Breaking Out A 19-Year Old Digicam for ‘Jankuary’: The 4MP Olympus FE-100

By Molly Kate

Upon receiving Azriel Knight’s public invitation to participate in “Jankuary” here on 35mmc, I couldn’t wait to sift through my camera collection to find a “no-name plastic piece of crap”, get out and shoot it, and share it with you.

Here was the brief from Azriel’s article: “Dig up that old no-name plastic piece of crap, strap on a 100-year-old lens to a modern digital wonder, or develop your film in your own recipe of instant coffee and the tears of your enemy. Anything goes. It should be creative and frustrating and not so much DIY, but DIWHY.” – Azriel Knight

At the moment, I’m a bit short on enemies and I don’t have a modern digital wonder so I settled for what some people might call an old piece of crap. Say hello to the Olympus FE-100, a 4MP camera from 2005. From the outside, it may look like a “janky” old digicam but there is treasure to be found within. Of course, I’m talking about the CCD sensor, now a sought-after piece of tech that draws the interest of many a broke film photographer. I don’t actually consider this a bad camera but it fits in the spirit of Jankuary, so let’s dive into it.

According to DPReview, this camera cost around £120 back in 2005. The lens stretches from 38mm to 105mm with a 2.8x optical zoom and an aperture range of F3 – F5. DPReview talks up the resolution in the original release (quoted below):

“With 5.0 and 4.0 million pixels respectively, the FE-110 and FE-100 have the pixel power to promise crystal clear images.” – DP Review News Release, 2005.

19 years later and the images might not be crystal but they are surprisingly clear for 4MP.

Olympus FE-100 Sample Image
Olympus FE-100 – The View from FunSpot Cafe
Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – Indoor Light

This adorable pocket-sized camera was my mother’s and it still has her outdated address label stuck on it. Many teenage memories were captured by this thing. After she moved on to more advanced digital cameras in recent years, I snagged her old ones once the digicam craze started to sweep through despairing film photographers coping with the price hikes of most films, myself included.

There’s even a fun boat-themed video on my YouTube channel about it! I can’t believe how awesome the photos are from this now ‘retro’ camera.

On New Year’s Day, I took the FE-100 for a spin to FunSpot NH, the “largest arcade in the world”. Not only was it a huge arcade space, but part of it was an interactive arcade museum with an incredible amount of game modules. It felt like stepping back into the 80s! (Or what someone born in the 90s would imagine the 80s feeling like) Pong, Donkey Kong, Pacman, Space Invaders, etc., they were all there. The buttons were worn and grimey but they still worked. I made sure to wash my hands really well before we sat down for pizza…

It was dark inside the arcade and often the camera hunted for focus. Patience is required when operating something digital pre-2010. Despite it being a little slow to focus, the camera hit eventually and with the flash, I really enjoyed the results.

Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – Pinball Machines
Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – FunSpot NH Cafe

This camera is pocket-friendly so it also found itself accompanying me on quite a few walks around the neighborhood, capturing the near-middle-of-winter vibes of New Hampshire. Powered by AA batteries, it’s easy to find some to slide in and go quickly without having to think about pre-charging the camera.

I used the exposure compensation for a few of these images to stop the highlights from blowing out. The Olympus FE-100 can compensate up to +/- 2EV in ⅓ steps which is so handy! In general, I usually underexpose by at least ⅓ of a stop with most digital cameras, even advanced ones.

Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – NH Forest Reflections
Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – NH Forest

Remember XD cards? Thankfully, this camera has a USB output to transfer the images to a computer because it uses an XD card, something I do not have a card reader for! The one I’m using is 256MB (yes, MB). Depending on what quality level is selected, that card can hold from 88 to 1599 images. File size options include 2272 x 1704, 1600 x 1200, or 640 x 480.

Olympus FE-100 Menu Screen
Olympus FE-100 Menu Screen

Should we talk about video? Yeah, that’s right, this camera can film too. Although this isn’t a feature I would sing the praises of, it could be an interesting creative choice for b-roll. I say b-roll intentionally because I couldn’t get the camera to record any audio. With the help of the worldwide web, I found the manual online and sure enough, this camera cannot record sound.

Olympus FE-100 Online Manual
Screenshot of the Olympus FE-100 Online Manual

There are two choices for movie recording in terms of quality, standard records at 160 x 120 and HQ bumps it up to an impressive (holds up sarcasm sign) 320 x 240. It’s fun but I’ll be sticking to photography with this camera!

A few other cool features of this tiny camera include macro (up to 20cm) and super macro mode (up to 2cm), four scene modes (portrait, landscape, night, and self-portrait), a 1.5” LCD screen, and 28MB internal memory.

Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – Macro mode

One absolutely ‘janky’ limit is the ISO doesn’t go higher than ISO400! So, while shooting on sunny days is brilliant, this camera falls short when it comes to low-light photography. It does have a strong flash which helps but you might not be able to shoot without it in dark settings.

For 4MP, this camera bites…in a good way…for a few situations. Using the wide angle on a sunny day hits big time. However, extend the zoom all the way, try to record video, or shoot in low light without flash…you’ll be wishing you had something from more recent times.

Olympus FE-100
Olympus FE-100 – Perfect for sunny days

Thank you to Azriel for the creative idea to spark a bit of fun at the beginning of 2024. I’m looking forward to seeing other Jankuary experiences over the next few weeks!

If you want to jump in on Jankuary, head over to Azriel’s first article about it here.

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About The Author

By Molly Kate
Photographer, writer, and CPA currently running a Youtube channel called Eclectachrome. I'm a huge fan of shiny new objects which makes writing news a perfect fit. Favorite cameras are often mechanical rangefinders, folders, and compacts and I love most film stocks. I enjoy developing and scanning my own film as well as printing in the darkroom when there's extra time!
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Kim on Breaking Out A 19-Year Old Digicam for ‘Jankuary’: The 4MP Olympus FE-100

Comment posted: 13/01/2024

I've just recently been using my Casio Exilim Ex-S1, 1.3MP, its so tiny, used to put it in my back pocket when cycling back in day, have taken some great shots with it, even have a waterproof casing somewhere.

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Molly Kate replied:

Comment posted: 13/01/2024

Nice!! it's so handy to have something you can always pocket but also maybe not worry about ruining :) 1.3MP!


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