Olympus Stylus 1 Review

Olympus Stylus 1 Review: Premium compact camera in retro DSLR design – Olympus introduces Stylus 1 as the little sister of the OM-D

With the Stylus 1, the Olympus OM-D not only gets a little sister, but the XZ-2 also gets a big one. The new premium compact camera in retro DSLR design features a picture-stabilised 10.7x zoom lens with a continuous speed of F2.8. Optically, it zooms from 28 to 300 millimetres. For the image sensor, Olympus relies on the proven BSI CMOS of the XZ-2 with 12 megapixel resolution. A high-resolution electronic viewfinder is also part of the equipment.

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High speed lens with optical image stabilizer
  • Sophisticated operating concept including touch screen
  • Smooth autofocus
  • Very wide range of features and functions

Cons

  • Tripod plate blocked battery and memory card compartment
  • Handling somewhat limited due to small grip bead
  • Image quality only good up to ISO 800
  • Lens with limited resolving power

The Olympus Stylus 1 features an image-stabilised 10.7x zoom lens with a continuous speed of F2.8. The lens zooms it accordingly from 28 to 300 millimetres. [Photo: Olympus]

Equipment like a system camera, but instead of an interchangeable lens a super zoom – this is what distinguishes the class of bridge cameras. For a long time it was quiet around this class, but now Olympus (according to Sony) is reviving it with the Stylus 1. This barely compact camera offers a 10.7x zoom from 28 to 300 millimetres with a continuous light intensity of F2.8. The range of functions of the Stylus 1 would also do justice to a system camera, but the image converter has to be modest with a size of 1/1.7 inches with a rather small area. In our analysis, encompassing practical use and the testing software,  the Olympus Stylus 1 had to show how suitable the combination of huge equipment and small sensor is.

For the image sensor of the Stylus 1, Olympus relies on the proven BSI CMOS of the XZ-2 with 12 megapixel resolution. [Photo: Olympus]

Ergonomics and Workmanship

The Olympus Stylus 1 is not the only sophisticated compact camera that looks like a toy at first glance. Its shapes and proportions may well appear like a classic SLR, but its compact dimensions quickly destroy this impression. When you hold the Stylus 1 in your hand for the first time, it doesn’t look very “for adults” either. This is not only due to its small size compared to a system camera, but also to its plastic housing. The case material doesn’t necessarily feel noble, the plastic might look more valuable. Meanwhile, the stylus is robust, as nothing rattles or crackles, even if you grab it firmly with your right hand. However, when in action, you will usually use your left hand for help. Olympus has equipped the Stylus 1 with a bulge like a DSLR, but it is too flat to hold the camera with its weight of 400 grams in one hand. Nevertheless, the operating concept of the Stylus 1 strongly involves the utilization of the second hand.

Thus, one turns with the left hand on a handy and generously dimensioned adjustment ring around the lens root, which offers a multitude of control possibilities. With it, one sets for example aperture or shutter speed, also the focus distance is given with the practical ring when the autofocus is deactivated. The function key on the camera front provides further setting options for the object ring, switching between up to 16 parameters. This is especially useful when looking through the viewfinder. By the way, the ring snaps in strongly, but the raster can also be switched off, for example to zoom with the lens ring. Practical: The switch for this can be assigned an electronic function in addition to the mechanical one, such as switching to manual focus. It is sufficient to flip the switch to deactivate the grid and focus manually with the adjustment ring. Next to the lens ring, the stylus has a dial whose function depends on the selected shooting program. In most modes, it is used for exposure compensation, but you are not limited to this – the function of the control dial can be set individually for each shooting mode. The four other buttons on the camera back are similarly adaptable.

The bottom line is that so many functions can be called up directly via function keys on the Stylus 1 that there is hardly any need to go to the main menu. This is a good thing, because the camera menu is a bit confusing. Not because it is badly structured, it is not at all. But the font is quite small – as if the menu had been designed for a display with much lower resolution. However, the three-inch display of the Stylus 1 has an extremely fine resolution of over one million pixels. In addition, it can be folded up almost horizontally and down by about 45 degrees – so shots close to the ground and overhead photos are possible without any problems. The display is still touch-sensitive, but with a somewhat limited range of functions; for example, quick menus and the main menu cannot be operated directly on the display.

