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The Olympus Stylus Verve (known as the µ-mini in Europe) is sure to turn a few heads with its strangely-shaped ultra-compact metal body. The camera is weatherproof and available in 6 different colors. It offers a 4 megapixel output with a 2x optical zoom lens. The Stylus Verve is a point-and-shoot camera with 14 preset shooting modes, including the usual Auto, Portrait, and Landscape modes as well as some additional modes like Cuisine, Candle, and Sunset.



In our review, we discovered that although the Stylus Verve gets plenty of attention for its appearance, its performance is not quite as impressive. The camera has decent resolution, color reproduction, and is capable of producing well-balanced exposures. However, the major downfall of the Stylus Verve is the visibility of jaggies in its output images. In regard to speed, the Verve is only mediocre. The startup, shutter lag, and write times are all equal or slightly below average. The camera has a maximum aperture of f/3.5. This means that low-light shooting is very difficult - especially without an AF-assist lamp. Read on for more details of our review of the Stylus Verve.




Olympus Stylus Verve Specifications


  Olympus Stylus Verve
Release Date September 2004
Price ~$300 - $350
Pixel Count 4.0 Million
Camera Type Compact
Highest Resolution 2272x1704
Lower Resolutions 2048x1536, 1600x1200, 1280x960, 1024x768, 640x480
Sensor Type CCD
Sensor Size 1/2.5"
LCD Screen Size 1.8"
Optical Zoom 2x; 35 - 70mm equivalent
Focus Range 1.6' - Infinity
Macro 3.2"
Digital Zoom 4x
Lens Thread No
Auto Focus Yes
Auto Focus Type TTL
Manual Focus No
AF-assist Lamp No
Aperture Range F3.5 - 4.9
Shutter Speeds 4 - 1/1000th sec.
ISO Auto (64 - 500), 64, 100, 200, 400
Flash Built-in
Flash Range W: 0.7 - 9.2'; T: 0.7 - 6.0'
Flash Compensation None
Exposure Compensation +/- 2 stops in 1/3 increments
White Balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent
Bracketing No
Metering Digital ESP Multi-pattern, Spot
Color Space RGB
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Speed Priority No
Manual Exposure No
Continuous Drive 7 frames at 1.3 fps
Self-Timer Yes, 12 sec.
Storage Method xD-Picture Card
Storage Included 16MB xD-Picture card
Compressed Format JPG
Uncompressed Format None
Quality Settings SHQ/HQ (2272x1704)
Video clips 320x240, 160x120, 15 fps, w/sound, QuickTime MOV, unlimited duration
Battery Type Li-30B Lithium-Ion Rechargeable
Charger Included Yes, 110 mins.
PC Interface USB
TV-out Yes
Tripod Mount Yes, metal
Weight (w/out battery or card) 4.06 oz.
Dimensions 95 mm x 55.5 mm x 27.5 mm

 Included in the Box
  • Olympus Stylus Verve Camera
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • Li-30B Lithium-Ion Rechargeable battery
  • Battery Charger (wall)
  • USB cable
  • Neck strap
  • Basic manual
  • Software CD
  • User's Guide CD




The Design: Olympus Stylus Verve




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The front of the Stylus Verve features a 2x optical lens that is protected by a circular sliding door. When the power button is pressed, the lens door slides to the left inside the camera and the lens extends. To the right of the lens are the microphone and the self-timer lamp. Above and to the left of the lens is the built-in flash. Because of the compact size of the camera, the built-in flash has a rather small working range of 0.7' - 9.2' at wide angle and 0.7' - 6.0' at telephoto.




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The back of the Verve features a relatively large 1.8" LCD monitor. To the left are the Quick View button and an indicator lamp. The indicator lamp flashes while the camera accesses the flash card. To the lower left is the Arrow pad, which is used as the navigational tool and to access major camera functions. Above the Arrow pad are the speaker and zoom controllers. The zoom controller operates both the zoom function in Record mode and the magnification of images in Playback mode. It is important to note that the Stylus Verve does not have an optical viewfinder. The user must always rely on the LCD monitor.




