Olympus Stylus 820 Overview
by Stephanie Boozer
Review Date: 02/20/08
With its all-weather construction, large 2.7-inch LCD monitor, and 5x optical zoom lens, the Stylus 820 is another attractive offering from Olympus. The Stylus line of digital cameras has been a popular one, thanks to very small, portable camera sizes and a nice selection of features, underscored by the now-standard weatherproof design. The Stylus 820's all-weather design makes it impervious to minor moisture concerns like drizzly rain and falling snow, and prevents damage from dirt and sand, making it a no-brainer option for anyone who likes to travel.
The 5x optical zoom lens is another welcome feature, offering a zoom range equivalent to 36-180mm on a 35mm camera. Like many current Olympus models, the Stylus 820 has a digital zoom option available, as well as Olympus' Fine Zoom, which really just crops the image down to a smaller resolution for the appearance of increased zoom capability. Though it isn't true optical zoom, Fine Zoom is a better option than digital zoom, as it doesn't attempt to digitally enlarge the image area. The Stylus 820 offers a wide range of preset scene modes, perfect for a variety of situations like indoor portraits or candle light, and it has an informative Guide mode to help you figure out the best settings for challenging situations. Options like Perfect Shot Preview and Perfect Fix make it downright easy to get the exposure you want, either with a live preview to guide your exposure decisions or the benefit of post-capture image editing in-camera. Combine these features with Olympus' Face Detection and Shadow Adjustment technologies, and the Stylus 820 is a perfect match for novice consumers looking to learn more about digital photography.
With an MSRP of $249.99, the Stylus 820 is an excellent deal. You get 8.0 megapixels of resolution, 5x optical zoom, and a host of bells and whistles to ensure great pictures in just about any situation.
Olympus Stylus 820 User Report
by Stephanie Boozer
Like the rest of the Stylus line, the Olympus 820 boasts a compact, travel-worthy size and an excellent array of features. Built into this small body is an 8.0-megapixel CCD, 5x optical zoom lens, and a host of excellent exposure modes and helpful shooting options.
Measuring a mere 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 inches (96 x 56 x 24 millimeters) and weighing in at only 4.4 ounces (125 grams without battery or card), the Olympus Stylus 820 is definitely pocket-friendly, ready to tag along on just about any adventure. It comes in the standard black and silver body styles, but you can also get it in bright red or swimming-pool blue. Very fun.
Add in the camera's weatherproof construction, sealing out moisture and dirt, and the Stylus 820 can easily take on rainy days, sandy beaches, and blustery snow.
Look and feel. Though the camera is quite small and thin, it fit my medium-size hands pretty well. I had to watch my right thumb, however, as it often encroached onto the LCD display (more of a nuisance in terms of thumbprints than anything else, a pet peeve of mine). I found I could operate the camera one-handed for the most part, though actions like searching through menu screens and turning the Mode dial definitely required a two-handed hold. And those with larger hands or fingers might find the Stylus 820's small controls a little tedious. One of our test-shooters commented on the shiny surface of the control buttons, which made them harder to read than they should be. Indeed, with black text on top of shiny silver, the buttons were hard to read unless you were holding the camera at just the right angle.
Overall, though, I liked the Stylus 820's control layout. With minimal buttons and dials due to its primarily automatic design, the Olympus 820's user interface is simple and straightforward. There are just a handful of controls to be concerned with, so you won't spend a lot of time learning how to operate the camera. Viewed from the rear, the Stylus 820 appears all LCD, thanks to the very generous 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD display. Bright and clear, the Stylus 820's LCD monitor was easy to see in bright sunlight, despite its highly-reflective surface. The main drawback to this shiny surface is that it's easily covered in fingerprints, which are just as easily wiped clean, of course.
I appreciated the LCD's available display modes, which offer a gridline dividing the image area into thirds horizontally and vertically, as well as a tiny histogram. While the histogram will only be useful in determining if an exposure is strongly over or underexposed due to the graph's small size, it is useful to some degree.
More useful than the histogram is the Perfect Shot Preview that appears when changing settings, such as Exposure Compensation. Instead of just a graphic adjustment at the bottom of the screen, the Stylus 820's EV compensation tool displays thumbnails of the image area with the adjustment applied, helping you determine what the final exposure will look like. I think this is far more useful to the average consumer than a tiny histogram.
