Olympus Stylus 810 review: Olympus Stylus 810

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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Offers high ISO settings; digital image stabilization; quick burst mode; solid image quality.

The Bad LCD washes out in bright light; no manual controls; some features available only at lower resolutions.

The Bottom Line If you can stand a bit of noise, the Olympus Stylus 810 can handle your low-light and high-speed shots. Unfortunately, the easily washed-out LCD limits its use in sunlight.

7.0 Overall
  • Design 7.0
  • Features 7.0
  • Performance 7.0
  • Image quality 7.0

intro

The versatile, water-resistant 8-megapixel Olympus Stylus 810 adapts to dim environments as readily as it braves damp ones. Thanks to a combination of high sensitivity (up to ISO 3,200), digital image stabilization, and Olympus's Bright Capture pixel-pooling technology, the Stylus 810 can take and display acceptable pictures in low light. Unfortunately, this camera doesn't do as well in fair weather--its LCD tends to wash out in bright sunlight. If you don't need quite as many bells and whistles as this Best Buy exclusive offers, you can save a bit by opting for the Stylus 810's little brother, the Olympus Stylus 710. The Olympus Stylus 810's sleek, 6-ounce stainless steel body is easily pocketable and less than an inch thick, with its 35mm-to-105mm-equivalent lens fully retracted. Unlike its resilient brother, the Stylus 720 SW, the Stylus 810 isn't submersible, but it has better sealing and gasket coverage than a typical camera, which allows its weather-resistant body to keep shooting despite a bit of dust or precipitation.

You can easily manipulate most of the camera's controls with your right thumb, so the Stylus 810 is well suited for one-handed shooting. Besides a power switch and a shutter release on the top panel, all camera controls are clustered on the back panel, next to the 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD. These controls include a zoom rocker and a simple mode dial with only five settings: movie mode, scene selection, playback, recording mode, and Guide.

Olympus Stylus 810
Guide provides a series of options and instructions for common activities such as brightening the subject or shooting against a light.

Olympus Stylus 810
The cursor keys themselves serve double duty, used to navigate the camera's menus and to adjust specific options such as EV (plus or minus 2EV in 1/3-stop increments), self-timer, flash, and macro/supermacro.

The four-way-plus-OK control pad is surrounded by four additional keys: menu, digital image stabilization/printing, trash, and display. The last button cycles the camera's LCD through various modes, including a rule-of-thirds grid for composition and a live histogram. The OK/function key opens a menu of the most frequently used shooting options: white balance, ISO, drive mode, and metering.

The Olympus Stylus 810 can hit some incredibly high sensitivity settings for its class: ISO 1,600 and ISO 3,200 for extreme low-light or high-speed shots. It does so via Bright Capture, which uses clusters of sensor pixels to capture a each single image pixel, rather than individual ones (a process known as supersampling), effectively creating bigger pixels, each of which is more sensitive to light. Unfortunately, this results in fewer pixels in the final image; the Stylus 810 can take ISO 3,200 shots at only 3-megapixel resolution. Olympus uses Bright Capture in a similar way--clustering pixels to increase the amount of light emitted--to boost the brightness of the LCD.

Unlike the high-ISO settings, the electronic image stabilization works in most shooting modes, including movie, though not burst mode. You can also apply it during playback.

The 3X optical zoom lens can focus on objects between 3.9 and 23.6 inches in supermacro mode. If you don't need to get quite so close to your subject, standard macro can focus from 8.4 inches to infinity. The lens's aperture is fixed at f/2.8 at the wide-angle setting and f/4.7 when fully zoomed in. The Olympus Stylus 810 has no manual focus or exposure controls other than exposure compensation, but its 24 scene modes include various preset options such as Behind Glass, Documents, and Auction. The Shoot and Select scene modes are a variation on burst mode; you shoot a continuous sequence of pictures, which appear on the LCD. You can then keep or delete whatever shots you want from the batch.

Both multipoint/spot focus and exposure options are available on the Stylus 810. After you've set those, the camera automatically chooses a shutter speed between 1/2 second to 1/1,000 second in normal shooting modes and up to 4 seconds in night scene modes. This model has 28MB of built-in memory; it's good for a few shots, but you'll want an xD Picture-Card to take more than a handful of photos at a time. If you want to use the camera's panorama mode to stitch up to 10 frames into one shot, you'll need an Olympus-brand card; it won't work with any others.

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