This isn’t the first high-end compact camera from Olympus, but the Stylus 1 does set a trend thanks to its new design, an excellent viewfinder and a 28-300 mm f2.8 zoom, one of its most interesting features. The price and specs of this camera are also very competitive, although its 12-megapixel 1/1.7-inch sensor is not the exactly the best. In any case, the Stylus 1 gets the job done: being a solid and smaller alternative for the OM-D cameras.
A different name, a different design and different specs, but the same philosophy of the XZ cameras: this compact camera features a 1/1.7-inch sensor that little can do to surprise us at this point. Despite its size and design, the new Stylus 1 is not a “mini OM-D”, but a very complete camera that can really hold its own.
Along with the OM-D E-M1 and the older OM-D E-M5 comes this Stylus, armed with everything it needs to compete against the Canon PowerShot G16 and the Nikon Coolpix P7800. These don’t pose too much of a threat for this model, but against the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II and Fujifilm X20, Olympus won’t have an easy time.
A picture’s worth a thousand words, so you only have to take a look at the Stylus 1 and the E-M1 to understand what Olympus has in mind when designing this camera. They’re obviously different size and design-wise, but the objective of both cameras remains the same.
Its electronic viewfinder is one of its most interesting features. The Coolpix P7800 has one of these and Fujifilm’s X20 has a very powerful lens, it’s true, but the Stylus 1 is capable of being a solid competitor.
Its electronic viewfinder is what you’d expect for a mirror less camera, with a resolution of 1.4 megapixels, just like the E-M5.
The best in a compact camera? The answer is yes, it is, surpassing even the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX10. We’re fully convinced the Stylus 1 will be a huge success.
The grip that may be too short for some users, so using the viewfinder as a support for your hand is recommended. The Stylus 1 also features a system that protects the lens, something that may seem simple or unnecessary, but it’s actually something many users have been asking for.
The automatic opening cover –to put a name to it- protects the lens and is very easy and quick to set and remove, although we have to admit it’s a bit on the ugly-looking side. Still, it’s a good deal considering it’s very useful and practical.
Automatic opening cover
This cover protects the frontal lens from scratches and is included with your camera.
The upper part of the Stylus 1 houses a vast array of shortcuts as well as a dial that, along with the ring located near the lens and two configurable buttons, allows you this camera to meet the needs of any user.
The frontal function button allows you to access a list of configurable options, and there’s also a switch capable of changing the function of the ring, so you can control the diaphragm and zoom, or activate the manual focus mode, for example. It also suppresses the classic clicking sound these components make, something we absolutely loved.
The tandem formed by the ring and the dial is extremely useful, as it lets you control the speed and the diaphragm quickly and easily.
This double dial (which the XZ-2 featured as well) is especially useful in manual mode, as controlling the speed and the diaphragm with it feels very natural. In any case, considering how highly configurable this camera is, it’s comfortable no matter the mode you’re using.
The Fn1 button, however, can’t be configured to control the sensitivity (although the Fn2 button can be used for this purpose, but we’re just being picky now), and the lateral button to control the zoom feels kind of fragile. Still, it’s important to have in mind this is a pre-production unit, so these details will likely be corrected.
Constant f2.8 zoom
The design and viewfinder of the Stylus 1 are one of the strongest points of this camera, and the zoom is just as good. Instead of what most similar cameras offer (too much zoom or a very low luminosity), Olympus has opted for a balanced approach: 10.7 levels of zoom and a constant luminosity of f2.8.
The result is a lens equivalent to 28-300 millimeters, useful for any situation. With a minimal distance of 5 centimeters in SuperMacro mode –somewhat hidden, by the way- and the f2.8, we can obtain a great background defocus, but the combination of the 300-mm lens and f2.8 zoom will undoubtedly yield the best results for bokeh enthusiast.
Capable of closing to up to f8, is we can take advantage of the f2.8 diaphragm, the Stylus 1 features a neutral density filter that reduced luminosity in three steps.
