Olympus Stylus 1050 SW Review - The Gear Junkie Scoop

The Gear Junkie Scoop: Olympus Stylus 1050 SW
By STEPHEN REGENOLD

You’re hiking up a talus field, camera in hand, sunlight glowing orange against a granite face above. A foot slips, your camera flies, crashing, ricocheting off stone, disappearing into a fissure below.

Many digital cameras would be dead in this circumstance. But the Olympus Stylus 1050 SW, a rough-and-tumble handheld model, can take a drop from five feet onto solid stone and still go on shooting the action to be had above on the mountain face.

I know this to be true, having dropped the camera a few times — albeit on purpose — from shoulder-height onto solid rock. It bounced. The metal case scratched up some. But pick it up, turn it on, and the little shooter acts like nothing has happened.

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Olympus Stylus 1050 SW

Beyond the drop test, in my time with the Stylus 1050 SW so far, I have swam and dived to 10 feet underwater with the movie mode on and have shot outdoors scenes in temperatures near freezing. A solid build, including a nice flip-open shutter guard, has kept the camera safe and fully functioning for now despite all the abuse I could find.

Available this month for $299.99, the Stylus 1050 SW is the latest iteration of Olympus’ (www.olympusamerica.com) ruggedized camera. Made for the adventure set — or klutzes with the propensity to drop cameras at home — the Stylus 1050 SW has all the requisite image-capture functionality expected in a point-and-shoot plus the ability to grab 10.1 megapixels of resolution, which is enough data to print out poster-size photographs of your latest summit pose.

It weighs about 6 ounces and measures about 3.7 × 2.4 × 0.76 inches — a tiny box that slips in any pocket. The flip-open shutter guard protects the flash and optics plus provides a quick way to turn the camera on and off.

A neat new feature is the Stylus 1050 SW’s Tap Control, which lets you change settings via taps on the edge of the camera body. Say you’re outside with gloves on and can’t push the tiny buttons. Based on an accelerometer sensor, this camera detects slight taps on its case to switch modes, change flash settings, and adjust shadow compensation. Tap Control worked well in my test and provided a quick way to go from the shooting mode to playback while working with the camera in water.

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Top view of the Stylus 1050 SW

Its photographic performance is on par with other point-and-shoots in its price range, which is to say good if you’re looking for snapshots or images to post online, though only mediocre if you’re used to the crisp imagery produced from an SLR.

In my tests, I found the camera’s auto mode unpredictable for good outdoors photography. Several times the camera had trouble quickly focusing on the subject and often overexposed bright skies and backgrounds. Few photos taken in this mode were tack sharp.

But the camera is packed with tricks and modes to help the average user get the best photograph in multiple situations. There’s a mode for shooting underwater, one for snow, and one for fireworks, as just three examples of more than a dozen. Advanced shooters can adjust white balance, ISO, focus settings and other manual features to attempt to capture the best shot without the automated handholding.

In its automatic modes, the Stylus 1050 SW suffers from shutter lag, meaning the focus-flash-capture process is delayed an instant behind the time when you press the button. Try and catch your buddy winging by on a mountain bike and you’re likely to miss the shot. But you can overcome the lag by employing Olympus’ Drive mode, which allows for a multiple-frames-per second capture — up to 5.4 frames a second at its speediest. The only disadvantage is that you cannot shoot multiple frames per second at a resolution higher than three megapixels.

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The Stylus 1050 SW is available in four colors

Set to its highest resolution — at 10.1 megapixels of capture — the camera has a slight delay between each photo taken where you must wait a second for a cycle before snapping another shot. This diminishes if you use a lower-resolution setting.

In the end, the Stylus 1050 SW can take nice photos, though you’ll need to learn to operate and employ its many modes as per the setting you’re in and the action scenario. It captures scenery and standard nature shots well and can handle action with some mode manipulation.

I found it to be a nice camera to take along in the outdoors, as it’s small and seemingly unbreakable. It’s a solid camera always there and ready to document my adventure no matter the trial, travail or misstep on a rocky trail.

—Stephen Regenold writes the weekly Gear Junkie Scoop for Outsidemag.com and TheGearJunkie.com.

Posted by clayton - 10/24/2008 01:24 PM

I’ve got the 720SW and agree it is a great outdoor camera. You should get great shots w/ some minor tweaks here and there. Where it faulters, and I’d be interested to know how the newer models compare, is in indoor situations and low light. I find it very grainy and slow in lower light situations and so we use my wife’s canon for indoor and the Olympus for outdoor.

Likewise the software that ships w/ the camera is ok.

Posted by Yeti - 10/26/2008 08:23 PM

Great review of this outstanding camera. I have had the 790SW for a while now and love it. Although the “tap” feature on the 1050SW is a pretty cool idea that the 790SW is lacking. One other thing worth mentioning is that I think you should really get a screen protector like ones made for MP3’s and Cell phones. I never did and my screen is suffering!

Posted by Hunterbase - 11/07/2008 11:05 AM

I love my 720SW. I’ve climbed a few 14,000 mountains, jumped off 15ft. waterfalls, gone on snowboarding trips and taken dozens of underwater photos with it. The camera is nearly indestructible, and works well enough to be my point-and-shoot on numerous more tame outings.

My only qualms are the severe shutter lag and the proprietary XD memory cards.

I’ve never used the included software, opting instead for other photo programs. All and all, an ideal point-and-shoot for anyone who goes outside.

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