The Imaging Resource
Olympus Stylus 400 Digital Camera
NOTE: The Olympus Stylus Digital 400 is virtually identical to the Stylus Digital 300, except it has a 4.0 megapixel sensor, vs the 3.2 megapixel one on the Stylus 300. (The Stylus 400 also does a bit better at color and tonal quality than the 300 model.) If you've already read my review of the Stylus 300, you pretty well know what the 400 can do: Skip down to the Sample Pictures or Test Results sections below to read about the particulars of the 400's performance. (On the other hand, if you're looking for the Stylus 400's capabilities in a less expensive package with slightly lower resolution, check out my review of the Stylus Digital 300.)
Olympus is one of the most widely-known names in photography, with a varied array of consumer, scientific, and industrial products ranging from 35mm cameras to film scanners to microscopes and even high-powered binoculars. Not surprisingly, Olympus has also made a strong showing in the digicam marketplace, building a diverse line of successful consumer and prosumer cameras, ranging from pure entry-level, point-and-shoot digicams to the excellent pro-level E-10 SLR. Long a favorite among consumers, Olympus' Stylus series of film cameras have dominated the bestseller list in the film world for some time. Now, Olympus brings the coveted Stylus brand name into the digital arena with the Stylus 400 Digital.
Featuring a 4.0-megapixel CCD, 3x lens, "all-weather" body design, and compact size, the much-anticipated Stylus 400 Digital was one camera I was eager to get my hands on. The fully automatic system requires very little user intervention with only a handful of creative options, but has the benefits of five preset Scene modes and a QuickTime Movie mode (without sound). The 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. The real question is, "Where should we go next?"
Olympus fans are no doubt familiar with that company's very popular Stylus series of film cameras. After much anticipation, Olympus has finally introduced the film Stylus' digital counterpart, the Stylus 400 Digital camera. (A Stylus 400 model has also been introduced, which I'll review separately.) The camera itself is no bigger than a tiny cellphone, and features a sleek, curvy design that's comfortable to hold and easy on the eyes. The camera's trim, compact dimensions are perfectly suited for shirt pockets and small purses, and the all-weather body means you can take it just about anywhere. Although the camera cannot be submerged in water, it can withstand light rain and water spray without damage. A sliding lens cover also acts as a power switch, and keeps the front panel smooth enough to quickly slip in and out of pockets. The included wrist strap is handy when shooting over a boat rail or while riding on a ski lift, but I'd recommend picking up a soft case to protect the camera's attractive body panels from scratches. The Stylus 400 Digital's metal body is one key to its all-weather rating, equivalent to IEC standard publication 529 IPX4 (which essentially means it can withstand water splashed from any direction). Inside the metal body a plastic chassis provides the first level of protection against the elements. Rubber seals around compartment doors and even the lens mechanism also help prevent any leakage. Because the camera is so tightly sealed, Olympus designed an airflow control system to prevent the camera from overheating or building up air pressure from the zooming lens. Overall, the Stylus 400 Digital's all-weather design is an impressive feature on a digicam, making it rugged enough to withstand much abuse -- from the weather or even a mischievous kid with a squirt gun. Water is anathema to most digicams, leaving me worried whenever I'm out shooting in even a slight drizzle. While the Stylus 400 isn't by any means an "industrial grade" digicam, it's very comforting to know that random splashes of water and puffs of dust won't send it to an early grave.
The Stylus 400 Digital features a 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera). Maximum aperture ranges from f/3.1 to f/5.2, depending on the zoom setting. The Stylus 400 Digital employs an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, with focus ranging from 1.6 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting focuses as close as 0.7 feet (20 centimeters), and works across the camera's entire zoom range, which is often not the case. Opening the lens cover triggers the lens to extend from the camera body about 5/8-inch, automatically placing the camera into Record mode. In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the Stylus 400 Digital also offers 4x Digital Zoom. Keep in mind though, that digital zoom simply enlarges the center pixels of the CCD and thus results in lower image quality. The 4.0-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for prints up to 11x14 inches with good detail, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch prints. For composing images, the Stylus 400 Digital features both a real-image optical viewfinder and a 1.5-inch TFT color LCD monitor. The LCD monitor provides a limited exposure-information display (shutter speed and aperture aren't reported), and is controlled by a small Display button adjacent to it. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor provides image enlargement and an index display.
