Review: Olympus Stylus 400 Digital
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: June 10, 2003
June 10, 2003
Stylus 400 ($499) is part of a new line of digital cameras,
based on Olympus' legendary line of compact film cameras. The
Stylus digital line consists of the 3.2 Megapixel Stylus 300
(see our review)
and the 4 Megapixel Stylus 400 that I'll be covering here.
Both Stylus models
are point-and-shoot cameras in a small and weatherproof metal
Stylus 400 is the only compact, weatherproof camera out there,
so there's no real competition. How does the Stylus do against
other compact 4MP cameras? Find out now!
and since the Stylus 400 is so similar to the 300, the text in
both reviews will be very similar.
in the Box?
Olympus Stylus 400 has a very good bundle. Inside the
box, you'll find:
4.0 effective Mpixel Stylus 400 camera
xD Picture Card
rechargeable Li-ion battery
- Video cable
featuring Olympus Camedia Master software and drivers
manual (printed), fold-out Quick Start guide, plus
manual on CD-ROM
the box, you'll
find a 16MB xD Picture Card. This is barely enough to get started
with, so you'll definitely want to buy a larger card right away.
xD cards are available in capacities as large as 512MB at the
Stylus models are a rare breed of Olympus camera: they use
a proprietary battery. The batteries used is the same LI-10B
Li-ion battery as
the C-50Z. I'm not a huge fan of such batteries
(they are $70 a pop), but they are unavoidable with cameras this small. The
LI-10B has 4.0 Watt/hours of power. Olympus does not publish how long the
batteries will last. The Stylus didn't seem worse than the other
compact cameras I've tested in terms of battery life.
it's time to recharge, just pop the battery in the included charger,
and plug it into the wall. This isn't one of those chargers with
a built-in plug, by the way. Charging the LI-10B takes about
at this -- a new Olympus remote control! The RM-2 model doesn't
do much, as you can see by its one button. You can only use it
for taking pictures.
built-in lens cover is part of the design of the Stylus 400.
The cover also doubles as the power switch. To enter playback
mode, you can hit the button on the back of the camera, instead
of opening the lens cover.
aren't too many accessories available for the Stylus cameras.
The most interesting one is the PT-016 underwater case ($149),
which lets you take your camera up to 130 feet underwater. Other
accessories include a soft case ($30) and AC adapter ($40). There
are no add-on lenses or flashes available.
all of Olympus' recent models, the Stylus is
compatible with Windows XP and Mac OS X. In most cases, you won't
even need to install drivers.
Stylus 400 includes Olympus' Camedia Master 4.1 software. If
you've used older versions (pre 4.0) of this software, you'll
be pleasantly surprised
with the changes in this one.
editing tools included with Camedia Master are impressive. You can
change all kinds of things like brightness, contrast, and color
balance. There are also red-eye reduction and "instant fix" options.
software is much more responsive than the previous versions.
only complaint is that the interface is non-standard (doesn't follow
human interface guidelines) on both Macs and PCs.
$20 more (groan), Olympus will upgrade you to the "Pro" version
of the software. This adds contact sheet printing, image e-mailing,
HTML albums, panorama stitching, and slide shows.
with recent tradition, you'll only find a printed basic manual
in the box. If you want the full scoop on using your Stylus 400,
you'll need to view the full manual, which is on the CD.
Stylus Digital cameras are probably the most elegant cameras
produced by Olympus. They are small, metal, and weatherproof.
weatherproof does NOT equal waterproof! It can handle a spray
of water, but you cannot go swimming with it!
Stylus 400 is well-built, easy to hold with one hand, and it
fits into any pocket with ease.
official dimensions of the camera are 3.9 x 2.2
x 1.3 inches
(W x H x D),
and it weighs 165 grams empty. For the sake of comparison, the
Canon PowerShot S400 Digital ELPH's numbers are 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1
and 185 grams, respectively.
begin our tour of the Stylus 400 now:
Stylus 400 has the same F3.1 - F5.2, 3X optical zoom lens as
the Stylus 300. The focal range is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent
to 35 -
cameras, the lens is not threaded.
at the top-center of the camera is
the built-in flash. The working range of the flash is approx.
