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Quick Review

Olympus Stylus 600 Digital Camera

Camera QuickLook
By
Mike Pasini and Dave Etchells
Review Date
12/29/2005 
User Level
Novice - Amateur
Product Uses
Family / Travel
digital camera Design
Point and Shoot
Picture Quality
Very Good
6.0-megapixel CCD
Print Sizes
11x14s, 8x10s with heavy cropping
Availability
Now
Suggested Retail Price
$299

 

Introduction

Review Links
Overview
Recommended Accessories
Design
Operation
Specifications
Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus 600 features a 6.0-megapixel CCD, 3x lens, an all-weather body design, and compact size. It also introduces an innovative help system that should inspire its competitors. While it lacks both sound recording and an optical viewfinder, it does provide a large and bright 2.5-inch LCD monitor to compose images. Like other Stylus Digital models, the fully automatic system requires very little user intervention and has only a handful of creative options, but has the benefits of 24 preset Scene modes, including a QuickTime Movie mode. 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.

 

Camera Overview

The Olympus Stylus 600 Digital retains the large, 2.5-inch LCD monitor and automatic sliding lens cover of the Stylus 500, but bumps its sensor resolution up to six megapixels. While it lacks the 500's sound recording, the camera's even trimmer, more 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. 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 Stylus 600's attractive body panels from scratches.

The Olympus Stylus 600 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 600 Digital's all-weather design is an impressive feature on a digital camera, 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 digital cameras, leaving me worried whenever I'm out shooting in even a slight drizzle. While the Olympus Stylus 600 isn't by any means an "industrial grade" digital camera, it's comforting to know that random splashes of water and puffs of dust won't send it to an early grave.

The Olympus Stylus 600 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 600 Digital employs an efficient contrast-detection autofocus system, with focus ranging from 1.7 feet (50 centimeters) to infinity in normal mode. A Macro setting focuses as close as 0.8 feet (20 centimeters), and works across the camera's entire zoom range, which is not often the case. There's also a Super Macro option that gets as close as 2.8 inches (7.0 centimeters), for real close-in shooting. By default, the camera uses an iESP autofocus area setting, which automatically sets the focus based on the subject's proximity to a range of AF points around the center of the image area. Through the Record menu, you can opt for a Spot AF setting, which will instead base focus only on the very center of the frame. In addition to its 3x optical zoom, the Olympus Stylus 600 Digital also offers 5x 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 6.0-megapixel CCD produces high-resolution images, good enough for prints up to 11x14 inches with good detail and sharpness, as well as lower-resolution images for sending via email or for printing 5x7- and 4x6-inch prints.

Missing on the Stylus 600 is any kind of Mode dial. Instead, the camera relies on small buttons to toggle between Program Auto and Scene modes, or switch to Playback mode. But the button concept proves its worth with the new Guide button. Hold in the Guide button and the screen displays a context sensitive help message. With the Olympus Stylus 600, you're never lost and don't have to remember what everything means. Just press the Guide button.

For composing images, the Stylus 600 Digital offers only the 2.5-inch TFT color LCD monitor, which features a very bright and clear display. I'm not a particular fan of cameras without optical viewfinders, but the viewfinder on the Stylus 600 is better in some respects than many. Unlike many LCDs, the one on the Olympus Stylus 600 remains pretty visible in strong sunlight, although there are times you simply can't see what it's showing you. Under low light conditions though, the Stylus 600's LCD screen goes dark at light levels a good bit above those that the camera can actually shoot at, making me wish for an optical viewfinder in those situations. The LCD monitor provides a limited exposure-information display (shutter speed and aperture aren't reported), though a histogram option is available for checking the exposure graphically. In Playback mode, the LCD monitor provides image enlargement and an index display.

Exposure control on the Olympus Stylus 600 Digital is uncomplicated and straightforward, as is the case with most of Olympus' consumer-oriented digital cameras. The camera operates under automatic exposure control at all times, but offers a wide selection of preset Scene modes for specific shooting situations. Unlike some digital cameras, the Stylus 600 doesn't report the exposure values it's selected on-screen. 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 ISO, 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 in most modes, and a maximum of four seconds in Night Scene mode), but Exposure Compensation (to lighten or darken the image), ISO (the camera's sensitivity to light), 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 Olympus Stylus 600's built-in flash operates in Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, and Off modes.

