This review is now complete.
All information about this camera refers to the production-level
Verve. Product shots have been re-shot where necessary,
and all sample photos are from the production model.
Stylus Verve ($349) is a new addition to Olympus'
popular Stylus line. To say the Verve is stylish
is an understatement -- this thing is sexy. It also
comes in six colors:
Beside its cool new look, the Verve
also features a larger LCD display (and no optical
viewfinder), redesigned menus, and improved performance
over its predecessor (thanks to its TruePic TURBO processor).
Just like the original Stylus camera, the Verve is
Looks aren't everything, though; picture
quality is much more important! Find out how the Verve
performs in our review, which starts now!
What's in the Box?
The Olympus Stylus Verve has a very
good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
- The 4.0 effective Megapixel Stylus
- 16MB xD Picture Card
- LI-30B lithium-ion rechargeable
- Battery charger
- Wrist strap
- USB cable
- A/V cable
- CD-ROM featuring Olympus Master
software and drivers
- Basic manual (printed) + full manual
Olympus throws a 16MB xD card in the
box with the Verve. That doesn't hold too many 4 Megapixel
photos, so consider the purchase of a larger card to
be mandatory. I'd recommend 128MB at the bare minimum
(xD currently tops out at 1GB). xD cards do tend to
be more expensive than SD and CompactFlash cards, so
you've been warned.
The Verve uses an all-new lithium
ion battery known as the LI-30B. Like the camera
itself, the 30B is quite small -- in terms of both
physical size and power (2.3 Wh of energy). Olympus
says that you can take just 100 photos per charge
using the CIPA battery life standard, which is well
below average. Compare that with 140 photos on the
Canon PowerShot SD300, 120 photos on the Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7, 160 photos on the Pentax Optio S5i,
and a shopping 390 photos on the Casio Exilim EX-Z50
(how do they do it?).
Proprietary batteries like this one
are basically a given on ultra-compact cameras like
this one. Do note that they are on the pricey side
(this one's around $40) and you can't just pop in regular
alkaline batteries when you're in a jam. Despite the
price, I highly recommend getting a spare battery,
especially given the subpar battery life of the Verve.
When it's time to recharge the battery
just snap it into the included external charger. It
takes just under 2 hours to fully charge the battery.
I like this charger -- compact and plugs right into
the wall (yes, I know not everyone likes these).
Part of the cool design of the Stylus
Verve is a built-in lens cover -- so there are no lens
caps to drop off of mountains. And yes, I've done that.
There aren't too many accessories
to mention. I like underwater cases so I'll mention
that first. This $80 case lets you take the Verve up
to 3 meters underwater! The Another handy item to have
is an AC adapter (model D-AC7, $40), though please
note that you must also buy the BPC-01 DC coupler ($20)
in order to use it. Other accessories include a camera
case ($25) and a metal neck strap ($12).
Olympus includes their brand new Master
software with the Stylus Verve, and I have to say that
they did a great job with it. The first thing you'll
probably do with the software is transfer photos from
your camera. Once you've done that, you've got a nice
thumbnail view that you can organize by date or keywords.
A calendar view is also available.
It's easy to change the size of the
thumbnails, and everything was snappy on my PowerMac
If you want to edit a photo, that's
just a click away. You can rotate, crop, reduce redeye,
or do an "instant fix". If you want to adjust
the color balance, you can do that as well, as you
can see above.
The software can also be used to "stitch" together
several photos into one panoramic photo.
Sharing photos is easy: you can print
them or e-mail them right in the Master software. Naturally,
there's a slideshow feature available as well. And,
if you want to archive them to a CD or DVD, that's
Just like with their old Camedia Master
software, Olympus has a "Plus" version available
for $20 more. The Master Plus software adds movie editing
capabilities, more printing options, and the ability
to make Video CDs.
While the software has greatly improved,
one thing that hasn't changed is Olympus' unwillingness
to print the full camera manual. As usual, you'll get
a 27 page "basic manual" in the box, with
the full manual on the included CD-ROM. The quality
of the manual itself is good -- it's getting to the
information that's difficult.
Look and Feel
I don't have to tell you that the
Stylus looks good -- you already know that. It'll be
sure to garner attention wherever it goes. It's a very
compact camera, and it can go anywhere you do. It's
shape makes holding it a little unusual, as it's hard
to get a firm grip on it (this isn't a camera for those
with shaky hands). I often found myself using both
hands to keep the camera steady.
