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Olympus Stylus Verve Digital Camera

 

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
(Posted: 9/3/04)
Updated: 11/16/2004
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
High, 4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
4x6, 5x7, 8x10, 11x14
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(At time of introduction)
$349



Introduction

Review Links
User Review
Specifications
Design
Recommended Accessories
Operation
Sample Pictures
Conclusion
The Olympus Stylus Verve is the latest in one of the most popular camera lines in history, spanning both the film and digital worlds. The Olympus "Stylus" brand has always meant well-constructed, compact, quality cameras, and the new Olympus Verve brings that tradition to new heights. The new Olympus Verve refines the Stylus brand with a slicker, more polished design than was seen in the Stylus 300 and 400, while maintaining many of the excellent attributes of those earlier models.

Featuring a 4.0-megapixel CCD, 2x lens, "all-weather" body design, and compact size, the Olympus Stylus Verve comes in a variety of colors: Silver, Blue, Black, White, Red, and Copper. The fully automatic system requires very little user intervention, as it offers only a handful of creative options, but has the benefits of five preset Scene modes and a QuickTime Movie mode with sound. The Olympus Verve's all-weather body can withstand water spray from any direction, but isn't meant to be fully submerged in water. Still, rubber seals and a separate plastic chassis inside the metal body provide excellent protection against water splashes and rain. As long as you keep it from getting completely submerged, you needn't worry about taking this camera to the beach, on ski trips, sailing trips, etc. In our minds, this is a huge feature: Digital cameras as a class are far too fragile, with the result that a lot of them get left behind too much of the time. Cameras sitting at home don't take pictures, so the water-resistant design of the Olympus Verve means that you're much more likely to have it along when those special, unanticipated moments arrive. Read on for all the details!

 

User Report

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Olympus owes its continuing success over the last 15 years to the appeal of its small, pocketable, point-and-shoot cameras, both film and digital. The entire market of truly pocketable compact cameras can be traced back to Olympus's famous designer Yoshihisa Maitani, who started a design trend that goes way back to the Olympus XA compact film camera, introduced in 1979. Maitani had designed the popular Pen F line of cameras, a screaming consumer success, and the sincerely compact OM SLR system, which was also a milestone, with the OM-1 debuting at half the weight of other SLRs of its day. With the XA, he introduced the first truly pocketable 35mm camera, which had excellent image quality due to its good lens and huge image area, all in a "capsule" camera designed to be caseless and capless. That Maitani spirit was interrupted for a time in the late 1980s, but resumed again in the Olympus Stylus line of film cameras (known as "mju" overseas) back in 1991. What marked the success of the XA and Stylus cameras was not only how they were built, but who used them. Quite a large percentage were off-duty professional photographers. Rather than carry their big, bulky SLRs with them everywhere, many carried the coolest pocketables around: the Olympus XA or Olympus Stylus.

Now the market is flooded with point-and-shoot digital cameras of the style Maitani pioneered, with every manufacturer releasing the smallest, most pocketable camera possible as a major item in their catalog, since this category can drive more sales than the high end SLR market. Olympus's Stylus Digital 300 and 400, introduced last year, have been popular, with the very logical All-weather feature in addition to their sleek styling. But we have to say, though they are small and sleek, they do not embody the ground-breaking styling we've seen from the Stylus line in the past. Nor are the Stylus Digital 300 and 400 as small or light as what some of the competition offers. So it's no surprise that Olympus has introduced the sleek and unique Stylus Verve.

