Olympus Stylus 1 Review -- Image Quality Comparison

We don't generally post side-by-side crop comparison tables for fixed lens cameras except in special cases, and the Stylus 1 is certainly one of those. Below are crops comparing the Olympus Stylus 1's test images against those taken with the Olympus E-PL5, Panasonic FZ200 and Sony RX10.

The E-PL5 is a Micro Four Thirds camera who's sensor has five times the surface area of the Stylus 1 and yet costs less (and doesn't come equipped with a long constant aperture zoom), while the Panasonic FZ200 is a bridge camera with a constant aperture zoom and smaller (1/2.3") sensor and the RX10 is a bridge camera with a constant aperture zoom and a larger (1" type) sensor.

NOTE: These images are best quality JPEGs straight out of the camera, at default settings including noise reduction and using the camera's actual base ISO (not extended ISO settings). The E-PL5 was shot with our sharp lab reference test lens, and the other three are fixed lens cameras.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at Base ISO

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 200

The E-PL5 has not only a much larger sensor than the Stylus 1 but roughly 4 more megapixels resolution, and as such we would expect more detail here at base ISO. Most notable is the greater fine detail in the mosaic tiles and the fabric swatches. We wanted you to see this comparison, as the relatively small size of the Stylus 1 sensor is the single biggest trade-off to most people vs going with a Micro Four Thirds camera.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Panasonic FZ200 at Base ISO

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100
Panasonic FZ200 at ISO 100

Conversely to the E-PL5, the FZ200's sensor is roughly a third smaller in size than the Stylus 1 sensor, and we therefore see more fine detail in the Stylus 1 crops, especially the mosaic tiles. There is also a minor amount of unpleasant noise reduction artifacts in the bottle crop of the FZ200, even here at base ISO, so while the FZ200 is a lesser-priced camera and has greater equivalent zoom range, this is the trade-off you are facing here.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Sony RX10 at Base ISO

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 100
Sony RX10 at ISO 125

The RX10 has a sensor more than twice the size of the Stylus 1 and roughly 8 more megapixels. As such we see far greater detail in the RX10 images, and a significant advantage in areas like the pink fabric. The RX10 does cost almost twice as much, is larger and heavier, and has 100mm less equivalent zoom reach, so there are the trade-offs to consider between these two cameras.


Most digital SLRs and CSCs will produce an excellent ISO 100 shot, so we like to push them and see what they can do compared to other cameras at ISO 1600 and 3200. Recent advances in sensor technology have made ISO 1600 look a lot more like ISO 100, but there are still cameras whose quality starts to fall apart at this setting, especially those with smaller sensors, so this is where the real fun begins.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 1600

As ISO rises, larger sensors like the E-PL5's start to show their worth and smaller sensors start to fade. I find the Stylus 1 to be useful up to about ISO 800 for printing, and after that it is generally only useful for less critical applications and smaller online postings.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Panasonic FZ200 at ISO 1600

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600
Panasonic FZ200 at ISO 1600

Again, neither small-sensored camera looks very good here, but the Stylus 1's sensor certainly out-performs the FZ200's here at ISO 1600 with more detail and less noise.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 1600
Sony RX10 at ISO 1600

The RX10 looks fairly good here, and this comparison is where anyone interested in low light shooting should take special note. The RX10 still controls noise fairly well and has a reasonable amount of detail in the mosaic tiles and the fabric swatches, while the Stylus 1 is already starting to lose both of those battles.

Compact cameras rarely deliver the goods at ISO 3200 and above, so let's take a quick look.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200
Olympus E-PL5 at ISO 3200

The E-PL5 still looks fairly good here at the relatively high ISO 3200, but the Stylus 1 is all but lost here and displays mostly blur and noise by comparison.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Panasonic FZ200 at ISO 3200

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200
Panasonic FZ200 at ISO 3200

Neither camera performs well here, although by comparison the Stylus 1 is clearly better.

Olympus Stylus 1 versus Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Olympus Stylus 1 at ISO 3200
Sony RX10 at ISO 3200

Yet again, not a bad showing for the RX10 with its 1" sensor here at ISO 3200. The reasonably low amount of noise is fairly good for this sensor size, and it clearly bests the Stylus 1 in all respects here, whose images are both noisy and low on detail.