2,560 x 1,944 pixels
5.6x Digital Zoom
The Stylus 820 offers a 5x optical zoom lens, equivalent to a 36-180mm zoom on a 35mm camera, and much more generous than the standard point-and-shoot digital camera. Made up of eight lenses in six groups, with four aspherical lenses, the Stylus 820's all-glass lens is of good quality. In addition to the 5x optical zoom, the Stylus 820 offers a maximum of 5.6x digital zoom, plus a Fine Zoom option. Fine Zoom simply adjusts the resolution of the image without digitally enlarging the center of the frame. In the crops above, you'll see that the Fine Zoom option merely decreased the image size to 2,560 x 1,944 pixels, essentially cropping out that portion of the frame. You can use Fine Zoom down to the lowest resolution setting, which will appear to give you more zoom. This is a useful tool, but keep in mind that you don't get any added resolution or detail, though you get a more telephoto image without resorting to digital enlargement. On the flipside, you'll lose print size with the smaller resolution.
The Stylus 820 also offers Digital Image Stabilization, which uses a digital process to remove the appearance of blurring, rather than true optical stabilization. Results won't be as good as with a true optical stabilization process, but should help reduce blurring in some instances, such as a handheld shot in lower lighting.
Interface. As I mentioned earlier, I liked the Stylus 820's user interface overall, and found no severe difficulties in operating the camera.
The Stylus 820's menu layout is logical and straightforward. A shortcut menu appears after the initial press of the Menu button, guiding you more quickly to the image quality and panorama settings, but also providing access to the main Camera menu, Silent Mode, Setup and Scene menus, and a handy Reset feature. Settings such as Exposure Compensation, Flash, Self-Timer, and Macro mode are accessible via buttons on the rear panel. The Stylus 820 has several very useful features for novice photographers, including the Perfect Shot Preview function, which displays thumbnails of the composition at different exposure settings when you adjust the Exposure Compensation. This makes it that much faster to determine how much compensation you need, and how it will affect the final image -- definitely useful when shooting in a hurry.
There's also a button on the rear panel for Shadow Adjustment Technology. When activated, Shadow Adjustment Technology seeks out the face in the frame (using Olympus' Face Detection technology) and places a rectangular frame around the shadowy area surrounding it, and attempts to brighten the face and the surrounding background if necessary. I didn't have a chance to test this particular function, but Olympus says that it's useful in backlit situations.
The Olympus Stylus 820's exposure is automatically controlled at all times, though half-pressing the Shutter button displays the selected aperture and shutter speed settings, so you at least have an idea of what the exposure will be. A display button on the rear panel cycles through the camera's available information display modes in both Record and Playback modes. In Record mode, you can choose between two information displays (Normal and Simple), enable a Frame Assist gridline display, or enable the small histogram display. In Playback mode, you can also select between varying levels of information displays, or enable a histogram view.
Available Light Mode
Combination indoor and
Modes. The Mode dial controls the Olympus Stylus 820's main shooting and operating mode, with available choices of Playback, Auto, Program Auto, Digital Image Stabilization, Scene, Guide, and Movie. Both the Auto and Program Auto modes keep the basic exposure under automatic control, but allow different levels of user control over other tools such as white balance and ISO.
The Scene position offers 20 presets to help in a variety of situations, accessed through the LCD menu. Available scenes are Portrait, Landscape, Landscape+Portrait, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Smile Shot, and Beach & Snow. Most of these are fairly self-explanatory, optimizing the camera for common-yet-tricky conditions encountered in everyday life. Available Light Portrait is useful in situations where you cannot or prefer not to use a flash, Beach & Snow helps with bright backgrounds. The Shoot & Select modes are the camera's sequential shooting modes, allowing you to capture a series of images while holding down the Shutter button. Once you finish the sequence, tiny thumbnails of the captured images appear on the screen, and you can choose which images to keep or delete. Also of note is Smile Shot mode, which takes three images in rapid succession, in an effort to escape the problem of blinking eyes or not-quite-ready smiles.
When an Olympus-brand xD-Picture Card is in use, the Stylus 820 has an available Panorama mode. You can capture as many as 10 sequential frames, and a framing guideline appears in the LCD display to help you line up shots. You can also choose to join images in-camera, or download them and stitch them together using the included software. The Stylus 820 is also equipped for capturing movies with sound. Available resolutions are 640 x 480 (30fps), 320 x 240 (15fps), and 160 x 120 (15fps).
Special Features. The Olympus Stylus 820 is an extremely user-friendly digital camera. Aimed at making picture taking as easy as possible for a range of experience levels, the Stylus 820 has a lot of useful shooting assistance functions built in. For example, the camera's Guide mode, set on the Mode dial, is a listing of 14 helpful shooting tips, addressing concerns from reducing blur to shooting at night. With this in-camera guide, users can learn how to overcome commonly difficult situations, making the Stylus 820 an excellent teaching tool for novices.
