Olympus 1000 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus Stylus 1000
Resolution: 10.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/1.8"
Lens: 3.00x zoom
(35-105mm eq.)
Viewfinder: LCD
ISO: 64-6400
Shutter: 4-1/1000
Max Aperture: 2.8
Dimensions: 3.8 x 2.2 x 0.9 in.
(97 x 56 x 23 mm)
Weight: 4.9 oz (140 g)
MSRP: $400
Availability: 09/2006
Manufacturer: Olympus
10.00
Megapixels
3.00x zoom
1/1.8"
size sensor
image of Olympus Stylus 1000
Front side of Olympus Stylus 1000 digital camera Back side of Olympus Stylus 1000 digital camera Top side of Olympus Stylus 1000 digital camera Left side of Olympus Stylus 1000 digital camera Right side of Olympus Stylus 1000 digital camera

Olympus Stylus 1000 Overview

by Mike Pasini
Review Date: 03/30/07

The Olympus Stylus 1000 features a 1/1.8 inches CCD imager with a resolution of 10 megapixels, the highest of any Stylus digital camera to date. This is coupled with an Olympus-branded 3x optical zoom lens with a pretty standard 35 to 105mm equivalent focal length range, and f/2.8 to f/4.7 maximum aperture, plus a 2.5 inch LCD display with a higher-than-average resolution of 230,000 pixels. As is common on many digicams these days, the LCD is the sole method of framing images, as the Stylus 1000's pocket-friendly all-weather chassis forgoes any form of optical viewfinder.

Autofocus is via contrast detection, and ISO sensitivity ranges from 64 to 6,400 equivalent (controlled automatically, or manually). The Olympus Stylus 1000 also offers what the company calls "Digital Image Stabilization" mode -- which should not be mistaken for true hardware image stabilization, where either lens elements, or the image sensor are moved based on sensors that detect camera shake. The 1000 does have a gyroscopic sensor to detect the amount of camera shake, but the correction is made in software by compensating with blur removal after the exposure, plus increased sensitivity, faster shutter speeds, tweaks to sharpening, etc. You can also make some corrections after a photo has been captured, using the Digital Image Stabilization Edit function.

By default, exposures are determined with Olympus' Digital ESP multi-pattern metering, with spot metering also available. Users can also tweak the exposure with +/-2.0 EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3 EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 4 seconds, and the Olympus Stylus 1000 offers automatic, or preset white balance control courtesy of six presets, but no custom white balance mode. The Stylus 1000 also includes a four-mode internal flash good to a distance of 17.1 feet at wide-angle, and it offers beginner-friendly control over images courtesy of 23 scene modes.

The Olympus Stylus 1000 can capture movies at VGA or lower resolution, at a rate of 30 frames per second. The Stylus 1000 also has a twelve second self-timer to let you get into your own pictures. The camera stores images on xD-Picture cards, or 28.5MB of built-in memory, and also offers both video, and USB 2.0 Full Speed computer connectivity (rather slower than the USB 2.0 High Speed connections on many cameras these days). Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion battery, of Li-12B type.

The Olympus Stylus 1000 ships from September 2006 in the US, priced at $400.

 

Olympus Stylus 1000 User Report

by Mike Pasini

Intro. Ten megapixels. ISO 6400. Weatherproof. Those three attributes define the Olympus Stylus 1000. But there's more to like about the Stylus 1000. Its Guide mode and Help button are among the best tools of their kind; and if you think 10 megapixels is just for detail, Olympus has some surprises for you.

High sensitivity is just one, but the question is whether such high ISO numbers as 3,200 and 6,400 will deliver usable pictures. These are settings that most digital SLRs shy away from, can a small point-and-shoot manage? In theory, with the Olympus Stylus 1000, you can shoot at these remarkably high settings to catch the kids in action without using the flash and dealing with red-eye. Unfortunately, according to our test shots and personal experience, the Stylus 1,000's settings are better kept below ISO 800. More on that later.

The Stylus 1000 can offer a 3x optical zoom with 5x digital zoom for a 15x zoom range without image blur. Olympus gets rid of the blur with its built-in digital (not optical) image stabilization. Which means you can also apply the effect after you shoot the image, editing the blur away.


Front. With the lens extended, the Stylus 1000 is an attractive digicam from the front.

Design. The Stylus 1000 seems like it was shaved off a hunk of aluminum. At the thin end of the slice, the lens is tucked into the tapered curl. The design hides the greater-than-average thickness of this compact, but that thickness makes a very handy grip without the usual thumb pads and finger bars of other compacts. And it's still small enough that you can easily find a place for it in any pocket.

Attractive as it is, the most appealing feature of the Stylus 1000 is its weatherproof design. You no longer have to worry in the rain, at the beach, or on the slopes. You can't submerge the Stylus 1000, but a splash of soda or a sudden downpour won't make it play dead.

Back. A Mode dial and four-way navigator with Menu and Function buttons control the camera.