Exposure control on the Stylus 400 Digital is uncomplicated and straightforward, like most of Olympus' consumer-oriented digicams. The camera operates under automatic exposure control at all times, but offers a selection of preset Scene modes for specific shooting situations. Most of the exposure options are controlled through the multi-page LCD menu system, which is fairly simple to navigate. An initial shortcut menu screen pops up before entering the main Record menu, offering quick-access options for the camera's White Balance, Image Size, and Exposure Compensation, or you can choose to just enter the main Record menu itself. The camera automatically determines aperture and shutter speed (from 1/1,000 to 1/2 second), but Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), White Balance (to adjust the color), Metering (to read light from the whole frame or just the center), and Flash modes are all user-adjustable. The Stylus 400 Digital's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, and Off modes.
A "Virtual Dial," which we first saw on the D-550 Zoom digicam, accesses a range of preset shooting modes. The up arrow in the Four-Way Arrow pad enables the dial, which is actually an LCD display of the available scene modes. The right and left arrow keys scroll through the modes, rotating the "dial" onscreen. Program Auto is the default setting, but Portrait, Landscape Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Self Portrait, and Movie modes are also available. Each mode sets up the camera for specific shooting situations, with Night Scene mode extending available shutter times to four seconds. Portrait mode uses larger lens apertures, to capture the subject in front of a soft-focused background, while Landscape Portrait uses smaller lens apertures to get both the subject and the background in sharp focus at the same time, great for portraits in front of broad vistas (for example, the family standing in front of the Grand Canyon). Self Portrait mode is an interesting feature that lets you point the camera at yourself (in-hand) to take a self-portrait. The lens remains locked at the wide-angle setting in self-portrait mode, so you get a sharply-focused portrait. (This is a great mode for those shots of you and a friend in a cool location, or when you want to prove you actually visited a certain place, and there's nobody around to snap your picture for you.) Finally, Movie mode records moving images (without sound) with maximum lengths of 16 or 70 seconds, depending on your choice of resolution. (Resolution options for movies are 320x240 and 60x120.)
Other camera features include a Self-Timer / Remote Control mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. The Remote Control mode works with the included remote control accessory (a nice touch), allowing you to fire the shutter from a short distance away, after a two-second delay. (This last can be very handy for shooting night scenes, when you don't want to jostle the camera by pressing the shutter button.) For a motor-drive effect similar to that on some 35mm cameras, the Continuous Shooting mode captures a series of images at a rate of just over one frame per second, while the Shutter button is held down. The number of images that can be captured without pausing depends on the size and quality settings, as well as the amount of memory card space available. Up to five large "SHQ" images can be captured in quick succession, and there doesn't seem to be any limit other than card capacity to the number you can snap quickly when using the smallest "SQ2" image size. The "2 in 1" photography mode records two vertically-oriented, half-sized images. After capture, the images are saved side-by-side in one image, giving a split-screen effect. As with many Olympus cameras, a panorama mode is available when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card storage cards, and records as many as 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. Finally, you can create sepia tone or black-and-white pictures from your full color images through the camera's Playback menu.
The Stylus 400 Digital stores images on a xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 16MB card. Larger capacity cards are available, with sizes currently topping out at 256MB (although as of this writing, 128MB is the largest size you can easily find in stores), and I suggest buying at least a 64MB xD-Picture Card (or larger) so you don't miss any important shots. A CD-ROM loaded with Olympus' Camedia Master 4.1 software accompanies the camera, compatible with both Windows and Macintosh platforms (including Windows XP and Mac OS X). Camedia Master provides minor image editing tools, and the ability to "stitch" together multiple images shot in panorama mode, as well as utilities for organizing images. For power, the camera uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack, and comes with a charger. For backup, I'd recommend picking up a spare battery pack and keeping it charged at all times, although the camera's battery life is unusually good for a subcompact model. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such transferring images to a computer. Also included with the Stylus 400 Digital is a video cable for connecting to a television set, and a USB cable for connecting the camera to your computer to transfer images.
Small, stylish, compact, and portable, the Stylus 400 Digital is a much-welcomed addition to Olympus' already well-rounded line of digicams. The popularity of the Stylus film cameras is without question, and the digital version should prove no different. You get a 4.0-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom, and the quality of Olympus, all wrapped up in a neat little weatherproof package.
- 4.0-megapixel CCD.
- Real-image optical viewfinder.
- 1.5-inch color LCD display.
- 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera).
- 4x Digital zoom.
- Automatic exposure control, with five 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 4.1 software for both Mac and Windows.