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On the top of the Verve are the shutter button, power button, and Mode Dial. The Mode Dial has a textured grip on the right side that makes it very easy to rotate. The open space on the left is designed as a resting place for fingers on your left hand. This helps keep them away from the lens and flash.




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The only thing to see on the bottom of this camera is the metal tripod mount.



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The right side of the camera features a swinging door that snaps into place. It has a rubber gasket that helps protect against water. This door covers the USB/AV-out port, battery compartment, and xD-Picture Card slot. There is a "Card Cover" that covers the xD-Picture Card slot. In order to get the flash card out, the Card Cover must be snapped up. If the Card Cover is left up, the LCD will display the error message, "Card-Cover Open". The "Card Cover" seems a bit superfluous to us, especially considering there is already a large swinging door protecting the card. The Stylus Verve uses a very small LI-30B 3.6V 645mAh Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery. There is also a post for the wrist strap on this side of the camera.




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There is nothing to see on the left side of the camera.

The first thing that most people will notice about the Olympus Stylus Verve is its oddly shaped body. Indeed, it is striking and it almost looks aerodynamic. However, it is surprisingly comfortable to hold with either two hands or one. The camera fits very easily into pockets both because of its small size and its shape. For a camera that is mostly metal, it is also pleasingly lightweight. As far as its weather-resistant nature, the User's Guide states that the "Camera is not damaged by water spray from any direction." Let's take a look at its recording features.




Recording Features

In all recording modes, the Stylus Verve records images as JPG files in one of 7 resolutions. As the lowest resolution option, SQ2 offers 4 sub-settings. The resolution options are listed below:

 Setting  Resolution (pixels)
SHQ 2272x1704
HQ 2048x1536
SQ1 1280x960
SQ2 1600x1200
1280x960
1024x768
640x480

The camera is powered on by first setting the Mode Dial to "Record" and then pressing the main power button. To access the camera's shooting modes, you simply press the up arrow button (the Scene button). A list of the 14 available modes is presented. Below, we have assembled a table to describe each mode briefly.

 Mode  Purpose
Program Auto Auto
Portrait Portraits with accurate skin tones
Landscape Large depth-of-field
Landscape + Portrait Large depth-of-field
Night Scene Uses a slow shutter speed
Cuisine Saturation, sharpness, and contrast are boosted for food pictures
Beach & Snow Helps expose pictures properly in reflective situations
Self Portrait + Self-timer Uses self-timer; focus is set automatically after timer delay
Behind Glass Disables flash
Self Portrait Zoom is fixed at wide angle and multi-metering is used; uses iESP focusing
Indoor Image resolution is limited to 1280x960 and lower; ISO is boosted
Candle Flash disabled and image resolution is limited to 1280x960 and lower; ISO is boosted; drive mode is set to "single"
Sunset Flash disabled; saturates colors for rich sunset images; drive mode is set to "single"
Fireworks Flash disabled; focus set to infinity; utilizes a slow shutter speed; drive mode is set to "single"

Although some of these modes seem a bit superfluous such as "Behind Glass" and "Cuisine" modes, they seem to be more and more common on many current digicams. We found the technique behind the "Indoor" and "Candle" modes to be interesting. When enabled, the camera boosts the ISO level automatically to make it possible to shoot low light pictures. The resolution is limited to a maximum of 1280x960, to reduce the noise in the output image.

In Program Auto mode, the largest number of options is available. Pressing the right arrow/Flash button causes the camera to cycle through the following available flash modes: Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, and Off. The left arrow/Macro button cycles through the available macro modes: Macro, Super Macro, and Off. In regular Macro mode, the lens can focus as close as 7.8 inches in both wide and telephoto positions. All four flash modes are available in regular Macro mode. When set to Super Macro mode, the camera fixes the zoom to telephoto and the flash is disabled. Then, the camera can focus as close as 3.1 inches from the subject. The final arrow pad operation is self-timer. The self-timer can be toggled on or off by pressing the down arrow/Self-timer button. The delay is approximately 12 seconds.



