasonable level of detail captured however.

In terms of light sensitivity, image noise begins to slowly creep into shot from ISO 400 upwards. And, although ISO 800 would be usable if pushed, at ISO 1600, images appear as if being viewed through a smear of grease, detail significantly degraded.


There are 6 ISO settings available on the Olympus FE-5020. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 64 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

As expected from a pocket snapshot, purple fringing is readily evidenced between areas of high contrast, and highlights are often blown, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Olympus FE-5020 offers a Super Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Olympus FE-5020 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (120mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (120mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots. As you can see, neither the Flash On or the Red-Eye Reduction options caused any red-eye.


On (100% Crop)

Red-eye Reduction

Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Olympus FE-5020's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which is disappointing news if you're seriously interested in night photography, as it doesn't allow you to capture enough light in most situations. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 250. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus FE-5020 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 640x480 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 12 second movie is 19.5Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus FE-5020

Front of the Camera

Olympus FE-5020

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Olympus FE-5020

Isometric View

Olympus FE-5020

Isometric View

Olympus FE-5020

Rear of the Camera

Olympus FE-5020

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Olympus FE-5020

Top of the Camera

Olympus FE-5020

Bottom of the Camera

Olympus FE-5020

Side of the Camera


Olympus FE-5020

Side of the Camera

Olympus FE-5020
Memory Card Slot
Olympus FE-5020
Battery Compartment


Those looking to get a better quality of image than their current camera phone will allow, whilst retaining a capture device with a small form factor, could do worse than further investigate the 12 megapixel Olympus FE-5020. However, a better overall image quality and consistency of capture can be found elsewhere - namely among rival snapshots from Canon and Panasonic. Yes, the Magic Filters are fun and help the 5020 stand out from the crowd, but surely no one buys a camera for funky effects alone.

Though Olympus has been innovative at the higher end of the market with its E-series DSLRs and the exciting digital Pen, its compact cameras seem to be suffering. It's a shame as its all-metal Mju cameras at the start of the decade were small truly objects of desire. And whilst the FE-5020 undoubtedly looks good if you choose the white and chrome combination we had, there's not as much substance behind the style as there could be.

To end on a positive, in the FE-5020's favour it features a broader focal range than a camera this slender and relatively inexpensive has any right to have. For its price we also believe this model - all things considered - to be a better value bet than its flashier sibling in the simultaneously announced Mju 7010 model, also 12 megapixels.

3.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 3
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 3
Value for money 4


Image Sensor
Effective pixels 12 Megapixels
Filter array Primary colour filter (RGB)
Full resolution 12.2 Megapixels
Type 1/2.3 '' CCD sensor
Optical zoom 5 x
Focal length 4.3 - 21.5 mm
Focal length (equiv. 35mm) 24 - 120 mm
Structure 7 lenses / 6 groups
Aspherical glass elements 3
Maximum aperture 3.3 - 5.8
Digital Zoom
Enlargement factor 4 x / 20 x combined with optical zoom
Resolution 230000 dots
Monitor size 6.9 cm / 2.7 ''
LCD type TFT
Frame assistance Yes
LCD backlight boost Yes
Brightness adjustment 2 levels
Focusing System
Method TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection
Spot focusing Yes
Face Detection AF Yes
Focus tracking Yes
Standard mode 0.6m - ∞ (wide) / 1.0m - ∞ (tele)
Makro mode 0.15m - ∞ (wide) / 0.6m - ∞ (tele)
Super Macro mode Closest focusing distance: 1 cm
Light Metering
Modes ESP light metering, Spot metering
Exposure System
Shutter speed 1/4 - 1/500 s / < 4 s (Night scene)
Enhancement function Image Stabilisation Mode
Shadow Adjustment Technology
Advanced Face Detection Technology
Exposure compensation +/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps
Modes i-Auto, Programme automatic, DIS mode, Scene Modes, Movie
Scene Modes
Number of scene modes 14
Modes Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet
Magic Filter
Pop Art  
Pin Hole  
Auto AUTO Automatically selected
Manual ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
White Balance
AUTO WB system Yes
Preset values Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3
Internal Flash
Working range (wide) 0.15 - 4.1 m (ISO 800)
Working range (tele) 0.6 - 2.3 m (ISO 800)
Modes AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off
Image Processing
Pixel mapping Yes
Noise reduction Yes
TruePic III Yes
Shading compensation Yes
Distortion compensation Yes
Function Processing
Panorama Yes
Image Editing
Black & White No
Sepia No
Resize Yes
Trimming Yes
Red-eye reduction Yes
Shadow Adjustment Yes
Movie Edit
Index Yes
View Images
Index 4, 9, 16, 25 frames
Zoom 1.1 - 10 x
Slide show Yes
Rotation Yes
Image protect mode Yes
Voice playback Yes
View Movie
Frame by frame Yes
Fast forward Yes
Reverse playback Yes
Voice playback Yes
Still Image Recording
EXIF 2.21
DPS PictBridge
Movie Recording System
Recording format AVI Motion JPEG®
Sound recording Yes , format: WAV
Movie quality 640 x 480 / 30 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity (40s with 30fps when xD standard type is used)
640 x 480 / 15 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
320 x 240 / 30 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
Note: maximum file size 2GB
Voice Appendage
Recording format Wave format
Recording length 4 s
Internal memory 48 MB for image data
Image Size
12M 3968 x 2976
5M 2560 x 1920
3M 2048 x 1536
2M 1600 x 1200
1M 1280 x 960
VGA 640 x 480
16:9 1920 x 1080
Menu languages in camera 39 languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese (BR + PT), German, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Korean, Simple Chinese, Traditional Chinese,Thai, Arabic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Indonesian, Hebrew, Malay, Vietnamese)
Speaker Yes
DC input No (BPC-05L2 required)
Combined A/V & USB output Yes
USB 2.0 High Speed Yes
Other Features
Advanced Face Detection Technology  
Perfect Shot Preview Yes
Self timer 12 s
Menu guide Yes
Dimensions (W x H x D) 92.7 x 55.8 x 24.7 mm
Weight 107 g (without battery and card)

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