- QuickTime movies (without 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 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.
- PRINT Image Matching II 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.
- Included remote control.
Along with its little brother the Stylus 300, the Stylus 400 Digital is Olympus' first attempt to bring the Stylus name into the digital arena. With its small dimensions, stylish design, and nice array of features, the Stylus 400 Digital should prove a popular model with novices and most anyone interested in a compact, rugged, and highly portable camera. Its all-weather body design means it can go just about anywhere, and its small size makes it quite at home in your shirt pocket. With 3x optical zoom, a 4.0-megapixel CCD, and five preset shooting modes, the Stylus 400 Digital 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. The user interface is also uncomplicated and easy to follow. The Stylus 400 Digital is perfect for novices making the transition from film to digital, and is also an excellent "take anywhere" snapshot camera for more experienced users.
The Stylus 400 Digital features Olympus' distinctive sliding lens cover, which serves not only to protect the lens but also as a power switch. Small and compact, the Stylus 400 Digital fits into shirt pockets and small purses with ease. Its dimensions of 3.9 x 2.2 x 1.3 inches (99 x 56 x 34 millimeters) make the camera an excellent option for travelers. Despite its all-metal body, the Stylus 400 Digital is fairly lightweight at 6.9 ounces (196 grams) with batteries and memory card. Although the camera is quite small, it fits the hand very well, and a sculpted ridge on the sliding lens cover makes a worthy fingergrip. The most exciting design feature on the Stylus 400 Digital is its all-weather body design, complete with a double chassis (plastic underneath the metal body panels) and rubberized seals around the camera's openings. The Stylus 400 Digital is safe in rain, sleet, or snow, although it can't be submerged in water. The all-weather design makes the camera that much more rugged, and likely to be taken everywhere you go. Although the camera is protected from the elements though, I'd still recommend keeping it in a soft case to protect its fashionable appearance.
The camera's front panel contains the 3x zoom lens, an optical viewfinder window, built-in flash, the self-timer lamp that counts down the 12-second delay before the shutter fires, and the remote control receiver (on the bottom edge). I really liked the inclusion of a remote control on the Stylus 400, that being an unusual feature for a compact camera. The sliding lens cover also controls the power, activating the camera and placing it into Record (Shooting) mode. When opened, the cover provides a sculpted ridge near the right edge of the camera, which serves as a grip for your fingers as they wrap around the camera. Opening the lens cover also signals the lens to extend from the camera body about 5/8-inch.
On the camera's right side is the xD-Picture Card and connector jack compartment. The plastic and metal compartment door opens toward the rear of the camera and is hinged to the camera body so it can open as wide as necessary to access the card. Lined up beneath the card slot are the Video Out and USB connector jacks. The central portion of the door hinge serves as the wrist strap eyelet. The compartment door snaps shut quite firmly, to the extent that I actually found it slightly difficult to open, despite the ridged lip on the bottom of the door. Depending on how you hold the camera, it's easy to press the Shutter button by mistake while trying to get the door open. In the end, I had to hook a nail under the bottom of the door to pop it open. That approach works fine, but can be a little tough on fingernails after a few tries.
On the opposite side of the camera is the DC In terminal, protected by a flexible, rubbery plastic cover that lifts out of the way to reveal the connector. The right side of the strip remains attached to the camera, so you don't have to worry about losing the protective cover. (I do worry about plastic flaps like this fatiguing over time though.)
The top of the Stylus 400 Digital holds only the Shutter button.
The remaining external controls are all located on the camera's rear panel, along with the optical viewfinder eyepiece and 1.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. Adjacent to the viewfinder eyepiece, on the right side, are two LED lamps that report camera status. (For example, the top lamp flashes orange when the flash is charging, while the green lamp on the bottom indicates when focus is set.) Control buttons on the rear panel include the Four-Way Arrow pad (with multi-functional keys), a Display button, a Menu / OK button, and a Zoom toggle button. Along the far right side of the rear panel is a gently sculpted groove that accommodates your thumb as you hold the camera in your right hand.
The Stylus 400 Digital has a reasonably flat bottom panel, which holds the plastic battery compartment door and plastic threaded tripod mount. The tripod mount is too close to the battery compartment door to allow for quick battery changes while mounted on a tripod. However, I doubt users of this super-portable camera will find this a problem. (I do so much studio work with the cameras I test that I can't help but notice this.) A sliding plastic door, hinged on the back side, protects the compartment and operates fairly smoothly.