There are very few controls to learn, but everything you need is within easy reach. The top panel has just the Power and Shutter buttons. Alongside the generous 2.5 inch LCD, the control panel uses the familiar combination of a Mode dial and four-way navigator, flanked by four additional buttons. While the array itself is not new, the buttons themselves are smaller and more usable than we've seen on other recent Stylus models.

Controls. The Olympus Stylus 1000 has the best layout of the Stylus series. Here you can see that the USB port is sealed against moisture with a slim, black O-ring gasket.

To the upper right of the four-way controller is a Help button that, when pressed, explains any Menu selection. Even better, Guide mode helps you set the camera for any situation, so you don't have to remember what Scene modes are available to solve a photographic problem. You just have to remember to invoke this surprisingly helpful mode. There are also 20 Scene modes built into the camera with a nice explanation and sample photo of what they do.

Display/Viewfinder. The LCD is the only viewfinder on the camera, and it's large enough for the job, if not the largest LCD available. It has enough resolution with 230,000 pixels to give a good accounting of the image. It's a little hard to see in bright light, like other Stylus LCDs, even when you shade it. But it does offer a live histogram to help judge exposure.

The LCD is large, with excellent resolution, here showing the live histogram.

Olympus' Bright Capture technology comes into play when you're shooting a dark scene. The display is brightened so you can see what you're shooting (something I think wouldn't much be appreciated by the people sitting around you at the school pageant).

Luke found telephoto shots shifted vertically in the LCD, but you're not likely to notice the small difference unless you're trying to take precisely aligned shots (like Luke does in the Imaging Resource test lab).

Performance. Despite its protruding lens design, the Olympus Stylus 1000 has above average startup and shutdown times. Its pre-focus shutter lag time (press the Shutter button halfway) and cycle time between shots are also above average for its class. Its autofocus shutter lag is average, but that's about it.

Grip. The thick end makes an excellent, very natural grip.

The Olympus Stylus 1000 is about average weight, too, but that's a good thing. Very lightweight digicams can be impossible to hold steady when you press the Shutter button. Better to have a little resistance, and the Stylus 1000 has it.

Both wide-angle and telephoto lens distortion is very low, with no noticeable pincushion at all in telephoto. I liked most of the images I shot with the camera, though it did tend to oversaturate and blow out the highlights like most cameras in this class.

Card/Battery Compartment. Weatherproof cover, too.

Powered by a small proprietary lithium-ion battery, the Olympus Stylus 1000 never ran out of juice, and the battery topped off pretty quickly. The battery charger itself is small, but surprisingly bulky.

Shooting. I took the Stylus 1000 downtown on a clear winter day, and put its 10 megapixels to work on what were pretty contrasty subjects. Blue sky, white concrete, silhouetted leaves, reflective windows, shiny marble.

Top. Excellent and simple button layout for Power and the Shutter.

The detail it captured was refreshing. You can even see the pit marks in the brass plaque marking the old shoreline of the city; and that image was taken at f/2.8, wide open.

The supermacro shot of bacopa is particularly stunning at the center (see the small white flowers in the Gallery shots). You can see some distortion in the corners, but that is not unusual.

Pitted Brass. Nice detail in this wide open shot.

More interesting, perhaps, is my fire hydrant test. It seems every camera blows out the highlights on our fire hydrant, which stands in front of a dark hedge. Detail is good, and you can certainly make out the leaves in the hedge. Auto mode set the Olympus Stylus 1000 to 1/250 second, f/4.7, and ISO 64 -- not bad choices since the camera didn't know if the hydrant, or the hedge was the subject -- but it still lost more highlights than shadows. You'll want to turn on the fill flash in bright outdoor shots of people to fill in around the eyes, as the Stylus 1000 unfortunately blows highlights yet leaves skin tones dark without a little help.

Fire Hydrant. Blown highlights but not a bad representation of the scene.

On a very bright day, I took the Olympus Stylus 1000 to the beach and finally saw some Auto mode shots that closed the lens down to f/8, and even f/13.3 at ISO 64. But this Stylus, like others in the line, prefers to keep the lens open and speed up the shutter. My shot of the Golden Gate bridge with digital zoom was 1/1,000 second at f/4.7, and ISO 64.

When I did get an f/13.3 shot (by practically facing into the sun at the beach), I got very nice depth of field showing a small bird at the waterline, spume from the waves, and a line of surfers waiting for the next set of waves.

Surf's Up. The deepest depth of field we were able to get birds on the shore and surfers in the water.

High ISO. As I mentioned, most images above ISO 800, and 1,600 at the outside, were really too soft to use right out of the camera. While Olympus did well maintaining color saturation and fidelity, a difficult task, the noise suppression required destroys all semblance of detail, producing an image that is similar to opening your eyes underwater even at 4x6. With a little tweaking, you can process these high ISO images to make them usable at web-resolution, but even then they're quite soft. Some might be happy that they could get any shot at all, but spies won't likely be able to read those secret documents captured by lamplight unless they're large print.

