Olympus Stylus 1050 SW review: Olympus Stylus 1050 SW

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The Good Rugged body; unique Tap Control; very good feature set.

The Bad Poor control layout; produces soft photos; sloooooow performance.

The Bottom Line Despite its decent features and handy Tap Control, there's no getting past the slow performance of the Olympus Stylus 1050 SW.

5.6 Overall
  • Design 5
  • Features 7
  • Performance 4
  • Image quality 6

The Olympus Stylus 1050 SW rolled out in October 2008 at a price of $299.99 and was the first to feature the company's Tap Control, letting you change certain camera functions simply by tapping on the sides, top, or back of the camera. Since then, the street price has dropped significantly to less than $200, making its feature set a bargain. However, unless you're cash-strapped, need a rugged compact, and really want the Tap Control, there's not much reason to get the 1050 SW. Plus, it's sort of been replaced by the Olympus Stylus Tough-6000, which at least fixes many of the design issues of the 1050 SW.

Key specs Olympus Stylus 1050 SW
Price (MSRP) $299.99
Dimensions 3.7 inches wide by 2.4 inches high by 0.9 inch deep
Weight (with battery and media) 5.9 ounces
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 10 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch CCD
LCD size, resolution 2.7-inch LCD, 230K dots
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 3x, f3.5-5, 38-114mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/Motion JPEG
Highest resolution size (still/video) 3,648x2,736 pixels/640x480 at 30fps
Image stabilization type Electronic
Battery type, rated life Li-ion rechargeable, 200 shots

One of the main reasons to buy the 1050 SW is for its durability. It can absorb drops up to 5 feet, is waterproof down to 10 feet, and is freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. In our informal testing, it certainly held up as promised. This model also features Olympus' Tap Control. While touch screens may be all the rage, they won't do much good when your touch is compromised by environmental conditions like being underwater or through a pair of gloves when you're skiing or snowboarding. Olympus solves this by letting you simply tap the top, back, and sides of the camera to access camera features like playback, shadow adjustment, and flash mode. It can even be used for snapping photos when set to the Snow scene mode. It takes some fine tuning--all of the sides can be individually calibrated to work best with your tap strength--but in the end it's a great solution.

It's a good-looking little pocket camera, too, and available in four colors. Unfortunately, the overall design is less than perfect. For starters, this is the only current SW-series camera to feature a slide-down lens cover. Not only does it open and close too easily, but the cover is too thick, so it was constantly getting snagged when put into a pocket. The 2.7-inch LCD is nice and worked well in direct light; however, all of the controls to the right of it are cramped. The Mode dial is raised above the body and is the only place to rest your thumb when shooting one-handed. This wouldn't be so bad if it didn't move so easily.

Operation is at least fairly straightforward and the Mode dial includes a shooting guide selection to help you choose the right settings. Also nice is the LED in front between the flash and lens, which can be turned on to light up your subject or as a spur-of-the-moment flashlight.

General shooting options Olympus Stylus 1050 SW
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1,600
White balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, 2, 3
Recording modes Auto, Program, Scene, Movie, Digital Image Stabilization
Focus Face, Spot, Auto
Metering Multi, Spot
Color effects Black and white, Sepia, Saturation hard, Saturation soft (effects available in edit mode only)
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Unlimited continuous

It's not packed with shooting options, but the 1050 SW has almost everything expected for its class. The Auto mode takes away most control so you can just relax and shoot, while a Program AE mode (represented by a camera symbol on the Mode dial) gives you choices for focus, metering, white balance, ISO, and exposure compensation. One nice touch is a live multiframe preview for exposure compensation and other settings so you can see the result before you shoot. If you can identify what you're shooting there's likely a corresponding scene mode with 23 of them at your disposal. One shortcoming is the absence of optical image stabilization. Instead you get a digital stabilization mode that boosts ISO and shutter speed to assist with shake and blur.

The 1050 SW mainly uses xD cards for storage, which, at this time, only go up to 2GB in capacity. If you want more space, Olympus includes a small adapter for use with microSD/microSDHC cards. This is probably the better option for shooting, especially if you plan to use the Movie mode. When set to the camera's highest resolution and frame rate, 640x480 at 30 frames per second, you can only record 10-second clips when using an xD card.