Consumers have always loved tiny cameras and Olympus has long been the industry leader when it comes to producing mini-cams. Their "Pen" series half-frame cameras were small before small was cool, and the first Stylus was a tiny clamshell style 35mm point and shoot. It was only a matter of time before somebody produced a tiny digital camera with a very long lens - a mini-megazoom digicam. The Olympus Stylus 7010 is both ultra compact and super thin - a genuine shirt pocket digicam that features a zoom that starts at the equivalent of 28mm and goes all the way to the equivalent of 196mm. That's a lot of juice for a camera that's only marginally larger than an MP3 player.
So how does the Stylus 7010 measure up as one of the first of a new breed of mini-megazoom digicams? Photography has always been about compromises and the Olympus Stylus 7010 is a perfect example. The secret to creating a tiny imaging tool that provides maximum reach is to manufacture a product that doesn't require compromises that are too onerous. The 7010 is currently the smallest digital camera available with a 7x optical zoom - the 7010 also features 12 megapixel resolution, dual image stabilization, an intelligent Auto mode, in-camera panorama stitching, and a nifty Shadow Adjustment tool.
That's a lot of bells and whistles, but there really is no free lunch. What will those who buy the 7010 have to give up? Right off the bat the 7010 does not provide an optical viewfinder and the zoom is a bit slower than comparable zooms on larger cameras. Keep reading to find out how the benefits and drawbacks of the ultra-slim 7010 weigh out.
BUILD AND DESIGN
The Olympus Stylus 7010 is a very conventionally designed lozenge-shaped digicam that looks remarkably similar to just about every other ultra-compact digital camera out there. The 7010 is a tiny (3.8x2.2x1.0 inch) auto exposure only digital camera that weighs a bit less than four and a half ounces. The body seems to be relatively robust with metal alloy sheathing over a polycarbonate shell. The Stylus 7010 is available in three colors - Silver, Dark Gray, or Pink.
The 7010's major claim to fame is its 7x zoom that starts at the equivalent of 28mm - most digital cameras this size provide only 3x to 5x zooms and start at around the equivalent of 35mm. That's pretty impressive specifications for a camera that is only an inch thick.
Ergonomics and Controls
The Olympus Stylus 7010's user interface is uncomplicated and reasonably straightforward. The camera is fairly stable in the hand for such a small unit, but it lacks any sort of handgrip. The 7010's 2.7 inch slightly protuberant LCD screen takes up about four fifths of the camera's back deck.
The 7010's control layout is fairly typical and quite similar to most recent consumer digicams. Dedicated controls are minimal and while all are logically placed and come easily to hand (for right-handed shooters) they are all rather small. The 7010's controls (except the on/off button and the shutter button) are crowded into a small strip along the extreme right side of the camera. The zoom rocker switch and mode dial occupy the exact area where your thumb would naturally rest near the top right corner of the camera's rear deck.
The compass pad (four-way controller) and FUNC button provide direct access to exposure compensation, white balance, ISO, image size options, metering options, flash settings, macro mode, and the self-timer. The compass pad is very close to the display/delete rocker switch below it. This makes deleting images difficult because it is very easy to hit the menu/review rocker switch above the compass pad instead of the north/top (for yes) position on the compass pad. Kudos to Olympus for placing the exposure compensation button at the North (top) position on the compass pad - making minor exposure adjustments (incrementally lightening or darkening images) easy.
Using the camera is really simple - all exposure options are minor variations on the auto mode theme. The 7010 was clearly designed to be usable by just about anyone. Most folks will have no problem using the camera right out of the box.
Menus and Modes
The Stylus 7010 features Olympus' new cartoon-icon menu system. A camera icon appears in the middle of the screen when the menu button is pressed and then the compass pad is used to move a set of brackets through the different menu options available (image quality, magic filters, reset, panorama, scene mode, silent mode, and set-up mode) - to select the menu desired the user presses the OK/FUNC button. The FUNC button provides direct access to the most commonly changed/adjusted functions like White Balance, ISO, drive mode, metering, image size and quality settings.
Here's a listing of the Stylus 7010's shooting modes:
Like most recent point and shoots, the Stylus 7010 doesn't provide an optical viewfinder so the "HyperCrystal II" 2.7 inch LCD must manage all framing/composition, captured image review, and menu navigation chores. The 7010's LCD is relatively sharp (230,000 pixels), bright, hue accurate, relatively fluid, and the info display provides all the data the camera's target audience is likely to need. The display gains "up" (automatically increases brightness) in dim lighting.
The LCDs on compact digital cameras are TTL (through the lens) and function as very accurate framing tools, but for shooting in bright outdoor locales I generally prefer an optical viewfinder. The 7010's LCD sticks out a bit from the back deck, making it slightly easier to smudge or scratch the surface, but it doesn't seem to be as subject to glare as some of its competition. The user-enabled LCD grid-line display is a nice (and useful) touch as well.
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