The focus system works great, even with the maximum zoom levels and dim light, as well as the reaction speed of the zoom, which can be configured through the menu. On-screen information about the lenses and the possibility of changing between different levels of zoom on the go were the features we missed.
Despite all the features and specs this camera has inherited from the OM-D, the 5-axis mechanical stabilization system –which video enthusiasts lone- is nowhere to be found.
This system along with the excellent grip the viewfinder offers (since you will almost always have to use the camera very near to your face) translates into a much faster operation. During our tests, the optical viewfinder allowed us to take pictures without trepidation at 300 millimeters at 1/20 of a second.
Sensor and processor
Why not go for a Micro Four Thirds compact camera? No matter how much we ask for this, neither Olympus nor Panasonic seem to be up for the task. The Stylus 1 opts, instead, for a system than maintains a balance between zoom and luminosity.
Thanks to its size, it’s impossible for it to offer a 28-300 mm f2.8 with this kind of sensor. Sony’s RX10 de Sony, which uses a CMOS that’s bigger than the Stylus 1’s but smaller than a Micro Four Thirds is the living proof.
Unsurprisingly, this camera features a 1/1.7-inch CMOS, like the one the XZ-2 features, common for this kind of cameras. Fujifilm’s X20 –which is slightly bigger- and Sony’s RX100 II also have this kind of sensors.
It performs just like we expected it to, with great detail, color and very decent results at 800 or 1.600 ISO, depending, of course, on the situation. Olympus has done a commendable job to offer a JPEG shooting mode that takes full advantage of the camera and offers a noticeable improvement in dynamic ranges and high levels of light are the most noteworthy features.
We’re not the kind of fellows that think a good processor can make miracles, but the TruePic VI does improve the noise control and dynamic range optimization within, naturally, the limitations of its size –which is still bigger than the ones you can find in most compact cameras-.
The processor is also very fast, as the results we obtained when testing the burst mode suggest, offering a speed of 7 frames per second. But even better is how long the burst mode can last: 40 consecutive pictures when shooting in JPEG, and around 20 when shooting in RAW or combining both formats –as long as you use a fast memory card, of course-.
We suppose the process will also help and correct some issues of the lens. According to the results of our tests, distortion or chromatic aberrations are nothing to be worried about.
The battery is also great; after taking 400 pictures, not one of the three bars of the battery display decreased. This either means the battery life is way above the average of similar models, or the display cannot be trusted, something we will found out when this camera has finally hit the market.
As for the video recording, Olympus has ignored it again and gives us the most basic features in this regard: Full HD 1920 x 1080 video recording at 30p, but without manual controls and external microphone support.
We have to say it again: this is basically a mini OM-D. After spending a few days with the Olympus Stylus 1, there are few things to add apart from what we’ve already told you. Well, we didn’t mention the features we considered obvious (like the 3-inch foldable touch screen and Wi-Fi connectivity), so that counts as well.
If size and price (approximately 699 dollars) are not a problem for you, this can be the camera for you: a very solid model with a 28-300 mm f2.8 zoom, an excellent electronic viewfinder, a good sensor and a vast array of automatic and manual modes–including RAW, of course-, more than enough to keep you satisfied.
This combination of features makes the Stylus 1 a serious rival for the Nikon Coolpix P7800, the Canon PowerShot G16 or the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7. Some of them are cheaper, others offer wider angles of view –Panasonic’s camera’s 28 millimeters are just not enough- or more luminosity. But all in all, this undoubtedly will be a success.
The battle gets more complicated, though, if you add the world’s most popular compact cameras to the equation: the aforementioned Fujifilm X20 and the Sony RX100 II. Both feature better image quality, but fall short in regards to the balance the Stylus 1 is capable of offering.
Not to mention, of course, its impeccable design. Olympus has created a compact camera capable of delivering the feel of a bigger OM-D camera, but with a much smaller size and sleeker design, making it perfect for those who can’t a true OM-D without spending too much. That’s why the Stylus 1 can truly be considered the “mini OM-D”.