Olympus Stylus Digital 1050 SW Review
By Movable Type Admin
The new addition to Olympus's SW line is the Stylus 1050 SW. With a new design featuring a 3x optical internal zoom lens and a sliding lens cover, the 1050 SW has been redesigned to look more like a standard digicam. Its solid construction still allows it to be (lifeproof): waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof (14°F/-10°C) and dustproof, just like the previous "SW" models. It also has a new feature called "Tap Control", allowing the user to operate and change some of the camera's settings just by tapping different parts of the body. This makes it incredibly easy to control the camera in situations where pressing the small buttons on the back would be difficult or impossible. Many of the same features from the past models are also available including; face detection (up to 16 faces), smile shot and digital image stabilization.
Handling the 1050 SW is very easy when using two hands via the "pinch technique." You can also operate it with one hand, but the thin depth of the camera can make it a little trickier. On top of the camera you will find the power and shutter release buttons. The shutter release is large, making it easy to locate and press it in most tough shooting situations. The slide lens cover on the front can also be used to turn the power on and off. The zoom controls and mode dial on the back lay conveniently under your thumb, allowing you to easily adjust the zoom or change the shooting mode, while the other buttons on the back are small and could be hard to find and push in more extreme shooting conditions.
Viewing and composing your images is done with the 2.7" HyperCrystal II LCD screen on the back. With an anti-glare coating and extra-wide viewing angle, the screen is easy to see in most shooting conditions, including bright and direct sunlight. With 230,000 pixels, the screen shows a high level of detail both when shooting and viewing your images.
Performance from the Stylus 1050 SW is disappointing compared to previous SW models. When starting the camera, it took a disappointing 3.6 seconds before the camera was able to capture its first image. When the camera is pre-focused, the shutter lag is approx. 1/10 of a second, however, when you allow the camera to autofocus it takes 9/10 of a second. In single shot mode I was able to capture 5 images in 19.6 seconds without the flash and 5 images in 23.3 seconds with the flash. The camera also features a 10-Megapixel burst mode, which is able to capture 10 images in 19.9 seconds without and 10 images in 27.0 seconds with the flash, and a 3-Megapixel High Speed burst mode that is able to capture 24 shots in 3.5 seconds before filling the buffer. The flash is not available in this mode. All of our tests were completed using an Olympus M+ 2GB xD picture card, program auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults. Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
The image quality of our outdoor shots taken by the Stylus 1050 SW are good. It produced good exposures but the colors are a little dull, preventing them from standing out and grabbing your eye. With the 3x optical zoom lens (35mm equivalent of 38-114mm), you will have no problems shooting landscape or portrait photography. The telephoto end might be a little small for getting up close to distant objects, but it is great in helping you frame your shots. On the wide end on the zoom you will find a little barrel distortion along with chromatic aberrations (museum) and some edge softness throughout the zoom range.
Our indoor sample quality was a little better than that of our outdoor images. The colors are bright and rich, making the images appear more realistic. There is a slight difference in the color between shots using the flash, which are a little cooler than the images without it. The built in flash has a range of up to 17.4'(w) and 12.1'(t) at ISO 800. This range is significantly reduced as the ISO goes down. From 6 feet away at ISO 80, the flash was not strong enough, leaving our flash sample poorly lit. When shooting in macro mode, the flash was just a little overpowering and slightly overexposed our candy shot. The camera's macro and super macro modes allow for the camera to focus as close as 2.8" and while using the super macro mode, you have the option of lighting your image using the LED illuminator.
While shooting with the camera in Portrait mode, face detection quickly located and followed the faces. The camera then did an excellent job focusing and adjusting the exposure based on the faces detected, producing realistic skin tones and clear images. The flash also does a great job of not causing red eye in the portrait shots even when not using the red eye reduction flash.
Finally we also had good image quality while shooting underwater. Both our underwater sample image and underwater sample video produced good exposures and the colors look natural, not turning the image blue, a problem that is common with shooting under water. Our underwater picture was taken without a flash about two feet underwater, showing the cameras ability to keep the ISO low in lower level lighting conditions.
Movie mode from the 1050 SW gives you the option of shooting at 640x480 or 320x240 resolutions with frame rates of 15 or 30 frames per second with sound. Our videos show a little noise due to slightly less than perfect lighting conditions but, run smoothly. The camera does a good job of keeping the subject in focus while, the white balance system struggles a little trying to keep the same colors while panning. The built in waterproof microphone is very sensitive and picks up everything that is near the camera, and can make some strange sounds as it enters and exits the water.
Providing the power to the camera is a 3.7V, 740mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. Olympus estimates that it holds enough juice for 200 shots on a single charge, and while completing our tests, I captured 125 images and several movies without having to worry about the battery running low. With included external battery charger, it is easy to keep a second battery charged and on hand at all times to avoid missing a photo opportunity due to a dead battery.
Bottom Line - The "Lifeproof" Olympus Stylus 1050 SW is made for the individual or group that is always on the go. With a very easy user interface and latest "Tap Control" technology, this is one of the easiest cameras to operate in difficult or extreme conditions. With good image quality and all of the great features offered from the "SW" line, the MSRP of US$299.99 is reasonable. If better performance is critical, then you might want to check out the other "SW" models with varying specs and prices, to find one that meets your needs.
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