DPInterface Olympus Stylus 1040 Review
Brad Soo - September 5th, 2008 (Updated September 8th, 2008)

Just around a week ago, Olympus decided that they'll make another entry into the party of ultra-compact with their slimmest camera yet, the all new Stylus 1040. This isn't Olympus' first attempt at a thin camera with an internal lens, they already had experience starting from the very famous shock-and-waterproof Stylus 750SW.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 is not waterproof or shockproof like its SW-series siblings but what makes the Stylus 1040 attractive is its stylish design and doesn't skimp many features despite its affordable $199 price tag. It features 10 megapixels, a 2.7 inch LCD, Face Detection, Olympus' Perfect Shot Preview and a non-extending 3X optical zoom lens.

How does the Stylus 1040 perform? Let's take an in-depth look now in the review...

By the way, the Olympus Stylus 1040 is the USA name for the camera. It's also known as the Olympus mju 1040 in other parts around the world. Olympus USA's press release says the Stylus 1040 will be available in October 2008, but I think they got too excited and have already released the camera in some parts of the world... so that makes this the first review of the Stylus 1040 on the net from an independent camera review site!

Size and Weight

(163.6) 86.8 x 54.8 x 22.0 mm (125 g) - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
(160.4) 86.0 x 54.0 x 20.4 mm (130 g) - Canon PowerShot SD770 IS Digital ELPH
(160.4) 89.7 x 51.7 x 19.0 mm (100 g) – Casio Exilim Z85
(174.1) 96.7 x 57.3 x 20.1 mm (126 g) – Casio Exilim Z150
(167.7) 92.0 x 55.7 x 20.0 mm (150 g) - Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
(172.2) 93.7 x 57.8 x 20.7 mm (126 g) - Kodak EasyShare M1033
(179.5) 97.5 x 60.0 x 22.0 mm (145 g) – Nikon Coolpix S60
(161.0) 89.0 x 55.5 x 16.5 mm (108 g) - Olympus Stylus 1040

(174.3) 93.0 x 62.0 x 19.3 mm (152 g) - Olympus Stylus 1050SW
(170.8) 94.9 x 53.4 x 22.5 mm (119 g) - Panasonic Lumix FS5
(168.6) 94.7 x 51.9 x 22.0 mm (125 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX37
(180.4) 99.0 x 56.0 x 25.4 mm (145 g) – Pentax Optio W60
(165.8) 93.6 x 57.2 x 15.0 mm (126 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T77
(174.7) 94.0 x 59.3 x 21.4 mm (151 g) - Sony Cyber-shot T300

The Olympus Stylus 1040 is one of the smaller cameras there, and one of the lightest too. Rest assured that all of the cameras above can fit into your pocket with ease; it's just that the Stylus 1040 is more compact and thinner than most of them.

Box packaging

Open up the camera box and you'll find these along with the Stylus 1040:

  • LI-42B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger LI-40C
  • microSD to xD-Picture card adapter
  • Wrist strap
  • USB and A/V cables
  • Camera software CD
  • User's manual

The Olympus Stylus 1040 does not come bundled with a memory card and comes with a mere 48 MB of internal memory. The internal memory should come in handy for storing an album of your favorite pictures (small, downsized ones of course), but is not practical for everyday picture taking. I would suggest getting at least a 2 GB memory card with the Stylus 1040; a high-speed one is recommended if you are to use the VGA movie mode at 30 FPS.

The Stylus 1040 supports xD-Picture cards but is able to use microSD memory cards as well via an adapter. Olympus has been bundling microSD adapters with their Stylus line of cameras and the Stylus 1040 is no exception. It might be a better idea to start using microSD cards with the Stylus 1040, unless you already have some xD-Picture cards on hand; the reason being microSD's are more widely used (in electronic devices such as mobile phones) and available in capacities up to 8 GB (versus 2 GB for xD cards).

The camera is also compatible with microSDHC cards (Essentially microSD cards which are of 4 GB and above).