The Stylus Verve has a shape that challenges the typical rectangles we're seeing from most companies, with a greater quality component build than we've seen from recent Stylus offerings. Best described as a bullet shape, even that doesn't well categorize the Verve. One is tempted at first to criticize Olympus for trying too hard, but when you actually hold the camera, you can begin to see the various purposes of the shape. Slip it into a pocket, and the spirit of Maitani emerges again. Its smooth left corner quickly finds a comfortable spot in your pocket without bulging quite like a boxier camera would, yet from the right side, the Verve is easily located and retrieved. Hold the very small camera in both hands, and again it works better than you'd think. The right thumb rests just above the Five-way control disk, and just below the zoom control. To the right of the thumb is the smooth ramp of the lanyard loop, providing a more confident grip. On the left (as you hold the camera from the rear), that smooth protrusion provides an excellent location for the Quick View button, and its downward taper gives the top of your left middle finger a comfortable, organic place to rest while your index finger rests on the smooth rounded top opposing your thumb, which rests on the slight, flat taper on the bottom of the LCD. It takes a long sentence to describe, but only a second to feel the natural, easy, and secure hold the Verve's design provides. I honestly hadn't considered it before I held the Verve, but now boxy cameras do feel a bit awkward, forcing a tendency to put your left middle finger out in front of the camera where it might block the lens.

The shutter release is about three millimeters off from where it would be perfectly comfortable for me personally. This is because of the company's inclusion of the horizontally-rotating mode dial, another unique design element that gives the Verve a feel of quality and difference in a market of more traditional wheels, buttons, and switches. The area left of the mode dial could have been left a little shorter, thus bringing the shutter release a little closer for my comfort, but its current placement by no means makes the camera impossible to use, so it's a minor point.

Rather than the more traditional, manual sliding clamshell, Olympus outfitted the Verve with an internally-actuated, motorized lens door that opens with nice set of camera-like clicks and whirrs, not unlike the sounds we always hear cameras make on the movies, be they SLR or point-and-shoot. It lends a sense of class and purpose to the camera that will make owners of other, perhaps equally cool cameras take notice with envy.

Another item to envy is the large 1.8 inch LCD. Olympus calls it a HyperCrystal Wide View High-Contrast LCD. It is indeed a nice display, offering good to excellent viewability from many angles, a range of up to 160 degrees, according to Olympus.

A large o-ring sealed door conceals the battery, xD slot, and USB/AV port. As with many digital cameras, this door looks somewhat vulnerable, and the user would do well to treat this camera gingerly, especially when using the USB cord to upload pictures to a computer, or the AC adapter that uses a dummy battery, since this door remains ajar while connected to either. Regardless, the camera is considered weatherproof due to the O-rings and seals throughout.

The small flash peeks out from a long oval opening upper left of the lens, offering limited coverage. I suggest users get in close to their subjects, not only because that makes for better composition, but because such small cameras really can't be expected to perform well out beyond 6 to 8 feet. Though we've often found significant image noise out beyond that range (caused when cameras boost their ISO sensitivity in an attempt to extend the range of the flash), the good news is that image quality from the Olympus Stylus Verve is surprisingly good, not always the case for small digital cameras.

The final interface to the camera is the menu, and while it works the same as past Olympus menus, there's been a slight update to the look. Buttons are now 3D instead of one-dimensional, and new sounds and sound options are pre-loaded on the camera. Three startup sounds include an automobile engine startup sound, sure to get your subjects smiling. The menu options are otherwise similar to the Stylus 400 introduced last year. What's new is that the onscreen exposure mode "wheel" has been replaced with a new mode panel that has the familiar icons down the left side of the screen, with photographic samples to better illustrate the icon's meaning. This not only leaves no doubt about the meaning, but gives the user a better idea of the potential results they can expect from a given setting. In addition to the regulars like Landscape and Portrait, they have Beach and Snow, Self Portrait, Self Portrait + Self Timer, Behind Glass, Candle, and Cuisine mode. Yes, the last one is for taking pictures of food. The camera increases contrast, saturation, and sharpness in this setting to get a more appetizing shot. Somebody must want this mode, so there it is.

A few new special effects have also been added, which can be applied after capture in Playback mode. One of the more interesting, in addition to black and white and sepia conversion, is Fisheye mode. This magnifies and distorts the image, growing it from the center and creating the illusion of a fisheye effect. It's more realistic on objects that are far away from the camera, or on people when they're on the left or right side of a photo. If they're in the middle, the effect is most unfortunate, with the torso far outgrowing any other portion of the picture. This isn't a true fisheye effect, creating an image that is convex rather than concave, but it can make for some funny and interesting pictures.

