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Olympus VR-340 Overview

Posted: 01/11/2012

Inside the compact 1.1 inch thick body of the Olympus VR-340, the company has selected both a 1/2.3"-type, 16 megapixel CCD image sensor and an Olympus-branded 10x optical zoom lens which offers focal length equivalents across a generous range from a 24mm wide angle to a 240mm telephoto. A 3.0-inch LCD display with roughly 154k pixel resolution (460k dots), where each pixel comprises separate red, green and blue dots, offers the VR-340'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 VR340 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 VR340 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. 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 VR340 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 the Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish-Eye, Soft Focus, Drawing, Sparkle, and Punk filters. A total of 15 scene modes are offered in the Olympus VR-340, allowing users some degree of control over their images without needing to understand the subtleties of shutter speeds and apertures. Scene modes in the VR-340 are Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fire Works, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Pet, and 3D. As well as Program Auto, there's also an Intelligent Auto mode which can automatically select the correct mode from a subset of available scene modes. The 3D Photo mode captures two images from slightly differing angles, and combines the result into an MPO-format image suitable for viewing on 3D-capable displays.

The VR340 can capture high definition 720p videos using AVI Motion JPEG compression, 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. Connectivity options include both USB 2.0 High Speed data, and composite standard definition video output.  A rechargeable LI-50B Lithium Ion battery with charger is included with the VR-340, although information on battery life wasn't available at press time. Images are stored in a modest 34.9MB of internal memory, as well as on Secure Digital card, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types.

In the US market, the Olympus VR-340 is expected to ship from March 2012, with pricing set at around US$150. Body colors include white, silver, black, purple and red.