Olympus Stylus 1 review

The Olympus Stylus 1 is a cross between and enthusiast compact and a superzoom that covers an impressive 28-300mm zoom range at f/2.8.
Photo of Olympus Stylus 1

The Olympus Stylus 1 ($699.99 direct) has the look and feel of a top-end camera, and despite not being an interchangable lens camera with a huge image sensor, it is one. It is styled like the excellent Olympus OM-D E-M5, sharing the same EVF and titling touch-screen LCD. At its heart is a 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch image sensor, larger than those found in most long zoom cameras, and the integrated 28-300mm f/2.8 lens covers an impressive focal range at a constant aperture. It’s a solid performer, and even though its zoom lens doesn’t cover as long of a range as our previous favorite, the 24x Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200, we’re naming the Stylus 1 as our new Editors’ Choice superzoom. Its bridge-style body is shaped more like a mirrorless camera than a D-SLR, which makes it a bit more portable. The FZ200 is still an excellent camera if you need a longer telephoto lens, but if size is a priority, the Stylus 1 is worth its extra cost.

Design and Features
Measuring 3.4 by 4.5 by 2.2 inches (HWD) and weighing 14.2 ounces, the Stylus 1 is a bit larger than most compact long zoom cameras, like the pocketable Canon PowerShot SX280 HS (2.5 by 4.2 by 1.3 inches, 8.2 ounces). The Stylus has a noticeably bigger lens that doesn’t collapse fully into the body, and its integrated EVF and tilting rear display also contribute to the extra bulk. The Stylus 1 has a unique lens cover; the always-on cap (it can be removed to add a teleconverter accessory) has four hinged doors that automatically open as the lens extends. You won’t have to worry about capping and uncapping, and there’s no danger of misplacing the cap when shooting.

The 10.7x lens is a 28-300mm f/2.8 design, which is an impressive range for a camera with a 1/1.7-inch image sensor. The FZ200′s f/2.8 lens only has to cast light on a smaller 1/2.3-inch sensor; as a rule of thumb a larger image sensor generally delivers better image quality, and more control over depth of field. The FZ200 is a bit wider at its widest angle, and longer when zoomed in; its lens covers a 24-600mm range.

Up until the Stylus 1′s release the longest zoom in a camera with it sensor size was found in the Nikon P7800; its 28-200mm f/2-4 lens isn’t’ quite as long, and doesn’t capture as much light when zoomed all the way in—but it is brighter at the widest angle by a full f-stop. There’s also the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 to consider; it’s a 24-200mm f/2.8 shooter with the same 1-inch image sensor that’s found in Sony’s compact RX100 II, but it’s a lot bigger than the Stylus 1 and almost twice the price.

Olympus is targeting serious shoots with the Stylus 1, and as such has included a good array of physical controls. There’s a programmable Fn2 button up front, which is nestled inside of a toggle switch. The switch controls the way that the ring around the lens works—when it is set to move freely it acts as a manual focus control, when it is set to have detent stops it adjust shooting settings. There’s also a power zoom control on the front, at the left side of the lens barrel.

On top you’ll find a standard mode dial, a control dial for quick EV adjustments, an additional zoom rocker (surrounding the shutter release), a power button, and a record button for video capture. Rear controls include buttons to set exposure compensation, control the flash, adjust the active focus area, and control the drive mode. There’s also a programmable Fn1 button, and the normal menu and playback controls.

The rear display is 3 inches in size and is hinged so that it can tilt up or down. It’s a touch-sensitive panel with a 1,040k-dot resolution. It’s not noticeably sharper than a 920k-dot display, like the one found on the Fujifilm SL1000, but the touch functionality is a plus. Its implementation is limited—it’s just used to focus on a spot, or to focus and fire the shutter—but that’s a quicker method for selecting a focus point than using the rear control buttons to move a square around the Live View feed.

There’s also an eye-level EVF, and it’s a great one. It’s the same 1,440k-dot LCD that’s found in the Olympus OM-D E-M5, and its 1.15x magnification projects a big image so you can clearly see the scene in front of you. It’s noticeably larger and sharper than the 920k-dot display in the Panasonic FZ200, which to this point had been the best you could get in a long zoom camera.

The Stylus 1 has built-in Wi-Fi. The setup is identical for iOS and Android devices; you scan a QR code that’s displayed on the camera’s rear LCD using the Olympus Image Share app, and that installs a network profile for the SSID that is broadcasted by the camera. Once you’ve connected to that network you’ll be able to transfer JPG images and QuickTime videos to your phone. There’s also a GPS function that geotags your photos—you’ll need to enable a location log and make sure that your camera’s clock is set correctly to make this work.

Remote control is also available. It works just as it did with other Olympus cameras. Your phone or tablet will show the Live View feed and you can choose a focus point and fire the shutter. The app provides full access to automatic and manual shooting modes, so it’s possible to adjust shutter speed, aperture, ISO, and the focal length of the lens. The Wi-Fi is easy to use and the remote control is one of the best that I’ve seen. What’s missing right now is the ability to post photos from the camera to social networks when a hotspot is available; you have to transfer them to your phone and post from there. The Canon SX280 allows you to connect to a network and post images directly to social networks, and the long zoom Samsung Galaxy Camera includes the Android OS and a microSIM slot for always-on cellular data.

Performance and Conclusions
The Stylus 1 starts and shoots in about 1.3 seconds, manages a very short 0.1-second shutter lag at its widest angle, and can focus and fire in just 0.6-second when zoomed to the 300mm setting. Focus does slow a bit in very dim light, at its wide angle setting the camera requires about 0.9-second to lock and capture a shot. The FZ200 matches the Stylus 1 in terms of wide-angle focus and start-up time, but falls a bit short in burst shooting.