The Olympus Stylus 1040 uses the LI-42B lithium-ion battery. The battery is rechargeable and a charger comes bundled with the camera. The Stylus 1040 is rated to approximately 180 shots (CIPA Standard) which is below average in its class, so it might be wise to get a spare battery along with the camera:

240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS Digital ELPH
300 shots - Canon PowerShot SD770 IS Digital ELPH
240 shots – Casio Exilim Z85
280 shots – Casio Exilim Z150
170 shots - Fujifilm FinePix Z200fd
275 shots - Kodak EasyShare M1033
140 shots – Nikon Coolpix S60
180 shots – Olympus Stylus 1040

200 shots – Olympus Stylus 1050SW
300 shots - Panasonic Lumix FS5
310 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX37
205 shots – Pentax Optio W60
220 shots - Sony Cyber-shot T77
260 shots – Sony Cyber-shot T300
All the battery life numbers above are rated according to CIPA Standard.

And so, that's how the Olympus Stylus 1040 fares in terms of battery life against other ultra-compact cameras. The average number of shots from ultra-compact cameras in this class should be around 240 shots per charge.

Extras

There aren't many accessories to soup up the Stylus 1040 with: Just various camera cases and 'premium' colored wrist straps. There doesn't appear to be any underwater cases available for the Stylus 1040 at the moment.

 

Camera Tour

As I mentioned in the introduction, the Stylus 1040 is a pretty sleek camera whose design cues (especially the very familiar front, complete with the sliding cover) are... shall we say, highly inspired by Sony's T-series Cyber-shot cameras. It's a fact that just about everyone I showed the Stylus 1040 to thought it was a Sony camera. The camouflaged "Olympus" logo on the sliding cover didn't help much in revealing the camera's true identity.

Back to the Stylus 1040, it looks more expensive than it really is – the camera has a glossy finish on the front while the back looks really sophisticated (complete with backlighted buttons). Sure, some fingerprints are bound to appear on the front of the camera, but not as quickly as you think, since the glossy plastic is fairly resistant to fingerprints. Construction wise, the camera is fairly solid and the sliding cover action is smooth yet stiff enough so it won't accidentally while in your pocket. The Stylus 1040 is available in four colors; your choice of silver, black, red and yellow.

The front of the Stylus 1040 features a 3X optical zoom lens, equivalent to 38 – 114 mm. The lens aperture range is f3.5 – f5.0, which is a little slow, and it's a shame it doesn't have optical image stabilization. On the good side, the lens workings are all internal and does not protrude from the camera at all.

There's a really tiny hole right beside the lens rim, see if you can spot it... that's the microphone for recording sound in movies and memos. The big sliding cover on the front doubles as the power switch of the Stylus 1040; slide it down to power on, slide it back up and the camera shuts down.

Directly to the left of the lens is the flash unit. The flash unit's power is just about average in its class - it has a working range of 20 cm to 4.1 m at wide-angle and that range shrinks to 30 cm to 2.9 m at telephoto. These numbers are at ISO 800 (which you wouldn't want to use all the time due to image noise) so expect the flash to be somewhat lower when you reduce ISO. Further to the left is the lamp which blinks as a visual indicator in self-timer mode.

On the back of the Olympus Stylus 1040 is a large 2.7 inch LCD with 230,000 pixels. The screen is sharp, bright and I had no problem using it outdoors and in the dark. There's a total of six buttons and a four-way controller on the back of the Stylus 1040; all of them are backlighted so you can see what you're pressing in the dark.

The first two buttons control the modes of the camera. Pressing the one with the camera icon (left) switches you between normal, digital image stabilization and scene shooting modes, while the one on the right is the playback button.

The second two buttons are menu related: there's the usual MENU button and the OK/FUNCtion button. The latter brings up the FUNCtion menu and also confirms item selections. Here's what the function menu contains (Most of the options are only unlocked in program mode though):

  • Sub-mode (Automatic or program mode)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, tungsten and three fluorescent modes)
  • ISO sensitivity (50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • Drive mode (Single-shot and high speed continuous)
  • Metering mode (ESP, spot metering, Face Detection AE)
  • Image size and quality

Skipping the four-way controller for now, we'll head on to the last two buttons on the back of the camera. The DISPlay button toggles the information shown on the LCD while the other button brings up the option to turn Shadow Adjustment on/off and doubles to delete photos in playback.