The Olympus Stylus 1’s electronic viewfinder provides a fine resolution of 1.44 million pixels, equivalent to 800 x 600 pixels. [Photo: Olympus]

As an alternative to the display, the Stylus 1 offers an electronic viewfinder for image control. It has a pleasantly high resolution of around 1.44 million pixels and displays the viewfinder image almost instantly, even when the camera is panned, even in poor lighting conditions. Nevertheless, when looking through the viewfinder of the Stylus 1, the impression of having a toy camera in one’s hand is restored. The displays are by no means as high in resolution as the viewfinder image itself, and the information and graphics displayed appear pixelated. In contrast, the flap, which covers the USB and HDMI interface on the right camera side, is very valuable. Also the tripod thread at the bottom is neatly made of stainless steel, but is not located in the optical axis but right beside the combined memory card and battery compartment. When the tripod plate is attached, neither mass storage nor energy dispensers can be replaced. On the other hand, it is praiseworthy that Olympus includes a proper charging cradle with the Stylus 1 – thus, a battery does not block the camera while it is being charged.

The Olympus Stylus 1’s rear screen folds up and down and is touch-sensitive. [Photo: Olympus]

Features

Similar to the Olympus system cameras, the Stylus 1 also offers an immense range of functions. She has practically everything on board that ambitious photographers could wish for. But even if you just want to press the shutter button, the Stylus 1 will not leave you alone. Just set the program dial to iAUTO and the camera will take care of everything else automatically. You’re by no means at the mercy of the fully automatic system – saturation, color temperature, image brightness and more can be adjusted in iAUTO mode. You hardly need to resort to one of the twelve selectable scene mode programs.

However, the Stylus 1 lacks beginner-friendly special functions. Thus, it cannot merge the single images for a panorama photo straight away, this is only possible with the provided (or another) panorama software afterwards on the computer. And an HDR automatic is also missing. On the other hand, it offers a dozen effect programs, some of which can be individually adjusted again. The “Photo Story” effect, which combines two or three shots into a collage, is completely new.

If you don’t like this kind of gimmick, leave the automatic functions behind and turn to the classic functions. And the Stylus 1 really has a lot to offer. This includes an autofocus with 35 measuring fields that can be positioned freely in the viewfinder image if required. The autofocus is also fast, at 28 millimetres it focuses in just 0.27 seconds, at 300 millimetres the shutter release delay including autofocus is still a brisk 0.35 seconds. In addition, the Stylus 1 controls object tracking, so that the autofocus will capture a once captured subject, even if it moves. Thus, the autofocus is definitely suitable for action, paired with its maximum continuous shooting rate of seven frames per second, the camera almost becomes a little sports ace. Olympus also praises the fact that the Stylus 1 is equipped with an effective optical image stabiliser that makes hands-free telephoto shooting easy. In addition, the Stylus 1 offers a built-in WLAN module for image transmission as well as camera control via app, even the focal length can be adjusted.

Similarly flexible as the autofocus is the exposure system of the Stylus 1, which offers a spot light meter that can be used to measure either the darkest or brightest part of the image. Or customizable tone curves to lighten shadows and/or darken highlights. Most importantly, the Stylus 1 comes with a swing-in ND filter (-3 EV). It helps to take pictures with a large aperture even in bright sunshine, because the shortest possible exposure time of the Stylus 1 is somewhat long at 1/2,000 seconds. For ISO auto, not only can the maximum sensitivity value be specified, but also the preferred ISO number. If the ambient light is not sufficient, the small on-board flash helps, but it must be unlocked manually. You don’t even have to do without a system flash unit, the stylus comes with a hot shoe. It even masters wireless flash control, with the on-board flash acting as master.

 

Anyone who purchases the Olympus Stylus can also buy this high-quality leather strap also from Olympus. [Photo: Olympus]

With the Stylus 1 Olympus wants to bring the “look and feel” of the OM-D to the compact camera class. The feel and design of the Stylus 1 are strongly oriented towards the Micro-Four-Thirds models. It has a small handle, a dominant lens, the typical viewfinder hump and an electronic viewfinder. At the same time, the camera has all the advantages of a compact camera, such as the relatively compact dimensions with a housing depth of only 56 millimetres or the permanently installed universal lens with a consistently high light intensity. The optical 10.7x zoom is image-stabilised and covers a focal length range of 28 to 300 millimetres, corresponding to 35 mm – and all this at a continuous light intensity of F2.8! The lens has a control ring as well as a side-mounted zoom lever, and it should also shine with a nice bokeh. By the way, unlike the OM-D, the Stylus 1 has a built-in pop-up flash. In addition, an external flash unit can also be operated on the Stylus 1 via the system hot shoe.