Like several preceding "advanced point & shoot" Olympus digicams, the Stylus 400 Digital'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. Simply opening the lens cover puts it in Shooting mode and extends the lens. Entering Playback mode is a little less obvious, but just as simple: When the lens cover is closed, you need only press the Display button on the back panel to put the camera into Playback mode. Pressing the button twice while in Shooting mode also activates Playback mode.
A four-way Arrow pad on the back panel serves several functions (including accessing Macro, Self-Timer/Remote, Flash, and Scene Program 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 a few minutes.
Sliding Lens Cover: Protecting the lens on the front of the camera, this sliding cover also serves as the power switch. Sliding the cover open turns the camera on and puts it in Shooting (Record) mode. Opening the cover also activates the lens to telescope outward. Likewise, closing the cover turns the camera off and returns the lens to its closed position.
Shutter Button: The single control on the top panel, the Shutter button sets the camera's exposure when halfway depressed. Fully depressing the button triggers the shutter to open.
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.
Four-Way Arrow Pad: Directly to the right 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.
In Record mode, the up arrow displays the "Virtual Dial," which controls the camera's Scene Program mode. Once the scene menu appears, the left and right arrow keys serve to "turn" the dial. Scene options include Program Auto, Portrait, Landscape Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Self-Portrait, and Movie. The down arrow controls the Self-Timer and Remote modes, 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 mode.
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.
Menu / OK Button: Directly beneath the Four-Way Arrow pad, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes. It also serves as the "OK" button to confirm menu selections.
Display Button: To the left of the Menu/OK button, this button controls the LCD monitor in Record mode, turning it on or off. If pressed twice quickly while in Record mode, this button accesses Playback mode.
When the lens cover is closed, pressing this button powers on the camera and places it in Playback mode. A second press of the button shuts off the camera (only when the lens cover is closed).
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; 1,600 x 1,200;
1,280 x 960; 1,024 x 768; and 640 x 480 pixels. Quality choices include SHQ
(Super High Quality), HQ (High Quality), and SQ (Standard Quality) JPEG compression
- Mode Menu: Displays the following four-page menu system:
- 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.
- Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
- Panorama: Available only with Olympus brand 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 image, like a
- Card Setup: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files
(even write-protected ones).
- Card Setup: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even write-protected ones).
- All Reset: Resets all of the camera settings to their defaults.
- Language: Sets the menu language to English, Japanese, French, German, or Spanish.
- Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
- Record View: Turns the instant image review on or off. When activated, instant image review briefly displays the most recently recorded image after you trip the shutter.
- Pixel Mapping: Checks the camera's CCD and image processing functions.
- 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 Display button while the lens cover is closed, or by pressing the Display button twice quickly when the lens cover is open, this mode allows the user to review captured images. 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:
- 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 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.
- 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).
- Card Setup: Erases all files on the xD-Picture Card (except
for write-protected ones), or formats the memory card entirely. Both
options can be canceled.
- Card Setup: Erases all files on the xD-Picture Card (except for write-protected ones), or formats the memory card entirely. Both options can be canceled.
- All Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
- Language: Sets the menu language to English, Japanese, French, German, or Spanish.
- Beep: Turns the camera's beep sounds on or off.
- 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 400 Digital ships with the following items in the box:
- Stylus 400 Digital camera.
- Wrist strap.
- 16MB xD-Picture Card.
- Video cable.
- USB cable.
- Lithium-ion battery and charger.
- Remote control.
- CD-ROM loaded with Camedia Master 4.1 software and drivers.
- Instruction manuals and registration kit.
- Larger capacity xD-Picture Card (at least 64MB).
- AC Adapter.
- Additional battery pack.
- Small camera case for protection.
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..
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For those readers interested in a set of less "standardized" photos from the P10, here are some thumbnails of more random shots snapped with it. Click on one any of the thumbnails below for a larger view. Click on the larger view again to see the original image from the camera. (Photos in this gallery were shot by Gibbs Frazeur or Stephanie Boozer. Thanks Gibbs and Stephanie!)
NOTE: that these are big files, so be aware that (a) they'll take a while to download, and (b) they'll chew up a pretty good chunk of bandwidth on us. (Read the "support this site" blurb at the top the carrier pages, and think about it while you're waiting for the images to download.