Image stabilization seemed to work better with digital zoom than in low light situations. None of my doll shots in very dim light were sharp. At ISO 6,400 I was able to get a 1/50 second shutter speed, which should have done the trick, but even then the image is blurred. This wasn't blur from a slow shutter speed, to be sure, as even our lab test shots done in good light on a tripod are similarly fuzzy.

Color. Accurate and bright color with just a little more saturation than necessary, but certainly welcome in this shot.

If you leave the Olympus Stylus 1000 in Auto ISO mode, you won't often need to worry about these extreme ISO settings. The camera seemed reluctant to move from ISO 64, or to close down the lens in Auto mode. That'll keep the detail in your shots, and give a good experience in most lighting situations.

Exposure. We found that the Auto flash mode with the Auto ISO turned on was a little off, raising the ISO when it should lower it, and lowering when it should raise. You really can't expect much from a small flash like this, though, so keep it at ISO 100 and keep your subjects close and you'll be fine. See our lab results in the Exposure section for more.

Appraisal. I haven't been very happy with other recent Olympus Stylus digicams (the 730, 740, and 750, to be specific), but the Stylus 1000 is the best of the litter. The control buttons are just right, and should percolate down to the other models suffering those odd buttons. Image resolution was good, and lens distortion was very low. On the downside, some shots were oversaturated and lost highlight detail. I actually liked having ISO 3,200, and 6,400 options, despite the soft images and smaller file size. I have the ability and inclination to fix these images with anti-noise and sharpening software. But we think most will be dissatisfied with even 4x6 shots at these sizes. Digital Image Stabilization was a disappointment, and is rather disingenuous despite the anti-blurring processing; but having some form of motion blur compensation is better than nothing.

 

Basic Features

  • 10.0 megapixel, 1/1.8 inches CCD
  • 35-105mm zoom (35mm equivalent) with 6 lenses in 4 groups, 4 aspherical lenses
  • Maximum aperture f/2.8-f/4.7
  • 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels
  • Shutter speed from 1/1,000 sec. to 1/2 sec. with up to 4 sec. in Night Scene mode
  • 24 Scene modes
  • 28.5MB internal memory
  • USB 2.0 Full Speed connection

 

Special Features

  • High ISO sensitivities of 3,200, and 6,400
  • Digital Image Stabilization
  • All-weather seals and gaskets, making it splash-proof, dust-proof, and snow-proof
  • Bright Capture technology to boost LCD brightness in dim scenes
  • TruePic TURBO image processor for quick start-up and fast shutter response
  • Perfect Fix in-camera image editing

 

In the Box

The Stylus 1000 ships with the following items in the box:

  • Stylus 1000 digital camera
  • LI-12B Lithium-ion rechargeable battery and charger
  • USB Cable
  • Audio/Video Cable
  • Wrist strap
  • Quick Start Guide
  • Basic Manual
  • Two CD-ROMs (Olympus Master Software, and Advanced Manual)
  • Warranty card

 

Recommended Accessories

  • Large capacity xD Picture memory card. 512MB to 1GB cards are quite affordable, so aim at least that high to handle the large files generated by this 10 megapixel camera.
  • Small camera case for in-bag protection

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Stylish, ultra-compact design
  • Large 2.5 inch LCD with high resolution
  • All-weather seals and gaskets
  • 10 megapixels of detail
  • Live histogram
  • Help system for Menu items
  • Guide mode for photo solutions
  • In-camera editing of red-eye, blur, and under exposure
  • Very low lens distortion
  • Good corner sharpness
  • LCD hard to read outdoors
  • No autofocus assist lamp
  • Tendency to oversaturated color, and blow out highlights
  • High ISO settings of limited value compared the marketing attention they're given
  • Poor balance of highlights and shadows, resulting in dark skin tones without compensation
  • Poor macro performance
  • Pale skin tones
  • Just Full Speed USB
  • Flash weak at telephoto
  • Auto ISO and flash are out of sync
  • No card included; internal memory only good for 5 fine JPEG shots

 

The best of the recent Stylus models, the Stylus 1000 adds high resolution with sensor sensitivity up to ISO 6,400 and a comfortable control button layout. With very low lens distortion and a 15x combined optical and digital zoom range, not much escapes it. The live histogram is a welcome check on exposure and the all-weather seals let you venture where other digicams dare not go.

In-camera image editing with the large 2.5-inch LCD extends to digital image stabilization and there are a few other special features like an alarm clock and built-in image frames to have fun with, too. And if you don't know what a function does, the Help system explains it. Even better, if you don't know how to get a certain effect, Guide mode will show you.

It can be hard to see the LCD outdoors and there's no autofocus assist lamp to help find focus in dark scenes. Digital image stabilization was a disappointment, not really up to the job. And some of our shots tended to be oversaturated with blown out highlights, not unusual in a digicam. Minor quibbles, taken together. However, we were disappointed with the printed results from the Stylus 1000, which were more in line with a 6 megapixel camera.

If you need a digicam with all-weather seals, this is a good choice, but we did find better printed results with the Olympus Stylus 720 SW, plus drop resistance and full waterproofing. The Stylus 1000 is a decent camera, but not quite a Dave's Pick.

 

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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.

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