Olympus Stylus 1 Review
Performance - How well does it take pictures?
Performance starts with image quality, which is the criteria used as the foundation of our digital camera ratings. Ergonomic issues may get in the way, but in the end, image quality counts the most. Image quality has multiple components which can be attributed to the sensor, lens and processing.
The Olympus Stylus 1 shows good control over image noise. It produces very low-noise images until ISO 800, although noise-reduction is always at work. This reduces maximum print sizes yet produces nice moderately large prints, say 16" x 12", prints up to ISO 400. At ISO 800, such a large print are slightly grainy but completely usable.
ISO 1600 is still good for such a small sensor. It can pull-off a nice 12" x 9" print in good light. Low-light images are definitely grainy at that size. Just take a look at the fireworks image in the gallery and compare it to the horse statue next to it. ISO 3200 is a little more noise and barely usable for a mid-size but reasonable for a small one.
ISO 6400 is very noise with all fine details removed. It can pull off a small prints for emergencies but that is it. ISO 12800 is clearly too noise to be useful. Still, this is completely expected for such a small sensor.
Image sharpness is impressive and extremely consistent from edge to edge. Only a slight degradation occurs right at the extreme corners of the lens. Details are resolved nicely but do not appear completely tack-sharp. A little reduction of image-size is enough to hide this, so it will not be an issue for anything but the largest prints. What is nice is that Olympus noise-reduction is gentle enough to keep sharpness constant until ISO 400.
The lens on the Stylus 1 keeps a bright F/2.8 maximum aperture throughout its 10.7X optical zoom range which helps use faster shutter-speeds than usual. This camera also features Sensor-Shift image-stabilization that compensates for involuntary movements of the photographer. This provides around 3 stops of improvements above hand-holding.
There is a moderate amount of barrel distortion towards the wide-angle end of the zoom. It takes more zooming in than usual to make it disappear but it eventually does. Geometry stays good all the way to the telephoto end. Vignetting, however, does not appear to be a problem at all.
Color & White Balance
Color accuracy for the Stylus 1 is nice. Among color modes, Natural is closest to reality while still being slightly over-saturated. Lowering Saturation to -1 improves things. The Vivid style is best suited for things which do not resemble reality. Muted is very similar to Natural, mostly with lower contrast.
Automatic White-balance is good and even handles artificial light well, occasionally leaving only a slight yellow. Outdoor, it works very well. Presets work just as expected. The custom white-balance option is spot-on. As said in the capability page of this review, the Stylus 1 features white-balance fine-tuning. This lets one easily fix color-balance issues.
This compact digital camera has a sophisticated multi-segment metering system called ESP. It is extremely reliable and produces well-balanced exposures. It occasionally misses small bright highlights but less so than most digital cameras. Of course, the small pixel-size of the 1/1.7" CMOS sensor limits dynamic-range, so many high-contrast scenes clip both shadows and highlights.
Dynamic-range is average for a fixed-lens camera. It declines as ISO increases but less so than usual. Even until ISO 1600, about one stop is lost which is quite impressive. The Stylus 1 manages to keep exposure and color consistent at all but the maximum sensitivity.
The autofocus system of the Olympus Stylus 1 is quick, accurate and reliable. It always locks focus unless the subject is too close. Super Macro focusing is equally dependable. Autofocus takes under ½s to lock even when light is relatively low. In very low light, it can take up to 1s yet it manages to lock focus in surprisingly dark places.
In use the Olympus Stylus 1 is extremely responsive. Nearly every button-press and dial-turn gets an immediate response. Operating speed generally good:
- Power On: 1½s. Good.
- Autofocus: Around ½s, up to 1s in very low-light. Nice.
- Shutter-Lag: Not quite instant, but almost. Average.
- Shot-to-Shot Time: 1s. Better than average.
- Time-to-First-Shot: 2½s. Very good.
- Playback: Under 1s to enter. Instant to exist. Reasonable.
- Power Off: 3-5s, depending on zoom position. Average.
The Olympus Stylus 1 is essentially a miniaturized OM-D E-M10
Olympus OM-D E-M10 with a highly versatile fixed lens. It provides an incredibly similar feature-set and level of controls, while being considerably smaller. This removes the flexibility of interchangeable lenses and, most importantly, the larger Four-Thirds sensor. As they always say, there is no free lunch.
The shooting experience delivered by the Stylus 1 is great. Its powerful controls are accessible and intuitive for the most part. The dual control-dials and, particularly, the unique control-ring are highly usable. This makes this one of the best compact cameras for creative photography.
The 1/1.7" CMOS sensor and constant-aperture F/2.8 lens of the Stylus 1 let it gather more light than a typical fixed-lens camera. This is useful for staying within low ISOs. This digital camera shows good image-quality and compares well to typical compacts. However, it does not quite match that of other premium models.
The bottom line is that the Olympus Stylus 1 is a fun camera which packs tons of features. It is made for being creative and that is exactly what it excels at. As a learner's camera or a photographer's second, it easily fits the bill.
Olympus 1 Facts
|12 Megapixels Ultra Zoom||ISO 100-12800|
|10.7X Wide Optical Zoom||Shutter 1/2000-60s|
|Built-in Stabilization||Full manual controls, including Manual Focus|
|0.44" Built-in EVF 1.4 Megapixels (0.58X)||Custom white-balance with 2 axis fine-tuning|
|Automatic Eye-Start sensor||Spot-Metering|
|2 Axis Digital Level||Hot-Shoe|
|7 FPS Drive, 70 Images||Lithium-Ion Battery|
|1920x1080 @ 30 FPS Video Recording||Secure Digital Extended Capacity|
|3" LCD 1 Megapixels|
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