Overall, my early experience with the Stylus Verve has been both fun and impressive. The Verve takes good quality pictures and is appealing in both a visual and tactile sense. It's a camera I'd be proud to carry, and feel confident in the image quality. The style-conscious users the Verve is intended for will enjoy the variety of colors available, and will likely be happy with its comfortable contours and unique look.

Basic Features

  • 4.0-megapixel CCD.
  • Real-image optical viewfinder.
  • 1.8-inch color LCD display.
  • 2x, 5.8-11.6mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-70mm lens on a 35mm camera).
  • 4x Digital zoom.
  • Automatic exposure control, with 13 preset Scene modes.
  • Built-in flash with four operating modes.
  • xD-Picture Card storage.
  • All-weather, metal camera body.
  • Power supplied by one lithium-ion rechargeable battery (included with charger) or optional AC adapter.
  • Olympus Camedia Master software for both Mac and Windows.

Special Features

  • QuickTime movies (with sound).
  • Continuous Shooting mode.
  • Self-timer for delayed shutter release.
  • Panorama mode for stitching together multiple images.
  • "2 in 1" multi-exposure mode.
  • Black-and-White and Sepia conversion effects.
  • Macro (close-up) lens adjustment.
  • White balance (color) adjustment with five modes.
  • Digital ESP (full frame) and Spot exposure metering options.
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility.
  • DCF (Design rule for Camera File system) compatibility.
  • Exif 2.2 compatibility.
  • USB AutoConnect (no driver software needed) and USB cable.
  • NTSC video cable for connection to a television set.

 

Recommendation

The new Olympus Stylus Verve takes the Stylus line into a new direction. With its small dimensions, stylish design, and nice array of features, the Olympus Verve should prove a popular model with novices and most anyone interested in a compact, rugged, and very portable camera. Its all-weather body design means it can go just about anywhere, and its small size makes it feel at home in your shirt pocket. With 2x optical zoom, a 4.0-megapixel CCD, and five preset shooting modes, the Stylus Verve is another in a long line of excellent consumer digicam designs from Olympus. Exposure control is automatic and hassle free, with limited adjustments available for more experienced users. Image quality is high enough to make sharp 8x10-inch prints, while low-resolution image options are ideal for sending photos as email attachments over the Internet. Color and other image-quality characteristics are surprisingly good for such a compact model. The user interface, slightly redesigned with 3-D buttons, is also uncomplicated and easy to follow. The Stylus Verve is perfect for novices making the transition from film to digital, and is also an excellent "take anywhere" snapshot camera for more experienced users. Likewise, the stylish design of the Verve will appeal to anyone who dislikes the boxy "gadgety" appearance of most other digital cameras on the market.

 

Design

 

Not much smaller than its predecessor, the Stylus 400, the Stylus Verve has a futuristic and sleek look, its soft tapers minimizing its impact on the pocket. Indeed, unlike the 400, the Verve has few parts that jut out from the device. An electronically operated door slides quickly out of the way, and is stored neatly inside the camera body. The lens moves out about 3/8 to 1/4 inch from the camera body, depending on where you measure from. Upper left of the lens (when holding the camera from the back) are the microphone and self-timer lamp. Above right is the flash window.

At IR, we hear a lot from readers about various problems they've experienced with their cameras. A common thread through a lot of these are problems that appear to have their root in impact damage to the cameras' delicate telescoping lens mechanisms. Given the prevalence of such issues, we think built-in protective lens covers like that on the Olympus Verve are an excellent idea. You'll still need to be careful not to knock the lens when it's extended, but the protective cover should make a huge difference when the camera is turned off and tucked into a pocket or purse.

 

Left and right views reveal very little, with the right side showing only the big xD card/battery/USB and Video connector door.

The top is also quite simple, with the shutter button, power button, and horizontal mode dial the prominent features. Due to the significant taper, you can also see the oval flash opening.