Program Auto is the default Shooting mode setting, but Scene mode (accessed by pressing the Shooting mode button -- there is no Mode dial on this camera) offers Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Beach& Snow, Under Water Wide1, Under Water Wide2, Under Water Macro, and Reducing Blur. Each mode on the Olympus Stylus 600sets up the camera for specific shooting situations, and a concise explanation of each mode appears on the LCD screen as you scroll through. Most of the preset modes are fairly self-explanatory, as they handle very distinct situations. However, the Shoot & Select modes deserve some explanation. Both take a sequence of shots but Shoot & Select 1 locks focus on the first frame (great for faces) while Shoot & Select 2 adjusts focus for each frame (better for sports and action shots). When you've finished the sequence, the images are displayed so you can delete the unwanted ones.

Other camera features include a Self-Timer mode, which provides a 12-second delay between the time the Shutter button is pressed and the image is actually captured. A Sequential Shooting mode lets you capture a rapid series of up to 12 images as fast as 4.3 frames per second at 1600 x 1200, while holding down the Shutter button. Actual frame rates and the total number of images will depend on the image size and quality settings, as well as the amount of available space on the memory card, but the burst length is limited to about five shots in large/fine mode. As with many Olympus cameras, a Panorama mode is available on the Stylus 600 when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card storage cards (but not cards from third parties), and records as many as 10 consecutive images to blend into one panoramic image. The camera's Movie mode captures moving images without sound, at either 640 x 480, 320 x 240, or 160 x 120 pixels, at 15 frames per second. Maximum recording time depends on the resolution and available memory space. The camera's Playback menu offers a nice range of effects to choose from, including sepia tone or black-and-white color options, and lets you add a Frame and Title, too. You can also resize images to a smaller resolution more suitable for email. Another interesting feature on the Olympus Stylus 600 Digital is the ability to save images in groups or albums. You can save as many as 12 albums, each containing a maximum of 200 images. The Album option in the Playback menu accesses saved albums, letting you select one for playback.

The Olympus Stylus 600 stores images on xD-Picture Cards, but does not ship with one. It does have 7.9 MB internal memory, but you'll want to get a card along with the camera so you don't miss any important shots. Large capacity xD Picture cards are available up to 1GB, and I suggest buying at least a 128MB xD-Picture Card. A CD-ROM loaded with Olympus' Camedia Master 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. A second CD-ROM holds the Stylus 600's more advanced instruction manual, which is more detailed than the basic manual that's included in book form. 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, especially considering the large LCD monitor and lack of an optical viewfinder. The optional AC adapter is recommended for time-consuming tasks such as transferring images to a computer. Also included with the Olympus Stylus 600 is an AV cable for connecting to a television set, and a USB cable for connecting the camera to your computer to transfer images.

Basic Features

  • 6.0-megapixel CCD
  • 2.5-inch color LCD display
  • 3x, 5.8-17.4mm zoom lens (equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm camera)
  • 5x Digital zoom
  • Automatic exposure control, with 24 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

  • TruePic TURBO Image Processor
  • A Guide button for help in most menus
  • Live histogram and grid overlay
  • Macro and Super Macro lens adjustment
  • Automatic noise reduction at shutter speeds of 1.0 second and longer
  • Panorama mode for stitching together multiple images
  • "2 in 1" multi-exposure mode
  • Black-and-White and Sepia color effects, plus Resize, Fisheye, and Soft Focus effects
  • White balance (color) adjustment with eight modes
  • Digital ESP (full frame) and Spot exposure metering options
  • Adjustable ISO to 64, 100, 200, or 400 equivalents, plus Auto and 800 to 1600 equivalents at 1600 x 1200 or less resolution
  • Sequential Shooting at 1.3 fps or 4.3 fps at 1600 x 1200 resolution
  • QuickTime movies (without sound)
  • 7.9 MB internal memory
  • "Calendar" organization of captured images
  • "Album" organization for favorite photos
  • DPOF (Digital Print Order Format) compatibility
  • PRINT Image Matching III compatibility
  • DCF (Design rule for Camera File system) compatibility
  • Exif 2.2 compatibility
  • USB 2.0 Fulll Speed with AutoConnect (no driver software needed) and USB cable
  • Video cable for connection to a television set