Shadow Adjustment is a new feature found on Olympus' 2008 cameras - it brightens dark areas of your photos at the cost of increased noise in your photos. Such a feature seems all in the rage nowadays and come under many different names (such as D-Lighting for Nikon cameras), but they all perform the same basic function.

 
The Stylus 1040's built-in guide and descriptive help system

When you hold down the display button, a built-in guide appears on the screen. This guide is like an interactive user's manual on the camera itself and contains "how-to" tips on achieving certain effects in your photos. That's not only it, the camera also brings up descriptions on scene modes and information on menu items when the button is pressed in those modes. With the intuitive help system being just one button press away, this makes the Stylus 1040 user-friendly and lowers the learning curve of using the camera.

Back to the four-way controller, it also serves as a quick way to access the following settings:

  • Up – Exposure compensation (+/- 2 EV in 1/3 steps)
  • Down – Self-timer for 12 seconds (Off/On)
  • Left – Macro mode (Off, macro, super macro)
  • Right – Flash setting (Off, on, auto, on with red-eye reduction)

On the top of the Olympus Stylus 1040 are three things; there's the speaker, shutter button and a zoom switch. The zoom switch is tiny and sticks out of the camera just a little, so you could operate it with your index finger but most likely you'd rather use your fingernail.

There's nothing to see here except the side view of the Stylus 1040; the sliding cover which doubles as a power switch adds a couple of millimeters to the thickness, and the internal lens which never extends out of the camera.

The other side of the Stylus 1040 features a wrist strap eyelet and a single connector port for the bundled USB and A/V cables. The port is covered by a rubber piece which is attached to the camera.

At the bottom of the camera is the usual tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. While the compartment door is of decent quality, the tripod mount is made of plastic (hint: what happened to metal tripod mounts these days?).

Taking pictures (Shooting mode)

The Olympus Stylus 1040 displays a decent amount of information on its display. All the basic settings are shown, except it's missing exposure information (shutter speed and aperture indications). You can toggle the display of information on and off, and you can also choose to show a simple 3X3 framing grid.

Hitting the menu button on the camera brings up a grid of submenus, some settings are actually accessible via the FUNCtion menu, but they're here as well in case you can't find them:

  • Guide – I've already told you about the Stylus 1040's useful built in guide.
  • Image quality – Set the camera's image quality (You can do this via the FUNCtion menu).
  • Reset – Performs a reset so all settings will be restored to their default values.
  • Camera menu – Change settings on the camera, there's everything from the Function menu here as well as other things like focus mode and you can also turn on digital zoom too (not that you'd want to).
  • Setup menu – For your first time with the camera when you set the date/time, language, screen brightness, etc.
  • Panorama – The camera sets itself up to guide you to take up to ten photos so they can be combined into a single large 'stitched' photo. An Olympus-branded xD-Picture card is required for this.
  • Scene mode – Pick another scene mode (only available when using scene modes, of course!)
  • Silent mode – Turns off all the camera sounds; great when taking photos during a presentation or play

You can select a range of image resolutions from 10 megapixels (with a widescreen 16:9 setting) to VGA with two compression options. The widescreen image option shoots at 1080p resolution (1920 x 1080) which is essentially two megapixels and enough to fit your television perfectly. The settings that I would normally use and recommend would be full resolution along with 'Fine' compression.

There's a "Fine Zoom" option on the Stylus 1040, another feature found on many compact camera recently. Fine Zoom enables you to extend your zoom range by using reduced resolution. Instead of digital magnification (Which lowers image quality) used by digital zoom, Fine Zoom crops the center of the photo in order to get closer to your subject.


Perfect Shot Preview in action, displaying multiple brightness levels in this case

One thing that I wanna talk about on the Stylus 1040 is the Perfect Shot Preview that Olympus also introduced on their recent 2008 cameras. Perfect Shot Preview splits the screen into four areas, each showing the photo effects of various settings. For example, when you select exposure compensation, Perfect Shot Preview shows the outcomes of different values of compensation simultaneously before you take a photo. Thus, the name Perfect Shot Preview; which allows you to preview effects and make changes to achieve the desired effect before taking a photo. Kudos to Olympus for introducing such a useful feature; it saves the time and hassle needed to take multiple photos and sort thru them.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 has two macro modes; the first 'normal macro' mode has a minimum focus distance of 20 cm which isn't at all impressive. The other one is Super Macro mode, which zooms a little into the photo and limits the focusing range to 7 – 50 cm. While that 7 cm range is more like it, there are still other cameras out there which can go in closer to around 3 to 5 cm.