The rear has all the significant controls, quite well pared down to the essentials. A Quick View button is off to the left, with an amber/green status light below. Upper right you can see the power and shutter buttons, and get a glimpse of the horizontally-mounted mode dial. The zoom control is below that, small but effective. This is also used to zoom in and out in Playback mode. Below that are the speaker holes for movie audio playback, and finally the multipurpose 5-way controller, whose middle button both launches the menu and serves to OK selections. The four directional buttons both navigate through the menu and individually launch and scroll through their respective functions, marked by an icon: Scene, Flash, Self-Timer, and Macro modes. Just above and right of this is the lanyard lashing point, which also serves as an extra grip for the thumb.

The bottom is plain and simple, with plastic tripod mount threads positioned just right of the lens' centerline. This and the position of the battery door latch allows for easy battery change while the camera is on a tripod, but it is unlikely that too many folks will use this camera for work that requires a tripod.

 

Camera Operation
Like several preceding "point & shoot" Olympus digicams, the Stylus Verve's user interface offers limited exposure control and relatively few external buttons. As a result, learning to use the camera shouldn't take too much time, even for novice users. A press on the flush-mounted power button opens the lens cover, extends the lens and puts it in Shooting mode. When the camera is on, you can use the QuickView button on the upper left of the display to enter playback mode, or you can turn the mode dial on the top of the camera to the familiar Playback icon.

A five-way arrow pad on the back panel serves several functions (including accessing Macro, Self-Timer/Remote, Flash, Scene Program, and menu modes), and navigates through on-screen menus. It also scrolls through captured images in Playback mode. The LCD menu system accesses the majority of the camera's exposure options, and features three pages of options (although each page has only a few settings), displayed as subject tabs down the left side of the screen. The initial shortcut screen quickly takes you to often changed settings, making operation even easier. Anyone already familiar with Olympus LCD menu systems should have no trouble, and even first-time beginners should get the gist of it after only a few minutes.


Sliding Lens Cover
: Unique to the Olympus Verve is this electronically operated lens cover that moves neatly and quickly into the unit when the camera is powered on. When powered off, the cover slides quickly back in place.


Shutter Button
: Located at the very top of the camera, angled slightly toward the front to meet your index finger as it curls over the top, the Shutter button sets the camera's exposure and focus when halfway depressed. Fully depressing the button fires the shutter to snap the picture.


Power Button
: Turns the camera on and off.


Mode Dial
: Selects between Record, Movie, and Playback modes.


Zoom Rocker Button
: In the top right corner of the rear panel, this two-way rocker button controls the optical and digital zoom (when the latter is enabled) in Shooting mode. In Playback mode, this button controls the digital enlargement of captured images, and also accesses the index display mode.


Five-Way Arrow Pad
: Adjacent to the lower right corner of the LCD monitor on the rear panel, each of the four arrows on this key pad points in a different direction (up, down, left, right). In any mode, the arrow keys navigate through menu options. The center button serves as both the Menu launch and "OK" button.

In still-capture Record mode, the up arrow displays the Scene Program mode menu. Each of the icons that run down the left of the screen are accompanied by a sample image to give the user a better idea of what a given mode will achieve. Scene options include Program Auto, Portrait, Landscape, Landscape Portrait, Night Scene, Cuisine, Beach&Snow, Self-Portrait&SelfTimer, Behind Glass, Self Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Sunset, and Fireworks. The down arrow controls the Self-Timer mode, and the right arrow button selects Flash modes, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Off. Finally, the left arrow activates the Macro shooting modes, Regular and Super Macro.

In Playback mode, the right and left arrows scroll through captured images. When an image has been enlarged, all four arrows navigate within the view.


