Olympus SH-50 compact gets five-axis stabilization; also long-zoom and rugged cameras aplenty


posted Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 8:49 AM EDT


Olympus has introduced six new fixed-lens camera models for the Consumer Electronics Show. Among the group is the first fixed-lens digicam with a five-axis stabilization system (as featured previously in the OM-D E-M5 mirrorless camera), plus a variety of rugged lifestyle cameras and long-zoom digicams. We'll start off by looking at the Olympus TG-2, a rugged camera with a sense of style that's as happy far below the surface as it is in the surf or by the poolside.

Olympus' Stylus TG-2 has a removable lens ring that lets you mount optional accessory lenses.

Olympus' latest rugged, go-anywhere camera leads something of a double life. On the one hand, its styling is filled with angles, protrusions, texture variations, and bared screw heads that give the impression of a precision tool crafted to meet a difficult challenge. And that's an accurate impression, because it's waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof to 6.6 feet, freezeproof to 14°F, crushproof to 220 pounds, and dustproof. It's also location-aware, and sports an interesting microscopic macro function that brings your subject up close and extremely personal. On the other hand, it comes accompanied with a pair of lens rings that let you match the color to your personal style, along with what Olympus calls a "premium wrist strap [to] customize the camera's look". The Olympus TG-2 is, it seems, equal parts technical wizardry and fashion statement.

The Olympus Stylus TG-2 combines a 1/2.3-inch, 12.4-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor, a TruePic VI image processor, and a 4x optical zoom lens with a bright f/2.0 maximum aperture at its 25mm-equivalent wide angle. Olympus will sell the Stylus Tough TG-2 in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$380. Two body-color options will be available: black, or red. More details in our Olympus TG-2 preview.

The Olympus Stylus SH-50 has a five-axis stabilization system.

Tired of toting a tripod with you everywhere you go, or relying on artificial-feeling flash exposures? The Olympus SH-50 aims to save you from either bothersome situation, thanks to better image stabilization, a high-sensitivity sensor, and high-speed shooting. It also offers oodles of zoom to bring your subject up close, and yet still manages to boast a relatively compact package.

Inside a relatively straightforward-looking body, the Olympus Stylus SH-50 includes both a 1/2.3-inch, 16.0-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor, as well as a TruePic VI image processor. The Olympus SH-50's sensor-shift image stabilization system -- based on one Olympus developed for the OM-D E-M5 compact system camera -- is unusually capable for a fixed-lens camera, allowing for a five-axis correction.

The Olympus Stylus SH-50 iHS goes on sale in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$300. Two body-color options will be available: black, or white. Read our Olympus SH-50 preview for more!

The rugged Olympus Stylus TG-830 has both GPS and compass built-in.

Olympus was an early pioneer in the rugged, lifestyle camera segment, and the chunky, angular designs its Stylus Tough camera line have shared for the last few generations are among the most instantly recognizable. There's no mistaking that the new Stylus Tough TG-830 is an Olympus, then, and one quick glance will tell you what to expect. That's a solid, tanklike body, ready to accompany you anywhere you go without complaint. A little hump on the top deck will lead you to predict a camera that's location-aware, thanks to a built-in GPS receiver and compass. And if you're familiar with Olympus, you'll know that its iHS branding is the mark of a camera designed for swift performance.

Beneath its solid-looking waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, crushproof, and dustproof body, the Olympus TG-830 features a 1/2.3-inch, 16.0-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor. In front of its sensor, the Olympus Tough TG-830 places a 5x optical zoom lens with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 28 to 140mm. The Olympus Stylus Tough TG-830 iHS hits retail in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$280. Four body-color options will be available: silver, black, red or blue. Find out more in our Olympus TG-830 preview!

The Olympus Stylus TG-630 drops the GPS and compass, in favor of a more affordable pricetag.

The Olympus TG-630 might look rather different to the simultaneously-announced TG-830, but the two cameras have quite a bit in common. Underneath the skin, they share the same lens, the same image processor, the same display... there are actually fewer differences than you might think at first glance.

Take a closer look, and you'll notice that the Olympus TG-630 has a slightly lower-resolution sensor, is rather slower in burst performance, and that it lacks a built-in GPS receiver and compass. And you'll have to pay attention even more closely to recognize that -- while still pretty rugged -- it's actually not quite as impressively-rated as its more aggressively-styled sibling. But you'll doubtless notice a fairly big difference in one area: the pricetag. That alone may give you cause to consider the TG-630, lesser specifications or not.

Olympus will ship the Stylus Tough TG-630 iHS in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$200. Four body-color options will be available: white, black, red or blue. More info is to be found in the Olympus TG-630 preview.

The Olympus Stylus SZ-16 is based around a high-sensitivity CMOS image sensor.

Do you love to get close to the action photographically-speaking, but prefer to keep your distance physically? If so, a long-zoom camera is just the ticket for you, and Olympus' 2013 lineup includes two closely-related models you'll want to consider. There's one key difference between the pair, though, and it completely defines their character, so you'll want to choose carefully.

The Olympus SZ-16 is based around a 1/2.3-inch, 16.0 megapixel CMOS image sensor with a 1.34µm pixel pitch. That differs from the Olympus SZ-15, which uses a CCD sensor of approximately the same resolution, size, and pixel pitch. Once upon a time, CCD sensors were the more desirable, but that time has now passed. CMOS sensors typically offer significantly greater speed, allowing things like faster burst-shooting performance, more responsive autofocus, higher video frame rates for slow-motion playback, and more. The advent of backside-illuminated CMOS sensors has also gifted them with a significant advantage in terms of noise and sensitivity.

The CCD-based Olympus SZ-15 is a little less expensive, but also rather less fully-featured.

That's borne out by the figures. The Olympus SZ-16 has an ISO sensitivity range of 100 to 6,400 equivalents, and its TruePic VI image processor handles a one-second burst of three images, where the SZ-15 is limited to an ISO 1,600 maximum, and has just half the burst performance. Drop the burst speed to 1.5 fps, and the SZ-16 can capture 200 frames in a row. Reduce the resolution to three megapixels, and you can shoot as many as 28 images at 30 frames per second.

Olympus will sell the Stylus SZ-16 iHS in the US market from March 2012, priced at around US$230. Two body-color options will be available: silver, or white. This model's covered in our Olympus SZ-16 preview.

The SZ15 will arrive at the same time, meanwhile, priced at around US$200. That's only $30 less than the swifter, more feature-rich CMOS version, so unless you have a reason to favor a CCD camera -- some do prefer CCD rendering over that from CMOS chips -- then we'd recommend paying just slightly more for a much more capable body. Three body-color options will be available: silver, black, or red. More details in the Olympus SZ-15 preview.