Olympus Stylus Digital 1030 SW Review

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Olympus Stylus Digital 1030

Steve's Conclusion

New for 2008 is the Olympus Stylus 1030 SW, upgrading the Stylus 770 SW from last year. They have added a new 10-megapixel imaging sensor, 3.6x Wide angle optical zoom lens, a 2.7" Hypercrystal II LCD screen, and video mode at 30 fps (over 15fps on the 770), all packed in the same rugged body as before. It is shockproof from 6.6 feet, waterproof to depths of 33 feet, crushproof up to 220lbs. and works at below freezing temperatures as low as 14°F.

The all metal body and reinforced construction make this compact camera heavier than most its size, but it makes you feel a little more comfortable about using it in rough situations. The 1030 SW is compact enough that it can be carried comfortably in a pocket or purse, but big enough that it is very easy to use and handle. The controls have been well laid out on the back of the camera, however, the buttons are small and the labeling can be hard to see; which can cause a problem when trying to operate it outdoors with gloves on or when trying to change settings while underwater. The new 2.7" LCD screen is very bright and clear, making it easy to frame your shots in all situations, including underwater and in bright, direct sunlight. The screen also "gains up" allowing you to easily frame your shots in low light situations.

As with all Stylus series cameras, the 1030 SW features a durable metal exterior and is made watertight by rubber gaskets on the inside to seal gaps and prevent moisture from entering the body. This allows it to be used in a gentle sprinkle or to be completely submerged up to 33 feet. Add that with the 1030's various Underwater scene modes, and you have one great little underwater point-n-shoot. Olympus also offers an underwater housing, PT-041, which allows you to take the 1030 SW down to depths of 40 meters (about 131 feet).

Performance from the 1030 SW was impressive. The camera was able to turn on and take its first picture in just 1.5 seconds. The shutter delay is almost instantaneous when the camera is pre-focused and just 3/10 without and 7/10 of a second with the flash when the camera has to focus. In single shot mode, the camera was able to capture 5 images in 7.5 seconds without the flash and 5 in 15.9 with the flash. The flash seems to take some time to charge even on a fully charged battery. There are also two continuous or "burst" shooting modes. Continuous allowed the camera to capture 10 images in 10 seconds, and 5 images in 7.6 seconds with the flash. Then there is HI Continuous, which captured 12, 3 megapixel fine images, in just 2.2 seconds. The flash was not available in this shooting mode. All of our tests were completed using a Olympus M series 2GB xD-Picture Card, Program mode, ISO 80, flash off, and all other settings at the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.

Outdoor image quality was very good. The camera produced good overall exposures and colors, doing better than many of the models we have tested lately when shooting against a cloudy sky. The 3.6x wide angle optical zoom lens, with a 35mm equivalent of 28-102mm, creates more barrel distortion on the wide end than you will see from a camera with a standard zoom lens. However, it offers a bit more versatility in composing your shots, and is excellent for taking landscape and group portrait photography. There is also enough of a zoom to help with framing of individual portrait photography. There is also some edge softness, but chromatic aberrations are well controlled.

Our indoor portrait shots also came out very nice. The flash was able to produce nice exposures and excellent skin tones. I also saw very little occurrences of red-eye, even without the red-eye reduction mode enabled. The flash has a range from 1' to 13.5' at ISO 800 depending on the zoom. When shooting with lower ISO settings, the flash will not be quite as effective; meaning it will have a bit shorter range. I had very good success shooting at mid-telephoto from 6 to 7 feet away.

Shooting underwater was also very easy after learning the layout of the buttons on the back of the camera, since they are very difficult to read. I preferred shooting in program mode over the pre-set scene modes for underwater as the pictures did not have as much of a blue tint to them. I also noticed that the flash range is very hard to judge underwater, and greatly varies with depth and lighting conditions, so trial and error is the best way to figure this out for your current situation.

As with the 770 SW, video capture has once again been improved. You now have the option of recording at either 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions with a frame rate of either 15 or 30fps. The only complaint is that the camera will only capture 10 second clips in 640x480 30fps mode. Both videos above and below the water had good color and sound with very little compression artifacts. Our videos were taken in moderate lighting conditions, and would have looked a little better had the lighting conditions been optimal.

Powering the 1030 SW is a 3.7v 925mAh Li-ion rechargeable battery. This is an upgrade over the battery that powers the 770 SW and is a great addition. If you plan on using this underwater, you will almost always need the flash, which will drain the battery very quickly. I had to recharge the battery after taking about 60 pictures and a couple videos underwater. I was not able to complete all of our tests first, however, i don't think that would have been a problem without the underwater tests that most cameras don't have to go through. Because the battery drains quickly, we recommend having a spare charged at all times so that you have no excuse for missing a spontaneous photo opt.

Bottom Line - The Olympus Stylus 1030 SW is a great camera for an active and adventurous person or someone looking for a waterproof model. The combination of style, durability, performance and quality make this an excellent choice if you are in the market for a 10-megapixel compact camera of any type. With a MSRP of US$399.99 the 1030 SW offers an excellent value for the versatility and features provided. If you would like to see some more cameras with similar abilities, check the Stylus 770 SW or the Sanyo E1 .

Olympus posts a Firmware Update for the Stylus 1030 SW

microSD Firmware Version 1.1


  • Now supports movie recording on 4 GB and higher microSDHC cards.
  • Using an xD-Picture Card TypeM+ or TypeH, you can now continuously record movies with VGA quality (640 x 480) 30 fps up to the capacity of the card.

For more information, visit the Olympus Support Site

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