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Olympus Stylus Verve S

Steve's Conclusion

The Stylus Verve S complements the original Verve from 2004, but increases resolution from 4- to 5-megapixels. This is a stylish and very compact model that offers point-n-shoot simplicity as well as 15 pre-programmed Scene modes that allow you to capture great shots in a wide variety of shooting environments and in good to bad weather conditions.

Like its predecessor, I had mixed feelings about the ergonomics of this little camera. The controls are well placed, and its menu system was easy to navigate. However, you will have to learn how to hold it properly as its shape in rather unique. The problem is this - when holding the camera with two hands, your left index finger lands right on the flash. We found the "pinch the edge of the body" method (left thumb and index finger) worked well. That said, its 1.8-inch LCD is useable outdoors in bright sunlight or in normal room lighting, but it's nearly useless in low-ambient lighting. It does not "gain up" (brighten) in dim lighting and this isn't good considering it's the only viewfinder on the camera.

Like all Stylus models, the Verve S employs a metal exterior and durable rubber materials on the inside and around the doors to seal gaps and prevent moisture from entering the body; they can survive a downpour or a gentle sprinkle. If you're like me, your picture taking probably stops when the rain starts falling. Nobody wants their expensive camera ruined by water damage and with this camera it's not going to be a problem.

Shooting performance was very robust. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 2.3 seconds, this includes the time it takes to slide the lens cover door open and extend the lens itself. Shutter lag was less than 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and just 3/10 of a second including autofocus. Shot-to- shot delay averaged 1.8 seconds without the use of the flash and about 5 to 6 seconds with the flash. When using its continuous (burst) mode, I was able to capture 6 frames in just under 4.6 seconds before the buffer filled. It then took approx. 10 - 12 seconds for the camera to clear its buffer. Our tests were done using a 256MB xD card, SHQ quality, Rec view off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Power is supplied by an extremely tiny 3.6V 645mAh LI-30B proprietary battery pack. Although Olympus did not specify battery life, I found it to be average. I was able to capture about 50 sample photos and conclude some of our other tests before it had to be recharged. Exactly how many pictures you can capture is going to vary depending on how many are taken with flash, how often the lens is zoomed in or out and how frequently you change settings or review pictures on the LCD. As with all cameras that use a proprietary battery, we recommend the purchase of a second battery, especially with this camera.

The overall image quality when using its SHQ 2560x1920 (5-megapixel) mode was great. Outdoors it consistently produced sharp images, with good overall exposure and the colors were very accurate. I noticed very little noise in high and low contrast areas. The Auto white balance setting was very accurate and only under some very mixed lighting conditions did it show any problems. Indoors it also performed well. The flash has an average range of about 9 feet, which is sufficient for shooting in small rooms, but is useless in large open areas. Our indoor flash portraits showed true skin tones. The autofocus system seemed to work well in low-light, but it would greatly benefit from an AF-assist lamp.

You can also record movies with sound at resolutions of 320x240 (HQ,30fps) and 160x120 (SQ, 15fps), with the length of a clip limited only by the amount of available memory. I was surprised that Olympus didn't add a VGA (640x480) format, as this seems to be the standard on most consumer digicams. For the most part our movie samples were good. There was little compression noise visible and the AF system did well when panning.

Bottom line - the Stylus Verve S is a great choice for those with an active lifestyle who don't stop just because it starts raining. It's also good for the family or anyone that spends the day at the beach or a ski resort. With an MSRP of $299 it offers a very good value. Just make sure you add at least two items to your purchase; a larger xD-Picture card and a second LI-30B battery. If this model is too compact or you're don't need an all-weather digicam, then check out the D-595 Zoom .

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Sample Pictures

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