The body is made almost entirely of
metal, and it feels pretty solid. One thing to watch
out for on metal cameras like this: they scratch easily.
One of the big draws on the Stylus
series is that the cameras are weatherproof! That means
the Verve can get splashed or sprayed with water, but
you can't go swimming with it! If you want to take
it into the water, pick up the underwater case that
I mentioned earlier.
The official dimensions of the Verve
are 3.7 x 2.2 x 1.1 inches (W x H x D, excluding protrusions)
and it weighs 115 grams empty. For the sake of comparison,
the numbers for the Canon PowerShot SD300 are 3.4 x
2.1 x 0.8 inches / 130 g, while they're 3.3 x 2.0 x
0.8 inches / 105 grams for the Pentax Optio S4i.
Let's begin our full tour of the camera
Is this a crazy looking camera or
One thing that you won't see on the
Stylus Verve is a 3X zoom lens -- you're stuck with
2X. Not a big deal for some people, though telephoto
fans may be disappointed. The lens is relatively slow,
with a maximum aperture of F3.5 - F4.9, which isn't
great news for low light photography. The focal range
is 5.8 - 11.6 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 70 mm.
The lens not threaded, nor would I expect it to be.
Above-left from the lens is the Verve's
built-in flash. It looks pretty small, which translates
to a rather short working range of 0.2 - 2.8 m at wide-angle
and 0.2 - 2.0 m at telephoto. The PowerShot SD300 and
Optio S4i both do about a half-meter better at the
wide end of the lens. You cannot attach an external
flash to this tiny camera.
To the upper-right of the lens is
the microphone and self-timer lamp. There's no AF-assist
lamp on the Verve.
On the back of the Verve you'll find
a 1.8" LCD display, which is a bit larger than
what most cameras this size have. The screen has a
healthy 134,000 pixels, and it's bright, sharp, and
fluid. Outdoor visibility is quite good, and in low
light situations, the LCD automatically brightens,
making it a bit easier to see what you're looking at.
Don't expect night vision, however.
As you've probably noticed, there's
no optical viewfinder on the Stylus Verve. Whether
that's a problem is your decision. Olympus is going
LCD-only on their lower-end cameras, and personally
I'm not a big fan of that idea.
The Quick View button to the left
of the LCD quickly enters playback mode.
Over on the other side you'll find
the zoom controller, speaker, and four-way controller.
The zoom controller moves the lens from wide-angle
to telephoto in just 1.2 seconds. I counted a whopping
15 steps through the zoom range... most impressive.
The four-way controller is used for
menu navigation, plus:
- Up - Scene mode
- Program mode - for everyday
- Landscape + portrait
- Night scene
- Beach & snow
- Self-portrait + self-timer
- Behind glass - about time
someone came up with this
- Self-portrait (no self-timer)
- Indoors - resolution limited
to 1280 x 960 or lower!
- Candle - resolution limited
to 1280 x 960 or lower!
- Right - Flash (Auto, auto w/redeye
reduction, fill flash, flash off)
- Down - Self-timer (on/off)
- Left - Macro mode (Off, macro,
super macro) - more on this later
On top of the Stylus Verve you'll
find the shutter release and power buttons as well
as the mode dial. The dial (which feels like something
suited for a piece of machinery rather than a camera!)
moves the camera between still recording, movie, and
Nothing to see here.
On this side of the camera you'll
find the memory card slot, battery compartment, and
USB + A/V port. Right now those are hidden behind that
plastic door. Before I open it up, I want to point
out the included battery and xD card over on the right
Okay, now let's take a look:
And here's where they go. The USB-looking
port does double duty: it's used for both USB and video
output. The Verve supports USB 2.0 Full Speed, which
is marketing-speak for the old, slow USB 1.1.
Two things about the door that covers
all this. For one, despite being plastic it has sturdy
hinges so I don't think the door can bust off easily.
Second, have a look at back of that door in the above
photo, noting the rubber gasket around it which allows
this camera to get a little wet.
Last, but not least, is the bottom
of the Stylus Verve. The only thing down here is a
plastic tripod mount, located inline with the lens.
Using the Olympus Stylus
The Stylus Verve starts up very quickly,
taking just 1.7 seconds to extend its lens and "warm
up" before you can start shooting.
No histograms to
be found here
Autofocus speeds were about average,
with the camera taking about 0.6 - 0.8 seconds to lock
focus in most cases (it'll take longer if the AF has
to "hunt" a bit). In low light, the Verve
focused surprisingly well considering that it doesn't
have an AF-assist lamp.