 

Recommendation
The Olympus Stylus 600 Digital is yet another evolution in Olympus' popular line of Stylus digital cameras. In terms of build, it's one of the better Stylus models to date, able to accommodate an even broader range of shooting conditions than its predecessors, and with a more solid "feel" in the hand. With its small dimensions, stylish design, and nice array of features, the Stylus 600 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. You get a 6.0-megapixel CCD, a very large, bright 2.5-inch LCD monitor, a good-quality lens, and an excellent selection of preset shooting modes, making the camera very versatile in a variety of situations.

 

Design

The Olympus Stylus 600 Digital retains the 500's sleek, automatic lens cover that slips behind the front panel when the camera is switched on. Small and compact, the Stylus 600 Digital fits into shirt pockets and small purses with ease. Its dimensions of 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0 inches (97 x 55 x 26.5 millimeters) make the camera an excellent option for travelers. Despite its all-metal body, the Stylus 600 Digital is fairly lightweight at 5.5 ounces (156 grams) with battery and memory card. Although the camera is quite small, it fits the hand very well, and the horizontal sculpted ridge on the front panel provides a something for your finger to grip. One of the most exciting design features on the Stylus 600 Digital is its all-weather body, complete with a double chassis (plastic underneath the metal body panels) and rubberized seals around the camera's openings. The Olympus Stylus 600 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, and it should be wiped dry before any of the protective doors are opened. The other exciting design element is the large and bright 2.5-inch color LCD monitor. Olympus eliminated the real-image optical viewfinder in favor of the larger LCD display, which is a more accurate framing tool.

The camera's front panel contains the 3x zoom lens, built-in flash, and the self-timer lamp that counts down the 12-second delay before the shutter fires. The Olympus Stylus 600's automatic sliding lens cover slides out of the way and behind the front panel when the camera is powered on, allowing the lens to extend forward. When closed, the circular cover fits neatly over the lens, and keeps the camera free of any protrusions that might hang on pockets. A thin, sculpted ridge extends horizontally across the front panel from the lens.

On top of the camera's right side is the the tight wrist strap eyelet, which requires some finesse to slip the wrist strap through. Below that is a plastic compartment door for the Video Out / USB and DC In connector jacks. A rubber gasket on the inside of the door provides an all-weather seal for the jacks.

The opposite side of the Olympus Stylus 600 is smooth and featureless.

The top of the Olympus Stylus 600 Digital holds only the Shutter and Power buttons.

The remaining external controls are located on the Olympus Stylus 600's rear panel, along with the large, 2.5-inch, TFT color LCD monitor. In the top right corner is the zoom control consisting of two small buttons. Below that is the Shooting mode button, the Playback button, and the Display/Guide button. The OK/Menu button combination is just below that. Its four arrows serve not only as navigational tools, but also adjust camera settings like Exposure Compensation, Flash, Macro, and Self-Timer modes. Below that are the Print button and the Delete button.

The Olympus Stylus 600 has a reasonably flat bottom panel, which holds the sealed plastic door covering the combined battery compartment and the xD Picture Card slot. A plastic threaded tripod mount is offset enough from the battery compartment door to permit quick battery changes while mounted on some smaller tripods.

 

Camera Operation

Like several preceding "advanced point & shoot" Olympus digital cameras, the Stylus 600 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. Pressing the power button opens the lens cover, extends the lens, and puts the Stylus 600 in Shooting mode. Instead of a Mode dial, you toggle between Auto and Scene modes using the Shooting button. You press the Playback button to review what you've recorded. A multicontroller on the back panel serves several functions (including accessing Exposure Compensataion, Flash, Macro, and Self-Timer/Remote options in Shooting mode), and navigates through on-screen menus. It also scrolls through captured images in Playback mode. The LCD menu system accesses the rest of the camera's exposure options (like ISO, White Balance, Resolution, etc.). Even first-time beginners should get the gist of it after a few minutes.