NOTE TOO: Some browsers have difficult with very wide images, and distort them a lot when they display them. (I don't know about others, but IE 5.0 on the Mac definitely does this. If the full-sized images appear to be stretched horizontally, you may need to just download them to your hard drive and view them in an imaging application, or possibly try another browser.)
See camera specifications here.
Cycle times, shutter lag, battery life, etc. can be found here.
- Olympus Stylus 400 user reviews on PriceGrabber.com
- Olympus Stylus 400 user reviews on PC PhotoREVIEW
Read the Stylus 400's sample pictures page for my full test analysis, but here's a summary of my key findings:
- Color: The Stylus 400 Digital produced good to very good color throughout my testing, although it had some trouble with the avert warm-hued incandescent light source in the Indoor Portrait test. It performed well in daylight-balanced lighting though, and with fluorescent lighting as well, although I don't have a formal test target to evaluate the latter. The Stylus 400's contrast was a bit lower than that of the Stylus 300, so it did a better job of holding onto highlight detail under harsh lighting. Overall though, the Stylus 400's color was both accurate and pleasing, and its white balance a bit better than that of the Stylus 300.
- Exposure: The Stylus 400's exposure was typically pretty accurate, and it somewhat avoided the high-contrast problems I found in the Stylus 300. Overall, exposure and tone were pretty good.
- Sharpness/Resolution: As was the case with the Stylus 300 before it, I was quite surprised by how sharp the Stylus 400's lens was, producing as it did images that were sharp from corner to corner. Most compact cameras represent compromises in the lens design, with the result that they show a lot of softness in the corners of the frame. The Stylus 400's images were much more reminiscent of those from larger, higher-end models. On the resolution test target, the Stylus 400 resolved 1,150 lines of "strong detail," an excellent performance for a compact digicam.
- Closeups: The Stylus 400 Digital didn't do as well in the macro category as the Stylus 300, leading me to suspect that I shot the macro test with the lens in the wide angle position. - One of the strengths of the Stylus 300's macro mode is that it lets you shoot with the lens at full telephoto. In my tests, it captured a minimum area of 4.74 x 3.56 inches (120 x 90 millimeters), only an average performance. The camera's flash also throttled down quite well for the macro area, producing good exposures even at the closest shooting distances. I'll repeat the macro mode tests to see if I can get better results with the lens set to its telephoto position.
- Night Shots: The Stylus 400 Digital's Night Scene mode is the best option for low-light shooting, as it increases the shutter speed range to a maximum exposure time of four seconds (as opposed to 1/2 second in Program AE). In this mode, the camera captured acceptably bright images as low as one-half foot-candle (5.5 lux), which corresponds to average city street lighting at night.
- Viewfinder Accuracy: The Stylus 400's optical viewfinder was quite tight, showing only 78 percent of the final frame area at wide angle, and only 80 percent of the frame at telephoto. Images framed with the optical viewfinder were also slanted toward the lower left corner, possibly evidence of a slightly shifted CCD chip in our test camera. The LCD monitor performed much better, showing approximately 99 percent frame accuracy at both wide angle and telephoto. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Stylus 400's LCD monitor is pretty much perfect in that regard,but I'd really like to see a more accurate optical viewfinder.
- Optical Distortion: Optical distortion on the Stylus 400 was slightly better than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured an approximate 0.7 percent barrel distortion. (While better than average, this is still too high IMHO.) The telephoto end fared much better, as I couldn't find even a pixel of pincushion or barrel distortion. Chromatic aberration was variable, ranging from slight to high depending on the particular corner of the frame I looked in. In most places, it's pretty minor, but the lower right-hand corner showed a good seven or eight pixels of coloration on either side of the target lines. (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.) I'm not sure how to rate the distortion, given that it was so variable - I guess I'd call it "average" overall, as in most parts of the frame it was better than average,, but worse in some places. While it didn't show as much on the resolution target, in other shots, pronounced corner softness was the most visible distortion I noticed testing, strongest in the top left corner of the frame.
- Battery Life: Like most Olympus cameras I've tested, the Stylus 400 showed very good battery life, particularly for a compact model, and most especially when the LCD was left off in capture mode. I still strongly recommend purchasing a second battery when you buy the camera, as Murphy's law definitely applies to digicam battery capacity (they always run out of juice at the worst possible moment), but the Stylus 400 does much better than most compact digicams in this area.
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Top 3 photos this month win:
1 Canon PIXMA PRO-100
2 Canon PIXMA MG6320
3 Canon PIXMA MG5420