Olympus Stylus-7000 Point-and-Shoot Camera
At a Glance
The Olympus Stylus-7000 ($300 as of 5/15/09) is a handsome compact camera that features a 12-megapixel resolution, a 7X optical zoom (37mm to 260mm), and a large, 3-inch LCD. Because it's so light (less than 5 ounces), you can slide it into your top shirt pocket and barely notice that it's there. And when it's time to shoot, an array of intriguing features will help you capture the moment.
For general photography, the Stylus-7000's automatic mode will set the exposure and aperture for you, but you can also customize the settings by enabling exposure compensation, white balance adjustment, and a host of other tweaks.
If you prefer that the camera make more of those decisions, you can switch the dial to scene mode and choose from 15 presets, such as Landscape, Night, Self-Portrait, or Fireworks. Select iAuto on the mode dial, and the camera chooses the best shooting mode for you, picking from Portrait, Landscape, Night+Portrait, Sport, and Macro. Though the iAuto mode sounds helpful, I did a much better job of determining the right scene mode than the camera did. Regardless of which shooting mode you select, the Stylus-7000 uses lots of good technology to ensure snappy results. The dual image stabilization system helps produce crisp, shake-free compositions. It also pumps up the ISO when it deems necessary, however, so you'll find times when you want to turn it off and steady the camera by other means.
Stabilizing the Stylus-7000 is important, because the 7X zoom has a reach of 260 mm (equivalent on a 35mm camera), which is a lot of magnification for a small camera. On the wide end, however, it's only 37mm--a narrow field of view for a camera in this class. The Olympus Stylus-9000, a $350 sibling to the Stylus-7000, ratchets the optical zoom up to 10X, with a 28mm film equivalent on the wide-angle end.
The Digital ESP metering system is accurate and provides good exposures. And when you turn on automatic shadow adjustment, the camera provides more detail in shadowy areas and in backlit situations--a nice touch.
The Stylus-7000 certainly provides plenty of pixels for big prints or cropping. Overall picture quality was good, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that the results were decent at ISO 400 and ISO 800--unusually high ISO performance for a model in the point-and-shoot category. Image noise was fairly well controlled, but with some sacrifice of image detail.
Speaking of image detail, when I view pictures from the Stylus-7000 at 100 percent magnification, detail appears to be only average at all ISO settings (although it is better, as expected, at ISO 64 and 100 than at 400 and 800, and intolerable at ISO 1600). That shouldn't be a problem for modest-size prints, but it will be noticeable in larger output. You will probably want to apply an edge-sharpening filter before making 8.5-by-11-inch or bigger prints.
In PC World Test Center jury evaluations, the Stylus-7000's overall image-quality score landed in the middle of a pack of cameras in the same price range. The camera barely broke through to the top tier in color quality; meanwhile, in our sharpness test, the camera scored in the lower tier of our testing.
A few of the Stylus-7000's special features are truly useful. In-camera panorama stitching lets you take three shots and then meld them together into a single, extended-view image. My favorite of the trio of panorama modes is Combine in Camera 1. You take the first shot, and then you pan in either direction slowly guiding a diamond shaped pointer to an on-screen target. When you reach the target, the camera takes another shot. Once you've completed the sequence, the Stylus-7000 builds the panorama and displays it for you on the LCD. In my tests, sometimes the results were spot on, while other times the stitching was a little off. But it's truly fun, and one of my favorite ways to shoot with the camera.
Beauty Mode is a bit more ambitious. The theory is that the camera smoothes out blemishes and softens shadows, rendering a more pleasing portrait. You get both the original image and a "beautified" version at 1200 by 1600 pixels. Unlike an overall Gaussian filter that would soften everything in the shot, This mode focuses on skin and leaves the other elements in the composition alone. You have to wait for processing time after each shot, so it isn't for fast-action fashion photography, but it works reasonably well most of the time and is useful for photographers who don't want to attempt retouching in Photoshop. That said, the trade-off is that the in-camera results are not as elegant as what you could accomplish manually with an image editor.
The HDMI output lets you connect the camera to an HDTV set via an HDMI-to-HDMI-mini cable (not included in the kit). If you plan ahead for your presentation, you can choose between two different 16:9-resolution options when you're capturing your images; as a result, you get a lovely edge-to-edge display on the HD set. Olympus even provides a handful of music loops to accompany your HD slide show. Unfortunately, movie capture with the Stylus-7000 is only standard-def (640 by 480, at 30 fps); HD video would have been a nice feature in this camera. That said, the HD slide shows are terrific.
On top of everything else, the illuminated back-panel controls on the Stylus-7000 are wonderful. Touch any of the buttons, and they all light up, which makes finding the control you want to use easy. This is a feature I'd like to see on all cameras.
Battery life is nothing spectacular, however, perhaps because of those illuminated controls and the roomy 3-inch LCD. In PC World Test Center battery tests, the Olympus Stylus-7000 took 185 shots on a single charge of its rechargeable lithium ion battery--well short of the 300-plus shots we've seen from quite a few point-and-shoots in recent years.
The Olympus Stylus-7000 certainly delivers style, ease of use, and a creative feature set. The 12-megapixel resolution extends the reach of an already hefty 7X zoom, but users will have to accept some compromises in image detail. This camera is ideally suited to the creative snapshooter who will take advantage of its sophisticated shooting controls (spot metering and shadow adjustment), its in-camera editing options, and its unique features such as in-camera panoramas, beautified portraits, HD output, slide-show presentation, and reasonable low-light performance.