Shutter lag was quite low, even at
slower shutter speeds where it sometimes crops up.
Shot-to-shot speed is very good, with
a delay of about 1.5 seconds, assuming you've turned
off the post-shot review feature.
There's no easy way to delete a photo
immediately after it is taken. You can, however, use
the QuickView feature to do so.
Now, here's a look at the various
image quality choices available on the Stylus Verve:
||# images on 16MB card
(from here down,
There's no RAW or TIFF mode on the
Olympus uses one of the more sensible
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, at least a year).
File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch
The Verve uses the recent Olympus
menu system, just with a more modern look. When you
first hit the menu button, you'll be presented with
the following options:
- Exposure compensation (-2EV to
+2EV, 1/3EV increments)
- Mode Menu - see below
- White balance (Auto, sunlight,
cloudy, tungsten, fluorescent) - a custom option
would've been nice
- Image quality (see above chart)
Unlike Olympus' higher-end cameras,
you cannot customize the menus on the Verve.
The Mode Menu is where most of the
options on the camera are located. Here's what you'll
find in this menu:
- Camera Settings
- Metering (ESP, spot)
- Drive (Single-frame, sequential)
- see below
- ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400)
- Digital zoom (on/off) - it's
best to keep this off
- AF mode (ESP, spot) - the former
chooses an area in the frame on which to focus,
the latter is center-only
- Sound recording (on/off) - add
a 4 sec voice clip to each photo
- Panorama (on/off) - helps you
frame panoramic shots; Olympus-brand xD card required
- 2-in-1 (on/off) - combines two
successive pictures into one
- Card Setup (Format)
- All reset (on/off) - retain settings
after camera is powered off
- Language (English, French, Spanish,
- Power on setup - for startup
- Screen (Off, 1-3) - pick
up a startup screen
- Volume (Off, low, high)
- Menu color (Normal, brown, blue,
- Beep (Off, low, high)
- Shutter sound (Off, 1-3) - you
can set the volume for whichever shutter sound
- Rec view (on/off) - post-shot
- File name (Reset, auto)
- Pixel mapping (on/off) - removes
dead pixels that can appear in images
- Monitor brightness (-7 to +7,
- Date/time (set)
- Video out (NTSC, PAL)
In the sequential shooting mode,
you can take up to 7 photos (at SHQ quality) at 1.3
frames/second -- not spectacular. The LCD stays on
between shots so you can follow a moving subject.
Aside from that, there really aren't
any other features in record mode worth mentioning.
This is a 100% point-and-shoot camera, and is not aimed
Well enough about menus, let's do
photo tests now.
The Verve did a fine job with our
usual macro subject. Colors look good, and the subject
has a "smooth" look to it.
There are two macro modes on the Stylus
Verve. In normal macro mode, you can get as close as
20 cm to your subject, at both the wide and telephoto
ends of the lens. That's not great. To get closer,
you can use super macro mode, which lowers that distance
to 8 cm (which is still just okay). Do note that in
super macro mode the lens is locked at the telephoto
Since the Verve doesn't have much
in the line of zoom power, this night test shot looks
a little different than normal. The camera did a pretty
good job, too, though there's a fair amount of noise
in the image. The camera took in plenty of light, and
there's no purple fringing to be found.
If you want to do long exposures like
this, there's only one way: use Night Scene mode. In
Program Auto mode, the slowest shutter speed is just
1/2 second, which won't cut it for shots like this.
But flip into Night Scene mode for exposures as long
as 4 seconds. There's no way to manually choose a specific
shutter speed on the Stylus Verve.
There's moderate barrel distortion
at the wide end of the Stylus Verve's lens. I don't
see any evidence of vignetting (dark corners), either.
As you'd expect on a tiny camera,
there's plenty of redeye to be found. Do note that
I had to set the ISO to Auto to compensate for the
weak flash -- hence the noise in the image.
Overall I'd rank the Stylus' image
quality as good, but not great. Color and exposure
were generally very good, with average noise and low
purple fringing. My main gripe is that the camera suffers
from the dreaded "mushy detail" problem that
I've seen on a few other cameras (usually Kodak). I'm
not sure of the exact cause, but fine details like
grass, leaves, and hair get destroyed by the camera's
image processor. These two images are
great examples. The first of those two images shows
another problem -- corner softness. It seems that you
just can't escape from this issue on ultra-compact
cameras like the Stylus Verve. I also saw some occasional"jaggies",
like here in this
To put things into perspective, the
issues I just raised don't really matter if you're
downsizing the images for the web, or printing at 8
x 10 or smaller. For larger prints or on-screen viewing
at 100%, I'd pass on the Stylus Verve.