Record Mode Display: The Olympus Stylus 600's Shooting mode screen always shows an information overlay that displays the exposure mode, flash mode, ISO, image quality, and shots remaining on the memory card. You can optionally enable a live histogram display (which replaces the pixel dimensions in the information overlay) or a grid overlay as exposure and framing aids.
Playback Mode Display: In Playback mode, you can choose to have more or less image information shown in the overlay display, but regardless of the amount chosen, the overlay disappears after a few seconds of not touching the controls, so you can always (eventually) see just the photo itself. Another press of the Olympus Stylus 600's Display button shows a thumbnail of the image with its histogram below it and the time and date below that. Using the zoom control, you can zoom out to a thumbnail display showing four, nine, 16, or 25 images at once, a calendar view, or zoom in up to 10x to check fine details and focus.

 

External Controls


Power Button: Tiny and recessed into the Olympus Stylus 600's top panel, this button turns the Olympus Stylus 600 on and off. When turned on, the camera extends the lens into its operating position unless you start the camera with the Playback button.


Shutter Button: To the right of the Power button, this long elliptical button sets the Olympus Stylus 600's exposure when halfway depressed. Fully depressing the button triggers the shutter to open.


Zoom Buttons: In the top right corner of the rear panel, these two small buttons control 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 (up to 10x), and also accesses the index display mode.


Shooting Mode Button: Below the Zoom buttons, this button toggles between Program Auto and Scene exposure modes. There are 24 different preset Scene options on the Olympus Stylus 600 including Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Beach& Snow, Under Water Wide1, Under Water Wide2, Under Water Macro, and Reducing Blur.


Playback Mode Button: Below the Olympus Stylus 600's Shooting mode button, this button switches to Playback mode.


Display/Guide Button: To the right of the Playback mode button, this button cycles through the Stylus 600's LCD display modes, showing more or less information with each press. It also serves as the Guide button, activating a help screen for most menu items.


Four-Way Multicontroller: Dominating the lower right corner of the rear panel, each of the four arrows on this rocker button points in a different direction (up, down, left, right). In any mode, the arrow keys navigate through the Olympus Stylus 600's menu options.

In Record mode, the Up arrow activates Exposure compensation from -2.0 to +2.0 exposure values (EV) in one-third-step increments (once the up arrow is pressed, you use both the up and down arrows to adjust the EV compensation), the Down arrow controls the Self-Timer, and the Right arrow button selects Flash modes, cycling through Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Forced, and Off. Finally, the Right 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 (see image above): In the center of the multicontroller rocker button, this button calls up the settings menu in both Record and Playback modes. It also serves as the "OK" button to confirm menu selections.


Print Button: Below the Olympus Stylus 600's multicontroller, this button prints the image currently displayed on the LCD.


Delete Button: To the right of the Print button, this button erases the image currently displayed on the LCD.

 

Camera Modes and Menus

Record Mode: Shooting mode is activated by turning the Stylus 600 on or pressing the Shooting mode button. The Shooting mode button toggles between Program Auto and Scene mode. Twenty-four preset Scene modes (including Movie mode) are available.

Playback Mode: The Playback button switches to Playback mode from Shooting mode. Pressing the Playback button while powering on the camera starts the camera directly in Playback mode without extending the lens. Playback mode options include a Calendar display of recorded images as well as Album playback.

Record Menu:
The following menu options are accessible by pressing the OK/Menu button in Shooting mode.

  • ISO: Sets the camera's sensitivity to Auto or to 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, or 1600 ISO equivalents.
  • Image Size/Quality: Sets the image resolution and JPEG compression level. Available resolutions are 2,816 x 2,112; 2,560 x 1,920; 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), SQ1 and SQ2 (Standard Quality) JPEG compression levels. Movie mode options are 640 x 480; 320 x 240; or 160 x 120 pixels and 15 frames per second.
  • White Balance: Sets the color balance to Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1 (Daylight), Fluorescent 2 (Neutral), or Fluorescent 3.

  • Mode Menu: Displays the following three-page, tabbed 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 Sequential (Continuous) Shooting or High Speed Sequential capture modes.
      • Digital Zoom: Turns digital zoom on or off.
      • AF Mode: Lets you choose the autofocus area, either iESP or Spot.
      • 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.

    • Card: All Erase: Erases all files (even write-protected ones).
      • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even write-protected ones).
      • Backup: Copies pictures recorded to the internal memory to an xD-Picture Card without erasing them.