Record menu


 
Image quality
 
White Balance
 
Exposure Compensation

To access all the camera's major functions, you must enter the main menu by pressing the OK/Menu button. You are presented immediately with 4 choices, each of which is selected by pressing one of the arrow buttons. To change the recording quality to one of the options mentioned at the top of this page, you press the left arrow button. The down arrow button brings up a white balance menu. The available options are Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and Fluorescent. From the main menu, the up arrow button displays an exposure compensation screen. The exposure compensation can be adjusted by +/- 2 stops in 1/3 stop increments. Since the live image can be seen behind the dialog, the effect can be seen instantaneously.

However, the majority of the camera's operations can be adjusted by entering the Mode menu via the right arrow button. The camera presents three tabs: Camera, Card, and Setup. The Camera tab offers the following options:

 Camera menu
ESP/Spot ESP, Spot
Drive Single, Continuous
ISO Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400
Digital Zoom Off, On
AF Mode iESP, Spot
Audio Commentary Off, On
Panorama Select
2 in 1 Select

The E550 offers two light metering modes that are available in most of the scene modes. ESP refers to multi-segment metering where the camera uses several portions of the frame to determine the proper exposure. Spot metering uses a very small portion from the center of the frame to determine the exposure. For general purposes, ESP metering is recommended. However, Spot metering can be very useful in cases where the lighting between the subject and background is very different. Single drive mode allows you to take one picture each time when the shutter button is pressed. With Continuous drive selected, the camera can take up to 7 pictures in SHQ mode at approximately 1.3 fps while the shutter button is held down.

The ISO setting refers to the sensitivity of the camera's sensor to light. If left in Auto mode, the camera will adjust the ISO level automatically for you. In certain scene modes such as "Indoor" and "Candle", the Stylus Verve will boost the ISO level to 500 in order to shoot at reasonable shutter speeds in low light.

The Stylus Verve uses two different methods for auto focusing. The first is called "Spot", which is known as "Center" on some other digicams. With Spot focusing, the camera uses the center brackets as the focus point. In order to focus on a subject that is off center, you must half-press the shutter button with the center over the subject. Then, reframe the image and take the picture. The other focusing option is called "iESP". With "iESP" selected, the camera attempts to detect automatically a focus point over the subject. After half-pressing the shutter button, the camera determines the best focus point and displays it as brackets over the chosen area.

With the Audio Commentary option enabled, the camera will begin recording audio automatically and immediately after a shot is taken. The recording length is approximately 4 seconds. The Panorama option is only available with an Olympus brand xD-Picture card. With Panorama mode, the camera assists in taking pictures that can be combined later with the included software. The "2 in 1" option allows you to take two separate pictures, which are combined in-camera into a single JPEG file. The result is an image with both pictures side-by-side.

The second tab in the Mode menu is the Card tab. The only option available here is "Format", which will format the current flash card. The final tab is called Setup and it includes several options related to camera operation:

 SetUp
All Reset Off, On
Language English, French, Spanish, Portuguese
PW On Setup Screen (1, 2, 3), Volume (Off, Low, High)
Color Normal, Brown, Blue, Black
Volume Off, Low, High
Shutter Sound Off, 1, 2, 3 (Low, High)
REC View Off, On
File Name Reset, Auto
Pixel Mapping Start
LCD Brightness 15 increments
Date/Time Set
Video Out NTSC, PAL

The "All Reset" option allows you to choose whether the camera remembers settings after the camera is turned off. By default, this option is set to "On", which means that the camera resets all options to factory default settings. "PW On Setup" gives you the option to select a startup screen. There is a startup sound associated with each of the three options. In addition, the volume can be set to Off, Low, or High. We should mention that it is possible to specify a custom startup screen as well. However, this option is in Playback mode and we will discuss it there. The Color option refers to the coloring of the menus. The Volume option controls the volume of a "beeping" sound during menu navigation. The shutter sound can be turned off or set to one of three options.

With "REC View" set to On, the camera will display a brief review of an image immediately after it is taken. The review lasts approximately 2.5 seconds. However, by pressing the shutter release button halfway, you are able to take another picture without waiting for the review to end. Another way to view previously taken pictures is to press the Quick View button. This mode has all the features of Playback mode without having to switch the Mode Dial to Playback. If "Reset" is chosen from the "File Name" option, file numbering will be reset as opposed to continuing from the last number used. Pixel Mapping appears to be a useful feature. It is designed to fix "hot" or "stuck" pixels, which can appear as brightly colored pixels in the image. In the user's guide, Olympus recommends performing Pixel Mapping once a year.

