Olympus Stylus SH-1 review

Olympus SH-1 is a compact ultra zoom camera, sporting 24x optical zoom, 16 megapixel image sensor, full HD video at 60p and attractive design. As far as I see, it is not very popular model (few Amazon reviews and low interest on Youtube) and that’s a shame since it has some qualities no other cameras in this category have. Although not flawless, it is packed full of features, has quite usable image quality and probably the best auto focus on the market.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: Compact ultrazoom
  • Dimensions: 109 x 63 x 42 mm (4.29 x 2.48 x 1.65″)
  • Weight: 271g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm), 16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • ISO range: 100 – 6,400
  • Image stabilization: Yes (on the sensor)
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash
  • Continuous shooting: 11 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 640,000 dots, touch sensitive
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 (60p, 30p), 1280 x 720 (30p), 640 x 480 (30 fps)
  • Connectors: USB 2.0, micro HDMI, Wi-Fi built-in

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Olympus Stylus SH-1 is quite an attractive little camera. Design is reminiscent of PEN models and I find it quite nice compared to most competitors which are designed like a single colored brick. The combination of silver and black plastic looks great and so is the build quality. Although none of the materials used is better than average, everything is assembled well together and felt very solid in my hand.

SH-1 is easy and comfortable to hold thanks to the small but sufficiently pronounced grip and well shaped thumb rest on the back of the camera. Buttons on the back are a bit small but provide a satisfying “click” when pressed. The same can be said for the shutter button. Beside few controls on the back and the mode dial on the top, there are no other buttons or dials on this camera and this will appeal to less experienced users – SH-1 has a look of a camera easy to use.

User interface is pretty straightforward: quick menu contains often used settings like white balance, ISO, drive mode and image effect settings, and everything else is in the main menu. Both menu systems are easy to navigate.

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 LENS

The lens has a very usable range covering from 24 to 600 mm (24x zoom). Image stabilization is not in the lens but is achieved with the moving sensor (equally good). Optical quality is quite decent. The lens is satisfyingly sharp even on maximum zoom (that cannot be said for some competitors like Panasonic TZ-60). On wide angle, corners are a bit blurry but once again, I’m not expecting flawless performance at this price and physical size. Various imperfections like chromatic aberrations and light fall off are well controlled.

LCD

LCD has a now standard 3 inch diagonal and 460,000 dots. Some cameras have more (around a million dots) but in real life this LCD proved to be excellent performer. It is bright and has perfect viewing angles. It is also touch sensitive – you can set the camera to take the picture right after it focuses.

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

Sensor has small dimensions – 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm) and 16 megapixels. Image quality left me with mixed feelings. First of all, SH-1 is one of those cameras with very aggressive noise reduction. When viewed at 100% zoom, images show a drastic lack of fine details even at base ISO value. This will turn down any user who places high importance on image quality, but SH-1 is not made for them anyway. When viewed on camera LCD or computer at normal size (image fills the screen) images look very attractive. Light metering is bright and images pop out at the first sight. Automatic white balance is very good and colors are well saturated. When shooting very colorful object like flowers, any additional color boost will look dreadful – just leave the camera on default settings and that should be enough. In scenarios with high dynamic range it is wise to use negative exposure compensation since SH-1 meters light very brightly and can lead to overexposure.

In low light, images are usable but you can really see the noise creeping in. Also, automatic white balance can be confused under orange street lighting and produce to orange photos – manual white balance is advised.

Altogether, SH-1 produces very attractive images which will appeal to those who have no desire to post process them on PC and that is in line with the way SH-1 is thought out.

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 MEMORY AND BATTERY

Olympus SH-1 uses Li-Ion battery capable of around 300 shots on average. This is relatively good result since most camera of this type go only up to around 200 shots. Battery is charged inside the cameras using supplied AC adapter and USB cable. Sadly, USB connector is not of the standard kind and one must wonder how to charge it if you lose the cable. This type of cable is not available in average stores and this might be a problem on trips or holidays.

This camera is compatible with widely available SD memory cards.

AUTO FOCUS AND RESPONSIVITY

Overall responsivity is very good. SH-1 never took more than a second to turn on, display any menu or enter image playback. Combined with the 11 fps burst, you get one snappy camera!

Regarding auto focus, one must wonder how much time Olympus spent in perfecting it, since this is probably the fastest focusing camera among all compacts. It simply flies! SH-1 never needed more than a fraction of a second to lock focus in good light and even low light is not a problem. Just take a look at night video sample below where I zoom onto cathedral at maximum optical zoom and the camera focuses around a second and never losses focus. I never saw this level of performance in any other compact.

OLYMPUS SH-1 VIDEO RECORDING

Video recording is available in Full HD (1920×1080) at 60 frames per second. Stereo microphone is built-in, but there is no 3,5mm input for better external microphone. Video quality is quite good with excellent exposure and well saturated colors.




OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 REVIEW CONCLUSION 

Overall, SH-1 is a very good performer. This is one of those cameras that delivers on all fronts from image quality, video, ease of use or overall speed. If I have to point out single aspect of this camera it would be auto focus. SH-1 is probably the fastest focusing compact I ever reviewed. Combined with the 11fps burst this could be great choice for sports or fast moving objects like children or animals. SH-1 has some limitations though – aggressive noise reductions will turn down more demanding users but this camera is not built for them. It is perfect as an amateur travel and action camera and for people who will not post process images. SH-1 is not the cheapest in its class but you need to understand there’s a reason you pay a few bucks more for this camera – overall fast and responsive performance, fast AF, good lens, ease of use and good image and video quality.

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 PROS:

  • Image quality
  • Auto focus speed
  • Design
  • Easy to use
  • Good video recording
  • Battery life

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 CONS:

  • Propriety USB connector
  • Noise reduction far too aggressive

OLYMPUS STYLUS SH-1 PHOTO EXAMPLES

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