    • Setup:
      • Reset: Resets all of the camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.
      • Shooting Mode Button Power On: Enables the Shooting Mode button to also power the camera On or Off.
      • Power On Setup: Selects the picture displayed when the camera is turned on. You can also register your own picture for display at power up.
      • Record View: Turns the instant image review on or off. When activated, instant image review briefly displays the most just-captured image after you trip the shutter.

      • File Name: Allows user to reset the file name counter.
      • Pixel Mapping: Checks the camera's CCD and image processing functions, maps out bad pixels. (You shouldn't need to do this more than once a year or so.)
      • LCD Brightness: Adjusts the brightness level of the LCD monitor display.
      • Date/Time: Sets the camera's internal clock and calendar.
      • Dual Time Setup: Useful for setting and keeping time in different time zones.

      • Video Out: Sets the camera's Video Out signal timing to either NTSC or PAL.
      • Histogram: Enables display of a histogram in either Shooting or Playback mode.
      • Frame Assist: Sets the frame assist to either horizontal and vertical lines or diagonal lines, or disables it.

Playback Menu: The following playback options are available through the Olympus Stylus 600's Playback settings menu:

  • Edit: Goes straight to image editing menu tab.
  • Album Entry: Displays the album setup screen. Here, you can select images to file in one of the 12 albums. You can also select an image to display as a thumbnail in a graphical calendar display.
  • Calendar: Goes straight to calendar menu.

  • 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.
      • Playback: Provides Normal (one at a time), Fader (next picture fades in), Slide (next picture slides in from the top of the screen), and Zoom (next pictures grows from top left of the screen) automatic playback options.
      • 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.
      • Album Entry: Enables saving images into albums.

    • Edit:
      • Resize: Allows you to resize the displayed image to a smaller resolution (640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels). The resized image is saved as a separate file. (Handy for photos you want to email.)
      • Red-Eye Fix: Removes red-eye, saving the image to a new file.
      • 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.
      • Frame: Adds a frame to the current image and saves it as a new file.

      • Title: Adds a title to the current image and saves it as a new file.
      • Calendar: Adds the current image to a calendar and saves it as a new file.
      • Brightness: Adjusts the brightness of the current image.
      • Saturation: Adjusts the saturation of the current image.

    • Card:
      • All Erase: Erases all files (even write-protected ones).
      • Format: Formats the xD-Picture Card, erasing all files (even write-protected ones).
      • Backup: Copies pictures recorded to the internal memory to a xD-Picture Card without erasing them.

    • Setup:
      • Reset: Resets all of the camera settings to their defaults.
      • Language: Sets the menu language to English, French, Spanish, or Portuguese.
      • Shooting Mode Button Power On: Enables the Shooting Mode button to also power the camera On or Off.
      • Power On Setup: Selects the picture displayed when the camera is turned on. You can also register your own picture for display at power up.
      • Record View: Turns the instant image review on or off. When activated, instant image review briefly displays the most just-captured image after you trip the shutter.

      • File Name: Allows user to reset the file name counter.
      • Pixel Mapping: Checks the camera's CCD and image processing functions, maps out bad pixels. (You shouldn't need to do this more than once a year or so.)
      • 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 timing to either NTSC or PAL.
      • Histogram: Enables display of a histogram in either Shooting or Playback mode.
      • Frame Assist: Sets the frame assist to either horizontal and vertical lines or diagonal lines, or disables it.

 

In the Box

The Olympus Stylus 600 Digital ships with the following items in the box:

  • Stylus 600 Digital camera
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • Video cable
  • Li-12B Lithium-ion battery and charger
  • CD-ROMs loaded with Olympus Master software, drivers, and instruction manuals.
  • Basic manual, Quick Start guide and registration kit

 

Recommended Accessories

 