To switch the camera into Movie mode, simply rotate the Mode Dial one click forward. In movie mode, the Stylus Verve can record video with audio at 15 fps in either 320x240 or 160x120 resolution. The duration of the clip is only limited by the available space on the flash card. Movie mode offers all of the same white balance options of the still recording modes as well as exposure compensation. The only options available via the Mode menu are Metering, ISO, and Digital Zoom. Macro and Self-timer modes are also available. While recording, the optical zoom is disabled. However, the digital zoom can be used.



Typical display


In Record and Movie mode, the Stylus Verve displays the following information on the LCD monitor: recording mode, flash mode, AF brackets, drive mode, resolution setting, and the number of pictures/minutes remaining.

As far as point-and-shoot cameras go, the Stylus Verve offers a very reasonable array of options and recording modes. For the most part, the user interface is very straightforward. The only thing that can be misleading is the behavior of the OK/Menu button. While highlighting a main option such as "AF Mode", you would think that pressing "OK" would open the next set of sub-options, like "iESP" and "Spot. However, to open sub-options, you must press the right arrow button. Pressing the OK/Menu button exits the menu system entirely. Although this can be mildly frustrating at first, we found ourselves adjusting to it in just a short amount of time.




Playback Features

Playback mode can be entered by either pressing the Quick View button or by rotating the Mode Dial to Play. The Left/Right arrow buttons are used to skip back/forward to different images. The up arrow button skips back 9 images while the down arrow skips forward 9 images.

 
Image regular view
 
Image magnified 4x
 
9-image thumbnail

An image can be magnified up to 4x in 0.5x increments by using the zoom controller. Additionally, a 4-, 9-, or 16-image thumbnail display can be reached by pressing the left side of the zoom controller. The number of images to show in thumbnail mode can be specified through the Setup tab.

 
Standard info.
 
Detailed info.

The standard playback information includes the file number, recording quality, date, time, and the number of the image. After initially viewing an image, this information is displayed for about 3 seconds before disappearing. The detailed playback information includes the following additional items: resolution, exposure compensation, white balance, and ISO.



Play menu


The major playback operations can be reached via the OK/Menu button. After pressing it, four main options are displayed: Slideshow, Info, Erase, and Mode Menu. To delete an image, just press the down arrow button to select "Erase". The camera then displays a confirmation dialog to prevent accidental deletion. The "Info" option toggles the shooting information from standard to detailed. The "Slideshow" option advances the images/videos automatically. The duration for each image is approximately three seconds.

The final option is "Mode Menu", which is split into the following 4 tabs: Play, Edit, Card, and Setup. Below are the options under the Play tab:

 Play
Protect Off, On
Rotate 0°, -90°, +90°
Print Order Select, All
Audio Commentary Start

The Protect option allows you to mark an image as "protected". This helps to prevent accidental deletion/modification of an image. The Rotate feature can rotate images 90° clockwise or counterclockwise. With the Print Order option, you can specify images for printing as well as the number of copies desired. You can also specify whether or not to stamp the time or date on the printed images. The Audio Commentary option allows you to record a short audio clip. The clips are saved as WAV files with the same file number as the image.



The "Edit" tab offers some options for manipulating images in-camera. A Soft Focus or Fisheye effect can be applied to any image. Additionally, an image can be converted to black and white, or sepia. The final option in the Edit menu is Resize. An image can be resized to either 640x480 or 320x240. When any of these options are applied, the camera saves the manipulated image as a new file. Another interesting option is called "Index". It only appears as an option when a video clip is selected. When Index is selected, the camera will create a JPEG file containing 9 thumbnails from the video clip. This allows you to see an overview of the video clip.

