DigitalCameraReview.com
Olympus Stylus 1020 Review
by Kevin O'Brien -  7/14/2008

The Olympus Stylus 1020 is a semi-advanced ultracompact targeted to individuals who want a bit more out of their camera, but also don't want to have to study a manual to just snap pictures.

Olympus Stylus 1020


It combines ease of use with features such as an impressive-for-an-ultracompact 7x zoom lens, 10.1 megapixel image sensor offering sensor shift image stabilization, and a high quality 2.7-inch LCD to give aspiring photographers a helping hand, or your Average Joe an easy way to capture a memory.

FEATURES OVERVIEW
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
PERFORMANCE
IMAGE QUALITY
CONCLUSIONS
SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES OVERVIEW

The Olympus Stylus 1020 is a 10.1 megapixel camera with sensor shift image stabilization technology. It accepts a proprietary rechargeable lithium ion battery rated for 260 shots, as well as xD-Picture Card and microSD memory (with included adapter). In addition to the removable memory, it includes 14MB of internal storage space just in case you need to take a picture or two without a memory card. The camera offers a 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD on the back, with 230,000 dot resolution and variable brightness control.

The lens is a 7x optical zoom with an aperture range of f/3.5 on the wide angle and /f5.3 on the telephoto. Digital zoom out to 5x is also available through a menu option if it is required. Shutter speeds range from 1/2 to 1/2000 seconds in normal shooting, and up to four seconds in night mode.

The Olympus Stylus 1020 has the following mode options, easily selected from the mode dial:

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

Styling and Build Quality

The Olympus Sylus 1020 has very sleek and elegant design. It is easy to hold and thin enough to slip in your pocket without any discomfort.

Olympus Stylus 1020

The color scheme is pretty cool, with a glossy black finish with chrome trim. The rear of the camera is somewhat toned down with a matte gold paint, which I wish they kept the gloss black instead.

Olympus Stylus 1020

The glossy finish feels as if it would hold up pretty well with use, but would not be immune from scratches at some point. As long as you treat the camera well the finish should hold up quite well, but sharing the same pocket as a set of keys could do some damage.

Ergonomics and Interface

The interface felt very snappy and easy to navigate right when I picked up the camera.

Olympus Stylus 1020

The button layout was easy to manipulate with my fairly large hands and fingers.

Olympus Stylus 1020

My only complaint would be that the feel of the buttons could be better outlined, so you don't have to look at the buttons to figure out which one you are pressing.

Display/Viewfinder

The display was bright enough to be easily visible outside in the sun. Color and contrast was nice, and it was easy to review images on the screen after a photo shoot.

Olympus Stylus 1020

The LCD has a non-reflective glossy finish with did a decent job of blocking out glare, but if you had the sun behind you and were taking macro shots of the grass there was no way you were not going to see a big ball of light.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag

Pre-focus lag was 0.04 seconds – essentially real-time. Without pre-focus, the Stylus 1020 managed anywhere from 0.2 at best to 0.6 seconds at worst on its press-to-capture cycle. On the low end, this is a very good number, but the high end is a bit slow. Overall the Stylus performed well but did have some problems getting consistent focus timings (even in good light) from shot to shot.

At full resolution in single shot mode I found the camera to be a bit laggy for taking multiple shots in a row. It seemed to have some delay writing the data after the shot, and took two to three seconds before I could lock onto another target. If the focusing was locked on a certain item and it was in continuous shooting mode, the camera managed roughly 11 shots in 15 seconds at full resolution. At two megapixels it was able to get 13 shots in the same amount of time. If I set the camera to high speed, which put the camera into three megapixel mode, it was able to squeeze out 46 shots.

Lens and Zoom

The zoom lens is very fast and quiet. During normal operation it is barely above a whisper, and sounds like a smooth whirring motor. The motor had 11 zoom stops, which I found to be just right during shooting.

Olympus Stylus 1020

The zoom range was great, but I did wish for a bit more on the wide-angle end. Taking pictures of rooms or other situations where you want more stuff in the shot was difficult. The telephoto side on the other hand I found to be perfect. It worked quite well when I needed more detail of an object far away, or if I just wanted to fill more of the frame without having to crop.

Auto Focus

Focusing speed was average for a point and shoot camera, if not slightly on the slow side. Depending on the surface you were shooting, it could hunt for a bit before it found an area to lock onto. Low light situations usually resulted in a failed focus lock and you attempting to get a better position to show greater contrast or just a spot that had more light in general. More often than not, I was unable to grab a focus lock in low light situations if the colors of the object were dark as well.

Flash

The built-in flash performed quite well in my testing with decent coverage and good metering. In most test shots the flash didn't overexpose too much, and overall was pretty balanced.

Olympus Stylus 1020

A big gripe I have with the flash, though, deals with its placement near the shutter button. The way I hold the camera almost always had a bit of a finger over the flash, and I had to always remember to pull my finger back before shooting.

Flash performance in regards to recycle time was pretty good, taking less than a second before the next shot was able to be fired under normal conditions. In Olympus's high speed flash mode, the camera was able to bang out seven to nine flashes depending on lighting conditions before you had to let the camera rest to recharge.