The Panasonic is limited to firing photos at 5.5 frames per second, and can only keep that pace for 16 shots; if you use it in Raw mode the maximum speed dips to 2fps and its limited to 13 images at that pace. The Olympus can capture photos at 7.6 frames per second, regardless of which format you choose. It can manage that pace for 21 Raw+JPG, 26 Raw, or 26 JPG images before slowing. Writing all of those images to a card requires 15.2, 8.8, or 8.4 seconds, respectively.

I used Imatest to check the sharpness that the Stylus 1′s lens is able to capture. At its widest angle it is just a little bit on the soft side, scoring 1,782 lines per picture height on a center-weighted test at f/2.8. That’s just a hair shy of the 1,800 lines that we like to see, but narrowing the aperture to f/4 gets it there. At that f-stop the Stylus 1 improves to 1,860 lines. Images at the 28mm setting do show a bit of barrel distortion, 1.8 percent, which which causes straight lines to curve outward in images. That can be removed with some quick work in Lightroom, but doing so will slightly narrow the field of view of your image. At 60mm the lens is sharper and distortion disappears. It scores approaches 2,000 lines at f/2.8 and f/4. As you zoom in further it maintains about 1,900 lines through 200mm. It’s not until 300mm that images are a little soft, about 1,500 lines at f/2.8, but narrowing the aperture improves the score there to 1,840 lines.

I did notice that chromatic aberration was an issue for some images. Cameras sometimes struggle with dark objects against a bright background, and the Stylus 1 is no exception. A few of my test shots showed quite a bit of purple and green fringing around trees and branches. It’s more noticeable in Raw files than in JPG, and in most cases is easily corrected in Lightroom. But I did see some instances where even Lightroom struggled to remove the color fringing. It’s more of an issue at wider angles; the opposite of the Fujifilm SL1000, which didn’t show purple fringing until zoomed in all the way.

Imatest also checks images for noise, which can rob detail when shooting in low light. The camera keeps noise under 1.5 percent through ISO 1600, which is a good result. More impressively, even JPG images shot at ISO 1600 retain a good amount of detail. As with any camera, you’ll get the best results at lower ISO settings, but the Stylus 1 impresses through 1600. Close examination of images on a calibrated NEC MultiSync PA271W display shows that noise is more agressive at ISO 3200, and that more detail is lost due to in-camera noise reduction. If you prefer a slightly grainer image with more detail, noise reduction can be set to low (or disabled entirely) via the camera menu. You can also opt to shoot Raw; images contain an impressive amount of detail in that format through ISO 3200, but are quite rough looking at ISO 6400 and a mess at the top setting of ISO 12800.

Video is recorded at up to 1080p30 quality in QuickTime format. Video quality is very good; footage is crisp and detailed, and the camera refocuses quickly as the scene changes. But the sound of the lens zooming in and out while recording is audible on the soundtrack. There’s no microphone input, so you may want to look elsewhere if video is a primary concern. The Panasonic FZ200 is a better camera for recording video; it shoots at up to 1080p60 in AVCHD format and includes support for an external microphone. The Stylus 1 does have a micro HDMI output to connect to an HDTV, as well as a standard hot shoe and a proprietary USB port. An external battery charger is included; the Stylus 1 uses the same battery as the PEN E-PL5 and E-PM2. The usual SD card slot is there, as is support for SDHC and SDXC cards.

The Olympus Stylus 1 has a long list of pros: a Long zoom lens with an f/2.8 aperture, a relatively large image sensor for a camera of its class, suprisingly good image quailty through ISO 1600, a sharp touch-screen display, an excellent EVF, Wi-Fi, and a solid control layout. The lens does show a bit more chromatic aberration than we’d like, but in most case the JPG engine can remove it, and Raw shooters can handle all but the worst cases with ease in Lightroom. It’s probably not the best choice for video, the FZ200 still wins out there, and if you really need a camera with a 600mm reach, the Stylus 1 falls short. But most shooters are going to be quite content with a 28-300mm f/2.8 lens, especially in a camera of this size. If you don’t mind a larger camera, the FZ200 is still a solid, more affordable option in this class, and its retail price is $100 less. On the other end of the price spectrum, there’s also the new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10 to consider; it’s bigger and nearly twice the price of the Stylus 1, but our field tests showed that its 1-inch image sensor and Zeiss 24-200mm f/2.8 lens are both top notch. We’ve yet to complete a formal review of the RX10, but we hope to have one soon. For now, the Stylus 1 is our favorite bridge-style superzoom camera, and easily earns our Editors’ Choice.

Specifications
Dimensions 3.4 x 4.5 x 2.2 inches
Interface Ports Proprietary, micro HDMI
GPS No
Megapixels 12 MP
Battery Type Supported Lithium Ion
Recycle time 0.13 seconds
LCD dots 1040000
LCD size 3 inches
Touch Screen Yes
Media Format Secure Digital, Secure Digital High Capacity, Secure Digital Extended Capacity
Maximum ISO 12800
Type Superzoom
Sensor Type CMOS
Optical Zoom 10.7 x
Boot time 1.3 seconds
35-mm Equivalent (Wide) 28 mm
Weight 14.2 oz
Waterproof Depth (Mfr. Rated) 0 feet
Video Resolution 1080p
Lines Per Picture Height 1782
LCD Aspect Ratio 3
Image Stabilization Optical
35-mm Equivalent (Telephoto) 300 mm
Shutter Lag 0.1 seconds
Sensor Size 1/1.7" (7.6 x 5.7mm) mm
EVF Resolution 1440000 dpi
Viewfinder Type EVF

Verdict
The Olympus Stylus 1 is a cross between and enthusiast compact and a superzoom that covers an impressive 28-300mm zoom range at f/2.8.
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