Recommended Software: Rescue your Photos!
Just as important as an extra memory card is a tool to rescue your images when one of your cards fails at some point in the future. We get a lot of email from readers who've lost photos due to a corrupted memory card. Memory card corruption can happen with any card type and any camera manufacturer, nobody's immune. A lot of "lost" images can be recovered with an inexpensive, easy to use piece of software though. Given the amount of email I've gotten on the topic, I now include this paragraph in all my digital camera reviews. The program you need is called PhotoRescue, by DataRescue SA. Read our review of it if you'd like, but download the program now, so you'll have it. It doesn't cost a penny until you need it, and even then it's only $29, with a money back guarantee. So download PhotoRescue for Windows or PhotoRescue for Mac while you're thinking of it. (While you're at it, download the PDF manual and quickstart guide as well.) Stash the file in a safe place and it'll be there when you need it. Trust me, needing this is not a matter of if, but when... PhotoRescue is about the best and easiest tool for recovering digital photos I've seen. (Disclosure: IR gets a small commission from sales of the product, but I'd highly recommend the program even if we didn't.) OK, now back to our regularly scheduled review...

 

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 full details on each of the test images, see the Stylus 600 Sample Pictures page.

For a look at some more pictorial photos from this camera, check out our Olympus Stylus 600 Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Stylus 600 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!

Lens

Zoom
A typical 3x optical zoom range.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
35mm
105mm
5x Digital Zoom

The Stylus 600 zooms over the equivalent of a 35-105mm range, fairly typical for its class. The 5x digital zoom takes it out to 15x total with the loss of quality that digital zoom creates.

Macro
A small macro area with good detail and high resolution. Flash throttled down better than most at this range, but plan on using external flash for macro shots.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Standard Macro Macro with Flash Super Macro Mode

The Stylus 600's standard macro setting performs well, capturing a small minimum area of 2.29 x 1.72 inches (58 x 44 millimeters). The super macro setting performs very well, capturing a tiny minimum area of 0.96 x 0.72 inches (24 x 18 millimeters). Detail is strong and resolution high, with only a moderate amount of softening in the corners from the lens. (Most cameras have some softening in the corners in macro mode.) The flash throttled down well with only a bit of glare on the brooch but the field was evenly illuminated. (Still, plan on using external lighting for your closest macro shots with the 600.)

Distortion
Average to low barrel distortion.

This is the tendency for the lens to bend straight lines outward (like a barrel--usually at wide angle) or inward (like a pincushion--usually at telephoto). The 600's 0.53% barrel distortion at wide angle is lower than average among the cameras I've tested. At the telephoto end, the EX-OS6's 0.08% barrel distortion is average.

Barrel distortion at 35mm is 0.53%
Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Barrel distortion at 105mm is 0.08%
Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image

Chromatic aberration
Noticeable at wide angle, very slight at telephoto.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Wide: fairly bright, top left @ 200% Wide: fairly bright, top right @ 200%
Tele: quite low, top left @200% Tele: quite low, top right @200%

Chromatic aberration is rather high at wide angle, showing several pixels of moderately bright coloration on either side of the target lines, but decreases to very low levels at telephoto 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.)

Corner Sharpness
Softening in the corners of the frame.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Soft in the lower left corner. Soft in lower right corner.

The Stylus 600 produced soft corners, and was generally soft for a 6-Mp digicam.

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm cast with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. Less exposure compensation required than usual.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Auto White Balance +0.3EV Incandescent WB +0.3EV

Color balance indoors under Auto was just a bit warm but pleasing. Incandescent was excellent. The Stylus 600 required just a +0.3 EV exposure compensation boost with either setting to get a good exposure. Overall color well-balanced and hue accurate. Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulb, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the US.

Outdoors, daylight
Good color balance, very bright colors. Better than average exposure accuracy.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure Auto White Balance, -0.7 EV

Outdoor shots generally showed accurate exposure with slightly blown out highlights. Shadow detail also tended to fall apart, but nothing that would raise an alarm for a consumer digicam. Sunlit shots showed high contrast and oversaturation while overcast scenes managed a more accurate portrayal. Exposure accuracy overall was better than average, the camera requiring less exposure compensation than we're accustomed to seeing with consumer digicams.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,250 lines of strong detail.

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,250 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,400. (The camera did produce slight color artifacts at lower line frequencies though, visible in the full-sized res target shots.) Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail. Beware that while you might be able to make out what looks like distinct lines at numbers higher than those we've mentioned here, the camera is just doing its best to continue interpreting the lines. If you zoom in and follow them from the wider portions, you'll see the lines converge and reappear several times, so the lines you see at 1,400 and higher are really only artifacts generated by the camera's imaging system.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Strong detail to 1,250 lines horizontal Strong detail to 1,250 lines vertical

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Soft images.

