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Olympus VR-320 Overview

Posted: 02/08/2011

Inside the compact 1.1 inch thick body of the Olympus VR-320, the company has selected both a 1/2.33"-type, 14 megapixel CCD image sensor and an Olympus-branded 12.5x optical zoom lens which offers focal length equivalents across a generous range from a 24mm wide angle to a 300mm telephoto. A 3.0-inch LCD display with 230,000 dot resolution -- roughly equating to a 320 x 240 pixel array, with each pixel comprising separate red, green and blue dots -- offers the VR-320's only option for framing and reviewing images, as there's no optical viewfinder on this model. Usefully given the telephoto reach on offer, the Olympus VR320 does offer true mechanical (sensor shift type) image stabilization, - one half of Olympus' "Dual Image Stabilization" system for fighting blur. The other half is what Olympus refers to as "Digital Image Stabilization" - essentially a setting that causes the camera to raise ISO sensitivity (along with shutter speeds and image noise) in an attempt to freeze motion. ISO sensitivity ranges from a low of ISO 100 to a maximum of ISO 1,600 equivalent.

The Olympus VR320 employs a contrast-detection autofocus system operating off data streaming from the camera's image sensor, and includes a face detection function linked to both the autoexposure and autofocus systems, and capable of simultaneously locating up to eight faces in the image frame. Olympus' AF system also allows for tracking of a subject as it moves around the frame, once a lock is achieved. Olympus Shadow Adjustment function -- first seen on the company's digital SLRs -- is included to help restore detail in shaded areas without blowing out the highlights in high-contrast scenes.

The VR320 includes a variety of what the company terms Magic Art Filters, which are similar to the in-camera Art Filters first introduced in Olympus digital SLRs in 2009. Two 2011 model-year Magic Filters -- Sparkle, and Punk -- are included, in addition to the Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish-Eye, Soft Focus, and Drawing filters seen in previous models. A total of 14 scene modes are offered in the Olympus VR-320, allowing users some degree of control over their images without needing to understand the subtleties of shutter speeds and apertures. As well as Program Auto, there's also an Intelligent Auto mode which can automatically select the correct mode from a subset of these - either Portrait, Landscape, Night + Portrait, Macro or Sports.

The VR320 can capture high definition 720p videos at 15 or 30 frames per second, using AVI Motion JPEG compression, but doesn't offer any provision for viewing images or movies on a high definition television. Instead, data can be transferred to a PC over a USB 2.0 High-Speed connection, or viewed in standard definition courtesy of a composite video output. A rechargeable LI-42B Lithium Ion battery with charger is included with the VR-320, although information on battery life wasn't available at press time. Images are stored in a modest 33MB of internal memory, as well as on SD or SDHC memory cards -- but not the latest SDXC types.

The Olympus VR-320 will be on offer in the USA from March 2011, with pricing of about $200.