Review: Olympus Stylus 300 Digital
Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: March 3, 2003
March 3, 2003
Stylus 300 ($399) is part of a new line of digital cameras,
based on Olympus' nearly legendary line of film cameras. The
Stylus digital line consists of the 3 Megapixel Stylus 300 (reviewed
here) and the 4 Megapixel Stylus
400. Both are point-and-shoot
cameras in a small and weatherproof metal body.
are a ton of small 3 Megapixel cameras out there, but the weatherproof
aspect of the Stylus digital line makes them stand out.
does the Stylus 300 do against the competition? Find out now!
in the Box?
Olympus Stylus 300 has a very good bundle. Inside the
box, you'll find:
3.2 effective Mpixel Stylus 300 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
find a 16MB xD Picture Card in the box. It's enough to start
with, but you'll probably want some larger memory cards right
away. xD cards are available in capacities as large as 256MB
at the time this was written.
Stylus cameras are a rare bird for Olympus: they use a proprietary
battery. They use 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.
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 300.
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 ($199),
which lets you take your camera up to 130 feet underwater. Other
accessories include a soft case and AC adapter.
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 300 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 300,
you'll need to view the full manual, which is on the CD.
Stylus Digital line are probably the most elegant cameras produced
by Olympus. They are small, metal, and weatherproof. Note that
weatherproof does NOT equal waterproof. It can handle a spray
of water, but you cannot go swimming with it!
Stylus 300 is easy to hold with one hand, and fits in any pocket
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 ELPHs numbers are 3.4 x 2.2 x 1.1
and 185 grams, respectively.
begin our tour of the Stylus 300 now:
Stylus 300 has an F3.1 - F5.2, 3X optical zoom lens. The focal
range is 5.8 - 17.4 mm, which is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm. As
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 bottom is the
remote control receiver. Unfortunately, there's no AF illuminator
to be found.
I want to apologize for this picture. This is what happens when
two metal cameras rub together in a camera bag! With that out
of the way...
Stylus 300 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
300. The available modes are:
- Night Scene
the Stylus lacks any real manual controls, I would've liked to
have an "action" choice on that list. The night scene
mode is the only way you're going to be able to do long exposures.
4 seconds is the slowest it will go in that mode.
that are buttons for Display/QuickView and Menu/OK. Pressing
the Display button once will toggle the LCD on and off. Double-pressing
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 300. Up here, you'll find the large
shutter release button.
this side of the camera, under a rubber cover, is the DC-in port.
If you buy the optional AC adapter, here's where you'll plug
photo gives you a good illustration of what makes the Stylus
300 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 right.
annoyance that I discovered was that the battery compartment
door liked to pop open, especially when I was taking it off a
tripod. It needs a lock!
the Olympus Stylus 300
camera takes just over 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 longer if the AF system has
to hunt a bit. Despite not having an AF illuminator, the Stylus
300 did fairly well in low light situations.
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 good -- you'll wait just under two seconds between shots
in SHQ mode.
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
300, which is a good thing. Here they are:
photos on 16MB card (included)
||1280 x 960
|1024 x 768
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 300 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)
View (on/off) - shows image after it's taken on LCD
naming (Auto, reset)
mapping - helps eliminate "bad pixels"
output (NTSC, PAL)
you can see, there are no manual controls on the Stylus 300.
It is strictly a point-and-shoot camera.
you tired of menus as I am? Then here are the photo tests:
Stylus 300 did a fine job with our macro test. The colors look
good, and the subject is sharp. The focal range in macro mode
is 20 - 50 cm.
only way you're going to pull off a night shot like this is
in night scene mode, as program mode won't do a shutter speed this
slow. The results are pretty good for a point-and-shoot camera. The
photo above isn't going to win any awards but I think most people
will be pleased with the Stylus 300's night shot abilities. Just
remember your tripod!
a bit of redeye in my test shot, but not as much as I was expecting,
given how close the flash is to the lens. Note that I enlarged
this a bit so you can see the details.
shot above is a new test I've been trying out. This board is
shot at the wide-angle setting under
natural light from about 2 feet away (give or take). The purpose
of this test is to a) illustrate barrel distortion and b) show
any vignetting (darkened corners) that may occur.
isn't much vignetting to speak of here, and
the barrel distortion doesn't seem too bad. It also looks like
I need a larger board!
images were a little on the grainy side, overall the Stylus 300's
photo quality was very good. Color and exposure was also well
done. Since the camera automatically controls the ISO sensitivity,
in lower light.
at the lowest ISO setting (80), there's a fair amount of noise
in images (even outdoors), due in part to the camera's aggressive
sharpening algorithm. This also produces "jaggies" at
course, most of this is meaningless when you're printing at 4
x 6 inches, but its worth mentioning.
a look at our extensive
photo gallery and judge the photo
quality for yourself!
Stylus 300's movie mode is very basic -- which is disappointing
when compared to the competition. Clips are limited to just 16
seconds at 320 x 240, or 70 seconds at
Sound is not recorded either.
only can you not use the zoom during filming, but the lens is
also locked at the wide-angle position.
a sample movie for you:
to play movie (3.0MB, QuickTime format)
Can't view it? Download QuickTime.
Stylus 300 has a very good playback mode. Slide shows, DPOF print
marking, thumbnail mode, 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.
other handy features are image resizing (to 640 x 480 or 320
x 240) and 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 a 2 second
delay between high-res photos.
Does it Compare?
you want a small and stylish point-and-shoot camera, the Olympus
Stylus 300 is worth a look. Photo quality is generally very good,
though its marred a bit by occasional noise and jaggies. The
Stylus is a pure point-and-shoot camera -- there are no manual
controls. That means that it's super easy to use, but folks who
want more advanced controls will probably want to look elsewhere.
Other quibbles include a poor movie mode, battery door that pops
open easily, and the lack of a full, printed manual.
well-designed metal body -- weatherproof too!
photo quality for a small camera
playback, scene modes
I didn't care for:
liked an "action" scene mode
- Some "jaggies" and
noise in images
door needs a lock
is on CD
small 3 Megapixel cameras to consider include the Canon PowerShot
A70 and S230, Casio Exilim
and QV-R3, Fuji
FinePix A303, Konica
Finecam S3L, Minolta
DiMAGE Xi, Nikon Coolpix 3100, 3500,
Pentax Optio 33L and S,
Sony DSC-P72 and -P8,
and the Toshiba
As always, I recommend a trip to a camera store to try the Stylus 300 in person
before you buy!
out our photo gallery to see how the Stylus 300's photos turned
a second opinion? How about a third?
a review of the Stylus 300 over at Steve's
welcomes your comments or questions about this review. Send them
to email@example.com. Due
to my limited resources, please do not write asking for personal
recommendations, missing software/manuals, or technical support.