Quick View Button
: Upper left of the LCD, the Quick View button takes you directly into Playback mode.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Activated by sliding the lens cover open, this mode sets up the camera to take pictures. The following exposure and camera options are available through the Record menu (some options may change depending on the Scene mode selected):

  • White Balance: Controls the color balance. Options are Auto and Preset. When Preset is selected, choices are Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, and Fluorescent light sources. The Auto setting automatically assesses the scene and adjusts the color balance.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2.0 to +2.0 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments.
  • Image Size/Quality: Sets the image resolution and JPEG compression level. Available resolutions are 2,272 x 1,704; 2,048 x 1,536; and 640 x 480 pixels. Quality choices include SHQ (Super High Quality), HQ (High Quality).

  • Mode Menu: Displays the following four-page menu system:
    • Camera:
      • Metering: Controls the camera's exposure metering system, selecting either Digital ESP (multi-pattern metering) or Spot (reads only from the center of the frame).
      • Drive: Selects One-Shot or Continuous Shooting capture modes.
      • ISO: Selects from Auto, 64, 100, 200, and 400 ISO.
      • Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
      • AF Mode: Changes between iESP and Spot auto-focusing modes.
      • Record: Enables a 4 second audio recording after each shot.
      • Panorama: Available only with Olympus brand xD cards, this mode captures as many as 10 consecutive shots to be stitched together on a computer into one panoramic image. Alignment guidelines appear on the screen to perfectly line up each shot.
      • 2 in 1: This mode lets you capture two vertically-oriented "half" images which are fused together and saved as one file (images are placed side-by-side). Thus, you can capture two individual portraits and have them placed together in the same photo, like a split-screen view.

    • Card:
      • Card Setup: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even write-protected ones).


    • Setup:
      • All Reset: Resets all of the camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.
      • Power On Setup: Selects among three startup screen/sound options and sets the volume of the startup sounds.
      • Color: Selects among four menu color options, Normal, Brown, Blue, or Black. (The menus shown here were captured with the Blue option selected.)
      • Beep: Sets beep volume off, low, or high.
      • Shutter Sound: Selects among three shutter sounds, and sets their volume.
      • Record View: Turns the instant image review on or off. When activated, instant image review briefly displays the most just-recorded image after you trip the shutter.
      • File Name: Chooses between sequential file names, or resetting the file name back to 01 with each card inserted.
      • Pixel Mapping: Checks the camera's CCD and image processing functions. (Select this if you find permanently black or permanently white spots in your photos. - Hopefully a very rare occurrence.)
      • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness level of the LCD monitor display.
      • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
      • Video Out: Sets the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.


Playback Mode: Entered by pressing the OK button in Playback or Quick View modes. The following playback options are available through the Playback settings menu:

  • Slide Show: Automates a slide show of all still images on the xD-Picture Card. (One press of the Menu button cancels the playback.) If a movie file is the first displayed, than "Movie Play" appears here instead.
  • Info: Briefly displays more detailed information about each captured image.
  • Erase: Erases the currently-displayed image, with an option to cancel.

  • Mode Menu: Displays the following four-page menu:
    • Play:
      • Protect: Write-protects (or removes protection) from the currently displayed image. Write-protection locks the image file so you can't accidentally erase it or change the file in any way (except by formatting the memory card).
      • Rotate: Rotates the displayed image 90 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise.
      • DPOF: Marks the displayed image, or all images on the card, for printing on a DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatible printer. You can also establish the number of prints, whether or not the date and time are printed over the image, or remove the print mark.
      • Record: Allows you to add a 4 second audio recording onto an image after it was captured.


    • Edit:
      • Soft Focus: Gives a soft, diffuse look to existing photographs, saving the altered image as a new file.
      • Fisheye: Creates the illusion of fisheye-lens distortion, saving the new image separately.
      • Black & White: Converts the displayed image to black-and-white and saves it as a new file.
      • Sepia: Converts the displayed image to sepia tone, giving it the appearance of an old-fashioned picture, and saves the converted image as a new file.
      • Resize: Allows you to resize the displayed image to a smaller resolution (320 x 240 or 640 x 480 pixels), convenient for emailing.


    • Card:
      • Card Erase: Erases all files on the xD-Picture Card (except for write-protected ones)
      • Format: Formats the memory card entirely.