The Card tab only has two options: All Erase and Format. The All Erase option will delete everything on the flash card that is not protected. Format will erase everything on the flash card - even protected files. The Setup tab is almost exactly the same as it is in Record mode. The only difference is the addition of two more options: Screen Setup and an option to change the thumbnail display. With Screen Setup, you can select a previously taken image to be used as the startup screen. The thumbnail option offers 3 more options for the number of images to display in thumbnail mode; these are 4, 9, and 16 images.




Battery Performance

Our general method for battery testing is to reset the camera to its default settings and change the recording mode to the highest quality option. Then, we take 5 pictures without the flash and 2 pictures with the flash until the battery is dead. For more information on our battery test, please refer to our Testing Procedures page. For this test, we used the included Li-30B Lithium-Ion Rechargeable battery. The battery was fully drained before charging for the test.

 Number of shots taken in one battery charge
400

In our battery test, the Stylus Verve did not perform very well. Although this does not really come as a shock, considering the small 3.6V 645mAh LI-30B rechargeable battery, it is still below average for an ultra-compact camera. In short, we would expect the Verve to hold up pretty well through a day of heavy shooting, but don't expect it to last over a weekend. Prices for a spare LI-30B start at $30.




The Timing Tests

* NOTE: For all of our time tests, the camera is reset to its factory default settings and set to record using the highest resolution and quality setting. The camera was set to Auto mode. We also disabled all sounds. A Fujifilm 512MB xD-Picture card was used.

Before reading our results, please refer to our Testing Procedures page.

Startup Time

The startup time is recorded from the moment the power button is pushed to the moment the shutter sounds. The camera was set to record in Auto mode with startup sounds and screens disabled.

 Startup time (seconds)
3.76

At a startup time of 3.76 seconds, the Stylus Verve showed a fairly middle-of-the-road performance. For example, the ultra-compact Casio Exilim Ex-Z40 had an amazingly fast startup time of just 2.15 seconds. Although we can't quite call the Verve's startup time "slow", it is certainly not fast.

Shutter Lag

To record shutter lag, we perform two tests. For the first test, we pre-focus the lens and measure the amount of time it takes the camera to take a picture after the shutter button is pressed. The second test measures the time it takes for the camera to take a picture after we press the shutter button without pre-focusing. Each test is performed 3 times and the results are averaged. For more information regarding our testing procedures, please refer to our Testing Procedures page

 With Pre-focus (seconds)  Without Pre-focus (seconds)
0.13 0.64

Both with and without pre-focusing, the Stylus Verve had fairly average shutter lag times. When we pre-focused the camera, the lag was just 0.13 seconds. When we did not pre-focus the camera, the shutter lag was 0.64 seconds. Although both of these times are reasonably fast, they are not really impressive compared to other cameras that we have tested. We should also mention that because of the f/3.5 maximum aperture, the Stylus Verve has some difficulty focusing in low light. An AF-assist lamp would have helped tremendously. Since the Stylus Verve does not have one, the camera will perform its best in brightly-lit situations.

Write Times

We recorded 5 different write times with a Fujifilm xD-Picture card:

Single Shot - The time it takes for a single image to be completely written to the flash card (the time the "activity light" is on)
Shot To Shot (STS) - The time until the second shot is able to be taken after the first (shutter to shutter)
Shot To Shot w/Flash - The time it takes for the camera to take two pictures with the flash starting from the moment the first flash is fired to the moment the second is fired
Continuous Drive - The total time for the camera to shoot a burst of frames from the first shutter to the last shutter
Clear Buffer for Next Burst - The time it takes the camera to clear its internal buffer after a burst of images

We set the camera to the highest resolution and quality setting. We performed each test three times and averaged the results. Below are the resolution, quality setting, and average file size used for the tests.

2272x1704, SHQ, Avg. file size = 2.56 MB

 Single Shot  Shot To Shot  Shot to Shot w/Flash  Continuous Drive
(7 frames)
 Clear Buffer for Next Burst
3.08 1.93 11.47 5.18 20.05

It takes the Stylus Verve approximately 3.08 seconds to write a single image to the flash card. However, at the highest quality and resolution, the camera has a buffer large enough for 7 images. With Shot to Shot time, the Verve showed a somewhat average speed, taking 1.93 seconds between shots. After 7 frames, the internal buffer is full and the camera slows to 2.85 seconds between shots. The camera shows a disappointing Shot to Shot w/Flash time of 11.47 seconds. We were fairly impressed with the Verve's Continuous drive ability. We were able to shoot 7 frames in 5.18 seconds (1.35 fps). The downside is that it takes 20.05 seconds to clear the buffer after this burst.

