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Olympus Stylus Verve review: Olympus Stylus Verve

It's all about style and a bit short on substance.

David D. Busch
4 min read
Olympus Stylus Verve
The Olympus Stylus Verve's sexy Euro design is sure to attract the attention of snapshooters using more-conventional digital compacts, but so-so image quality and middle-of-the-road performance hamper this study in style over substance. Lacking manual controls other than exposure compensation, the Verve compensates with lots of interesting scene modes, along with post-shot editing that lets you add special effects such as fish-eye and soft-focus looks. If you can compose all your shots on an LCD without an optical viewfinder and your goals involve small prints and owning the trendiest camera in your crowd that doesn't also place phone calls, this might be what you're looking for.

The Verve has a mostly metal body and is available in wardrobe-matching silver, red, orange, blue, and white. Although its rounded parallelogram shape resembles a well-used bar of soap, its design is more chic than ergonomically practical. The odd contours of this 5-ounce camera make one-handed shooting awkward, especially if you want your index finger poised over the shutter release while resting a thumb on the zoom rocker. Worse, it's difficult to manipulate the four-way cursor pad without accidentally depressing the center Menu/OK button and activating a setting. Similarly, when you're pressing the cursor pad up to change scene modes, to the right to adjust flash settings, to the left to change macro mode, or down to activate the self-timer, it's easy to find yourself viewing a menu instead.


Olympus Stylus Verve

The Good

Eye-catching design; selection of camera colors; weatherproof body; lots of scene modes and special effects such as fish-eye distortion.

The Bad

No optical viewfinder; zoom limited to 2X; awkward shape precludes one-handed shooting; slow autofocus in dim light; mediocre image quality.

The Bottom Line

A sexy design can't overcome the average picture quality and mediocre performance of this ultracompact 4-megapixel shooter.

On the plus side, the cylindrical mode control looks like it belongs on a micrometer and can be spun quickly to select shooting, movie, or playback mode in a flash. A gasketed full lens cover, which slides shut on power-down like the doors on the Starship Enterprise, and a gasket on the battery door make this camera moderately water-resistant. The only other controls to fuss with are a quick-review button to the left of the 1.8-inch LCD, and the top-mounted power switch.

The 2X zoom range provides the equivalent of a 35mm-to-70mm lens on a 35mm camera. Olympus wisely sacrifices the telephoto end to provide a usable wide-angle view, recognizing that it's easier to take a few steps closer to your subject than flatten yourself more tightly against an unmovable wall. The lens's autofocus takes you from 20 inches to infinity in normal mode and from 8 inches to infinity at the macro position. A supermacro option operates between 3.5 and 8 inches. The built-in flash is less versatile, however, reaching out to just 9.2 feet with the lens set to wide-angle and no more than 6 feet at the telephoto position.

Although the Verve makes most of the decisions for you, there are scene modes to accommodate most common shooting situations. These include Portrait, Landscape, Landcape/Portrait, Night, Cuisine, Beach & Snow, Self-Portrait (with and without self-timer), and Display Window for shooting through glass. Add in Sunset and Fireworks modes, plus special indoors and candle settings that lock the camera at 1,280x960 or lower resolution, and you're ready for just about any shooting environment. Shutter speeds are set automatically between 1/2 and 1/1,000 second, although the night scene mode can extend exposures to as long as 4 seconds. After you've taken your best shot, you can apply several special effects, including soft focus, fish-eye, sepia, and black-and-white. The Verve retains the original, unprocessed shot, too, in case you change your mind. Motion-picture capture is limited to 320x240 pixels at 15fps, with sound. You can also annotate stills with 4-second audio clips.

This Olympus's verve screeched to a halt in the performance department. Time to first shot wasn't bad at roughly 3 seconds, but the 3-second pauses between shots--nearly 5 seconds with flash--were strictly middle-of-the-road. A mere 5 shots in 4.2 seconds in burst mode at full resolution wasn't anything to write home about, either, although the ability to shoot 104 consecutive shots at 640x480 resolution in about 81 seconds might be useful for some applications.

Shutter lag was acceptable at 0.8 second under high-contrast lighting conditions, but the non-light-assisted autofocus delayed shooting for 1.5 seconds under more demanding low-contrast lighting. We got 302 shots from a single charge of the lithium-ion LI-30B battery, half with flash. The LCD was generally easy to use for picture composition when we held the Verve still, but it exhibited prodigious ghosting when we moved the camera. The view is bright and clear under normal lighting conditions and in dim light, where the brightness is boosted to compensate, but the screen easily washed out in bright daylight.

Image quality was acceptable, with detail a bit softer than you'd expect from a 4-megapixel camera and colors that tended to be muted. Flesh tones tended to be a little yellow, and blown-out highlights and moderate purple fringing plagued many images. The red-eye-reduction feature didn't work particularly well, and flash pictures beyond the rated 9 feet were usually badly underexposed. In these situations, the Verve automatically boosted ISO to compensate, but this produced underexposed, noisy photos.

Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.


Olympus Stylus Verve

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 6Performance 5Image quality 4