Soft definition of high-contrast elements. Subtle detail: Hair

The Stylus 600's images are not quite as sharp as most.

ISO & Noise Performance
Increasing noise at the higher ISO settings.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
ISO 64 ISO 100
Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
ISO 200 ISO 400
Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
ISO 800 ISO 1600

At ISO 64, the Stylus 600 was relatively noise-free. And at ISO 100, it was very clean, too. Image noise was apparent at ISO 200, with only slightly blurred detail in the dark areas. At ISO 400 it was significant. As the ISO setting increases, so does the noise level and the amount of blurring that results. At ISO 800 and above (available only at reduced resolution), noise was even more evident.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, though high contrast and limited shadow detail. Pretty good low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting and slightly darker conditions.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Normal +0.3EV +0.7EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Stylus 600 had a little trouble with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Noise suppression is visible in both shadows and highlights as well, contributing to the loss of detail, made more severe in these areas. Exposure at least did not wash out the highlights when exposure compensation was set to zero adjustment. (In "real life" though, be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

Low light:
Our low light testing revealed some limitations in the lens and sensor's ability to gather and process light, but the Stylus 600's performance in this area will be more than adequate for most consumers, provided they know to switch to "Night" mode for after-dark photography. The Night mode forces the ISO setting to 200 for minimum image noise, but permits shutter times as long as 2 seconds. The net result in Night Portrait mode was that our test images were bright as low as 1/4 foot-candle, which is about 1/4 as bright as average city street lighting at night. Color balance was slightly warm from the Auto white balance setting. The camera's autofocus system worked unusually well, able to focus on the subject down to the darkest light levels we test at. Do keep in mind though, that the very long shutter times associated with Night Landscape mode absolutely demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

  1 fc
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ISO
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NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Slightly oversaturated color (especially reds and blues), very typical of consumer digital cameras. Generally good hue accuracy.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.
Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Stylus 600 follows this trend, though it tends to overdo the strong red and blue tones a bit. Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. The OS6 did render skin tones a bit on the pink side in most cases, but our sense is that most consumers would find the OS6's bright color very appealing.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. Here, the Stylus 600 did quite well. Like most digicams, it shifts cyan colors toward blue, to produce better-looking sky colors, but the rest of the hues were quite accurate.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image

Our random "Gallery" shots showed very pleasing color across a wide variety of subjects. (See our Stylus 600 Photo Gallery for more shots taken with the camera.)

Viewfinder

Coverage
Very good accuracy from the LCD monitor.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
35mm eq., LCD monitor 105mm eq., LCD monitor

The 600 has no optical viewfinder but the LCD monitor shows 101% at wide angle and 99% at telephoto.

Flash

Coverage and Range
The 600's small flash has a limited range, produces a slight warm cast thanks to its yellow filter over the flash.

Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
35mm equivalent 105mm equivalent
Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image Olympus Stylus 600 digital camera image
Normal Flash +1.0EV +0.7 EV

Flash coverage was rather uneven at wide angle but very good at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash on the OS6 underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation adjustment to get reasonably bright results. The camera's Night mode produced brighter results, though with a stronger pinkish-orange cast from the room lighting; no EV adjustment was required, fortunate since the EV adjustment is disabled in this mode.

Up to about 13 feet, the flash illuminated the DaveBox target adequately.

8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft 12 ft 13 ft 14 ft
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Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, great color, very usable 11x14 inch prints. ISO 400 images are very soft at 8x10, acceptable at 5x7, great at 4x6.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell just so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Olympus i9900 studio printer, and on the Olympus iP6000 here in the office. (See the Olympus i9900 review for details on that model.)

With the Stylus 600, we found that it had enough resolution to make very crisp 8x10 inch prints. At 11x14, its prints were a bit softer looking, but more than adequate for wall or table display. At high ISO, image noise levels are held in check, but at the cost of rather soft-looking images. ISO 200 photos look OK printed at 8x10 inches, but ISO 400 ones are marginal even at 5x7 inches, but look fine at 4x6. Color-wise, the Stylus 600's images looked really great when printed on the i9900, with bright, vibrant color. Users who prefer more subdued, technically accurate color saturation levels may find the OS6's images a little too bright, but most consumers will probably find the OS6's bright, snappy images very appealing.