Overall, we were disappointed with the speed of the Stylus Verve. Although startup and shutter lag times are not horrible, they are not very impressive either. When it comes to write times, Shot to Shot w/out Flash time is manageable, but the camera becomes very slow with the use of the flash. In addition, it is nice to be able to shoot at 1.35 fps for 7 frames. However, since it takes 20 seconds to clear the buffer after a burst, the usefulness of the continuous drive mode is questionable.




Resolving Fine Lines

For our resolution test, we reset the camera to its default settings and then used the highest resolution and quality setting. The camera was then set to +1.0 E.V. For more information, refer to our Testing Procedures page. Below are 200% crops of the test. Click on a crop to see the full chart.

 
Olympus Stylus Verve
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Casio Exilim Ex-Z40
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Pentax Optio S40
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Olympus Stylus Verve
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Casio Exilim Ex-Z40
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Pentax Optio S40
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As these comparison crops demonstrate, the Stylus Verve shows a similar resolution performance to other 4 megapixel ultra-compact cameras that we have tested. The main difference is that the Verve appears to have a higher level of default contrast and sharpness. This causes the chart to appear sharper than those from the other two cameras. We detect strong detail out until the 11 mark before moving to extinction by 14. In general, the Stylus Verve shows decent resolution performance. However, we should point out that moiré is visible throughout the chart, but mostly at the resolution limit.




Color Reproduction

* For all of our color tests, we reset the Stylus Verve to its factory default settings. It was then set to record using the highest image quality option.

We took a picture of our color chart using each of the following WB settings: Auto, Tungsten, and Manual. Click on a thumbnail below to view the full-size image.

Auto WB Tungsten WB

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Reference Chart ("actual colors")

Crops

Auto WB Tungsten WB

With Auto WB, the Stylus Verve shows a bit of a yellowish cast on the color chart. With Tungsten WB mode, the Verve produces some very accurate colors. Since this is truly a point-and-shoot camera, there is no manual white balance option.

Studio Shot

In this shot, we tested the Stylus Verve's ability to reproduce colors in our studio shot using different WB settings. The camera was set to Auto mode without the flash.

Auto WB Tungsten WB

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The difference between the Auto and Tungsten settings becomes very clear in these samples. Sadly, the yellowish cast in Auto WB mode is actually a little bit better than what we are used to seeing on current digicams.

Built-in Flash

For the flash test, we set the camera to Auto mode w/Auto flash. The picture was taken from 5 feet away.



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In the flash test, the Stylus Verve shows surprisingly accurate color reproduction. Although the image is just a bit underexposed, we are very impressed with the Verve's color performance with the built-in flash. Overall, the color reproduction on the Stylus Verve is fairly decent. We would say it is marginally better than average.




Noise

The noise test consists of pictures of our studio shot taken at increasing ISO levels to show the effect on the image. The pictures were taken after resetting the camera to its factory default settings. The camera was then set to record with the highest quality option with tungsten WB. Click on a 100% crop below to view the full-size image.

 ISO 64  
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 ISO 100  
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 ISO 200  
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 ISO 400  
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The Stylus Verve does a pretty good job suppressing noise as the ISO level is raised. From ISO 64 to 200, the addition of noise and loss of detail is remarkably small. At ISO 400, there is a more significant loss of detail. However, we feel that even at ISO 400, the image retains enough detail to be considered usable.




General Image Quality

For these pictures, the camera was reset to its factory default setting. Then, it was set to its highest quality recording setting. The pictures were taken in Auto mode unless stated otherwise. Portrait-style images have been rotated using Irfanview's "lossless operations". Click on a thumbnail to view the full-size image. The crops below the thumbnails are 100%.