Another special feature on the Stylus 820 is the camera's Perfect Fix mode, accessed through the Playback menu. With Perfect Fix, you can opt to apply Digital Image Stabilization, Lighting Fix, or Red-Eye Fix, or enable a Fix All option. So, even if you accidentally catch a Red-Eye flare, you can go back and fix it easily. Another useful option for novices, making the camera an almost fool-proof option for many photographers.
Storage and battery. The Olympus Stylus 820 accepts xD-Picture Cards, but doesn't come with a card. Instead, the camera has about 47MB of internal memory, which holds about 12 large/fine JPEGs or 10 seconds of the highest-resolution movie. Of course, we always recommend picking up a large capacity xD memory card right away. For example, a 1GB card can hold 255 large/fine JPEGs.
For power, the Stylus 820 uses a custom rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, and comes with both a battery and charger. With a fully-charged battery, you should get about 300 exposures, which is pretty good. It's always a good idea to have a spare battery on-hand for extended outings, as you don't want to run out of juice at a critical moment.
Shooting. Overall, I found shooting with the Stylus 820 simple and hassle-free, as most functions were automatically controlled. When I did need to delve into the LCD menu to make changes, it was quick and to the point. Probably the biggest hindrance in shooting with the 820 is its timing. Cycle times ranged from 3.35 seconds for large/fine JPEGs to 2.51 seconds for the smallest resolution setting, which is quite slow. Its continuous speed (Shoot & Select scene mode) captured an impressive 6.49 frames per second however, though maximum resolution is limited to the 2,048 x 1,536 setting. Still, the camera captures 11 frames this quickly, which can come in handy. Shutter lag was fair at wide angle, at about 0.54 seconds, but became sluggish at telephoto at 0.92 seconds. So, under normal conditions, the shot-to-shot cycle time may frustrate some users. But putting the camera into Shoot & Select mode will definitely help with fast-paced action. So camera timing is kind of a mixed bag, but if you're prepared for your subject, it may not be an issue.
One interesting little triviality with the Stylus 820's interface is that if you are in the Camera menu, and decide to go back to shooting mode by pressing the Shutter button, the camera will allow you to snap an image, but then returns you to the menu screen. Presumably this is to allow you to change something like white balance, snap an image, judge the results in the instant playback, then either keep the white balance setting or change it again before pressing the Menu button a last time to return to shooting mode. A minor quibble, but it does seem unnecessary to dump you back into the menu screen post-capture.
Overall though, shooting with the Olympus Stylus 820 was straightforward and uncomplicated. Just about any user level should be able to snap good pictures right away.
Image quality. Image quality, color, and exposure are pretty good with the Stylus 820. Overall color is bright and vibrant, yet still natural. Bright reds and blues are a bit oversaturated, which is common among consumer digital cameras because many consumers prefer brighter-than-life color in their images.
The Stylus 820 captures a lot of fine detail, with only mild noise suppression blurring details at ISO 100. In the crop at right, the mosaic holds a lot of detail, though you can see some slightly smudged areas in the background and clothing.
The Stylus 820 handles image noise pretty well at its lower ISO settings, and even at ISO 400, noise isn't wildly out of control.
You can see it best in the gray squares of the color chart, and though noise is definitely higher at ISO 400, blurring isn't too bad overall. At ISOs 800 and 1,600, noise is much higher, with a more pronounced grain pattern and stronger blurring of details -- lending an artificial air to the image. At ISO 3,200, the camera limits resolution to 2,048 x 1,536 pixels in an effort to control the effects of noise and noise suppression, but details are still quite blurry.
The Stylus 820's 8.0-megapixel CCD captured high resolution images. Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,400 lines per picture height horizontally, and to about 1,300 lines vertically. Extinction occurred around 1,900-2,000 lines.
We noticed high and very bright chromatic aberration at wide angle, showing several pixels of very bright coloration on either side of the target lines. It should also be mentioned here that strong blurring in the corners is exaggerating the effect. At telephoto, the effect is much lower and less noticeable. (This distortion is visible as a slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.)
The Olympus Stylus 820 produced strong blurring in the corners at both wide
angle and telephoto lens settings. However, at telephoto, only the lower corners
of the frame showed significant blurring, as the top corners were nearly as
sharp as the center of the frame. The blurring at telephoto also extended along
the lower portion of the frame.
Lost detail in bright highlights,
no differentiation between white
window and cream stucco.
Minimal shadow detail,
wind chimes just barely visible.