Then there's scene modes, there aren't too many to drive you crazy, just a few for everyday point-and-shoot pics and they are: Portrait, landscape, landscape+portrait, night portrait, sports, self-portrait, cuisine and smile shot. Of course, Face Detection is here too, it's supposed to track up to 16 faces in a frame. Sure it works (it detects faces) but it doesn't get all the faces at one go most of the time. Smile Shot works with Face Detection with the addition that it takes three photos in a row when a smile is detected.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 also touts an Intelligent Auto mode which automatically detects the scene being shot and the camera chooses between portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro or sport for you.

One thing that's missing from the Olympus Stylus 1040 is optical image stabilization, which reduces blur caused by shaky hands or slow shutter speeds... and most of the Stylus 1040's competitors have optical image stabilization already. Instead, the Stylus 1040 has the digital version of image stabilization which isn't as effective and cannot replace the 'real' thing. Digital image stabilization on the Stylus 1040 merely boosts ISO (The side effect being reduced image quality).

Video Recording

The Olympus Stylus 1040 has a standard 30 FPS VGA movie mode with sound. A 2 GB memory card will hold about 20 minutes of video at the highest quality and frame rate settings. You also have the option to reduce the resolution to QVGA (320 x 240), cut the frame rate by half (15 FPS) or do both, which naturally allows you to record longer video clips.

If you're using microSDHC cards (4 GB and above) with the Stylus 1040, the camera's firmware must be at least version 1.1 or later, although I don't think your firmware will be that old anyway, since the camera has just been launched (or is going to launch in a few weeks time in some parts of the world)

Other than that, there's not much else to the movie mode. You can't autofocus or use optical zoom while recording on the Stylus 1040 while brightness is automatically adjusted by the camera. Video and audio quality were both good.

Performance

The Olympus Stylus 1040 starts up the moment you slide the front cover down, that's really quick. It normally takes about 1/6 to 1/2 second to focus; telephoto and low-light focusing can take a little longer, up to a second at most. At times, the Stylus 1040 can't seem to lock focus in very dark conditions, especially at telephoto... thanks to the absence of that AF-assist beam.

Shot-to-shot speed - 1 shot every 2.3 seconds, about average
Flash recharge time using a fully charged battery - 5 seconds on average

There's just a little shutter lag when using the camera in dark places, but otherwise, it's not an issue. In terms of zoom speed, the lens goes very silently from wide-angle to telephoto in under two seconds.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 has only one continuous shooting mode which is high-speed continuous. It takes up to twelve photos at a whopping 14 frames per second, the catch being that the resolution is lowered to only 3 megapixels. I'm disappointed that the Stylus 1040 has no full-resolution burst mode.

The Stylus 1040 powers down instantly when you close the sliding cover. Overall performance was just average - there's nothing particularly speedy about the Stylus 1040.

Image Quality

Time to check out the Stylus 1040's image quality:


ISO 50 (f3.5, 1/6 sec)


ISO 100 (f3.5, 1/13 sec)


ISO 200 (f3.5, 1/25 sec)


ISO 400 (f3.5, 1/50 sec)


ISO 800 (f3.5, 1/100 sec)


ISO 1600 (f3.5, 1/160 sec)

ISO 3200 (f4.5, 1/200 sec)

Photos shot at ISO 80 and ISO 100 look very clean. A little noise ISO 200, there is a tad increase in noise and it gets noticeable only at ISO 400. However, these are perfectly usable with only very fine details being slightly blurred.

Only at ISO 800 do you start seeing noise reduction smudging away some details. ISO 1600 gets really noisy with some color banding. I'd try to avoid ISO 800 and 1600 unless it's for web display (small thumbnails).

At ISO 3200, the resolution drops to 3 megapixels and photos start to turn very soft with most of the detail washed away by noise reduction. I would stay away completely from ISO 3200.

