DPInterface Olympus Stylus 810 Review
Brad Soo - April 29th, 2006

Olympus' new top-of-the-line Stylus camera is, supposedly, the Stylus 810. It has 8 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom lens and a high-resolution 2.5 inch LCD. Best of all, it's weatherproof (different from waterproof) - means you can even pour water on it (see photo above). Being a sturdy and lasting camera is one aspect and image quality is another. Let's find out more about the latter.

The Olympus Stylus 810 is also known as the Olympus 810 outside of the USA.

Olympus Stylus-series comparison

And here is a comparison chart of the recent Olympus Stylus series:

 

Olympus
Stylus 710

Olympus
Stylus 720SW

Olympus
Stylus 810

Original retail/
current price*

$349/$295

$399/$371

$429/$399

Resolution

7.1 megapixels

7.1 megapixels

8.0 megapixels

CCD sensor size

1/2.3 inch

1/2.3 inch

1/1.8 inch

Lens focal length

3X (37-111 mm)

3X (38-114 mm)

3X (35-105 mm)

Lens aperture

f3.4 - f5.7

f3.5 - f5.0

f2.8 - f4.7

LCD size

2.5 inch
(115k pixels)

2.5 inch
(115k pixels)

2.5 inch
(230k pixels)

Super macro mode

8 cm

7 cm

10 cm

Shooting modes

28 modes

28 modes

24 modes

Continuous (3 MP)

3.7 FPS

3.7 FPS

4.2 FPS

Movie mode

VGA/15 FPS

VGA/15 FPS

VGA/30 FPS

ISO range

64 - 1600

64 - 1600

64 - 3200

Max. flash range

4.0/2.4 m

3.8/2.6 m

5.2/3.2 m

Internal memory

19 MB

19 MB

28 MB

Battery life

180 shots

180 shots

250 shots

Body rating

Weatherproof

Waterproof

Weatherproof

*As of April 29th, 2006

Size and Weight

The Stylus 810 is a fairly compact camera. Take a look:

(173.3)  90.4 x 56.5 x 26.4 mm (165 g) - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
(171.2)  89.0 x 58.5 x 23.7 mm (130 g) - Casio Exilim Z850
(177.2)  92.7 x 56.7 x 27.8 mm (155 g) - Fujifilm FinePix F30
(183.6)  96.0 x 62.0 x 25.6 mm (130 g) - HP Photosmart R927
(163.6)  92.0 x 50.0 x 21.6 mm (120 g) - Kodak EasyShare V603
(184.0)  92.0 x 61.0 x 31.0 mm (170 g) - Nikon Coolpix P3
(171.1)  94.8 x 55.9 x 20.4 mm (103 g) - Olympus Stylus 710
(169.5)  91.0 x 58.7 x 19.8 mm (149 g) - Olympus Stylus 720SW
(175.9)  97.0 x 56.2 x 22.7 mm (145 g) - Olympus Stylus 810
(170.2)  94.0 x 50.8 x 25.4 mm (132 g) - Panasonic Lumix FX01
(166.0)  88.5 x 54.5 x 23.0 mm (125 g) - Pentax Optio A10
(179.6)  94.2 x 60.6 x 24.8 mm (161 g) - Sony Cyber-shot W100

As usual, I've included the "DPI measurement unit" (As opposed to volume) on the left for a more accurate impression of a camera's size.

The Olympus Stylus 810 is a fairly small camera. It's not too tiny or light and not too large or heavy either. Anyway, it's never a problem carrying these compact cameras around.

Open up the Box

Open up that box and in it you'll find these:

  • Rechargeable LI-12B lithium-ion battery
  • Battery charger
  • Wrist strap
  • USB cable
  • CD-ROM
  • User's manual

Storage and Power

Olympus gave the Stylus 810 just 28 MB of internal memory - yeah, thanks Olympus! So, getting at least a 512 MB xD-Picture card is crucial. While the Stylus 810 doesn't benefit from high-speed cards, getting a Type-H xD-Picture card can speed things up when transferring photos. Thankfully, the prices of xD-Picture cards are dipping enough to make them affordable.

