Wednesday, 13 August 2014
Using the Olympus Stylus 1
I've struggled to find the right balance between usability and weight with cameras when on holiday. My big DSLRs are really too big to be convenient for much of the time. Aside from taking much backpack/luggage space, they can be heavy, rattly and sometimes draw too much attention.
This year I took my little Olympus Stylus 1 camera to Norway and I've been very pleased with the experience. I've already had it a while, so was fairly familiar with its use. It is the size of a point and shoot and has a fixed zoom lens, from the equivalent of 28-300mm with f2.8 aperture.
Of course, it won't create the depth of field of a 35mm camera, but it still has plenty of controls as well as the basic 'auto' mode. The camera has a high quality feel and I really like the control wheel around the lens, which can either be used for manual focus when it is smooth to operate or for other controls such as aperture, when it is clicky to turn. It is very reminiscent of the old ring on an OM-1/OM-2 type film camera and a great asset to handling. I'd quite like to see Olympus introduce it on their next generation of OM-D E cameras.
Somehow the controls are about right on this camera. Its easy enough to put into unfussy automatic mode, but has plenty of fairly analog-type adjustments right at hand. Others have said the menus are complicated, but I've found that by using the switches and dials this feels much more like a camera than many of the highly computerised and menu dependent DLSRs.
In a way, the Olympus's OM-D is my camera for comparison with the Stylus. The OM-D is really a category or two 'higher' in functionality, but actually I'm surprised how good the regular pictures are from the little Stylus. It's clear that Olympus took many of the design cues from their other more fancy modern digital cameras.
Like a proper SLR, it also has a good quality electronic viewfinder as well as a swivelling back finder. I somehow still prefer the viewfinder way of taking pictures in most circumstances, compared to holding a camera at arms length and watching the mini TV screen on the back. Exceptions to that are maybe concerts or crowds, when an adjustable back screen is quite useful.
I took a picture of the Stylus next to one of my old-school 35mm film Olympus OMs too. The Stylus shape is somehow reminiscent of the OM-4, although it is quite a lot smaller. Compared with a Canon 5D DSLR, it is positively tiny, yet possible to get some pretty snaps.
I'm about to go away again for a few days. I'll only take the Stylus and see what it can do.