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Olympus Stylus 750 Digital Camera Review
by  -  11/21/2006

The Olympus Stylus 750 was one of four new cameras added to Olympus' weatherproof Stylus line back in August (the others were the 730, 740, and 1000).  It has a 7.1 megapixel capture resolution, a 5x optical zoom, optical image stabilization, and a 2.5 inch LCD. The camera is sealed against weather and dust. While this model is not "waterproof", it can handle a rain shower.

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It has a cheaper sibling, the Stylus 740, which looks the same and has the same specifications for resolution, lens, and LCD size.  The only thing the Stylus 740 doesn’t have is the optical image stabilization system that the Stylus 750 has.  The Stylus 740 has an MSRP $50 less.  The 750’s more expensive sibling also doesn’t have image stabilization, but it’s a 10 megapixel camera ($20 more than the Stylus 750).


From left to right: Olympus Stylus 1000, Stylus 730, Stylus 750 (view large image)

In the Box 

You’ll find the camera, wrist strap, lithium-ion battery, battery charger, USB cable, AV cable, and Olympus Master software on CD-ROM.

Camera Design 

The Stylus design hasn’t really changed much since the last generation (Stylus 710, for example).  It has a nice silver finish and it’s pretty slim with kind of a tapered profile from the top, with a thicker part of the camera to hold.  The Stylus cameras all feel pretty sturdy, but they’re not heavy at all.  The controls are straight-forward and laid out well.  Since the camera is water resistant, buttons are a little harder to press than non-weatherproof cameras, but that is to be expected.

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The front of the camera has the lens (that retracts into the body) with a built-in lens cover, the flash, and the microphone.


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The back of the camera has the 2.5 inch, 215K pixel LCD, a zoom rocker switch, a mode dial and a cluster of buttons.  In this cluster, you’ll find the 5 way control pad, menu button, Disp button, quick view/print button, and delete button.


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The top of the camera has the power switch, shutter release and button to enableddisable the image stabilization feature of the camera.

On the right side of the camera, you can access the USB jack and place to attach the wrist strap.

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The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount and a door that provides access to the battery and memory media.

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Camera Features 

One of the most exciting features about this particular Stylus model is that it includes a CCD-shift image stabilization mode in addition to a "digital" image stabilization mode.  This is the first Stylus model to include “optical” image stabilization. If the optical stabilization is not enough, the camera also has what Olympus calls "Digital Image Stabilization". With this image stabilization, camera movement is recorded and during image processing, any blurring caused by the camera movement is removed.

All of the cameras in the Stylus line have Olympus’ Bright Capture Technology (BCT) that is kind of an “umbrella” term for several features.  First, with BCT, the LCD gains up automatically in low light so you can preview the image before you take it.  (An important feature since there is no optical viewfinder).  Then several scene modes are built-in for low light shooting: Available Light Portrait, Indoors, and Candle. 

The Stylus 750 has a 7.1 megapixel imaging sensor.  In addition to capturing images at full resolution (3,072 x 2,304) in two compression levels (SHQ and HQ), you can also capture images at 2,560 x 1,920, 2,304 x 1,728, 2,048 x 1,536, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480.  At SHQ quality, the file size, on average, is about 3 MB.

The lens on the Stylus 750 provides a 5x optical zoom.  The focal length of 6.4-32mm has a 35mm equivalent range of 36-180mm.  The lens has an aperture range of f3.3-5.0.

The LCD is 2.5 inches diagonally and has 215K pixels of resolution.  Colors are good on the screen and the refresh rate is fast enough to provide smooth viewing.  The LCD has average visibility outside in the sunlight.  There is no optical viewfinder on this camera.

Movies are captured as Quicktime files.  You can capture movies at resolutions of 640x480, 320x240, and 160x120, all at 15 frames per second.

The camera has 17MB of internal memory, but you can expand it with xD-Picture Cards (up to 2GB).

The camera is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (LI-42B).  To charge the battery, you plug in the charger and insert the battery into the charger.  Charging time is around 5 hours.  Battery life was average to good - I got over 200 shots on a single charge.

The 750 is a truly point and shoot digital camera – there are no manual exposure modes.  There is a full automatic mode, program auto (which lets you set ISO, white balance, etc), and several scene modes.  The available scene modes are Portrait, Landscape, Landscape & Portrait, Night Scene, Night & Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Beach & Snow, Under Water Wide1, Under Water Wide2, and Under Water Macro.

The camera also has a panorama mode that can stitch together up to 10 images.  The images are stitched together using the Olympus Master software after the images are transferred to your computer.  Another requirement is that you need to use Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards.

In normal focus mode you can focus on subjects as close as 27.6 inches.  In macro mode at wide angle you can focus on subjects between 7.9 inches and infinity.  At telephoto, this range moves out to 23.6 inches.  In super macro mode, the focus range is between 1.2 inches and 7.9 inches.

The camera has a self timer setting of 12 seconds.  There are two “sequential” shooting modes.  The fast one can capture 3.5 frames per second for up to 11 frames at SQ1 resolution.  The normal sequential mode can take 0.9 frames per second for 6 frames or mode in HQ mode.