There is a teeny bit of barrel distortion and some vignetting with the Stylus 1040 while pincushion distortion is not an issue. Chromatic aberration (color fringing) levels are very low for an ultra-compact camera. Redeye is an issue but thankfully it can be removed via the built-in redeye fix tool in playback.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 has good image quality overall.

Photo gallery

Check out all the photos taken by the camera in the Olympus Stylus 1040 photo gallery!

 

Playback

 

The Olympus Stylus 1040 is able to playback stills and movies (With sound) and has a pretty basic playback features. The things you can do include: Protect images, thumbnail playback, print marking, play slideshows, image rotation and attach a voice clip to photos. You can magnify still photos by 10X and take a look around using the 4 arrow buttons.

 

Images can be displayed as single photos or in sets of four, nine, sixteen or even ant-sized twenty-five thumbnails!

 
Tiny thumbnails and calendar view

A useful calendar view is available too so you can see the days you've been out and about taking photos. As for movie viewing, there's a fast-forward and reverse available, but that's about it.

 

There's a basic image editing feature on the Stylus 1040 called Perfect Fix. It's able to perform the digital image stabilization, Shadow Adjustment and red-eye correction.

The Olympus Stylus 1040 shows everything you need to know about your photos in playback mode, including exposure information which wasn't available in shooting mode. Everything's here except a histogram.

Conclusion

If you've always been dreaming for an ultra-thin camera, that your friends all seem to have, that you can bring to parties and such, then the Olympus Stylus 1040 may be your dream finally coming true. The Stylus 1040 is one of the newest models released by Olympus, announced a little more than a week ago and already made available.

The thing going for the Stylus 1040 is that it's a value packed, 10 megapixel snapper. First off, the stylish design alone (which seems rather alike to another thin camera *ahem*) of the Stylus 1040 doesn't make it look like a $199 camera and the camera can use, not one, but two kinds of memory cards thanks to the bundled microSD adapter.

I can see the Olympus Stylus 1040 is oriented towards party-goers and young outgoing people who may not have much experience using a camera other than just 'point-and-shoot'. To the rescue is the Stylus 1040 has a built-in guide and the help system is available almost anywhere in the camera. There's also Intelligent Auto (which automatically selects a mode for you) and Perfect Shot Preview which allows you to view multiple effects of photos and choose the kind of setting you're looking for, before even taking the picture.

Unfortunately, maybe the Stylus 1040 is too 'social event' oriented, in my opinion, that it forgets about other things in life. It lacks full-resolution 10 MP continuous shooting; although that's compensated with a VERY fast 14 FPS burst mode (only at 3 megapixels, mind you). The below average battery life means you won't be taking the camera on long holiday trips without an extra battery and the charger... and there's no autofocus assist lamp, nor is there any long exposure mode for night shots. Build quality is okay except the plastic tripod mount and small zoom controller.

Teenagers and socialites (and people with a lot of family friends) will appreciate the Olympus Stylus 1040's feature pack which is geared for such a market. The Face Detection system detects up to 16 faces (though it doesn't always 'see' everyone), Intelligent Auto mode, built-in red-eye removal in playback and good image quality at ISO 400 and below will certainly do more than please such a crowd. While it has its trade-offs, the main thing going for the Stylus 1040 is the price - it's affordable, with a retail price tag of $200, it's almost half the price of its 'similar' looking competitors.

What's hot:

  • Affordable price
  • Stylish, thin and looks more expensive than it really is
  • Compatible with both xD-Picture and microSD cards
  • Very usable LCD outdoors and indoors, with backlighted buttons
  • Intuitive shooting with Intelligent Auto and Face Detection
  • Helpful built-in guide and help system
  • Perfect Shot Preview is useful to view effects before snapping
  • Shadow Adjustment brightens photos; available in playback too
  • Calendar view and red-eye fix in playback mode are useful
  • Good image quality below ISO 400

What's not:

  • No manual controls
  • Long exposure mode is nowhere to be found
  • Lack of full-resolution continuous shooting
  • Lacks autofocus assist lamp; bad low-light AF
  • No optical image stabilization
  • Below average battery life
  • Plastic tripod mount and tiny zoom controller
  • Redeye (removable via playback tool) and noise + detail loss at high ISO speeds

Recommended Accessories:

  • 2 GB microSD/xD-Picture card
  • Spare rechargeable lithium-ion battery

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