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Olympus Stylus 1 - Don't be fooled by the small size, this is a hell of a camera

Olympus Stylus 1

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#1 Soukous

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 07:02 PM

If you're looking for a camera to take on your travels but don't want the weight of a DSLR, then this could be the answer.

 

Let's make it clear from the start that this is not an in-depth technical review; rather a series of first impressions based on 2 field trips. Having said that; is there a better way of finding out if a camera will do what you want?

 

I've used Nikon cameras for many years and have no quibbles about the image quality or the ease of use of their DSLR cameras, BUT I am tired of lugging around 15kg of camera gear (2 bodies+ 3 lenses) every time I go away.
The idea of a bridge camera has become more and more appealing as the quality has steadily improved and the focal range of the lenses has got longer and longer.
I realise a compact will not give same image quality or scope for enlargement as my DSLRs but the appeal of a lightweight camera is huge and I was sure there must be something out there that would combine a light weight with decent images.

 

A shortlist of 2 - bigger sensor or bigger zoom?

After a lot of research I narrowed my shortlist down to 2 cameras – the Sony Cyber Shot RX10 and the Olympus Stylus 1.
The Sony has a larger sensor and does offer slightly better image quality but Olympus has a greater zoom range – up to 300mm compared to the Sony's 200mm.

As I take mostly wildlife images I wanted the greater zoom; even though I know that the Sony's bigger sensor will give great scope for cropping or enlarging.
The fact that the Sony is almost twice the price was also not an insignificant factor in my decision making process.

 

The Stylus 1 has a zoom range from 28mm-300mm. There are bridge cameras out there that boast a zoom that extends to 1000mm but from all I have been able to discover, even those from big names like Canon & Nikon do not rate very highly in reviews when it comes to image quality.
Also, and this is a biggie for me, the Olympus Stylus 1 has an electronic viewfinder Most bridge cameras only offer an LCD screen, they do not have an optical/electronic viewfinder. For me this is essential.


What good is a camera that can zoom to 600mm or 1000mm if you cannot hold it steady? Believe me, it is almost impossible to hold a camera steady enough to use a 600mm zoom when using a rear LCD screen. Added to which LCD screens are almost impossible to view clearly in bright sunlight, making it very tough to accurately compose a photograph.

 

So, I took the plunge and bought myself an Olympus Stylus 1.

 

olympus-2.jpg Olympus Stylus 1 featuring a 28-300mm zoom beside a Nikon D7100 + 70-200mm zoom

 

As soon as I got it out of the box I was impressed with the quality feel of the camera. Even though it is small, it feels substantial and well built when compared to most bridge cameras.

I looked in vain for a user manual, eventually discovering that the only one provided was a downloadable PDF file. This was disappointing.


Once I had downloaded this PDF manual there was further disappointment when it became apparent that the manual was far from comprehensive and did little more than listing the various menu options without giving any real explanation of of what particular settings would do.


At least when I contacted Olympus support they promptly sent me a printed version of the manual. It contained no additional information but at least it was something I could carry around with me.
Olympus support were also very helpful when I encountered problems updating the camera's firmware, responding very promptly to my queries.

 

On the road in Australia and South Africa

To put my new Olympus through its paces I planned to take it with me on a trip to Australia's High Country and then, assuming all went well on that trip, I wanted to take it with me on a hiking train in South Africa's iMfolozi National Park.

 

High Country Australia

On the High Country trip it performed impeccably, although I did notice that the electronic viewfinder did momentarily freeze after a shot whilst the camera was writing the file to the SD card. This meant that for that brief time I could not see anything through the viewfinder. I though that this might be because I was using a card with a fairly slow write speed (45mbps).
When I used the camera in burst mode the 'freeze' lasted a little longer and even when I was panning to keep the subject in frame, when the viewfinder unfroze, the subject was often nowhere near where I was aiming. Irritating.

 

Over the course of 3 weeks I used the Stylus 1 as much as I could, often taking the same shot with the Olympus as I was taking with my Nikon, so that I could compare the images.