The built-in flash can be set to auto, red-eye reduction, fill flash, and disabled.  At wide angle, according to the spec sheet, the 750 has a range of 12.5 feet.  At telephoto, this decreases to 8.9 feet. Flash performance was pretty good, enough to illuminate an average sized room from wall to wall.

A built in “Guide” system is pretty handy.  It’s an entry on the mode dial, so it’s very easy to get to.  When you turn on the guide, you can choose from several options.  For example, entry #4 is “set particular lighting”.  By following the arrow, you get several other options, like “outdoor in sunny”, “outdoor in cloudy”, “incandescent lighting”, and so on.  This option essentially sets the white balance, but puts it in terms that a beginning shooter won’t be intimidated by.

Camera Performance and Image Quality 

Camera performance was good.   It’s not the fastest camera, but it is fast enough.  Start up time is under 2 seconds.  If you achieve focus lock first (with a partial press of the shutter button), shutter lag is minimal and about average among current compact point and shoot cameras.  If you aren’t able to do a partial press of the shutter, expect some shutter lag since the camera has to focus and calculate exposure before capturing the image.

The layout of the controls is good.  All the important controls – shutter release and zoom control are right where they need to be.  The mode dial is also easy to operate and it’s easy to use the control pad / button cluster on the bottom right of the back of the camera.  The buttons are a bit small, but they’re prominent enough that they’re easy to operate.  The finish on the camera is pretty slippery, so you’ll definitely want to utilize the wrist strap.  I did find myself blocking the flash especially when doing one-handed shooting (which I don’t recommend).  To get the extra grip while one-handing the camera, you may add another finger to the front of the camera for stability, and it’s easy to partially block the flash.

Auto focus performance was also average.  With plenty of light, auto focus was achieved quickly.  When at full telephoto, patience was required, at times, before a focus lock was achieved.   Also, the low light focusing capability of the camera would be greatly improved with a focus-assist lamp, which this camera does not have.

Overall, image quality was average – nothing to write home about.  The colors produced in images were good and the automatic white balance performed well.  There was some pretty noticeable softness in the corners of the frame.  Edges were generally not as sharp as I prefer and many images were just plain blurry – even one that was taken at a shutter speed of 1/500 of a second.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was pretty noticeable when looking closely at an image.

The image stabilization in the camera worked well, in controlled conditions. The shots below, of a keyboard, were both taken with a 1/4 second shutter speed. 

olympus stylus 750 sample image
Image stabilization disabled (1/4 second shutter speed)
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IS enabled (1/4 second shutter speed)

The Stylus 750 can shoot at auto ISO, or ISO values of 80/100/200/400/800/1600.  Between ISO 80 and ISO 200, results are very good.  ISO 400 is still good enough to make a print.  At ISO 800 and above, the noise (graininess) is very noticeable.



Apologies for ISO400 shot out of focus - didn't realize until too late

Additional Sample Images

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Specifications 

Conclusion

Whenever someone is looking for weatherproof camera, an Olympus Stylus model always gets a mention.  Not only are they protected against the elements (with rubber gaskets), but they’re very stylish, sturdy and compact. 

When the Stylus 750 was announced, I was happy to see that Olympus added in an optical image stabilization system.  Their system uses a CCD-shift system that moves the sensor to counteract camera movement while the image is being captured.  My next wish is that they introduce a Stylus with manual exposure modes, of which the Stylus 750 has none.

Image quality on the Stylus 750 was good, but not amazing.  My biggest complaint was some noticeable softness in the corners of the images.  Images were also not as sharp as I prefer.  However, colors and exposure were generally good.  I highly recommend that you examine the sample images from our review and other reviews to form your own opinion.

The speed of the camera was pretty average.  Personally, I don’t really worry too much about start-up time, but it was around 2 seconds.  Shot to shot time without flash was about 2 seconds.  If you turn on the flash, you’ll have to wait a couple more seconds between shots for the flash to charge between shots.  Shutter lag was quick enough to capture the moment, but only if you achieve a focus lock first.  Without a focus lock, shutter lag is right under 0.6 seconds or so.

I thought that the optical image stabilization, 5x optical zoom, the guide system, and “available light” scene modes add a lot to this camera, especially for the “beginner” user.

The controls on the camera are definitely something that you’ll want to try out in person before you buy.  I was ok with them, but you may have other concerns once you try them.  Because of the weatherproofing, the shutter button is quite stiff.  To me, this is an acceptable thing to “give up” in order to accommodate the weatherproofing, but you also need to keep in mind that the extra effort to press the button will cause camera shake.  Also, the control cluster on the bottom right of the back of the camera could be confusing or uncomfortable to operate, but I was ok with it since the buttons were raised enough to provide good feedback when they were pressed. 

If you’re looking for a weatherproof (water resistant and dustproof) camera for taking snapshots at the beach or on a camping trip, and you don’t need any manual exposure modes, the Olympus Stylus 750 is a good choice.  I would also pick the Stylus 750 over its siblings mainly because of the image stabilization.

Pros

Cons