Monday, December 01, 2014

Olympus Stylus SH-1

After all the heavy shooting in Vietnam, I suddenly felt the urge to use something simpler and more down to earth for this weekend's shutter therapy session. I wanted to use the Stylus 1 but I could not find one in the drawer hence I took a quick look around and found this baby, the Olympus Stylus SH-1. It caught my attention mainly because of the PEN styled classic design, and as I inspected the camera further, I realized the one important fact about this camera which not many people know: this is probably one of the very few compact cameras (well, that Panasonic FZ1000, which is not exactly a compact, due to the SLR-sized body) with built in 5-Axis Image Stabilization. The SH-1 has a 24x zoom range, which is massive for a camera of such small size, sporting focal length of 25mm wide angle to the farthest tele end of 600mm. Typically most people would shrug off superzoom cameras in a compact body, since anything beyond 8-10x zoom is deemed useless when the camera is shot hand-held. Nonetheless, the inclusion of 5-Axis IS changed that, and I was eager to see how much the 5-Axis IS benefited the long zoom of SH-1. 

This is not a review of the SH-1, think of this blog entry as me having fun with the camera, bringing it out for one full day, coming home with some quick snapshots. 

Olympus Stylus SH-1, image taken with OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens, the SH-1 being lit by an LED ringlight, and two small LED torch-lights. 


Now, it is prudent to bear in mind that SH-1 is a compact point and shoot camera, and was designed to be such a camera. It has the standard most widely used 1/2.3" image sensor, thus we should not be anticipating any miracles when it comes to image quality, in terms of sharpness or even low light shooting capabilities. In fact, the camera has very little manual functions, with limited control (you do get to control basic settings like ISO, shutter speed, etc). 

I fully understand that this is a small, easy to carry around camera, yet it has that superzoom capability which once upon a time was the most sought after feature in a camera. 

I took this SH-1 out on the streets, with a few things in mind: just to have fun, not to think too much, and use the camera like a point and shoot, and the only thing I wanted to test was the 5-Axis Image Stabilization, did it help to stabilize the long zoom range?

All images from here onward were taken with the Olympus Stylus SH-1, with post-processing done (contrast, white balance, and sharpness enhancement)

128mm 

97mm



169mm

45mm

66mm super macro mode

225mm

25mm

Lets get the honest, straightforward stuff out of the way. The image quality was nothing to write home about. There is no way to control the noise filter/reduction in camera, thus the images even shot at lowest ISO exhibited aggressive noise reduction, hence smearing of details was evident. I would not dare to go anywhere above ISO400, and even the ISO400 image was not something I would normally be happy with. Colours are punchy and saturated. Dynamic range was very limited, and yes, it comes with the usual limitations of a compact camera. The difference between SH-1 and Stylus 1 in terms of image quality is huge. 

It took me a lot of work in post-processing to achieve the final look that I was satisfied with, which I am showing here. 

The SH-1 does come with some useful features, such as Wi-Fi connectivity and Touch Screen AF (you can tap to shoot immediately much like the newer PEN and OM-D models). The focusing was quick, though not as lightning fast as I would have hoped, but the AF was very accurate. 

The good news is of course, about the 5-Axis Image Stabilization. Considering this being the main selling point of the higher end Micro Four Thirds OM-D series, I do find the 5-Axis IS inside the SH-1 being a little strange. The 5-Axis IS worked efficiently, I was able to hand-hold my shots confidently down to 1/30sec when shooting at longest telephoto end of 600mm. When I was sitting down in a more relaxed position, I managed to shoot 1/13sec hand-held at 600mm, and the image came out sharp. That itself, is quite a feat, and perhaps this is the most usable and capable superzoom camera, in terms of practicality. No doubt, in plenty of sunlight situation, there is no issue shooting at the longest zoom. 

The benefit of the 5-Axis Image Stabilization can also be seen in video recording. Just like the E-M5 and E-M1, the 5-Axis Image Stabilization stabilizes the video recorded by hand-holding, as you moved the camera around the video is still smooth and shows very little jumpiness or shakiness. And you can get this benefit at full 1080p HD recording, at 60p. 

49mm

45mm

66mm Super macro mode

 60mm

 49mm

600mm (Full Zoom) taken at 1/13sec hand-held

25mm widest angle

128mm (about 5x zoom)

600mm Full Zoom

25mm

I must say that I am impressed with the implementation of the 5-Axis Image Stabilization in such a small camera, SH-1. I wish this 5-Axis was inside the Stylus 1 instead, that would have been interesting. The benefits were real, and does improve real life shooting significantly, hand-holding long zoom range both in still shooting and video recording. 

I do wish that the SH-1 has much better image quality (something similar to Stylus 1 would be great) and has more features and controls (able to turn off noise filter, or better, ability to shoot RAW). 

SAMPLE VIDEO
OLYMPUS SH-1 with 5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION



If you want a fuss free, easy to use, and a compact camera you can hand-hold very confidently, SH-1 is for you. The 24x zoom range is a bonus (I do not think many people would need anything more than 10x zoom) and the SH-1 is one sexy looking camera indeed. 

If you are a photography enthusiast looking for a compact camera with lots of manual controls and functions, with very good image output, the recommendation from Olympus would be the Stylus 1. 



Anyone using Olympus SH-1? Do share your thoughts. 

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14 comments :

  1. Nice IQ for a compact camera.

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    Replies
    1. I don't think it is good enough, but the images were already post-processed for this one.

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    2. Oic. Should be better than stylus 1 right?

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    3. No, Stylus 1 is much better. Bigger sensor and much better lens.

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  2. Your images look great Robin

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Lets go shoot again together some time.

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  3. Hi Robin,

    Seeing your photos i am convinced to buy Olympus OMD camera but unfortunately Olympus is not available in my place Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Even most of the unknown brands are available here but not Olympus..Strange..

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    Replies
    1. I am not sure why Olympus did not go in Dubai. Olympus is everywhere here in South East Asian region.

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  4. Great pics, Robin. I reckon you would find a way to take wonderful pics with almost any camera!

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  5. I really wonder why Olympus don't just add RAW capability to every camera they make. Or at least they could provide a way to get RAW images. Just like this superzoom could be far better if it had RAW, if Oly made a TOUGH camera with RAW I'd buy it the same day it appeared in the stores!

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    Replies
    1. The difference on raw and jpg is normally quite small on smaller sensors, and the in-camera jpg conversion is doing miracles - even in the fuji x10 series the raw files are difficult to get any better than the jpg, for small-sensor cameras it is usually better to use time to take more photos and use the settings correctly

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  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  7. In the course of researching many cameras, and having an affinity for Olympus, I gravitated to a Stylus 1 which I now use as my go to camera and the SH 1 which I just ordered I will use for as my carry camera when i really need the convenience of a pocket camera. Your blogs/reviews were very helpful and as an Olympus employee I find your assessments to be very objective. I am nervous about the image quality of the SH 1 after your "post processing" comment and wonder why a few reviewers noted the camera images had plenty of "pop" until loaded on their devices when they tended to show flatter and less vivid. Any thoughts?

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