Olympus 730 Review
Olympus Stylus 730 Exposure
Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Oversaturated reds and magentas, undersaturated yellows, yellow-greens, and purples. Fairly accurate hue, though magenta is shifted toward red.
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 730 does oversaturate the strong red and blue tones slightly, but undersaturates bright yellows and yellow-greens. We found its color pleasing on a wide range of typical subjects though.
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. Here, the OS730 performed well, with only slight warmth.
The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. The Stylus 730 was pretty inaccurate in the blues and dark greens, skewing them quite a bit. Other colors were either neutral or only slightly skewed .
Exposure and White Balance
Indoors, incandescent lighting
Warm casts with both Auto and Incandescent white balance settings. About average exposure compensation required.
|Auto White Balance +1.0 EV||Incandescent WB +1.0 EV|
The Stylus 730's Auto white balance mode produced very warm results (almost a sepia tone), but the Incandescent setting actually produced very nice color overall. Exposure accuracy was about average, with the camera requiring a +1.0 EV exposure compensation boost to get bright results. (About what most cameras we test need on this shot.) Colors are a little dark, resulting in a dark, purplish tint on the otherwise bright blue flowers. (A very common outcome for this test.) Our lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.
Slightly warm color balance, and slightly dark colors outdoors, but a bit better than average exposure accuracy.
|Auto White Balance, +0.7 EV||Auto White Balance, Auto Exposure|
Outdoor shots showed better than average exposure accuracy, though with notably high contrast under harsh sunlight. Strong highlights tended to produce slight underexposures, as in the house shot above, with a limited midtone range, but exposure accuracy was still better than average when compared to many other consumer digicams. Overall color looked pretty good, with bright reds and blues that nonetheless didn't look too overdone.
High resolution, 1,300 lines of strong detail.
|Strong detail to 1,300 lines horizontal||Strong detail to 1,300 lines vertical|
Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,300 lines per picture height, with extinction at around 1,700. (The camera produced obvious sharpening artifacts ("halos"), as well as light 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.
Sharpness & Detail
Fairly sharp images overall, though a moderate amount of edge-enhancement in high contrast shots and some noise suppression in the shadows.
|Moderate definition of high-contrast elements, evidence of over-sharpening and edge-enhancement visible.||Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here.
The Olympus 730's images are fairly sharp overall, with edge-enhancemment artifacts only visible in areas of particularly strong contrast: Notice the slightly lighter "halo" in the sky where it meets the dark line at the edge of the roof in the crop above. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)
Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten-out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop at far right shows this somewhat, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing limited, blurry detail, though individual strands are visible where a lighted strand passes in front of a darker shadow area. On balance, the OS730 shows less detail loss to noise reduction at low ISO settings than average, but more at high ISOs.
ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, very high noise that blurs detail at the higher settings.
|ISO 80||ISO 100||ISO 200
(slight motion blur)
|ISO 400||ISO 800||ISO 1,600|
The 730's lower ISO settings produced moderate noise, with moderate blurring in the dark areas in an effort to reduce the noise. As the ISO setting increases, so does the noise level and the amount of blurring that results.
Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast limits both highlight and shadow detail. Limited low-light capabilities, but sensitive enough to capture bright images under typical city street lighting.
|+0.3 EV||+0.7 EV||+1.0 EV|
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 730 had a hard time with the deliberately harsh lighting in the test above, producing very high contrast with washed-out highlights and deep shadows. Shadow detail is limited, with the effects noise suppression very evident in the form of smudged detail in deep shadow areas. The camera required a slightly less than average amount of positive compensation at +0.7 EV, making its metering a bit more accurate than most in this particular test. (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.)
The Olympus 730 had limited low-light shooting capabilities. To shoot under average city street-lighting at night (about one foot-candle), you'll have to use ISO 400. Unfortunately, as Luke points out in his lab notes, there's no autofocus assist light, so the camera can only find focus at the brightest levels in the low light test.
Coverage and Range
A fairly weak flash with a limited range. The camera underexposed our standard shots slightly, and exposure compensation had no effect on flash exposure.
|38mm equivalent||114mm equivalent|
Flash coverage was somewhat uneven at wide angle, and dim though more uniform at telephoto. In the Indoor test, the flash underexposed our subject at its default setting, requiring a +0.7 EV boost for the best results. The camera's Night Portrait mode produced slightly brighter and more even results, though with a much stronger orange cast from the room lighting. The best results here were achieved with a +1.3 EV exposure boost.
Only at six and seven feet did the Stylus 730 illuminate the DaveBox target at our standard ISO 100 setting. At telephoto, the Stylus 730 couldn't adequately illuminate the target even at six feet, our closest test range.
|Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range|
Auto ISO 400
Auto ISO 250
Our standard test method for flash range uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. We now also capture two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings, at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the Stylus 730 overexposes the wide angle shot, and boosts the ISO into the noisy range at 400. The telephoto shot boosts the ISO less, but manages to underexpose the target at the rated distance. It's not a terrible performance, but could be better.
Good print quality, great color, crisp prints at 11x14 inches, usable ones at 13x19. ISO 400 images are still pretty good at 8x10 inches. Higher ISOs are also pretty good, though 3,200 is only barely good 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 Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5000 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)
The Stylus 730 produced crisp prints at 11x14 inches, and somewhat softer but still acceptable ones at 13x19 inches. Corners are soft, however, and that does show up at these larger sizes. The real test of print size came at the higher ISO settings. Here, the 730's ISO 400 images were quite good when printed at 8x10 inches. ISO 200 shots were noisy but acceptable at 11x14. ISO 800 images were quite usable at 5x7, a nice surprise. ISO 1,600 images were better at 4x6, but ISO 3,200 shots were just a little too stippled for most.
Color-wise, the Stylus 730 did pretty well, with bright but natural-looking color and good-looking skin tones across the ISO range.
Bottom line, low-ISO shots from the Stylus 730 look very good and hold together well at large print sizes, but its high-ISO images are going to be somewhat muddled, unless you stick to 4x6.
The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus Stylus 730 Photo Gallery.
Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus Stylus 730 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!
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Note: For details, test results, and analysis of the many tests done with this camera, please click on the tabs at the beginning of the review or below.