Full flash recycle time clocked in at 6.6 seconds, which is pretty good for a camera in this class.

Image Stabilization

The image stabilizer helped considerably, at least for my shaky hands in low light/no flash situations. To give a quick example of this, at max telelphoto range, I took a 1/4 second shot of a document a few feet away from my couch. With the stabilizer enabled, I was able to capture a reasonably clear picture with only a few tries. Quickly disabling the stabilization and trying it under the same conditions I couldn't even get a shot to turn out legible.

Olympus Stylus 1020
Image stabilization disabled
Olympus Stylus 1020
Image stabilization enabled

While it isn't perfect, it did help quite a bit under certain conditions.

Battery Life

The battery life during my testing was easily in the realm of 260 shots that was advertised.

Olympus Stylus 1020

Over two days of shooting, with some heavy flash use, and more than 200 shots I have still not run into any low battery warnings.


IMAGE QUALITY

I found image quality to be above average during my testing, with relatively low ISO noise until you hit 800 ISO. For normal shooting out and about the 1020 produced some great images, and even at higher ISOs if the image was resized smaller it could still be salvaged.

Olympus Stylus 1020

In general, shots from the 1020 showed some heavy saturation, as well as some softness (which appeared to be more of a processing issue rather than a lens problem). All in all though, an excellent snapshot camera.

Exposure, Processing, and Color

In ESP metering mode (Olympus's multi-area setting), the camera had a tendency to underexpose slightly – not necessarily a bad thing. For most of my shooting I left the camera in spot metering mode instead, though. Having just two metering modes (spot and multi-area), Olympus picks two useful ones, avoiding center-weighted or average modes altogether in this application.

Default sharpness processing tended to lean more on a natural look; shooters used to more typical compacts may find the shots slightly soft, but there's plenty to work with in post-processing.

On the subject of processing, users should note that there are no in-camera processing options available on the 1020: lacking either settings for sharpness, saturation, and the lack or color modes, the default image look is the only available option on the Olympus.

White Balance

The auto white balance performed fairly well, handing incandescent light slightly better than average, but still a slightly pink cast.

Olympus Stylus 1020
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

The incandescent preset tended to further emphasize the 1020's cool image tone, but otherwise presets were plentiful and accurate in balancing color.

Lens Faults

The lens was slightly soft around the edges at wide-angle. Some chromatic aberration (taking the form of blue fringe) was also noted the wider you go, especially towards the edges of the frame.

Olympus Stylus 1020

Olympus Stylus 1020
100% crop

Barrel distortion is non-existent, and there is really no vignetting. Some pincushioning shows up at the telephoto end, but it too is minor. Some minimal flare/ghosting was also there, but that is fairly typical and nothing to get worried over.

Sensitivity and Noise

Noise is handled well up to ISO 400, but even then it still starts to lose some sharpness along the edges. Some increasing color noise from ISO 400 and above is noted, getting appreciably worse at ISO 800 and ISO 1600. ISO 1600 is fairly typical for an ultracompact, working well for small shots but really nothing else.

Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 80
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 80, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 100
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 100, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 200
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 400
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 800
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 1600
Olympus Stylus 1020
ISO 1600, 100% crop

With decent performance up through ISO 400, leaving the camera in Auto ISO mode turned out to be just fine for most shooting situations, compared to some other cameras which look best locked down at a lower ISO.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus Stylus 1020 Olympus Stylus 1020
Olympus Stylus 1020 Olympus Stylus 1020
Olympus Stylus 1020 Olympus Stylus 1020

CONCLUSIONS

Overall I think the Olympus Stylus 1020 performed quite well, producing some great snapshots with little or no effort. The SteadyShot shake reduction feature on this camera worked very well, helping those shoot from the hip at any moment shots turn out clear and crisp. The only really odd aspect of this camera would be the lack of any onboard processing modes, leaving you with default settings and Photoshop after the fact.


Some inconsistencies hamstring the 1020 at times, with minor AF concerns and some image quality/lens issues topping the list of needed improvements. For casual shooters looking for a stylish pocket camera with an impressive zoom range, however, the 1020 delivers.

Pros:

Cons:


SPECIFICATIONS: Olympus Stylus 1020

Sensor 10.1 megapixel, 1/2.33" CCD
Zoom 7x (37-260mm) zoom, f/3.5-5.3
LCD/Viewfinder 2.7", 230K-pixel HyperCrystal II LCD with Backlight Boost
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600
Shutter Speed 4-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Program, Sensor-Shift Stabilization, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Portrait, Landscape, Landscape-Portrait, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach & Snow, Pre-Capture Movie, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro
White Balance Settings Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, Flash
Metering Modes Digital ESP, Spot, Face Detection AE
Focus Modes iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF, Macro, Super Macro
Drive Modes Normal, High Speed
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
12 seconds, Off
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card, microSD (with supplied adapter)
Internal Memory
14.7 MB
File Formats JPEG, Motion JPEG
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video Not Specified
Battery Lithium-ion rechargeable, 925 mAh
Connections USB 2.0, AV output
Additional Features Dual Image Stabilization, TruePic III processor, Face Detection, Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology, In-Camera Panorama