    • Setup:
      • All Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, Spanish or Portuguese.
      • Power On Setup: Selects among three startup screen and sound options and sets volume.
      • Screen Setup: Allows selection of an image from the user's own pictures for display at powerup.
      • Color: Selects among four menu color options.
      • Volume: Sets playback volume level to off, low, or high.
      • Beep: Sets beep volume off, low, or high.
      • LCD Brightness: Adjust the brightness level of the LCD monitor display.
      • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
      • Video Out: Sets the camera's Video Out signal as NTSC or PAL.
      • Index Display: Determines whether 4, 9, or 16 images are displayed on the Index Display screen.

 

In the Box

The Stylus Verve ships with the following items in the box:

  • Stylus Verve digital camera.
  • Wrist strap.
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card.
  • Video cable.
  • USB cable.
  • Lithium-ion battery and charger.
  • CD-ROM loaded with Olympus Master software and drivers.
  • Instruction manuals, Quick Start Guide, and registration kit.

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

Picky Details

Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.

 

Sample Pictures

See the full set of my sample pictures and detailed analysis here. The thumbnails below show a subset of my test images. Click on a thumbnail to see the full-size photo..

For a selection of more pictorial (that is, non-standardized) images for the Verve, see the Olympus Stylus Verve photo gallery. (There's only a handful of shots as I write this, but hopefully more to come soon.)

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 

Test Results

In keeping with my standard test policy, the comments given here summarize only my key findings. For a full commentary on each of the test images, see the Stylus Verve's "pictures" page.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus Stylus Verve with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Want to compare specs and features? Check out our "compare cameras page," where you can compare all the specifications and features of the Verve against other cameras you may be considering.

As with all Imaging Resource product tests, I encourage you to let your own eyes be the judge of how well the camera performed. Explore the images on the pictures page, to see how the Verve's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Pleasing color, slightly warm color balance in many cases. Though often slightly warm-toned, the Verve's color was generally very pleasing and accurate. Indoors, while its auto white balance option had a little trouble with my Indoor Portrait test, the incandescent white balance setting delivered a beautiful image. Like most consumer cameras, it slightly oversaturates strong primary colors, but I'd say that most people will find the resulting images very pleasing.

  • Exposure: Average to better than average exposure accuracy. Somewhat high contrast. The Verve's exposure system performed quite well, requiring an average amount of positive exposure compensation on tricky, high-key shots. Contrast was quite high in the "Sunlit" Portrait, but the Verve nonetheless held onto a surprising amount of detail in the strong highlights. The Verve's high native contrast tended to produce very dark shadow areas, but in most cases, it did so without losing important detail in those regions. Overall, I'd personally have been happier with less contrast, but the camera performed quite well.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,050 lines of "strong detail." The Verve performed fairly well on the "laboratory" resolution test chart, a bit below the best full-sized 4-megapixel digicams. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800~900 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 600~800 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to about 1,050 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns occurred around 1,500 lines.

  • Image Noise: Good balance between image noise and subject detail. The Verve's image noise performance is a little unusual. Noise is visible in some shots even at the lowest ISO setting of 64, but as you go to higher ISOs, the noise is more or less held in check. At ISO 400, the noise is definitely obtrusive, but it isn't as outright ugly as that from a lot of competing models at that ISO level. Overall, a good balance between maintaining subject detail and minimizing image noise.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with excellent detail. The Verve performed very well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 1.50 x 1.12 inches (38 x 29 millimeters) in its "Super" macro mode. Resolution was very high, and detail was strong in the dollar bill. The close shooting range rendered the brooch and coins somewhat soft due to the shallow depth of field that close, though a lot of detail was still present. In Super Macro mode, the camera's flash is disabled due to the very close shooting distance.

