Olympus Sylus-9000 Performance, Timings and Image Quality

by Adam Crawford Reads (13)

PERFORMANCE
The road east is filled with dramatic landscapes, and some of the most beautiful can be found in the American Southwest. I had the good fortune of driving cross-country while testing out the Stylus-9000, and got to see how it would handle such a diverse terrain. With the road starting in Venice Beach, CA, I made my northern route through Las Vegas, then onto Utah, which has some of the most beautiful vistas I have ever encountered.

Olympus Stylus-9000

Having the Stylus-9000 with me made taking good images possible with very little hassle. The Stylus-9000 is a great road camera, and proved itself adept at capturing the images the way I saw them.

Shooting Performance
The Olympus Stylus-9000 fires up quickly, all within a second or so, ready for any shot you may need to capture on the fly. As the lab results show, the Stylus-9000 is an above average performer when it comes to AF acquisition. It’s at the top of its class at 0.47 seconds, and press-to-capture testing in the field proved to find focus at both telephoto and wide angles quickly.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim EX-FH20
0.02
Kodak EasyShare Z980
0.02
Olympus Stylus-9000
0.02
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS 0.03
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 0.05

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Olympus Stylus-9000 0.47
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS 0.48
Casio Exilim EX-FH20 0.59
Kodak EasyShare Z980 0.61
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 0.68

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames* Framerate*
Casio Exilim EX-FH20 40 30 fps†
Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS3 3 2.5 fps
Olympus Stylus-9000 3 1.4 fps
Kodak EasyShare Z980 4 1.3 fps
Canon PowerShot SX200 IS
0.9 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera’s fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). “Frames” notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

† Note: The Casio Exilim FH20 has no continuous shooting capabilities at full resolution (9 megapixels). It is, however, capable of shooting at 30 fps at a slightly reduced 8 megapixels. Given this relatively high resolution, we have included the FH20’s continuous shooting numbers in our comparison.

The shutter lag shot to shot was right smack dab in the middle, with 0.02 seconds between each shot, a very impressive number. Continuous shooting captured, on average, 3 images non-stop at a 1.4 fps rating, making it a pretty average performer. With the AF being a fast and accurate contrast-based system, it wasn’t as impressive in low-light conditions, giving me a lot of lens creep before it found focus, but was not a major issue since it’s usually hard to find focus in bad lighting no matter what camera you’re using.

The dual-image stabilization in the Stylus-9000 works satisfactorily. It’s a combination of sensor-shift and high ISO settings, which is successful on the whole, but often produced an overexposed image at telephoto lengths when the high ISO was employed.

Olympus Stylus-9000

Flash on the Stylus-9000 is also satisfactory, giving you an effective range wide-angle of 17.7 feet and 9.8 feet at the telephoto end at, both at ISO 800. When trying it out, the recycle times were about 4.25 seconds between shots. The flash modes include Auto, Red-eye, Fill-in and Off.

Battery life on the Stylus-9000 is rated at about 250 shots, and I was able to capture about 233 images before the camera warned me. The CIPA rating is accurate and I was able to get off about 250 before the battery died. The Stylus-9000 uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery.

Lens Performance
The Stylus-9000 has a zoom range from 28-280mm (10x optical zoom power) in a retractable lens system with 9 lenses in 6 groups, with 5 aspherical lenses. The lens also allows you to tack on 5x in digital zoom power for an interpolated image. It has a maximum aperture of f/3.2 for wide-angle and f/5.9 telephoto, and is a standard aperture in this grade of camera.

With all the stats put aside, there were some concerns I had with the lens after shooting with it, including vignetting at wide-angles, lens flare and some artifacts in the midtones of my images, and the occasional purple fringes along the border of the images.

Olympus Stylus-9000

The question is, are these acceptable levels for the size of the CCD sensor? I expect to find these sorts of aberrations in my images with point-and-shoots, but the Stylus-9000 did really struggle on both the wide-angle and telephoto end of things, making it a disaster for pixel peepers who really want to scrutinize each pixel.

Video Quality
Video captured with the Stylus-9000 is basic VGA, otherwise known as standard-def, with a resolution 640×480 at 15/30 fps. I would prefer seeing HD video, though some of the cameras I have captured video with HD have proved to be muddy at best. So with that being said, the video was of good quality when played back on my monitor.

Image Quality
As exposure settings are limited in the Stylus-9000, the shooter is somewhat reliant on the camera to find the optimal ones. Out of the camera, the images had a very natural look to them, and were accurate, aside from the aberrations/artifacts I found.

Olympus Stylus-9000
iAuto Exposure Mode

One of the most frustrating things about processing in the Stylus-9000 is that you can only change the color and saturation in playback mode/edit menu. This means you have to rely on the default settings, instead of being able to go through the menu before you capture your image to change its properties. This only allows you to make the image black and white, sepia or a hard or soft saturation after the image is taken, not before. This is an unnecessary menu dive and sort of confusing and frustrating if you don’t read the user manual carefully. Olympus now offers some of their creative art filters in their entry-level cameras, so it seems they’ve made an effort to put more pre-capture creative options in-camera with their most recent models.

As the exposure control is somewhat limited, you do have the ability to change white balance, but frustratingly there is no manual white balance setting. You can also control the ISO up to 1600, but at this high setting the grain and noise found aren’t worth it unless you have no other option. You also have control over three forms of AF, including Single shot AF, Sequential and High-Speed for the continuous shooting mode. You also have little control over light metering with two options, including ESP that measures brightness throughout the entire frame, and Spot metering that allows you the meter light for a subject that is backlit.

Auto white balance worked sufficiently for most shooting situations, but was somewhat fooled in lower light conditions. But overall, using Auto white balance for most scenarios coupled with the ESP light metering mode gave me the image I wanted. I found that in high-contrast images where light and dark met, the images looked great with the Auto WB and ESP enabled, and I was pleasantly surprised with the my results. Even with its different issues, the Stylus-9000 reads contrast well.

Olympus Stylus-9000
Auto White Balance, 3200K Incandescent

The ISO performance really started to show image degradation once the camera was pushed past 400. With the range from the low ISO of 64 to 200 the images were fine, but once pushed past 400 to 1600 the images showed an increased amount of grain, while making 1600 in a studio shot look like it was taken in no light.

Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 64
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 64, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 100
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 100, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 200
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 400
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 800
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus-9000
ISO 1600
Olympux Stylus-9000
ISO 1600, 100% crop

There’s always an issue of putting too many megapixel sites on a small CCD image sensor, making noise inherent in point-and-shoot cameras. ISO 800-1600 settings are usually a novelty and a last resort when all else fails, and are mostly unusable.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus Stylus-9000 Olympus Stylus-9000
Olympus Stylus-9000 Olympus Stylus-9000
Olympus Stylus-9000 Olympus Stylus-9000


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