Timing and Performance

Stylus 600 Timing
Slightly above average speed for a consumer camera.

Startup/Shutdown:
Power On to first shot 2.2 seconds
Shutter response (Lag Time):
Full Autofocus Wide
0.82 second
Full Autofocus Tele
0.66 second
Prefocused
0.08 second
Cycle time (shot to shot)
Normal large/fine JPEG 1.44 seconds
Flash recycling 6 seconds
Continuous mode 1.23 second
0.81 frames/second
(1 large/fine frame)
Download speed
Windows Computer, USB 2.0 854 KBytes/sec

The 600's performance is average to above average across the board. Start up speed is average. Shutter response is about the same whether at wide angle or telephoto and both are above average. If you "prefocus" the camera by half-pressing and holding down the shutter button before the final exposure, it's blazingly fast, with a shutter delay of only 0.08 second. Shot-to-shot cycle times are above average, at about 1.44 seconds for large/fine JPEGs. Continuous-mode speed is above average, too. The flash takes about six seconds to recharge after a full-power shot, about average for this class of camera. Connected to a computer, download speeds are fast enough that you probably won't feel a need for a separate card reader. Bottom line, the 600 is responsive enough (particular at wide angle lens settings) to handle most family photo opportunities.

See full Picky Details page.

Battery and Storage Capacity

Battery
Excellent battery life. There's no optical viewfinder, so the bright LCD is always on in Shooting mode.

Operating Mode
Battery Life
Still-image capture mode
LCD on
182 minutes
Image playback
LCD on
557 minutes

The Stylus 600 uses a custom rechargeable 1230mAh Lithium Ion battery for power. The table above shows maximum run times based on our power measurements and the rated performance of its battery.

Storage
The Stylus 600 uses xD Picture cards, but does not include one. It does have almost 8 MB internal memory, however.

Image Capacity with
7.9-MB internal storage
Fine
2,816 x 2,112 Images 2
File Size 2.9MB
2,560 x 1,920 Images 6
File Size 1.2MB
2,272 x 1,704 Images 7
File Size 977K
2,048 x 1,536 Images 9
File Size 785K
1,600 x 1,200 Images 15
File Size 497K
1280 x 960
Images 18
File Size 417K
1024 x 768
Images 28
File Size 272K

I strongly recommend buying at least a 128MB card, preferably a 256MB one, to give yourself extra space for extended outings.

See full Picky Details page.

 

Conclusion

Pro: Con:
  • Vibrant, appealing color
  • Good skin tones
  • Auto white balance handles a wide range of lighting well
  • Better than average exposure accuracy
  • Good lens, generally low distortion (some chromatic aberration at wide settings though)
  • Excellent shutter response at wide angle settings
  • Excellent camera styling, very compact
  • Very simple user interface
  • Innovation Help system
  • Accurate LCD viewfinder
  • Good low light capability (But only in Night mode)
  • Case design fits both large and small hands well
  • A little soft generally for a 6-Mp digicam
  • Contrast is a little high, tends to lose highlight and shadow detail under harsh lighting
  • Some users may find the highly saturated color unnatural

 

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As the latest in that company's "Stylus" line of compact digital cameras, the 6-Mp, 3x-zoom Olympus Stylus 600 Digital is to my mind one of the best Stylus Digital models to date. Its body design is trim and compact, with a button-based interface simpler than that found on earlier models. It offers the same water resistance that makes the rest of the Stylus line so practical for go-anywhere photography, and sports a big, beautiful 2.5-inch LCD monitor to view your photos on. While the LCD on the Stylus 600 does much better than average in bright sunlight, and offers a wider than average viewing angle, I do wish that Olympus had kept an optical viewfinder for low light shooting. That quibble aside, the Olympus Stylus 600 is a very capable, highly portable point & shoot camera, with good image quality, a better than average lens, and a unique help system that won't leave you stranded. Its point & shoot simplicity and 24 preset Scene modes make it easy for even novice users to bring home great-looking photos. Another Dave's Pick for Olympus!

 

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