  • Night Shots: Limited low-light performance, but good enough to handle average city street lighting at night. The Verve produced clear, bright, usable images only down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level, and that at the 200 and 400 ISO settings. At ISO 100, images were bright as low as 1/2 foot-candle (5.5 lux), and at ISO 64, images were only bright as low as one foot-candle (11 lux). Color balance was warm, but as the exposure dimmed, the color balance turned pink. Since average city street lighting is typically about one foot-candle in brightness, the Verve ought to do just fine under bright exterior lighting at night. Noise was actually pretty good, showing only moderate levels at the lower sensitivity settings, and a moderately high level at ISO 400. Also very much to its credit, the Verve focused well down to light levels a little under 1/8 foot-candle, surprisingly good for a camera without an autofocus assist light.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor. The Verve's LCD monitor was fairly accurate, showing about 97 percent frame accuracy at wide angle. At telephoto, accuracy would probably be about the same, but the bottom measurement line was just cut off in the final frame. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Verve's LCD monitor did very well. (It also does much better than average under very bright lighting, remaining visible even in full sunlight.)

  • Optical Distortion: High barrel distortion at wide angle, and a small amount at telephoto. Low chromatic aberration, and better than average sharpness in the corners of the frame. Optical distortion on the Verve was quite high at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 1.2 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end did much better, as I measured only 0.2 percent barrel distortion there. Chromatic aberration was fairly low, showing only faint coloration on either side of the target lines, and then only across a fairly narrow range of wide-angle focal lengths. (This distortion is visible as a very slight colored fringe around the objects at the edges of the field of view on the resolution target.) As I noted earlier, there's also very little of the softness in the corners of the frame that I'm accustomed to seeing from digicam lenses. A better than average performance overall.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Time: Slower than average shutter response, average cycle times. Like many subcompact digicams, the Verve is a little slow in terms of shutter lag, with the delay between pressing the shutter and the camera capturing the photo ranging from 0.78 - 1.22 seconds. (Average is a range from 0.8 - 1.0 seconds, which is still too slow in my opinion.) When prefocused by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself, the shutter lag drops to just 0.11 second, which is quite fast. At right around two seconds per shot, the shot to shot cycle time is average for a camera of its class. Its continuous-mode speed of 1.2 frames/second is also about average.

  • Battery Life: Fairly short battery life. Like many subcompact digicams, the Verve's battery life is its weakest point. There's no external power connector, so I couldn't perform my usual direct power measurements, but a simple test of rundown time showed a battery life of 78 minutes in capture mode with the LCD turned on. This is quite short, so I'd highly recommend purchasing a second battery along with the camera, to use as a spare.

 

Conclusion

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The Olympus Stylus film cameras have long among the best selling point-and-shoot models available, widely popular across a range of consumer experience levels. Olympus brought the Stylus brand to the digital realm with 2003's Stylus 300 and 400 models, which enjoyed great success in the market, thanks in part to their water-resistant construction. In late 2004 though, Olympus kicked the whole Stylus product line up another notch with the Stylus Verve. In just about every respect (features, image quality, build quality, and style), the new Olympus Verve is the best digital Stylus model yet, and a great little camera by any measure. (I would like to see longer battery life though: Plan on buying an extra battery at the same time as the Verve, if you intend any extended outings with it.) Thanks to its water-resistant and rugged metal-jacketed case, the Stylus Verve just begs to be taken along, and if you do, it's image quality won't disappoint. This is a really fine little camera that's just the ticket for style-conscious novice users, or for anyone looking for a compact, rugged, easy-to-use little camera to pack along most anywhere. Highly recommended, this one was an easy choice for a Dave's Pick. Now, with the Stylus 300 and Verve Digitals, Olympus brings the popular Stylus brand into the digital world, a move that should go over well with Olympus fans. Besides its user-friendly interface, compact design and good picture quality, its excellent (and unusual) water sealing makes the Stylus Verve a very appealing choice for a "take anywhere" camera. Battery life is excellent as well. Overall, the Stylus Verve shoots as good as it looks (slightly better than the Stylus 300, in fact), and is rugged enough to stand up to knocks and the occasional rain storm: A combination deserving serious consideration by anyone in the market for a compact, stylish digicam, and one of the better compact digicams out there.


 

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