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)
66mm super macro mode
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.
66mm Super macro mode
600mm (Full Zoom) taken at 1/13sec hand-held
25mm widest angle
128mm (about 5x zoom)
600mm Full Zoom
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).
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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