Outdoors in bright sunlight, the Stylus 820 produced high contrast with hot highlights and dark shadows. In the shot above, taken under midday sun, the camera loses all highlight detail in the top level of the house. The stucco here is actually cream, but the edge of the white window trim is completely lost. In the shadows, detail is a little better, as you can just distinguish the wind chimes from the window screen. Most cameras will have trouble in bright lighting like this, and overall exposure is actually pretty good despite the high contrast. Color also looks good, with vivid greens and a nice blue sky.
Program AE, Auto Flash
Available Light Portrait
Indoor Portrait Mode
Strong blurring due to
Indoors, under a mix of window and incandescent lighting, the Stylus 820 performed fairly well. The shots above were taken without a tripod, to see what the camera could handle under this type of lighting. Obviously, results here would be better with a tripod to steady the camera, though I found it interesting to see what the various preset modes would do here. I preferred the exposures taken in the Available Light mode, but the high ISO setting resulted in too much image noise for my taste. Results weren't bad with the Indoor Portrait and Program modes, I just prefer the ambient lighting of the slightly slower exposures. Thus, a tripod would be best here, but you can get good results in a pinch by using the flash.
I also snapped an image in the camera's Digital Image Stabilization mode, which digitally adjusts the image to reduce blurring from minor camera movement. Given that this is a selection on the camera's Mode dial, you cannot use D.I.S. in conjunction with any of the preset scene modes. Any exposure slower than 1/30 second is really difficult to handhold without blurring the image, though some steady hands can go as low as 1/15 second. Despite the increased ISO of 800 (which resulted in strong image noise), the resulting image is still too blurry for use. So in this application, Digital Image Stabilization didn't buy much in the way of increasing the camera's flexibility in low lighting. You're still better off with a tripod or some other method of support in situations like this.
Appraisal. Overall, I think most users will be pleased with the Stylus 820. It can handle a variety of situations well, with good color and exposure. Contrast is a bit high under harsh lighting, with loss of detail in the bright highlights, but overall performance is still good. The camera's shot-to-shot speed could be a little faster, but its burst mode makes up for things with its blistering speed. Given the camera's abundance of preset shooting modes and useful in-camera guide tools, the Stylus 820 should suit most consumers quite well. Options like the adjustable AF area, metering, and white balance will please the more advanced amateurs looking for a good-quality knockabout camera. It's priced well for its capabilities, and you can't beat the weatherproof design.
- 8.0-megapixel CCD (effective) delivers image resolutions as high as 3,264 x 2,448.
- 5x optical zoom lens, equivalent to 36-180mm.
- As much as 5.6x digital zoom.
- 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD with brightness adjustment.
- Auto and Program AE exposure modes.
- Shutter speeds from 1/2,000 to four seconds, depending on mode.
- Aperture range from f/3.3 - f/5.0, depending on zoom position.
- TruePic III image processor.
- Built-in flash with four modes.
- xD-Picture Card memory slot.
- 47MB internal memory.
- Power from custom lithium-ion rechargeable battery, included with charger.
- USB 2.0 connection and cable.
- A/V cable for connection to television set.
- PictBridge compatible.
- All-weather construction resists minor water and dust damage.
- Digital Image Stabilization mode.
- 20 preset Scene modes.
- Movie and Sequential Shooting modes.
- Panorama mode with Olympus-brand media cards.
- Face Detection technology.
- Shadow Adjustment technology.
- Adjustable AF mode with four settings.
- Macro and Super Macro focus modes.
- Three metering modes.
- Adjustable ISO from 50 to 3,200 equivalents, plus an Auto setting.
- Adjustable white balance with six settings.
- Shooting Guide and Perfect Shot Preview options.
- Perfect Fix menu for post-capture image correction.
- Stylus Accessory Kit: includes soft leather case, additional lithium-ion battery and a metallic lanyard neck strap.
- Large capacity xD memory card (These days, 1GB is a good tradeoff between cost and capacity, but if you plan to capture many movie clips, step up to 2GB.)
Despite a few negative marks in the area of timing, some image noise, and contrast, the Olympus Stylus 820 performs very well. For a fairly low price you get 5x optical zoom, a host of creative shooting modes and helpful guides, a high-resolution 8.0-megapixel CCD, and a bounty of useful Olympus options like weather-proof body design, and Face Detection and Shadow Adjustment technologies. The large 2.7-inch color LCD monitor remains useful even under bright midday sun, and the camera's pocketable size ensures it will tag-along just about anywhere. The Stylus 820 is a good option for novices and advanced amateurs alike.