In the viewfinder hump is an electronic viewfinder with a fine SVGA resolution (800 x 600 pixels or 1.44 million pixels), which is automatically activated by an eye sensor. The rear screen is a touch screen, which can also be folded up and down. It allows the autofocus field to be placed precisely on the subject. The powerful True Pic IV image processor, which was already used in the OM-D E-M5, is designed to get high image quality out of the 1/1.7″ BSI CMOS sensor and ensure fast reaction times, for example with autofocus and continuous shooting speed. Olympus has designed the operation specifically for creative photography with easy control of image acquisition parameters. The Olympus Stylus 1 is available in the United Stats since January 2014 at a price of almost $ 600. Those who purchase the camera can also buy the high-quality leather strap with retro looks for sale.

 

The Stylus 1 records videos in Full-HD resolution at most, the frame rate is limited to a somewhat measly 30 fps. If desired, the camera will adjust the focus during filming, somewhat hesitantly, but usually without annoying pumping. It’s also nice that the zoom speed can be controlled, so you can zoom in and out as soft as butter. Less nice, however, is the fact that the focal length seems to be extended when shooting movies in the common 16:9 format – when switching from the sensor’s native 4:3 aspect ratio, the Stylus 1 simply records a section. As usual with Olympus, the Stylus 1 offers rich editing functions in playback mode. Pictures can be cropped directly in the camera, shadows that are too dark can be lightened, and for portrait shots the Stylus 1 ensures velvety skin at the touch of a button. In addition, it allows raw recordings to be developed directly in the camera.

Image quality

In terms of features, the compact Stylus 1 is hardly inferior to its bigger sisters from the Micro Four Thirds family. But what about the image quality? After all, the Stylus 1 has to make do with a 1/1.7-inch sensor with a resolution of twelve megapixels, which is hardly larger than the image converter in a simple compact camera. In addition, the zoom lens covers a large focal length range – this places high demands on the optical design to avoid imaging errors.

The resolution measurement shows at a glance that the Olympus engineers were not able to resolve all the conflicting objectives in the lens design. The 10.7x zoom does not have a particularly high resolution over the entire focal length range, with partly significantly less than 40 line pairs per millimeter (lp/mm). In addition, at 28 millimetres focal length, there is a significant loss of resolution of a good 30 percent towards the edges of the image. Due to the small sensor, stopping down does not improve the resolution performance, on the contrary: Already at f-stop F4, diffraction effects cause the resolution to decrease further, the Stylus 1 should be used at open f-stop F2.8 if possible. After all, the lens reproduces almost distortion-free in the wide-angle range, but at the telephoto end it registers barrel-shaped. There are no problems in terms of edge dimming, it remains invisible with a maximum of -0.5 EV. Color fringes at contrasts may be more noticeable, but overall chromatic aberrations remain at an acceptable low level.

So you have to make some compromises with the imaging performance of the lens. Does this also apply to the performance of the image sensor? Although it is quite small, it is designed in light-sensitive BSI technology and has a moderately high resolution of twelve megapixels. But even these measures cannot compensate for the disadvantages of the small sensor surfaces: The signal-to-noise ratio remains just satisfactory up to ISO 800, then it finally drops below the critical limit of 35 dB. In contrast, luminance noise remains at an acceptable level up to ISO 1600, and color noise is not an issue up to the maximum sensitivity of ISO 12,800. Both series of measurements indicate that the noise reduction of the Stylus 1 already gets a lot to do at low ISO values – a suspicion that is then confirmed when measuring the texture sharpness: Already beyond ISO 800, the texture sharpness decreases continuously. At sensitivities beyond ISO 800, this is not only disturbing from a measuring point of view, the loss of detail is also visible in the photos, finest details are hardly noticeable at ISO 1,600, the photos appear waxy and flat.

ISO 800 also forms the limit up to which the input dynamics remain very good with over ten light value levels. The output dynamic range already decreases steadily beyond the basic sensitivity, but also remains at an acceptable level up to the magic limit of ISO 800. The Stylus 1, on the other hand, is very precise with color fidelity, the color reproduction always remains pleasingly neutral. The fact that the white balance is extremely precise certainly also contributes to this. The image processing of the Stylus 1 makes the best out of the data provided by the sensor – but it cannot do magic. Photographers with higher demands on image quality should therefore not select sensitivity above ISO 800. Fortunately, this is easily possible in practice, as the lens already shows a depth of field on the small sensor of the Stylus 1 at F2.8, just like a 35mm camera only at F13, and high ISO values can be easily avoided with a small aperture.