 

bucking-2.jpg Bucking whipcrack
 
brumbie-1.jpg Brumbie roundup
 
brumbie-2-720x480.jpg Chasing a brumbie
 

ice-framed-716x480.jpg

 

mungo-1-bw-720x480.jpg Mungo National Park
 
kangaroos-3-720x438.jpg Kangaroos

 

Functions buttons can be customised

A neat feature on the Stylus 1 is that there are 2 programmable function buttons -one on the front and one on the rear.
I programmed the front one to switch between single shot/burst modes and the one on the rear to switch on the 2x digital zoom feature.

 

Auto ISO limitations

One niggle that baffled me was that although the Stylus 1 has an Auto ISO setting, and you are able to set high and low parameters for the ISO, it cannot be used in conjunction with the M (Manual) setting.
On my DSLRs I like to use the ISO as my variable when I am shooting in Manual mode, allowing me to determine both Shutter speed and Aperture.
On the Stylus 1 I could not do this and I cannot really see any reason why this should be the case. But it is, currently at least.

 

I have to say it was a pleasure carrying this little camera around and, even better, I was very happy with the quality of the photographs I took.

 

A Leap of Faith

Encouraged by this I decided to take the plunge and take the Olympus as my only camera for a 5 day hiking trail in South Africa's iMfolozi National Park.
On this trip we'd be carrying all our gear with us in backpacks (approx 20kg) and I really didn't want the weight of a DSLR and lenses as well.

 

Having completed the hike, I'm pleased to report that I was pretty happy with my decision. The Stylus 1 performed excellently.

 

buffalo1-720x480.jpg Buffalo in white umfolozi river
 
hippos-st-lucia-3-720x440.jpg Hippos at St Lucia
 
Hadeda-720x450.jpg Hadeda Ibis
 
giraffe1.jpg Giraffe drinking
 

Excellent Battery Life

Poor battery life can often be a problem with small cameras. I took a spare battery with me, but never needed it.

The battery life was good enough that it still showed as full after 5 days and 500 images.

 

The zoom range of 28mm-300mm proved just about perfect for the circumstances, although a bit too short for any decent bird photography.

 

Small niggles

Apart from the – already mentioned – issue of the viewfinder freezing, the only other things that caused a slight problem were

 

(i) the delay between switching the camera on and it being ready to use.
The delay was only about 2-3 seconds (Basically the time it takes for the lens to pop out and then to get the zoom extended to 300mm.) but there were a couple of occasions where even this short delay caused me to miss a shot.
Now that I am more confident about the camera's battery life I can overcome this problem by leaving it switched on.

 

(ii) Because the camera is so small and I have large hands I did occasionally find that my thumb was hitting the control dial on the back of the camera and bringing up a menu in the viewfinder. A simple touch on the shutter release was enough to clear the menu from the screen and it didn't cause any real problems.

Even more so than in Australia, I appreciated the camera's light weight and ease of use and it will definitely be accompanying me on future trips where keeping the weight down is a priority.

 

Many more features still to be discovered

The Olympus Stylus 1 has a lot of features that I haven't used yet:

  • It has various pre-programmed scene settings and a selection of 'art' settings
  • It offers the capability for you to create a collage of images as you shoot them
  • It has a flip out rear LCD screen that I have not yet flipped out, other than to check that it does indeed flip out.

There are probably a lot more that I haven't even noticed yet and I'm sure that I'll discover them in due course.

 

Just to summarise, here is a list of the things I liked and the things I didn't.

 

What I like

  • size & weight
  • zoom range
  • it shoots RAW
  • image quality
  • constant maximum aperture of f2.8 throughout zoom range
  • good WB - I found the Auto WB to be much more accurate than on my Nikons and needing far less adjustment
  • controls are well placed
  • 2 progammable function buttons
  • build quality
  • burst mode
  • battery life
  • Olympus service – they responded promptly to my queries – and sent me a printed copy of the manual very quickly when I asked.

