The Bottom Line
Finding a large optical zoom lens (8X) in such a thin camera (0.7 inches in thickness) certainly made me notice the GE E1680W. In the sub-$200 price range, the E1680W has an above-average list of features.
Unfortunately, the E1680W's image quality is only average. The camera exhibited some softness in a variety of shooting situations, but it especially struggled in low-light conditions. If you want a beginner-level camera with a nice zoom lens to use for outdoor nature photos, the E1680W is well worth considering. For those who want to shoot mostly indoor flash photos, though, I'd look elsewhere.
With outdoor photos, the E1680W does a nice job for the most part. The camera doesn't suffer much from shutter lag when the exterior lighting is good, and colors are realistic and vibrant. You may notice some shutter lag when shooting at the maximum zoom setting, however.
The biggest problem when shooting in sunlight with this camera is you sometimes lose details in the shadows when shooting in areas of high contrast -- bright sunlight and shadows in the same frame.
With indoor photos, though, the E1680W struggles a bit. Flash photos are hit and miss in terms of quality, as you'll have some images that are washed out because the flash is too intense. To deal with these issue, you can back up a little bit from the subject, zoom in, and use the flash from a little ways away.
The colors aren't quite as realistic and vibrant in low light photos, either.
The biggest problem I noticed with the E1680W is its autofocus, which just isn't quite as sharp as it needs to be. If you want to shoot a lot of close-up photos with this camera, especially indoors, you'll probably be disappointed in the results about half the time.
For a camera in this price range, the overall image quality is just average.
Overall, the E1680W's response times are about average. The camera starts up pretty fast, and its shutter lag isn't bad most of the time. However, you'll find growing shutter lag and shot to shot delays when shooting at the maximum 8X zoom lens setting.
Finding an 8X optical zoom lens in a camera of this size and price range is a very nice feature, and the lens does a decent job.
The 3.0-inch LCD is a nice feature in a camera in this price range, too, and it is very bright and sharp. You can change the brightness level to any of 10 settings, giving you the option of increasing performance or conserving battery power.
As mentioned above, the camera's flash performance isn't as good as I'd like to see, and the camera tends to fire the flash in some photography situations where it probably shouldn't. You may find yourself wanting to manually turn off the flash from time to time.
The E1680W has a few special effect options. You can shoot in panoramic mode, and the E1680W will try to automatically create a panoramic photo for you. However, I had a difficult time keeping the camera steady enough to make this feature work properly, and I received quite a few error messages. Even with the error messages, the camera does record the panoramic photo at least. The other special effect options include "pencil sketch," fisheye, and black and white. The pencil effect is really fun to use.
Finally, the E1680W can shoot 720 HD video, and the movie quality is pretty good. There is no dedicated movie button, and you must select movie mode from the menus. The zoom lens is available when shooting movies, which is nice.
I like the look of the E1680W. It's a very thin camera, measuring only 0.7 inches in thickness, and it's a great size and shape for beginners looking for an easy-to-use camera. It also has an uncluttered interface, with very few buttons.
The E1680W has no mode dial, unfortunately, but you can work through the camera's on-screen menus to make your selections, and, like most GE cameras, the menu structure is easy to use. The camera's four-way button is a nice size and is comfortable to use, which is important with how often you probably will need to use the menus.
With this camera, you can shoot at five different resolutions at the 4:3 ratio. The only other aspect ratio you can use is 16:9, and only two resolutions are available at that ratio.