240 shots - Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH
440 shots - Casio Exilim Z850
580 shots - Fujifilm FinePix F30
200 shots - HP Photosmart R927
150 shots - Kodak EasyShare V603
200 shots - Nikon Coolpix P3
180 shots - Olympus Stylus 710
180 shots - Olympus Stylus 720SW
250 shots - Olympus Stylus 810
320 shots - Panasonic Lumix FX01
150 shots - Pentax Optio A10
360 shots - Sony Cyber-shot W100

The Olympus Stylus 810 does okay in terms of battery life - 250 shots (CIPA Standard). In other words, I consider cameras able to do over 300 shots as above average, though this is not the case. Be sure to get an extra LI-12B battery if you're shoot often.

 

Extras

The Stylus 810 has only one accessory - an AC adapter.

Camera Tour

The Olympus Stylus 810's gold/beige casing is the only color it's available in.

The entire camera is weatherproof means it can survive in rain, snow, sand and other elements. The Stylus 810 can even follow you while bathing (not a soak in the tub though)! As you can see, I've just finished washing the dishes... and the Stylus 810! But try not to "punish" the camera too frequently!

The Olympus Stylus 810 has a self-timer lamp and flash on the top left. The flash is fairly powerful, having a range of up to 5.2 m at wide-angle and 3.2 m at telephoto.

The Olympus lens is equivalent to 35 - 105 mm and has an aperture range of f2.8 - f4.7. This is the "standard" lens found on most compact cameras like this and much better than the Stylus 710's lens. The lens has 3 barrel tiers and two (not one) metal pieces act as a barrier when the camera is off. Near the outside rim of the lens is a microphone.

The Olympus Stylus 810 features a 2.5 inch LCD which has a mighty 230,000 pixels. It has double the resolution of the Stylus 710's LCD and is visibly sharper with both cameras side-by-side. The LCD brightens a ton in low-light but is still not clear outdoors. There's no optical viewfinder here - Olympus seems to have dropped it since 5 Stylus' ago.

The zoom controller is located on the top right of the Stylus 810. And then there's the mode dial. I'll go through it anti-clockwise:

  • Movie mode
  • Guide - A help system which also acts like an assistant - giving advice and changing settings if you want
  • Scene position - 20 scene modes at your disposal; Portrait, landscape, landscape + portrait, sport, indoor, candle, self portrait, available light portrait, sunset, fireworks, museum, behind glass, documents, auction, shoot & select 1, shoot & select 2, beach, snow)
  • Shooting mode
  • Playback mode

The MENU, DISPlay/help and delete photo buttons around the 5-way controller are pretty self explanatory. Now, I wanna talk about the button under the mode dial - it marks photos for printing and you can also hit it to activate digital image stabilization.

The digital image stabilization on the Olympus Stylus 810 works very differently from optical image stabilization and the usual digital image stabilization. Optical image stabilization moves the glass in the lens - this is the most effective and "pure" way. Usually, digital image stabilization analyzes the photos and uses the borders of the CCD to "stabilize" the shot; resulting in a more zoomed in shot and image quality suffers a little.

Now, the digital image stabilization modes on the Stylus 810 works differently - it boosts ISO if needed. Whether that's a good or bad thing is up to you but I'd say true optical image stabilization works the best.