Olympus Stylus 1 Review -- Print Quality

Good 20 x 30 inch prints at ISO 100; a nice 8 x 10 at ISO 800; a good 4 x 6 at ISO 3200.

ISO 100 prints are good at 20 x 30 inches, which is on the larger size for this type sensor. There is mild softness in our target red-leaf swatch, typical for most smaller sensors, but the prints are otherwise nice and crisp with good detail and color.

ISO 200 images look good at 16 x 20 inches, with only minor noise in a few flatter areas and the previously mentioned softness in our tricky red swatch.

ISO 400 shots are fairly good at 13 x 19 inches, with minor issues similar to the 16 x 20 at ISO 200.

ISO 800 prints an 11 x 14 that almost passes our "good" standard, and will be more than adequate for less critical applications, but there's a bit too much noise overall to merit our good rating. A reduction in size to 8 x 10 inches resolves most of the issues.

ISO 1600 yields a nice 5 x 7 inch print. 8 x 10's are too noisy in some areas and too soft in others to call good.

ISO 3200 produces a 5 x 7 inch print that will pass for most situations, but we'll reserve our "good" ranking for the 4 x 6 inch print here.

ISOs 6400 and 12,800 do not make good prints and are best avoided.

For a camera with a 1/1.7"-type sensor, the Olympus Stylus 1 does a good job in the print quality department. 20 x 30 inches at base ISO is great for this sensor, as many other cameras we've tested with a 1/1.7 sensor (the Olympus XZ-2 and Canon G16 for example) remain at 16 x 20 inches, and you can print a good 8 x 10 all the way to ISO 800. After that, the adverse effects at higher ISOs from smaller sensors takes its usual toll, so if you can remain at ISO 800 and below you will be in better shape if you intend to enlarge your prints.

About our print-quality testing: Our "Reference Printer"

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell 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 routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon imagePROGRAF PRO-1000 printer, which we named our "Printer of the Year" in our 2015 COTY awards.

The Canon PRO-1000 has a lot of characteristics that make it a natural to use for our "reference printer." When it comes to judging how well a camera's photos print, resolution and precise rendering are paramount. The PRO-1000's more than 18,000 individual nozzles combine with an air feeding system that provides exceptional droplet-placement accuracy. Its 11-color LUCIA PRO ink system delivers a wide color gamut and dense blacks, giving us a true sense of the cameras' image quality. To best see fine details, we've always printed on glossy paper, so the PRO-1000's "Chroma Optimizer" overcoat that minimizes "bronzing" or gloss differential is important to us. (Prior to the PRO-1000, we've always used dye-based printers, in part to avoid the bronzing problems with pigment-based inks.) Finally, we just don't have time to deal with clogged inkjet heads, and the PRO-1000 does better in that respect than any printer we've ever used. If you don't run them every day or two, inkjet printers tend to clog. Canon's thermal-inkjet technology is inherently less clog-prone than other approaches, but the PRO-1000 takes this a step further, with sensors that monitor every inkjet nozzle. If one clogs, it will assign another to take over its duties. In exchange for a tiny amount of print speed, this lets you defer cleaning cycles, which translates into significant ink savings. In our normal workflow, we'll often crank out a hundred or more letter-size prints in a session, but then leave the printer to sit for anywhere from days to weeks before the next camera comes along. In over a year of use, we've never had to run a nozzle-cleaning cycle on our PRO-1000.

See our Canon PRO-1000 review for a full overview of the printer from the viewpoint of a fine-art photographer.

*Disclosure: Canon provided us with the PRO-1000 and a supply of ink to use in our testing, and we receive advertising consideration for including this mention when we talk about camera print quality. Our decision to use the PRO-1000 was driven by the printer itself, though, prior to any discussion with Canon on the topic. (We'd actually been using an old Pixma PRO 9500II dye-based printer for years previously, and paying for our own ink, until we decided that the PRO-1000 was the next-generation printer we'd been waiting for.)


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