0.5 - 3.6 m at wide-angle, and 0.2 - 2.0 m at telephoto.
below the flash is the self-timer lamp. At the very bottom is
the remote control receiver. Unfortunately, there's no AF illuminator
to be found on either Stylus model.
Stylus 400 has a 1.5" LCD display, which is average-sized
for an ultra-compact camera. The resolution is good and images
it are bright and fluid. You can adjust the brightness via the
menu system as well.
the LCD is the optical viewfinder, which is also average-sized
for a small camera. It does lack a diopter correction knob,
but then again, the competition doesn't have it either.
the right of the LCD is
the four-way switch, used for menus and more. The "more" includes
turning on macro mode and self-timer/remote control,
adjusting the flash setting (auto, auto w/redeye reduction,
fill flash, flash off), and activating the virtual mode wheel.
virtual mode wheel is how you switch between modes on the Stylus
400. The available modes are:
- Night Scene
the Stylus lacks any real manual controls, it would've been nice
to have an "action" choice on that list. If you want
to do a long exposure, the night scene mode is the only way
to do it. 4 seconds is the slowest it will go in that mode.
the four-way controller are buttons for Display/QuickView and
Menu/OK. Pressing the Display button once will toggle the LCD
on and off.
it will enter playback mode.
the top right of the photo are the zoom controls. The controller
quietly moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in just over
is the top of the Stylus 400. Up here, you'll find the large
shutter release button.
this side of the camera, under a plastic cover, is the DC-in
port. If you buy the optional AC adapter, here's where you'll
photo gives you a good illustration of what makes the Stylus
400 weatherproof -- there are rubber gaskets around anything
side of the camera contains the xD card slot, video out port,
and USB port. The door that covers this slot can be hard to open
as it seals tightly.
included 16MB xD card is also shown.
here is the bottom of the camera. Down here is the battery compartment
as well as the metal (I think) tripod mount. The LI-10B battery
is shown at left.
annoyance that I discovered was that the battery compartment
door liked to pop open, especially when I was taking it off a
tripod. That can result in the camera's clock being reset. This
door needs a lock!
the Olympus Stylus 400
camera takes just 3 seconds to extend the lens and "boot
up" before you can start taking pictures -- pretty fast.
Auto focus speeds are generally good. Expect under a
second delay in good lighting, and slightly longer if the AF
system has to hunt. Like its sibling, the Stylus 400 doesn't
has some trouble focusing in lower lights, but it's still not
bad for a camera without an AF-assist lamp.
lag was minor most of the time, except when a slow shutter speed
was being used. You should probably be using a tripod anyway.
speed is very good. You will wait under two seconds before you
can take another shot, assuming the post-shot review feature
is no option to pause and delete photos as they are being written
to the memory card. You can, of course, go to playback mode and
has kept the image size/quality options simple on the Stylus
400, which is a good thing. Here they are:
photos on 16MB card (included)
||1600 x 1200
|1280 x 960
|1024 x 768
With only five SHQ photos that can be saved on the 16MB card,
you can see why I recommend buying a larger card. The Stylus 400
doesn't support TIFF or RAW file formats.
uses one of the better file numbering systems that I've seen. Files
are named Pmdd####.jpg, where m is the month (1-9, A-C), d is the
day, and #### is 0001-9999. This way your file numbers are always
unique (well, for one year at least). File numbering is maintained
as you erase and switch memory cards.
Stylus 400 uses Olympus' newer menu system, but it's not customizable
like on their higher end models. When you first press the menu
button, you are presented with four choices: exposure compensation
(±2EV in 0.3EV increments), mode menu, white balance
(auto, sunlight, cloudy, tungsten,
mode menu is more "traditional". Here's what you'll find there:
- Metering (ESP, spot)
(Single-frame, sequential) - the latter about 4 shots
at 1 frame/sec
zoom (on/off) - using the 3X digital zoom will reduce
of your images
- helps you make panoramic shots. Requires Olympus-branded
in 1 - two shots in succession combined into one
(the interesting ones, at least)
reset (on/off) - retain settings after camera is powered off
(Japanese, English, French, German, Spanish)
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
output (NTSC, PAL)
you can see, there are no manual controls on the Stylus 400.