The 5-way controller has these functions:

  • Up - Exposure compensation (2 in 1/3 increments)
  • Down - Self-timer (On/off)
  • Left - Focus (Auto, macro, super-macro)
  • Right - Flash mode (Auto, auto with red-eye reduction, on, off)

Pressing the center button is to confirm a setting or bring up the FUNCtion menu. While the FUNCtion menu isn't exactly like Canon's... it does the job:

  • Shooting (Auto/program - program unlocks the settings below)
  • White balance (Auto, daylight, cloudy, tungsten, warm fluorescent, neutral fluorescent and cool fluorescent)
  • ISO sensitivity (ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • "Gear box" (Single shot, continuous, continuous high-speed)
  • Metering method (ESP multi-pattern, spot)

The ISO 3200 option lowers resolution to 3 MP (SQ1) so noise will, hopefully, be less visible. The high-speed continuous shooting lowers resolution to the same setting as above to achieve 4 FPS shooting up to 10 shots (based on my testing). Now, on with the review...

There's only two things up here; a power button and shutter button. As you can see, Olympus is taking a radical approach when it comes to making the depth of the Stylus 810. The camera becomes slimmer towards the left.

Nothing to see here: just a battery/xD-Picture card slot, a speaker and tripod mount. The tripod mount is located at a very odd position - at the very end of the camera. The last camera I've seen with this placement is the Canon S500!

Shooting

The Olympus Stylus 810 has 8 image size options ranging from 8 megapixels down to VGA - There's no way to select compression though.

The Olympus Stylus 810 is just point-and-shoot so there's nothing much else to change:

  • 6 white balance presets (no custom option)
  • ISO (64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200)
  • Auto focus (ESP, spot)
  • Metering method (Multi, spot)
  • Panorama

The Olympus Stylus 810 has a disappointing 10 cm macro mode. Other cameras can go much closer - even as close as 1 cm.

Recording

The Olympus Stylus 810 does okay when it comes to movies. The Stylus 810 can take VGA movies with sound at 30 FPS till the memory card fills up. Exposure is automatically adjusted while recording but focus and zoom cannot be used.

The quality of video was just so-so while audio quality was good.

Performance

The Olympus Stylus 810 starts up in two seconds, takes less than a second to focus and takes its first shot from startup in a total of 4 seconds. The camera took 1 shot every 1.8 seconds.

Image Quality

In this review, I'll be using the loaned Olympus water tub - courtesy of Olympus, of course! The tub has a built-in pipe system so you can hook it up to your shower and fill it up with water (meant for the waterproof Stylus 720SW to go "diving"). Enough of that, let's get down to business!


ISO 64 (f2.8, 1/2 sec)


ISO 100 (f2.8, 1/2 sec)


ISO 200 (f2.8, 1/4 sec)


ISO 400 (f2.8, 1/8 sec)


ISO 800 (f2.8, 1/20 sec)


ISO 1600 (f2.8, 1/25 sec)


ISO 3200 (f2.8, 1/50 sec)

Things are okay at ISO 64 but noise is already coming up at ISO 100 (Don't you just hate that?). Things are getting worse at ISO 200 and ISO 400. At ISO 800 and ISO 1600, I think you could get a small print or crop from those. Strange enough, the ISO 1600 crop looks better than the ISO 800 one. I've no comment about the ISO 3200 crop other than it's excessively grainy, pixelated and of course, totally unacceptable! There's a bit of chromatic aberration (color fringing) in those crops.

I didn't find barrel or pincushion distortion to be a problem but redeye is. The image quality of the Olympus Stylus 810 is just average with noise being a fair issue.

Photo gallery

All the photos in the Olympus Stylus 810 gallery.

Playback

In playback, the Olympus Stylus 810 can playback stills and movies (With sound) as well as do all this: Print marking, slideshow, simple photo edit, voice memo, protect image, rotate, downsize and create calendar.

There's an album feature which uses the memory card (!) to store the albums. Whack the images off the card, and you're whacking off the albums as well - best use the internal memory!

 

Conclusion

Stylish and all-weather, the Stylus 810 is a pocket point-and-shoot camera with everything you need to, well, just point and shoot - 8 megapixels for cropping/printing, a large visible LCD, in-camera guide and 20 scene modes.

Strange enough, the Olympus Stylus 810 has dropped the few manual controls (aperture and shutter priority) that were found on the Stylus 800 and the lower end Stylus 710 has more scene modes - four extra to be exact - so is this the flagship Stylus? I don't think so - at least for me.

