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Olympus Stylus 410 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
Review Date
3/15/2005
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
Digicam Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
(See review)
4.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x14s, 8x10s with some cropping
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
(As of March, 2005)
$349




Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Specifications
Design
Recommended Accessories
Operation
Sample Pictures
Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus 410 is the latest in the compact Stylus line of digital cameras from that company. Featuring a 4.0-megapixel CCD, 3x lens, "all-weather" body design, and compact size, the Olympus Stylus 410 Digital really isn't that much different from its predecessor, last year's Stylus 400 model. 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 (now with 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. (A characteristic it shares with the Olympus Stylus Verve, a model we actually liked quite a bit better.)

 

Camera Overview

Olympus fans are no doubt familiar with that company's very popular Stylus series of film cameras. The Olympus Stylus 410 Digital 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 410 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 410 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 410 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 Olympus Stylus 410 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 410 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 410 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 410 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 410 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 410 Digital's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, and Off modes.

A "Virtual Dial," which we first saw on the Olympus 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, Indoor, Beach & Snow, Cuisine, 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). Indoor mode boosts the flash to reach out to 16.7 feet, but cuts the resolution to 1280x960. Beach and Snow compensates for the bright light in sandy and snowy scenes. Cuisine mode boosts saturation, sharpness, and contrast to make food shots look more appealing. 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 with sound, with maximum lengths of 20 or 90 seconds, depending on your choice of resolution. (Resolution options for movies are 320x240 and 160x120.)

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 seven large "SHQ" images can be captured in quick succession in the camera's continuous shooting mode, 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, or resize them down to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 images for easier emailing.

The Stylus 410 Digital stores images on xD-Picture Cards, and comes with a 32MB card. Larger capacity cards are available, with sizes currently topping out at 1GB, and I suggest buying at least a 128MB xD-Picture Card 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 410 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 410 Digital nevertheless adds only a few minor tweaks to an already decent, portable digicam. You get a 4.0-megapixel CCD, 3x optical zoom, and a broad range of scene modes, all wrapped up in a neat little weatherproof package. As sleek as the Stylus 410 is though, we feel compelled to point out that most folks interested in a pocketable digicam should also look very seriously at the Olympus Stylus Verve as a more sleek design, a bigger display, higher quality build, and a slightly simpler interface.


Basic Features

  • 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 eight preset Scene modes (vs five on the preceding Stylus 400).
  • 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.

Special Features

  • QuickTime movies (now 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 effects, plus resize option for easy image email.
  • 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.


Recommendation
The Olympus Stylus 410 Digital is Olympus' refinement of the original 4 megapixel Stylus 400. With its small dimensions, stylish design, and nice array of features, the Stylus 410 Digital could be a good match for novices and others 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. Alas, in our testing, we found that the Stylus 410's anti-noise processing wreaked havoc on subject detail in areas of subtle contrast, so much so that we really don't feel we can recommend it to our readers. The good news though, is that there is a Stylus model that offers the most important features of the 410 (including its weatherproof case design) with significantly better image quality in an even sleeker body, at "street" prices just $20 or so higher than those of the Stylus 410. Sound interesting? - Check out the Olympus Stylus Verve, it's a great little camera.

 

Design

The Olympus Stylus 410 Digital features Olympus' distinctive sliding lens cover, which serves not only to protect the lens but also as a power switch. This design is far better for those who will carry the camera in a bag or purse, because the lens is completely covered, and far less likely to come on while in a crowded bag. Small and compact, the Stylus 410 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 410 Digital is fairly lightweight at 6.9 ounces (196 grams) with battery 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 410 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 410 Digital is safe in rain, sleet, or snow, although it shouldn'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, 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 Olympus Stylus 410, 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 compartment door opens toward the rear of the camera and is hinged to the camera body with a metal pin 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. It's hard to open from the bottom, where it says, "open," but if you insert a fingernail into a slit at the top of the door near the shutter button, it swings open easily.

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 Olympus Stylus 410 Digital holds only the Shutter button and six holes for the microphone.

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. Beneath that is a raised circle with many holes for the speaker.

The Olympus Stylus 410 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. A sliding plastic door, hinged on the back side, protects the compartment and operates fairly smoothly. The battery unfortunately falls free when the door is open (many models offer a retaining latch), so be careful to turn the camera upside down before you open this door. A dropped battery is very often a dead battery.

 

Camera Operation

Like several preceding "advanced point & shoot" Olympus digicams, the Stylus 410 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 four pages of options (although most pages have 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, Indoor, Beach and Snow, Cuisine, 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 with the zoom control, 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.


Quick View/Playback Button
: To the left of the Menu/OK button, this button switches between Playback and record modes.