It is strictly a point-and-shoot camera.
you tired of menus as I am? Then here are the photo tests:
Stylus 400 produced a colorful, well-exposed macro image. Parts
of the image are a little soft when viewed at full size -- manual
aperture controls would help with depth-of-field, but you won't
find those here. The 400's macro mode focal range
is 20 - 50 cm.
feeling generous, so here are two night test shots:
Stylus 400 did a pretty nice job on these shots, considering
that it has no shutter speed controls and a pretty slow lens.
The only way to pull off a long exposures like this (4 secs)
some reason, the Stylus 400 shows a little more redeye than
the 300. I guess the lighting in the room wasn't totally consistent.
In both cases, the image was noisy (thanks to the camera's auto
ISO "feature"), but here, the redeye is more pronounced.
I'm not surprised to see it, as it's almost a given on compact
Redeye can be removed fairly easily in software.
distortion test shows mild barrel distortion, a tiny bit of vignetting
(dark corners), and some blurriness in the top-left (hard to
see on the small image above).
the Stylus 400's image quality is quite good. Images are on the
noisy side, especially in lower light, when the camera cranks
up the ISO sensitivity automatically. You can notice the noise
in shadows or on things like grass (which ends up looking like
a big mass of green). I definitely give the Canon S400 the edge
in photo quality, but most folks will be satisfied with the color,
exposure, and sharpness found in the 400's images. Oh, I didn't
notice any major problems with purple fringing either.
just take my word for it -- check out our photo
gallery and decide
if the Stylus 400 is right for you!
Stylus 400's movie mode is the same as the 300's -- and very
to just 16
seconds at 320 x 240, or 70 seconds at
Sound is not recorded.
only can you not use the zoom during filming, but the lens is
also locked at the wide-angle position.
other words, the Stylus' movie mode is mediocre at best.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (2.2MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Stylus 400 has a very good playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode (4, 9, or 16 images per page), and image
protection are all available.
zoom and scroll feature is here too, allowing you to zoom in
as much as 4X into your photo, and then move around in it. This
feature has been well-implemented by Olympus.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320
x 240) and image rotation.
you don't get much information about your photos in playback
mode. Turn on "info" in the menus and you'll get more.
Unfortunately, you won't get a histogram.
camera moves through images at an average pace, with about a
2 second delay between high-res photos.
Does it Compare?
its 3.2 Megapixel sibling, the Olympus Stylus 400 is a very nice
point-and-shoot compact camera with a twist -- it's weatherproof.
The 400 offers very good photo quality, an easy-to-use interface,
responsive performance, an included remote control, and support
for an underwater case, all in a stylish metal body. It's not
though. Noise levels are higher than average, there are no manual
controls, the battery compartment door likes to pop open, there's
no AF-assist lamp, and the manual is on CD. The movie mode and
included tiny (in more ways than one) 16MB xD card leave much
to be desired, as well. For those caught between the Canon S400
go for the S400 for its AF-assist lamp and superior movie
mode and photo quality. But the Stylus 400 is no slouch
so be sure to consider it!
sturdy, well-designed metal body -- weatherproof too!
photo quality for a small camera
playback, scene modes
I didn't care for:
on the noisy side
liked an "action" scene mode
16MB memory card included
door needs a lock
is on CD
small 4 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot
S400 and S45, Casio
FinePix F410, Nikon
Lumix DMC-LC43, Pentax
Optio 450, and hte Toshiba
always, I recommend a trip to a camera store to try the Stylus
400 in person
before you buy!
out our photo gallery to see how the Stylus 400's photos turned
a second opinion?
a review of the Stylus 400 over at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them
to firstname.lastname@example.org. Due
to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal
recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.