The Stylus 810 blasts off 10 shots are a whooping 4 FPS, but with the resolution at 3 megapixels only. When it came to "normal" continuous shooting at full 8 megapixels, it was slow and limited. And that isn't just it: overall performance lagged behind competition and by the looks of it, it was the camera which couldn't keep up with the xD-Picture card!

The Stylus 810 has a high-resolution LCD good in low-light and a fairly powerful flash, but what good are those with terrible low-light focusing? Speaking of focusing, the Stylus 810 has a mediocre 10 cm macro mode - that's not for a $429 camera!

Image quality of the Stylus 810 was not impressive for a camera this price either! Too much noise, some soft photos; these are already bad enough. And there's no real optical image stabilization too! Finally, the movie mode has good resolution and frame rate but just too simple and the album feature is not well implemented.

So let's answer the ultimate question - Is the Stylus 810 a bang for your buck or even close? No - Apparently not as it has no strong points in performance, image quality or special features. If you're looking for features like low-light shooting, good high ISO, manual controls, powerful flash and/or excellent battery life, consider a thought about the Canon SD700 IS, Fujifilm F30 or Sony W100 - not the Olympus Stylus 810.

What's hot:

  • 8 megapixels in an all-weather body
  • Average battery life
  • Large high-resolution LCD which is sharp and visible
  • Fairly powerful flash
  • Extremely high-speed continuous shooting (though at 3 MP only)
  • A great big collection of scene modes
  • Camera guide and help built-in (useful for beginners)
  • Unlimited VGA 30 FPS movie mode

What's not:

  • No manual controls (The Stylus 800 had priority modes)
  • Good low-light viewing but bad low-light focusing
  • Slow (for "normal" continuous shooting) and limited continuous shooting
  • No real optical image stabilization
  • Not-even-close 10 cm macro mode
  • Performance lagging behind competition; could be faster and better
  • Just average image quality; noise is an issue, soft photos
  • Movie mode is basic and too bare: no zoom, focus when recording
  • Album feature not well implemented - ought to use internal memory

Recommended Accessories

  • 512 MB xD-Picture card
  • Extra rechargeable LI-12B lithium-ion battery

Other Cameras

Here are some other cameras you might want to consider:

Canon PowerShot SD700 IS Digital ELPH - Just 6 megapixels and no manual controls but equipped with 4x optical zoom, optical image stabilizer, a higher resolution LCD and ISO 800.

Casio Exilim Z850 - Same limited manual mode but also with priority modes. It's not that fast but has a ton of scene modes, some sort of high ISO and excellent movie mode.

Fujifilm FinePix F30 - You're not gonna get this one for movies. It's image quality you want! The FinePix F30 delivers excellent photos - even at its ISO 3200 setting! It has full manual controls, a high resolution LCD, 3x optical zoom - what else do you want? It doesn't have image stabilization though.

HP Photosmart R927 - The flagship of the HP Photosmart line of cameras has 8 megapixels, a huge 3 inch LCD and an array of special (some not very useful) features. It has a small amount of buffer and no high ISO though.

Kodak EasyShare V603 - Your average 6 megapixel camera with a 2.5 inch LCD and excellent movie mode. Again, it's slow, no high ISO and no manual controls.

Nikon Coolpix P3 - The P3 which lacks the good battery life, high ISO and video quality makes up with image stabilization, aperture priority and WiFi.

Panasonic Lumix FX01 - This 28 mm ultra-compact with no manual controls and no high ISO has 6 megapixels, optical image stabilization and good battery life.

Pentax Optio A10 - Another image stabilized camera with 8 megapixels and 2.5 inch LCD. It doesn't have high ISO and good battery life though.

Sony Cyber-shot W100 - 8 megapixels, a 2.5 inch LCD (with lower-resolution) but has a more usable high-sensitivity mode, a manual mode and good battery life.

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