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):

  • Monitor Off: Toggles monitor on or off.
  • 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 levels.
  • Exposure Compensation: Increases or decreases the overall exposure from -2.0 to +2.0 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments.

  • 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.
      • Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
      • Record: Enables a four second recording that starts 0.5 seconds after the shutter is tripped.
      • Super Macro: Allows shots as close as 9cm.
      • 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 split-screen view.


    • Pic
      • 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.

    • 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, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Japanese.
      • Power On Setup: Selects among three preset screen sounds and scenes that activate on power up. Also offers volume control.
      • Color: Offers four menu color settings: Normal (orange), Pink, Green, and Blue.
      • Beep: Turns beep sounds on and off.
      • Shutter Sound: Selects among three shutter sounds and 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.
      • File Name: Allows user to reset file name.
      • 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:
    • 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 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.




    • Edit:
      • 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:
      • 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.





    • Setup:
      • All Reset: Resets all camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, or Japanese.
      • Power On Setup: Selects among three preset screen sounds and scenes that activate on power up. Also offers volume control.
      • Color: Offers four menu color settings: Normal (orange), Pink, Green, and Blue.
      • Playback Volume: Sets to Low, High, or Off.
      • 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 Olympus Stylus 410 Digital ships with the following items in the box:

  • Stylus 410 Digital camera.
  • Wrist strap.
  • 32MB 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.

 

Recommended Accessories

 

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.

To see a set of more pictorial images, check out our Olympus Stylus 410 Photo Gallery.

"Sunlit"
Indoor Flash
Indoor
 

 

 

House
Musicians
Macro
 

 

 

Davebox
Resolution
Viewfinder Accuracy

 


Specifications

See camera specifications here.

 

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

 

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 Olympus Stylus 410'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 410 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!

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 Stylus 410's images compare to other cameras you may be considering.

  • Color: Generally good/pleasing color, a slight tendency toward warm casts. Good performance under incandescent lighting. The Stylus 410 had a tendency toward warm color, though saturation was generally pretty good. Skin tones were a bit on the reddish side, and the blue flowers of the bouquet in the Outdoor Portrait were dark and purplish. In generally, the Stylus 410's images were quite pleasing, and looked "correct" to the eye. The camera's Incandescent white balance setting handled the difficult Indoor Portrait (without flash) quite well.

  • Exposure: Generally accurate exposure, but high contrast. The Stylus 410 handled my test lighting quite well, though the camera produced high contrast under the high-key lighting of the "Sunlit" Portrait and the outdoor house shot. Dynamic range was limited, with little shadow detail, though midtones were moderate. Indoors, the camera required an average amount of positive exposure compensation, though the standard flash exposure was a bit dim, even with a large exposure compensation boost. The Stylus 410 had no trouble distinguishing the subtle pastel tones on the Q60 target of the Davebox.

  • Resolution/Sharpness: High resolution, 1,150 lines of "strong detail." Terrible softening from an over-aggressive anti-noise system though. The Stylus 410 performed slightly below average on the "laboratory" resolution test chart for its four-megapixel class. It started showing artifacts in the test patterns at resolutions as low as 800 lines per picture height horizontally, and about 600 lines vertically. I found "strong detail" out to at least 1,150 lines. "Extinction" of the target patterns didn't occur until about 1,500 lines.

    A much bigger resolution issue was the Stylus 410's over-aggressive noise reduction system. Regardless of how bright the lighting was, any time the local contrast dropped below a fairly high level, the anti-noise processing leapt into action, turning subtle subject detail into mush. This was very apparent in the "Sunlit" Portrait test, where Marti's face and hair were so soft they looked grossly out of focus, even though other signs in the photo reveal that the focus was actually correct. The effect is also glaringly obvious in the "Gallery" photo of the Georgia State Capitol building, where high contrast detail is sharp and crisp (the branches against the sky, sunlit details on the building), while low-contrast detail dissolves into an undifferentiated mush (building details in shadowed areas under the front roof.)

  • Image Noise: Low image noise, but a terrible price paid in subtle subject detail to achieve it. The Stylus 410's images were quite "clean," with low levels of image noise, but as noted above, the camera trades away enormous amounts of subject detail to achieve this, reducing low-contrast areas of its images to mush.

  • Closeups: A very small macro area with great detail, and an even smaller area in Super Macro mode. Flash has trouble up close though. The Stylus 410 performed well in the macro category, capturing a minimum area of only 2.28 x 1.71 inches (58 x 43 millimeters) in its normal macro mode. A Super Macro setting captured a smaller minimum area, measuring 1.08 x 0.81 inches (27 x 20 millimeters). Resolution was very high, and a lot of fine detail is visible in the dollar bill, coins, and brooch. Details were softer on the coins and brooch in the Super Macro shot due to the close shooting range, but details were still fairly well defined. Details softened toward the corners of the frame, but were fairly sharp on the dollar bill. (Most digital cameras produce images with soft corners when shooting in their Macro modes.) The Stylus 410's flash throttled down a little too well for the macro area, and underexposed the shot.