What I don't like

  • can't use auto ISO in Manual (M) mode
  • the electronic viewfinder freezes momentarily whilst the camera writes images to the card. I though this might be because I was using a slow card but it happens even with a 95mbps card.
  • Following on from the above, when shooting in burst mode I have to pan with the subject and hope that I have kept it in frame. Once the camera has finished writing the shots to the card the subject is often nowhere near the place I was aiming.
  • Aperture does not go beyond f8. This was not a problem in reality but I guess for some people it might be.
  • The manual – it only comes as a downloadable PDF and it is so poorly written that anyone not familiar with general camera functions would struggle to get going.

I'm sure that as I use this lovely little camera more and more I will learn how to use it better but for now I am very content to have found an ideal travel camera.

 

Technical Stuff

For those of you that like that sort of thing, here are a few of the specifications:

  • 1/1.7" CMOS sensor
  • 12 megapixels
  • Electronic viewfinder with eye sensor - shuts off the rear LCD when you put your eye to the viewfinder - neat.
  • 3.0" TFT colour display - touch screen
  • Equivalent to 28mm-300mm on a 35mm camera with constant f2.8 max aperture
  • TTL metering system
  • Shutter speeds 1/2000 - - 60 sec
  • ISO sensitivity - 100-12800
  • Weight 402g / 14oz - including battery and memory card

More reviews

If you'd like to read some more technical reviews of the Olympus Stylus 1, then here are a few of the ones I looked at:

 

imaging-resource.com - http://www.imaging-r...s-stylus-1A.HTM

whatdigitalcamera.com - http://www.whatdigit...stylus-1-review

photographyblog.com - http://www.photograp...tylus_1_review/

digitalcamerareview.com - http://www.digitalca...tylus-1-review/

pcmag.com - http://uk.pcmag.com/...lympus-stylus-1

digitalversus.com - http://www.digitalve...17543/test.html

cameralabs.com - http://www.cameralab...ympus_STYLUS_1/


Edited by Soukous, 19 May 2015 - 07:07 PM.

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#2 Tom Kellie

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 07:31 PM

~ @Soukous

 

That's a comprehensive review. The sheer amount of detail included is impressive.

 

The ISO up to 12800 and the f/2.8 are especially attractive features.

 

I'd never heard of this camera before as Olympus products aren't typically marketed much where I live.

 

On Saturday afternoon, after teaching morning classes, I'll pass through an electronics district here. When doing so, I'll look for the Stylus 1.

 

I generally shoot in Manual, sometimes using Auto ISO, so thank you for pointing out the design quirk.

 

How to express appreciation for such a major, time-consuming review?

 

Many, many thanks!

 

Tom K.



#3 kittykat23uk

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 09:33 PM

Nice review. I have just splashed out on the Olympus OMD E-M1 now that it has come down in price to something more reasonable. So I can still use my fave 4/3 lenses and start to replace some of them with their m 4/3 equivalents. First new lens will be the 75-300. After that not sure. :)
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#4 Geoff

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 10:02 PM

Any noticeable shutter lag?


Geoff.

#5 Tom Kellie

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 10:48 PM

Nice review. I have just splashed out on the Olympus OMD E-M1 now that it has come down in price to something more reasonable. So I can still use my fave 4/3 lenses and start to replace some of them with their m 4/3 equivalents. First new lens will be the 75-300. After that not sure. :)

 

~ @kittykat23uk

 

It's good news that you've acquired such fine camera equipment.

 

Also good news for us on Safaritalk as a 75-300 lens will ensure fine photos during your future journeys.

 

We like and benefit from your excellent trip report images, not to mention the gorgeous Callosciurus prevostii you posted.

 

Enjoy your new camera!

 

Tom K.


Edited by Tom Kellie, 19 May 2015 - 10:49 PM.


#6 twaffle

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Posted 19 May 2015 - 11:02 PM

Thanks for the review Soukous, I think many of us our evaluating our need for heavy DSLR equipment on safari. Terry uses Fuji Mirrorless camera as do a few of my wildlife photography friends and with the new long lenses coming out, I think that it is in my future plans.
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#7 Soukous

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Posted 20 May 2015 - 07:34 AM

Thanks for the review Soukous, I think many of us our evaluating our need for heavy DSLR equipment on safari. Terry uses Fuji Mirrorless camera as do a few of my wildlife photography friends and with the new long lenses coming out, I think that it is in my future plans.