Conclusion

With the Stylus 1, Olympus brings fresh momentum to the bridge camera class. Its range of features corresponds to that of a high-quality system camera, and in terms of class it is outstanding. This is complemented by a sophisticated operating concept with many customizable controls and the practical control ring at the lens root. Despite a good electronic viewfinder and the touch-sensitive flip display, the camera’s ergonomics could still be better: The handle is too weakly formed, the graphic elements in the viewfinder appear pixelated. In return, the Stylus 1 offers a 10.7x zoom in a barely compact case, but its tactile quality is less impressive. Most nibs, however, the Stylus 1 has to leave at the image quality. Its small 1/1.7-inch sensor only delivers just about good image quality up to ISO 800, but at higher ISO values the image quality drops noticeably. The imaging performance of the lens is not entirely convincing either – the resolving power falls short of expectations, the marginal drop in resolution is too high in the wide-angle range. The Stylus 1 scores points with its compact dimensions in combination with professional equipment and the wide zoom range – the Stylus 1 is particularly recommended as a sophisticated camera for your jacket pocket and predominantly good lighting conditions.

Profile

Profile
Manufacturer Olympus
Model Stylus 1
Price approx. EUR 600
Sensor Resolution 12.8 megapixels
Max. Image resolution 3.968 x 2.976
(aspect ratio) (4:3)
Lens F2.8/28-300 mm
Filter thread
Viewfinder EVF
Dioptre compensation -4 to +2 dpt.
Resolution 1.44 million
Enlargement
Image field coverage 100 %
LCD monitor 3″
Resolution 1.040.000
rotatable
swiveling yes
as Viewfinder yes
Video output AV and HDMI (each PAL/NTSC)
Automatic programming yes
Automatic aperture control yes
Automatic timer yes
manual exposure yes
BULB long time exposure yes
Scene modes
Portrait yes
Children/baby
Landscape yes
Macro yes
Sports/action yes
More 8 additional scene modes
Exposure metering Multi-field, centre-weighted Integral, Spot
Flash yes
Flash connection ISO/system hot shoe
Remote release optional
Interval recording
Storage medium SD/SDHC/SDXC
Video mode
Format AVI or MOV
Codec Motion-JPEG or MPEG-4
Resolution (max.) 1.920 x 1.080
Frame rate (max.) 30 frames/s
Sensitivity
automatically ISO 100-12.800 (upper limit adjustable)
extended
manually ISO 100-12,800
White balance
Automatic yes
Sun yes
Clouds yes
Fluorescent lamp yes
Incandescent lamp yes
Miscellaneous Shadows
Manually yes
Autofocus
Number of measurement fields 35
AF auxiliary light orange
Speed approx. 0,3 s
Languages English
More 31 additional languages are available
Weight
(ready for operation)
402 g
Zoom
Zoom adjustment motorized via rocker
One-hand operation
(zoom and shutter release)
yes
Triggering during storage possible. yes
Battery life approx. 410 pictures according to CIPA
– = “not applicable” or “not available

Brief assessment

Pros

  • High speed lens with optical image stabilizer
  • Sophisticated operating concept including touch screen
  • Smooth autofocus
  • Very wide range of features and functions

Cons

  • Tripod plate blocked Battery and memory card compartment
  • Handling somewhat limited due to small grip bead
  • Image quality only good up to ISO 800
  • Lens with limited resolving power

Firmware 2.0 for the Olympus Stylus 1

Local owners of a Stylus 1 can also enjoy the new features via a free firmware update! Version 2.0 brings a smaller autofocus target field for more precise focusing, focus peaking during manual focusing, a step zoom with steps at 28, 35, 50, 70, 85, 100, 135, 200 and 300 mm, optional display of the focal length instead of the zoom factor, an interval and time-lapse movie function and support for the WCON-08X wide-angle converter, which shortens the focal length to 22 mm. The update is installed by the user himself using the Olympus Digital Camera Updater software. If you are not sure about the update, better contact your dealer or the camera service.