  • Night Shots: Decent low-light performance, capable of producing bright exposures under average city street lighting at night. Loss of sharpness at the darkest levels though. Fairly good low-light focusing. The Stylus 410 produced clear, bright, usable images down to the 1/4 foot-candle (2.7 lux) light level. You could arguably use the image taken at the 1/8 foot-candle (1.3 lux) light level, though the target is a little dark. Overall color was slightly pinkish with the Auto white balance setting, and image noise was high. Since city street-lighting at night generally corresponds to a light level of about one foot-candle, the Stylus 410 should be able to capture fairly bright images in slightly darker settings, though you'll need the flash for much darker exposures. Like many entry-level cameras, the Stylus 410 automatically adjusts its ISO (light sensitivity) without telling you that it's doing so. This means that the image noise levels are higher under dim lighting than you might expect based on its performance in daylight. The Stylus 410 also focused well in dim lighting, able to focus down to about 1/4 foot-candle.

  • Viewfinder Accuracy: A very tight optical viewfinder, but accurate LCD monitor. The Stylus 410's optical viewfinder was very tight, showing only 70 percent of the final image area at wide angle, and about 80 percent at telephoto. The LCD monitor fared much better, showing about 98 percent frame accuracy. Given that I like LCD monitors to be as close to 100 percent accuracy as possible, the Stylus 410's LCD monitor performed pretty well here, but its optical viewfinder could really use some help.

  • Optical Distortion: Slightly high barrel distortion at wide angle. Low chromatic aberration, but significant blurring along the right side of the frame in our sample. Geometric distortion on the Stylus 410 was a bit less than average at the wide-angle end, where I measured approximately 0.7 percent barrel distortion. The telephoto end fared quite a bit better, as I measured approximately 0.09 percent pincushion distortion (about two pixels' worth). Chromatic aberration is very low, as I noticed only two to three pixels of very faint coloration. (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.) What was obvious though was the pronounced blurring in the right corners of the image, worst at wide angle, but bad at any focal length.

  • Shutter Lag and Cycle Times: Average to slightly better than average performance for a basic point & shoot model. Compared to other compact digital cameras in its general category, the Olympus Stylus 410 comes in about even with the pack, perhaps slightly faster in some areas such as continuous shooting speed and shutter lag when prefocused. Full autofocus shutter lag is about average, with a range of 0.83-0.85 second. Shutter response is very fast when the camera is "prefocused" by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the shot itself. Continuous-mode speed is pretty good, at just over two frames/second, for up to seven large/fine images.

  • Battery Life: Pretty good battery life for a compact digital camera. Small digital cameras often suffer in the battery life department, as there just isn't a lot of room for a beefy battery inside their tiny cases. The Olympus Stylus 410 does very well in this regard though, with worst-case run times of more than two hours, stretching to over nine hours (!) when the LCD is left turned off. (Unfortunately, the poor accuracy of the optical viewfinder means you'll need to rely much more heavily on the LCD than you might otherwise.)

  • Print Quality: Good sharpness with contrasty subjects, terrible softness with low-contrast ones. Provided it had just the right subject, the Stylus 410 delivered sharp, snappy-looking images with excellent color on our studio printer (a Canon i9900 high-end inkjet), and it has enough resolution to make very nice looking 8x10 prints. Unfortunately, any parts of the image that have lower local contrast (hair, facial details, architectural details in light shade, etc) look like they came from a 1-megapixel camera, not a 4-megapixel one. Apparently the result of over-eager noise reduction processing, we were surprised to see this effect even extend into Marti's facial features in our "Sunlit" Portrait test.

 

Conclusion

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The Olympus Stylus film cameras are currently among the best selling point-and-shoot models available, widely popular across a range of consumer experience levels. Besides its user-friendly interface, compact design and good picture quality, its excellent (and unusual) water sealing makes the Stylus 410 an appealing choice for a "take anywhere" camera. Battery life is excellent as well, and its color is very appealing. We'd be very enthusiastic about the camera were it not for what appears to be very aggressive anti-noise processing that drastically cuts image detail in areas of low subject contrast. Even in 4x6 prints, the effect is quite noticeable, and really makes it hard for us to recommend this model To our minds, a much better choice for the money is the excellent little Olympus Stylus Verve. The Verve shares the Stylus 410's water-resistance, to our eye has better build quality (and a very stylish case), and snaps very sharp, colorful pictures, all for only a few dollars more than the Stylus 410 model at retail.

 

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