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Olympus Stylus 400 review: Olympus Stylus 400

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MSRP: $599.95

The Good Sleek, ultracompact design and solid construction; weather-resistant casing; included wireless remote.

The Bad Handles image highlights poorly; inaccurate autofocus in dim light.

The Bottom Line This camera's impressive all-weather body doesn't make up for its inconsistent images.

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6.6 Overall

Olympus Stylus 400 Digital

Except for an extra megapixel and gold plating on the lens cover, the Olympus Stylus 400 Digital is identical to its brother, the 3-megapixel Stylus 300. Weighing just 6.9 ounces with the proprietary lithium-ion battery and the bundled 16MB xD-Picture Card installed, these compact, stylish, and flexible cameras are small enough to tote just about anywhere. They're also built to withstand the elements, so you can continue shooting even as the storm clouds roll in. Considering the 4.2-megapixel CCD and the 3X optical zoom lens (35mm to 105mm in 35mm-camera terms), we can't complain about the 400's specs, either.

Because of its higher resolution, we expected the Stylus 400 to be a bit slower than its sibling, but the new model's performance was essentially the same. Slide open the lens cover, give the camera just three seconds, and you're ready to snap photos. Shot-to-shot time runs about three seconds for normal shooting; continuous mode grabs pictures at about one frame per second. The lithium-ion cell lasts quite a long time: we managed to take more than 539 shots before the low-battery warning appeared; then we got almost another 100 before the Stylus 400 conked out.

Image quality is also about the same as the Stylus 300's. The camera produces respectable if slightly yellow photos when you use automatic white balance under tungsten lights; colors are slightly oversaturated but pleasing. Some pictures suffer loss of highlight detail, such as on the folds of a white T-shirt in bright sunlight. We did not see the Stylus 300's haze artifacts, however.

Unlike the Stylus 300, which skimps on scene modes, the 400 offers Landscape, Portrait, Landscape/Portrait, Night, and--for narcissists--Self-Portrait. That's about it for the differences between the feature sets. As for design, the Stylus 400 has the same quirks we griped about with the older model.

So, while we like this camera's sleek, weather-resistant construction, problems with focusing and dynamic range make it hard to voice unconditional approval. Why live with poor image quality when you can find stronger 4-megapixel performers, some of which cost a bit less?

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