Olympus Stylus 1 review

The Olympus Stylus 1 is a high-end fixed lens camera with retro styling

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Long reach 10.7 x optical zoom

  • +

    Constant fast f/2.8 aperture

  • +

    Great design

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Bulky for a compact

  • -


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With a Premium 10.7x optical zoom lens and DSLR styling, is there anything not to like? Find out in our Olympus Stylus 1 review

Although a compact, the Olympus Stylus 1 is not a model for the trouser pocket. It has a serious looking angular design, echoing the brand's flagship Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Olympus OM-D E-M1 cameras.

It also provides DSLR-style handling, complete with 1.44 million-dot resolution eye-level viewfinder, even if actually using it means your nose squishes against the screen below.

Like most higher-priced compacts - the Olympus Stylus 1 is a suggested £549.99 - a fast aperture bright lens is bolted onto the front.

However, in this particular case the camera provides a bright f/2.8 throughout its entire 10.7x zoom range, the 35mm film equivalent of 28-300mm, rather than just at its lens' widest setting, which is unusual for a zoom camera. The result is whether you're shooting landscapes or zooming right in on a subject from afar, the camera is always letting in the maximum amount of light possible.

Most premium compact cameras don't offer a lens reach anywhere near the Olympus's either. But a longer reach has meant a larger camera than more pocket-friendly alternatives in the Canon PowerShot S120, Fujifilm XQ1, and Panasonic LF1. Its closest match in this class is probably the best-in-class Sony RX100.

Switch it on and this Olympus is a crowd pleaser from the off, the automatic lens cover splintering into four pieces upon powering up in an extremely cool display of showmanship.

The relatively long retractable lens, coupled with a 3-inch tilting touch screen of just over a million dots resolution, proves very useful indeed in providing a greater than average range of framing choices from a static position, even if it does look like you're shooting with a camera with an oddly shattered faceplate.

Naturally at this price, though a relatively new addition for Olympus, Wi-Fi is provided for sharing shots.

In terms of core spec, the Stylus 1 fields a 1/1.7-inch CMOS sensor delivering a 12 megapixel resolution, and up to ISO12800 light sensitivity.

Also on board is a latest-generation Olympus TruePic V1 processor for near instantaneous auto focus - with the screen providing both Touch AF and Touch Shutter options - whilst 11 onboard Art Filter digital effects extend creativity and are excellent at salvaging shots when conditions are dull.

Olympus Stylus 1: Controls

Although offering a less cramped layout than the OM-D proper, the Stylus 1 comes comparatively festooned with dedicated buttons and dials and both top and additional side-mounted zoom levers to provide a degree of comfort and flexibility.

Indeed, it felt like we were holding onto an OM-D for the consumer market - and this before the announcement proper of the OM-D E-M10.

As with competitors in the Canon S120 and Fuji XQ1, with the Stylus 1 we likewise get a lens ring, here providing a means of adjusting aperture on the fly, with a bigger and brighter lens resulting in bigger and brighter images.

As well as familiar controls including power button and raised shutter release, encircled by a lever for adjusting the zoom, in tandem to the secondary switch located on the left of the lens barrel itself, we also get the familiar shooting mode dial.

Included among the 10 options here are full intelligent auto and manual shooting modes, including program, aperture priority, shutter priority and manual shooting mode.

We get two further customisable settings, a selection of scene modes and also a framing mode. But the most welcome of all is the inclusion of the Art Filter effects, which from among its 11 options including Dramatic Tone and the miniature mode-like diorama, can add a degree of drama to an image even on a dull day.

Olympus Stylus 1: Screen

As on the Olympus Pen and OM-D camera range from which it takes its design cues, a tilting 3-inch, 1,040,000-dot resolution touch screen on the Stylus 1 not only provides extra compositional choices but also allows users to fire the shutter or direct focus with a fingertip.

Mixing the intuitiveness of a touch screen with large, chunky buttons and dials means users of the Stylus 1 are rewarded with a best of both worlds approach.

Of course there's also that electronic viewfinder (EVF) ranged directly above with which to additionally compose and review shots and video, with the neat facility of a built-in eye sensor that switches the smaller screen on and deactivates the bigger one when bringing an eye level with it.

Olympus Stylus 1: Battery

Power duration here from the chunky lithium-ion battery supplied is a better than average 410 shots from a full charge. This may seem modest next to the performance from a digital SLR that could alternatively be bought for this price tag, but it betters a lot of interchangeable lens compact system cameras in the same bracket.

Olympus Stylus 1: Picture quality

As we'd expect, video shooting is on board and with a dedicated record button provided too. Here we get the Full HD 1,920 x 1,080-pixels and a couple of high-speed capture modes of 120fps or 240fps, used to create slow motion effects.

The zoom can be used for video as well as stills, and though there's a low mechanical buzz, the lens action is smooth and steady, automatically re-focusing the shot as it goes. Auto focus is also swift in stills capture mode, delivering focus and exposure a mere fraction of a second after a half press of the shutter release button. Pictures appear sharp and colourful too; crisper in terms of detail than we'd expect from a compact camera with this sort of zoom power.

Olympus Stylus 1: Verdict

It may not be weather sealed, but the angular retro styling of the 12 effective megapixel, 10.7x optical zoom Stylus 1 recalls the classic look and feel of interchangeable lens Olympus OM-D cameras, for around half the price.

In a nutshell we've a comprehensive degree of control and DSLR-like build with this Olympus, yet still a smaller form factor overall than an actual SLR.

As a result, along with Sony's RX100 II, the Olympus Stylus 1 feels the most fully realised and grown up among its rivals.

Olympus Stylus 1 release date: Out now

Olympus Stylus 1 price: £549.99

Gavin Stoker

Gavin Stoker has been writing about photography and technology for the past 20 years. He currently edits the trade magazine British Photographic Industry News - BPI News for short - which is a member of TIPA, the international Technical Imaging Press Association.