DCRP Review: Olympus Stylus 1030SW
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At first glance, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW ($399) looks like just another ultra-compact camera, albeit a very well constructed one. As it turns out, the 1030SW is anything but ordinary -- it's "everything-proof". That means waterproof (to 10 m), shockproof (2 m), freezeproof (-10C/14F), and crushproof (220 lb/ft). To borrow a phrase, the Stylus 1030SW can literally take a licking, and keep on ticking.
Did I mention that it also takes pictures? The 1030SW has a 10.1 Megapixel CCD, a wide-angle 3.6X optical zoom lens, a 2.7" LCD display, and a ton of scene modes.
Is this one-of-a-kind camera a good performer? I'm not going to tell you now -- keep reading, our review starts right now!
The Stylus 1030SW is known as the µ (mju) 1030SW in some countries.
What's in the Box?
The Stylus 1030SW has an average bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Most cameras have built-in memory these days, and that includes the Stylus 1030SW. It has 14.7MB of onboard memory, and if that doesn't sound like much, you're right -- it holds just three photos at the highest quality setting. Thus, you'll want to buy a memory card right away, and I'd suggest a 2GB card to start with.
The camera with its included microSD adapter
The Stylus natively supports xD Picture Cards, and it can also use the tiny microSD/microSDHC cards via an included adapter. The advantage to using the microSD card is that this format supports much higher capacities: they currently top out at 8GB, compared to 2GB with xD. Do note that you may need to update your camera's firmware in order to use high capacity microSD cards. Oh, and if you choose to buy an xD card, make sure it's a "Type M+" (high speed) model.
The 1030SW uses the LI-50B lithium-ion rechargeable battery for power. This compact battery holds 3.4 Wh of energy, which is typical for a camera in this class. Here's how that translates into battery life:
All of the cameras on the above list support underwater photography, but only three can do so right out of the box: the two Olympus models, and the Pentax Optio W60. In terms of battery life, the Stylus 1030SW is just slightly above average.
Something else all of the cameras in the chart above have in common is their use of proprietary lithium-ion batteries. These batteries are on the expensive side (an extra one for the 1030SW will set you back at least $34), and you can't use an off-the-shelf battery should your rechargeable die. That said, proprietary batteries sort of come with the territory in this category of camera.
When it's time to charge the battery, just pop it into the included charger. You'll wait about two hours for the battery to be charged completely. This is my favorite type of charger, too -- it plugs directly into the wall.
This shouldn't come as a surprise, but the Stylus 1030SW has a built-in lens cover, to keep the elements away from your lens (no pun intended).
Now, here's a look at the accessories available for the 1030SW:
Okay, so nothing groundbreaking, but all worth a mention. Let's move onto the Stylus' software bundle now.
Olympus Master 2 in Mac OS X
Olympus includes version 2 of their Olympus Master software with the E-420. Olympus Master is pretty snappy, the interface is simple, and it can do just about everything you could ever want.
After you've transferred photos over from the camera (either into albums or folders on your hard drive) you'll arrive at the usual thumbnail screen that is standard in all photo viewing software these days. The thumbnail sizes are adjustable, and you can see shooting data and a histogram on the right side of the thumbnails. There's even a built-in RSS reader for subscribing to Olympus-related newsfeeds, if you're interested.
Here you can organize photos, e-mail or print them, or display them in a slideshow. If you have a bunch of photos that you want to stitch into a panorama, you can do that with a few clicks of your mouse.
Editing JPEGs in Olympus Master 2
Above you can see the edit window, which you access by either double-clicking on a thumbnail or by clicking the Edit button in the toolbar. Functions here include resizing, cropping, brightness/contrast/sharpness adjustments, redeye reduction, distortion correction, and much more. When you're performing one of these edits, the software does a side-by-side before and after comparison, so you can see exactly what changes you've made.
Also included is a 15-day trial version of Olympus muvee theaterPack (Windows only), which is a plug-in for Olympus Master. Muvee theaterPack lets you create slideshows with background music and special effects, and then burn them to a CD or DVD. The full version of the plug-in retails for $30.
Olympus no longer puts the camera manual only on CD-ROM -- you now get a printed copy in the box. As manuals go, it's not great -- expect a lot of confusing tables and fine print, and not a whole lot of detail. You may end up finding the in-camera help more useful than the manual!
Look and Feel
The Stylus 1030SW is an ultra-rugged and compact camera. It
has a metal body that is "built like a brick", weather-sealed doors, and a
thick glass panel over the LCD. In other words, it feels like you could play
baseball, with the camera as the ball. Here's a rundown of everything the camera
is protected against:
Now, I wasn't about to test all these things, but I did make a point to drop the camera on the floor and dunk it in the ocean a few times, and it worked as well as it did when I took it out of the box. If you need a camera that can go from the beach to the construction site in a single day, the Stylus 1030SW is it.
Ergonomics are a bit of a mixed bag. While the camera's most important controls are in the right places, some of the buttons are on the small side. The labels for these buttons can be hard to read, as they're the same color as the camera body. Also, watch the fingers on your left hand, as they can easily end up in your photos.
Images courtesy of Olympus America
It seems like every ultra-compact camera has to come in at least two colors. The Stylus 1030SW is available in silver, black, and an attractive green.
Now, let's see how the Stylus 1030SW compares to other cameras in its class in terms of size and weight: