Camera Reviews
by Brad Soo on July 21 2009

olympus s550wp prev

I’ve just published my review of the Olympus Stylus 550 WP aka mju 550 WP, an entry-level waterproof camera, and the Olympus Stylus 550 WP photo gallery as well. The full review waits after the jump.


DPInterface Olympus Stylus 550WP aka Mju 550WP Review

Brad Soo – July 21st, 2009

olympus s550wp intro

If all you ever wanted was just an ultra-compact camera to bring along for a swim, then you’re in luck. Today we’re going to take a look at the Olympus Stylus 550 WP, a 10 megapixel model which goes back to basics; offering just a basic waterproof body that can be submerged for up to 10 feet/3 m. This 10 megapixel camera with a 3X lens, 2.5 inch LCD and basic point-and-shoot controls goes head to head against Fujifilm’s Z33 WP; as well as serving as an alternative for those who don’t need fully rugged cameras.

Is the Olympus Stylus 550 WP for you? That’s the answer we’re gonna find out by the end of this review.

The Olympus Stylus 550 WP is also known as the Olympus Mju 550 WP outside of the US.

Size and Weight

(219.3) 103.6 x 66.9 x 48.8 mm (190 g) – Canon PowerShot D10
(172.2) 92.0 x 59.6 x 20.6 mm (110 g) – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP
(179.5) 97.5 x 60.0 x 22.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S60**
(181.1) 95.3 x 63.4 x 22.4mm (149 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
(178.2) 95.0 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm (182 g) – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
(176.8) 93.6 x 61.7 x 21.5 mm (127 g) – Olympus Stylus 550 WP
(184.4) 98.3 x 63.1 x 23.0 mm (163 g) – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
(180.4) 99.0 x 56.0 x 25.4 mm (145 g) – Pentax Optio W60*
(180.0) 99.5 x 56.0 x 24.5 mm (135 g) – Pentax Optio W80
(172.0) 97.9 x 57.8 x 16.3 mm (124 g) – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the weight figures above show when the camera is empty without a battery or memory card
*Waterproof only
**Non-rugged camera

The Olympus Stylus 550WP is one of the smaller cameras of the bunch. The camera is pretty flat, so it’ll slip in and out of bags and pockets easily; and its weight is barely noticeable.

Box contents

The Olympus Stylus 550WP’s box contents are pretty average:

  • LI-42B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • microSD to xD-Picture card adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software disc (Olympus Master)
  • User’s manual

The Olympus Stylus 550WP comes with just 14.8 MB of built-in memory and no memory card. Seeing that the internal memory won’t be able to fit more than two full-resolution photos, you’ll have to get a memory card. The camera takes xD-Picture cards natively and microSD cards via the included adapter. I’d recommend sticking with the latter, unless you already have some xD-Picture cards lying around – recent times seem to hint that the xD-Picture card format is going the way of the dodo bird; even Olympus’ own E-P1 camera doesn’t take xD cards anymore (in favor of SD/SDHC). Anyway, regardless of which format you go with, 2 GB of memory would be good to start with.

220 shots – Canon PowerShot D10
200 shots – Fujifilm FinePix Z33 WP
140 shots – Nikon Coolpix S60**
230 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 6000
240 shots – Olympus Stylus Tough 8000
140 shots – Olympus Stylus 550WP
340 shots – Panasonic Lumix TS1 aka Lumix FT1
205 shots – Pentax Optio W60*
170 shots – Pentax Optio W80
200 shots – Sony Cyber-shot T900**
All the cameras above are rated with rechargeable batteries with LCD on according to CIPA Standard
*Waterproof only
**Non-rugged camera

The Olympus Stylus 550WP uses the familiar LI-42B lithium-ion rechargeable battery. Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t fare very well in terms of battery life… rated to 140 shots per charge (CIPA Standard), the Stylus 550WP has the worst battery life in its class.

Accessories

There are various camera cases and an AC adapter available to the Stylus 550WP, but those are the only optional accessories you can find for the camera.


Camera Tour

The Olympus Stylus 550WP aka Mju 550WP is a waterproof camera that’s rated to go as deep as 3 meters (10 feet) in water. Build quality is good, in-line with the typical compact digital camera and with compartment doors of decent strength. However, it isn’t “rugged”, so you still have to take care of the camera and not simply drop and throw it around as you please.

Ergonomics are average – on one hand, you get a nicely size shutter button and buttons with good tactile feedback; but on the other, I’m not a big fan of the ‘skinny buttons’ on the camera’s 5 way navigation pad as they are difficult to press. I would also advise you to use the camera’s wrist strap, especially when using it underwater, to reduce hassle when the camera slips from your grip.

The Stylus 550WP comes in your choice of two colors: black or light blue (umm, looks turquoise).

olympus s550wp front

While the more expensive Stylus Tough line of cameras have moved up to using 3.6X wide-angle zoom lenses, the Olympus Stylus 550WP gets to inherit the old 3X optical zoom lens. The lens here is equivalent to 38 – 114 mm in 35 mm terms and has a rather slow aperture range of f3.5 – f5.0. Bad news here is that the camera lacks any sort of ‘real’ image stabilization, so taking sharp pictures is all up to your steady hands (or a tripod).

To the left is the camera’s flash of decent strength. The flash covers a range of 20 cm to 4.1 m at wide-angle and 30 cm to 2.9 m at telephoto. Do note that ISO 800 was used to obtain those numbers so the range may drop if you decide to use lower ISO values. Even further to the left side are the camera’s microphone and self-timer countdown lamp; there’s no autofocus assist lamp on the Stylus 550WP.

olympus s550wp back

On the back of the Stylus 550WP is a 2.5 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. Screen visibility is decent in bright light and good in low-light.

The zoom controller is located to the upper right side of the camera, followed by the camera’s DISPLAY button. The DISPLAY button also doubles to bring up help tooltips (a useful one-line description of camera settings) when you press it while in any part of the Stylus 550WP’s menu.

Next up is the camera’s five-way navigation pad, surrounded by four other buttons which makes things seem crowded. Let’s check out the navigation pad first:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/-2 exposure in 1/3 step increments)
  • Down – Self-timer (Off, on – 12 seconds)
  • Left – Macro (Off, normal macro, super macro)
  • Right – Flash setting (Auto, auto with redeye reduction, on, off)
  • Center – Function menu/Set

olympus s550wp scr2

The Stylus 550WP’s function menu

The function menu on the camera is brought up by pressing the center button on the navigation pad:

  • White balance (Auto, daylight, outcast, tungsten, fluorescent 1,2 & 3)
  • ISO sensitivity (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600)
  • Image size and compression

Around the navigation pad are the shooting mode, playback, MENU and backlight boost buttons. The backlight boost button temporarily increases LCD brightness when you press it; which is useful when you’re shooting outdoors. This same button also doubles as a ‘delete photo’ button in playback.

olympus s550wp top

At the top of the Stylus 550WP are its power and shutter buttons.

olympus s550wp side

Well, this side of the camera is blank…

olympus s550wp port

Over here is a single connectivity port used for USB, A/V out as well as the optional AC adapter. You can spot the camera’s rubber sealing here – used to keep dust and water out.

olympus s550wp bottom

At the bottom of the camera is a metal tripod mount as well as battery/memory card compartment. The compartment door is, again, sealed so you can bring the camera underwater. However, you won’t be able to swap memory cards here because of the tripod mount location.

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

olympus s550wp scr1

The Olympus Stylus 550WP’s shooting screen displays a decent amount of information, including some shooting details, exposure info, an optional 3 x 3 framing grid but no live histogram. The camera also lacks a battery indicator.

The image resolution options available on the Stylus 550WP are 10 MP, 5 MP, 3 MP, 2 MP, 1 MP and VGA. There’s also two image compression options available; Fine and Normal. A 16:9 widescreen image option shot at 2 megapixels is available too.

olympus s550wp scr3olympus s550wp scr4olympus s550wp scr5

When it comes to the menus, the Stylus 550WP has the standard Olympus affair. Unlike higher end Olympus models, the Stylus 550WP’s menus don’t offer many settings that you would often change:
:

  • White balance and ISO – already discussed previously in the Function menu
  • Digital zoom
  • Sound recording
  • Panorama mode
  • Face detection On/off

The Olympus Stylus 550WP has a panorama mode which allows you to take up to 10 photos in a row, which can be combined later on your computer using the included Olympus Master software. There’s also a rather basic face detection system which will pick up to 3 faces in a single scene – nothing more… simple, right?

Scene modes and macro
Like just about all Olympus cameras nowadays, the Stylus 550WP has two macro modes. Normal macro mode (which allows you to go as close as 20 cm to a subject at wide-angle and 30 cm at telephoto) and super macro; which lowers minimum focusing distance down to 7 cm but locks the lens at wide-angle position.

The Olympus Stylus 550WP is a pure point-and-snap camera, with no manual controls over exposure or anything else. However, if you’re a fan of scene modes, the camera does offer a bunch: portrait, landscape, night scene, night + portrait, sport, indoor, candle, self portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents and underwater snapshot. Night scene mode allows you to take night shots with shutter speeds as long as 4 seconds.

There are two interesting modes I wanna talk about here. Intelligent Auto mode detects the scene you’re shooting and automatically picks one of five scene modes for you (portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, sports). Digital Image Stabilization mode attempts to compensate for the camera’s lack of ‘real’ image stabilization by boosting ISO in order for you to get a sharp shot – trust me, don’t use it as noise levels will be high and you’ll better selecting ISO yourself.

Video Recording

Olympus Stylus 550WP has a run off the mill VGA movie mode which records 640 x 480 videos with sound at 30 FPS up to 2 GB per movie clip; with the option to extend recording times by lowering the frame rate to 15 FPS, lower resolution to QVGA (320 x 240) or both.

You cannot use optical zoom or autofocus while recording video. Overall, the Stylus 550WP produced movie clips of decent quality.

Performance

All performance testing of the Olympus Stylus Tough 8000 was performed using a 1 GB Type M Olympus xD-Picture card.

The Olympus Stylus 550WP starts up in an acceptable 2 seconds. Autofocus with the camera wasn’t particularly impressive; with average focusing times of 0.3 to 0.6 seconds with good light around and complete inability to focus in low-light thanks to the lack of an AF-assist lamp.

  • Shot-to-shot speed – 1 shot every 2.5 seconds, slightly sluggish
  • Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery – 4 seconds on average

If you’re looking for a burst mode here, there isn’t any on the Stylus 550WP. It seems that Olympus reserves them for higher-end Stylus cameras only.

The Stylus 550WP moves its lens from wide-angle to telephoto in under 2 seconds; and is able to shut down instantly since it has no lens to retract. Unfortunately, the Stylus 550WP seems to give the crummy performance of the FE-series cameras with no burst mode and underwhelming speed – waiting for shots to be processed is definitely noticeable.

Image Quality

Let’s check out the Stylus 550WP’s image quality now:

iso100

ISO 100 (f4.0, 1/8 sec)

iso200

ISO 200 (f4.0, 1/15 sec)

iso400

ISO 400 (f4.0, 1/30 sec)

iso800

ISO 800 (f4.0, 1/60 sec)

iso1600

ISO 1600 (f4.0, 1/125 sec)

chart

There was some visible lens distortion and prominent edge softness in photos produced by the Olympus Stylus 550WP. There was also some color fringing (chromatic aberration) as well.

Photo gallery

Check out full-sized photos in the Olympus Stylus 550WP photo gallery.


Playback

olympus s550wp scr7olympus s550wp scr8

The Olympus Stylus 550WP has a rather simple playback mode. The basics like image protection, rotation, voice clip attachment and slideshow are all here. Photos can be magnified by 10X for detail inspection.

Pictures can be played back as individual photos or in sets of 4, 9, 16 or 25 thumbnails. The camera also has four editing features under the ‘Perfect Fix’ section – redeye removal, lighting fix (brightens images), image resizing and cropping.

olympus s550wp scr6

The Olympus Stylus 550WP shows shooting details and exposure information in playback mode. However, it also lacks a histogram in playback.

Conclusion

When I first saw the Olympus Stylus 550WP, I thought it had a lot of potential – it’s a simple waterproof camera with a price tag that anyone can afford. Well, at least I THOUGHT it had a lot of potential; but the Stylus 550WP turned out to be a big letdown.

The Stylus 550WP is a slim and compact camera that’s waterproof to 3 meters. There’s a 2.5 inch LCD screen with decent visibility. Unfortunately, the camera is plagued with shortcomings such as the lack of real image stabilization, the clutter around the navigation pad and worst-in-class battery life – So much for good looks, huh?

The camera is entirely point-and-shoot, with no manual controls but with a plethora of scene modes instead. The camera also features built-in pointers/tooltips, accessible by pressing the DISPLAY button, to help you out. But let me tell you, the features here are simplified versions of those from Olympus’ higher end cameras… for example, face detection only picks up a maximum of three faces and macro minimum focus distance isn’t the lowest you can find.

Overall, the Olympus Stylus 550WP’s crummy image quality delivers the final blow to the camera’s own demise – photos look like wet paintings; soft and muddy, lacking in detail and noise levels are high. Performance isn’t better either as the camera’s performance is either average or slow, with substandard low-light focusing and lack of a burst mode. Evidently, I cannot recommend the Stylus 550WP due to its shortcomings in so many areas.

What’s hot:

  • Slim and compact design
  • Waterproof to 3 meters; good build quality
  • Decent LCD screen
  • Plenty of scene modes and built-in help tooltips
  • Useful Perfect Fix playback tools

What’s not:

  • Color smudging, softness and noisy pictures
  • No manual controls; limited shooting features
  • Lacks ‘real’ image stabilization
  • Small, cluttered controls around navigation pad
  • Worst-in-class battery life
  • Camera performance on the sluggish side
  • No burst mode

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB xD-Picture or microSD card


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6 Comments

  1. Margaret July 23, 2009 Reply

    I recently came across your site and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice reviews. I will keep visiting this site very often.

    Margaret

  2. roger pond February 2, 2010 Reply

    i found your review very usefull as i would had purchased this camera but not now.

  3. adriana February 25, 2010 Reply

    i should have read this before asking for this as a christmas present… uurghhh! owell is not that bad could be used in my vacations to the caribean…

  4. gokce February 27, 2010 Reply

    thanks for review,it helped.

  5. Ronald May 30, 2010 Reply

    Found this review too late, bought the camera few months back, and found it useless.
    Picture out of focus, softness, under-exposed, blurry images.

  6. yul June 4, 2010 Reply

    thanks for the review…almost buy it coz it was on sale!!! thanks, i save money for not buying..

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