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In this image, the Stylus Verve displays one of its most significant quality issues: jaggies. We can see them along several edges in this shot. These jaggies are caused by a high level of in-camera sharpening. Again, the jaggies are very visible and there is a loss of detail due to the oversharpening. On the positive side, exposure and color saturation are very good. In this dynamically-lit image, the Stylus proves it has a decent dynamic range. It is able to retain a fair amount of detail in shadow areas while avoiding a severe overexposure of bright objects.

Overall, we are disappointed with the image quality of the Stylus Verve. It has the potential to be very impressive. The camera produces well-balanced exposures consistently with excellent color saturation. In addition, there are no signs of chromatic aberrations. However, our biggest complaint is in reference to the in-camera oversharpening. This produces jaggies and, ironically, gives images a fuzzy appearance. It would be great if there was an option to adjust the default sharpness.

Night mode


Night Scene mode
(4 sec., f/4.0, ISO 100)
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In this 4-second exposure taken in Night Scene mode, there is a fair amount of noise that is especially noticeable in the dark sky. When we set the camera manually to ISO 64 in an attempt to produce an image with less noise, the maximum 4-second exposure was not long enough to produce a bright image. It is really too bad that the Stylus Verve limits exposures to 4 seconds. Otherwise, the camera would be capable of taking some decent night pictures.

Movie mode



(320x240, 15 fps)
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Movie mode on the Stylus Verve does not stand out as being particularly impressive. At 15 fps and a maximum resolution of 320x240, it pales in comparison to other digicams offering 30 fps and 800x600 options. However, there are some good things to say about it. The Verve does not limit recording time. It is able to record until the remaining flash card capacity is depleted. Additionally, the Verve offers white balance, exposure compensation, ISO, metering, and macro capabilities in movie mode.




Final Words

Olympus gives new meaning to the word "fashionable" with the Stylus Verve. It is sleek, stylish, and comes in a variety of colors. Although it is a point-and-shoot camera by definition, it also offers extra features such as special image effects and unlimited video recording. The body is water-resistant and ergonomically designed for easy handling and portability. However, in our camera reviews, we place a strong emphasis on performance. Unfortunately for the Stylus Verve, it is not going to turn too many heads with its performance results.

For the most part, the Verve showed an average performance on almost every test. The image quality had the potential to be really great. Color reproduction and saturation are good and JPEG compression is applied sparingly. The resolution performance is comparable to other 4 megapixel ultra-compact cameras. Additionally, the camera showed pretty decent noise control. Unfortunately, the images suffer from too much in-camera sharpening. This results in jaggies along edges and sharp lines. It is unfortunate that the Stylus Verve does not offer the option to adjust the strength of the sharpening. As for the battery test, we were not entirely surprised to see a somewhat below average performance. To keep the camera as compact as it is, Olympus had to use a smaller and weaker battery.

In our timing tests, the Verve proved to be fairly average overall. However, two particularly slow points were Shot to Shot with Flash and low-light focusing. The low-light focusing problem could have been remedied with the addition of an AF-assist lamp. With a maximum aperture of f/3.5 and a weather-resistant body, Olympus almost certainly intends for this camera to be used primarily outdoors. Considering the 11.5 second flash recycle time, we think that most people will find themselves avoiding low-light photo ops. Overall, this camera is really aimed at the outdoor point-and-shoot user who doesn't plan on making large prints. For this person, the camera does a pretty good job. The question is, "Is it worth the price?" To answer this question, you will have to weigh looks versus performance. For us, the price is a bit too steep for an attractive camera that provides only average performance.

 Pros  Cons
  • Consistently even exposures
  • Decent resolution performance
  • Decent noise performance
  • Decent color reproduction
  • Accurate flash color reproduction
  • Average Shutter Lag (with ample light)
  • Good color saturation
  • Average Startup time
  • Compact and easy to hold
  • Jaggies (oversharpening)
  • Slow Shot to Shot w/Flash
  • Slow to clear buffer after burst
  • Moiré at resolution limit
  • No AF-assist lamp (slow low-light focus)
  • 4-second exposure limit
  • Maximum aperture is f/3.5
  • Below average battery life
  • Mediocre movie mode

Thanks again to Newegg.com for loaning us the Olympus Stylus Verve for review.

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