Olympus Stylus 1 Datasheet

Electronics

Sensor CMOS sensor 1/1.7″ 7.6 x 5.7 mm (crop factor 4.6
)12.8 megapixels (physical), 12.0 megapixels (effective)
Pixelpitch 1.9 µm
Photo resolution
3.968 x 2.976 pixels (4:3)
2.560 x 1.440 pixels (16:9)
Image formats JPG, RAW
Color depth 36 bits (12 bits per color channel)
Metadata Exif (version 2.3), DCF standard
Video resolution
1.920 x 1.080 (16:9) 30 p
1.280 x 720 (16:9) 30 p
Maximum recording time 29 min
Video format
MOV (Codec H.264)

Lens

Focal length 28 to 300 mm (35mm equivalent
)10.7x zoom
Sharpness range 10 cm to infinity (wide angle
)80 cm to infinity (telephoto)
Aperture F2.8 (wide angle) F2.8 (telephoto)
Autofocus yes
Autofocus functions Single AF, Continuous AF, Manual, AF Assist Light

Viewfinder and monitor

SLR viewfinder 18 mm eye relief
Monitor 3.0″ TFT LCD monitor with 1,040,000 pixels
Video finder Video viewfinder available

Exposure

Exposure metering Center-weighted integral measurement, matrix/multi-field measurement, spot measurement
Exposure times 1/2,000 to 60 s (automatic)
Exposure control Programmed automatic, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, Manual
Photosensitivity ISO 100 to ISO 12.800 (automatic
)ISO 100 to ISO 12.800 (manual)
Remote access non-existent
Scene modes various motif programs, documents, fireworks, landscape, night scene, portrait, sunset, sports, and beach/snow
Picture effects Pinhole camera, Soft focus, Pale, Cross development, Dramatic sound, Key Line, Grainy film, Light tinting, Model making, Pop Art, Delicate Sepia
White balance Automatic, Sun, Shadow, Flash, Fluorescent, Incandescent, from 2.000 to 14.000 K, Manual
Color space Adobe RGB, sRGB
Continuous shooting Continuous shooting function max. 7 fps at highest resolution and max. 200 stored photos
Self-timer Self-timer with 2 s interval, special features: or 10 s (optional)
Recording functions Live histogram

Flashgun

Flash built-in flash (hinged
)Flash shoe: Olympus/Panasonic (also Leica compact camera), standard center contact
Flash range 0.1 to 10.3 m at wide angle0
.8 to 10.3 m at telephoto At
ISO 1,600
Flash functions Auto, fill-in flash, flash on, flash off, slow sync, red-eye reduction

Equipment And Features

Image stabilizer Lens shift (optical)
Memory
SD
Microphone Stereo
Power supply 1 x Olympus BLS-5 (Lithium ion (Li-Ion), 7.2 V, 1,150 mAh)
Playback functions Image index, slide show function
Image parameters Noise Reduction
Grille can be faded in during recording yes
Special functions Electronic spirit level
Connections Data interfaces: USBUSB type
: USB 2.0 High SpeedWLAN
: availableVideo output
: yes (HDMI output Micro (Type D))
Supported direct printing methods PictBridge
Tripod thread 1/4″
Special features and miscellaneous TruePic VI image processorPhotostory modeMulti-exposuresLong time exposure (bulb) up to 30 minutes maximumWhite balance fine adjustment
/-7 steps on A-B and G-M axisMonochrome filter
(G/O/R/G)
iEnhance filterNoise reduction
with 4 stepsRaw data developmentHighSpeed-2

40fps video at QVGA and 120fps at 640×480 pixelsStereo

microphonePCM 48KHz

sound

recordingWind noise reductiontwo
user setting memoriesWLAN setting
by QR codeRemote camera control
by smartphone or tablet AppFraming assistantND filter

(3 EV levels strong)

Size and weight

Weight 402 g (ready for operation)
Dimensions W x H x D 116 x 87 x 56 mm

Miscellaneous

standard accessory Olympus BLS-5 Special Battery ChargerUSB Connecting CableStrapBeltImage Editing Software

Olympus Master Software for Windows and for Macintosh

additional accessories Olympus FC-WR (Radio Control Unit) Flash AccessoriesOlympus
FL-700WR attachable flash with swivel reflector
USB
USB 2.0 High Speed
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Peter Dench
I am Peter Dench. Digital Photographer, born in London 1972, currently living in Deerfield, near Chicago. I have numerous photography expositions and also working in model photography. In this website, PhotoPoint, I usually review cameras provided by local dealers in Illinois and by the manufacturers. Sometimes I, Peter Dench, review lenses too, but only when I have a suitable camera for them. Please let me know in the comments if I can improve any of these articles.