Olympus Stylus 1000
At a Glance
Olympus's Stylus 1000 ($350 as of February 15, 2007) is one of a handful of weather-resistant digital cameras built for times when things get a little damp. But while the Stylus 1000 is an all-weather model, it's not waterproof, so don't take it snorkeling. Nevertheless, it is durable; and at less than 1 inch thick, it fits easily into a shirt pocket.
The Stylus 1000 offers software-based image stabilization for sharpening blurry shots, and its 10-megapixel sensor delivers a level of resolution that will let you make extreme crops of your images. Less-experienced shooters may like the unusual help system, which does more than offer photography tips. Put the scene-mode dial in the Guide position, and a list of challenging shooting scenarios appears on the screen; pick one and the camera automatically selects the best settings for it. Combined with the camera's 20 scene modes, that's close to an excess of help. By the time you decide which mode to use, the shot could be gone. Also, it's a bit odd that the Sports scene mode won't permit you to use continuous shooting, especially since you can select this in Program mode.
In our lab tests, the Stylus 1000 earned top-notch image-quality scores, compared to other recently reviewed point-and-shoots. Those results were confirmed by my shots taken out in the field, which had fine sharpness and accurate, nicely saturated colors. This development is a pleasant surprise, because earlier Stylus models weren't known for great image quality.
Like many other point-and-shoots, the Stylus 1000 offers in-camera red-eye reduction. More unusual is the Stylus 1000's image sharpening and lighting fix, which you can apply to photos you've already taken. Based on my tests, the former is marginally helpful for slightly blurry photos. The latter seems more useful; it brought out some dark background details in my flash photo.
When shooting in low light, you can select ISO settings of up to 6400 (most point-and-shoot cameras stop at ISO 400 or ISO 800). As you'd expect, shots taken at higher ISO settings suffer increasingly from digital noise, but at least you can take shots in low light without having to use the flash. There is one limitation, however: At ISO 3200 and ISO 6400, the camera restricts image resolution to 2048 by 1536 (about 3.1 megapixels), versus the 3648-by-2736-pixel resolution available at lower ISO settings.
In general, I found the Stylus 1000's controls easy to use. A simple mode dial lets you switch between automatic still shots, scene modes, the Guide, Movie mode, and playback. A function button--similar to the ones found on Canon models--launches a menu for changing metering, white balance, and ISO settings. You also choose between Program and full Automatic modes in a menu--a less-convenient arrangement than if both were included on the mode dial, as they are on most other digital cameras.
I have two major gripes with the Stylus 1000: First, the LCD is nearly impossible to use in bright sunlight, a drawback exacerbated by the absence of any viewfinder to fall back on in framing your shots. Second, the camera's Digital Image Stabilization (or antishake system) works by boosting the ISO and the shutter speed. This will help keep photos sharp--especially with moving subjects--but it risks adding a noticeable amount of digital noise to your shots.
Overall, the Stylus 1000 is a good camera, especially if you love to take pictures in inclement conditions. Ironically, the camera may be hardest to use in clear weather.