With that in mind, I invite you to
check out our photo gallery.
Print the photos as if you took them and then decide
of the Stylus Verve's photo quality meets your needs.
The Stylus Verve has an unexciting
movie mode. You can record 320 x 240 or 160 x 120 video
at 15 frames/second until the memory card is full.
Sound is recorded as well. The included 16MB card can
hold about 54 seconds worth of video, so you'll want
a larger card for longer movies.
You cannot use the zoom lens during
Movies are saved in QuickTime format.
Here's a fairly dull sample movie
to play movie (4.5 MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
The Verve has a pretty nice playback
mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations,
thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, image protection,
and "zoom and scroll". The camera supports
direct printing using the PictBridge system, as well.
The zoom and scroll feature (my term)
allows you to zoom in as much as 4X into your photo
(in 0.5X steps), and then move around in it.
You can rotate images, or resize them
to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240.
But wait, there's more. If you looked
closely at my screenshot above, you probably saw the "soft
focus" and "fisheye" options along with
the other three (black and white, sepia, and resize).
The soft focus and fisheye effects do just what they
sound like -- digital transforming your pictures into
something new. The original image is saved just in
case you don't like your face as a sphere.
Normally, you don't get much information
about your photos in playback mode. By going to the
menu, you can activate an info screen which displays
the information above. No histogram, though.
The camera moves through photos at
an average clip, with a one second delay between each
high res picture.
How Does it Compare?
While not my favorite ultra-compact
camera, the Olympus Stylus Verve is a stylish point-and-shoot
camera for those people making smaller prints and web
photos. Let's not beat around the bush here: the Verve
is one of the most stunning digital cameras ever designed.
On top of that, it's even weatherproof! The downside
is that the cool body is a little hard to hold steadily,
and there's no optical viewfinder to be found. Thankfully
the 1.8" LCD is bright and visible in bright outdoor
light or dimly-lit rooms. While the camera lacks an
AF-assist lamp, it focused quite well in low light
situations. The Verve is 100% point-and-shoot -- there
are no manual controls. There are plenty of scene modes
to help you get the best photos possible. Performance
is quite good for the most part, with very little shutter
lag and good shot-to-shot speeds. The image editing
functions in playback mode are a nice touch, and the
new Olympus Master software is very good.
Unfortunately for the Verve, there
were quite a few things that I didn't like about it.
Photo quality is just average, with muddy details,
corner softness, and the occasional jagged edge. Still,
for prints smaller than 8 x 10 inches, image quality
is acceptable. Redeye will be a problem no matter what
you intend to do with your photos. The Verve has a
pretty weak flash, and boosting the ISO to compensate
quickly adds noise to your images. Neither the macro
nor the movie modes were very impressive, either. The
Verve's battery life was quite a bit below average,
and when will Olympus ever put a full, printed manual
in the box?
I'd say the Stylus Verve is best suited
as a "secondary camera" -- one that you can
take anywhere. For more "serious" photography,
I'd probably pick something else. But for a fun, compact
camera for casual vacation photos, the Stylus Verve
gets a thumbs up from me.
What I liked:
- Decent photo quality (but see below)
- Very stylish, compact, and weatherproof
metal body; comes in six colors
- Good all-around performance
- LCD is usable outdoors and in low
- Plenty of scene modes
- Optional underwater case
- Much improved bundled software
What I didn't care for:
- Muddy details, blurry corners,
and occasional "jaggies" in photos
- Redeye is a problem
- Mediocre movie and macro modes
- No optical viewfinder or AF-assist
lamp; lens is only 2X
- Weak flash
- Some manual controls would've been
- Poor battery life
- Full manual only on CD
Other ultra-compact cameras that I'd
recommend looking at include the Canon
PowerShot SD300 Digital ELPH, Casio Exilim EX-Z50 and EX-Z55, Fuji
FinePix F440, Konica
Minolta DiMAGE X50, Olympus
AZ-2 Zoom, Panasonic
Lumix DMC-FX7, Pentax
Optio S5i, and the Sony
As always, I recommend a trip down
to your local reseller to try out the Stylus Verve
and its competitors before you buy!
See how the photo quality turned out
in our gallery!
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this
review, please send them to Jeff.
Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me
asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other
DCRP readers, please visit our forums.