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Olympus VG-170 Overview

Posted: 01/11/2012

The Olympus VG-170 features the combination of a 1/2.3"-type, 14 effective megapixel RGB CCD image sensor and an Olympus-branded 5x optical zoom lens, which offers a 35mm-equivalent range from a useful 26mm wide-angle to a moderate 130mm telephoto. Sadly, the Olympus VG-170 lacks true mechanical image stabilization, instead opting only for what Olympus calls "Digital Image Stabilization", which increases the ISO sensitivity (and along with it, both the shutter speed and image noise levels) to try and freeze motion. ISO sensitivity ranges from a low of ISO 80 to a maximum of ISO 1,600 equivalent. A 3.0-inch LCD display with 460,000 dot resolution offers the Olympus VG-170's only option for framing and reviewing images, as there's no optical viewfinder on this model.

Maximum image dimensions in the VG-170's native 4:3 aspect ratio are 4,288 x 3,216 pixels, and the camera also includes a 16:9 aspect ratio mode, albeit limited to Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) pixel resolution. The Olympus VG-170 employs a contrast-detection autofocus system operating off data streaming from the camera's image sensor, and the VG-170 also includes face detection capability, linked to both the autoexposure and autofocus systems, ensuring that your subjects' faces are taken into account when determining both these variables. AF tracking technology continually adjusts focus and exposure to keep fast-moving subjects in focus.

As well as still image shooting, the Olympus VG-170 offers 720p Motion JPEG high definition movie capture, although there's no high-definition video output on this model, so you'll have to transfer cards or use the USB connection to offload your data, if you want to see the result on a high-def display. A rechargeable LI-50B Lithium Ion battery with charger is included with the VG-170, although no information on battery life was available at press time. Images are stored in a rather limited 34.9MB of available internal memory, as well as on Secure Digital memory cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC types and SDXC types. Images and videos can be transferred to a PC over a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, and there's also a standard-definition video output.

The VG-170 includes a variety of what the company terms Magic Filters, which are similar to the in-camera Art Filters first introduced in Olympus digital SLRs in 2009. These include two additions for 2012 -- Reflection and Water Color -- in addition to the existing Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish-Eye, Soft Focus, Drawing, Sparkle, and Punk seen in earlier models. A generous 15 scene modes are offered in the Olympus VG-170, plus a Program Auto mode, allowing users some degree of control over their images without needing to understand the subtleties of shutter speeds and apertures. Scene modes include Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet, and 3D. There's also an Intelligent Auto mode which can automatically select from a subset of available scene modes.

The Olympus VG-170 is not currently scheduled for sale in the US market. In Europe, it should ship from mid-February 2012, with pricing of about €100. Available body colors include black, white, or red.