 

I too looked at the Fujifilm XT-1 @twaffle and was very impressed. At the time though, the lenses only went up to 200mm which is not quite enough.

I know there are longer lenses in the pipeline and I'll be keeping an eye out for them.

The only real issue is money. Changing to a new camera system is not a cheap undertakng.


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#8 wilddog

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Posted 20 May 2015 - 07:47 AM

@Soukous I believe this camera has a video function? If so did you try this at all?

 

It certainly sounds a nice camera in many respects.



#9 Soukous

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Posted 20 May 2015 - 09:15 AM

Yes indeed, it does have a video function @wilddog but I didn't try it out. I suppose I should have, but video has never really interested me that much. 

I will make a point of trying it out next time, just to check it works.


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#10 pault

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 01:31 AM

I nearly bought this camera for my wife, but didn't as she forbade the purchase after realising in time I was recommending it because I wanted to play with it - it's so cute! A baby DSLR - I was coo-cooing it in the shop while playing with it.

 

Thanks for the personal review @Soukous It's really interesting to hear that if met so many of your needs, even when you are used to shooting with a good quality DSLR. I am so close to going partially "mini" myself. Seems so convenient, but like twaffle I have my eye on something and am waiting for just a little more progress.

 

And are you sure the viewfinder image freezes because the camera is wrting to the card? Have you (or are you able to) turn off the "playback" of the images? I know there can be a "slideshow effect" with some electronic viewfinders when taking multiple images in quick succession but usually a camera is default set to play back the image you have just taken for a secoind so that you can "chimp" in the rear screen, and with an electronic viewfinder that is not a good thing - especially if your subject is moving. A lot of people with issues like this have found that all they needed to do was to turn off the playback - and voila!. But of course you may know this and you may as you say be describing the shutter actually freezing because the camera buffer is full, or the imapct of something like a slow refresh rate on the electronic viewfinder. Still, worth asking!


Edited by pault, 21 May 2015 - 01:40 AM.

Waiting again... for the next time again


#11 Soukous

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 09:05 AM

@pault you are a veritable genius.  :D

That had not occurred to me as I am not familiar with electronic viewfinders.

It took a while to track down the correct setting on the menu but I eventually found it and turned off playback - it seems to have done the trick.

Thank you.


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#12 wilddog

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 09:12 AM

This gets better by the minute. Sounds tempting this camera.

 

Thanks for your comments to Soukous @pault .............. I must check if play back is on on my existing camera............................;)



#13 pault

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 10:57 AM

@Soukous. Haha...good news! No genius involved but glad to help.

Waiting again... for the next time again


#14 pault

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Posted 21 May 2015 - 11:06 AM

This gets better by the minute. Sounds tempting this camera.
 
Thanks for your comments to Soukous @pault .............. I must check if play back is on on my existing camera............................;)


You should definitely do that if has an electronic viewfinder.

Waiting again... for the next time again


#15 Soukous

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Posted 29 September 2015 - 09:43 AM

Although the Stylus 1 comes with a 28-300mm zoom lens, I have found it a bit short for bird photography.

Luckily Olympus have a solution to that in the form of a 1.7x Tele Converter.

 

They are not easy to find but I did manage to track one down.

 

To use the tele Converter you also need to buy a 'converter adaptor'. These both screw onto the front of the camera and extends the zoom reach to 510mm.

 

stylus-1d.jpg

 

stylus-1e.jpg

 

With the Tele Converter attached the overall weight of the camera is still much much lighter than a DSLR and I find that with the lens sticking out at the front the balance/handling is much nicer. 

 

stylus-1a.jpg

 

stylus-1b.jpg

 

stylus1c.jpg

 

I have not had much chance to play with this setup yet but early shots have been very encouraging.

 

swans-bordered.jpg

 

Best of all, with the Tele Converter fitted the maximum aperture remains at f2.8

 

I am hoping that this will be a usable lightweight kit for wildlife and birds on an everyday basis

 

 


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#16 Soukous

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Posted 15 December 2015 - 02:19 PM

I've now had the chance to try out my little Olympus Stylus 1 more extensively. 

Click here to link to the latest part of my ongoing review


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