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By Ryan Noik 1 April 2014

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For photographers, there is such a thing as love at first sight, particularly when it comes to that moment when you first pick up a camera. Case in point: Olympus’ Stylus 1.

It’s not hard to tell when a camera has been built well and designed with care, in fact, the litmus test for each is a reluctance to set the camera down; suffice to say, the 12.7 megapixel Stylus 1 passes this test with flying colours. The reason has much to do with the camera’s extremely solid build, with it boasting just enough heft to be reassuring, without crossing the line into being unwieldy.

The Stylus 1 is certainly an attractive camera; more importantly, it is a pleasure to hold.

Give me a hand

Then there is the issue of ergonomic controls, which the Stylus 1 simply nails. Firstly, a main control dial encircling the 10.7x zoom lens (28-300mm equivalent) offers a convenient means of changing your aperture (a fast and constant f2.8 up to f8) or shutter speed (60 seconds up to 1/1200th). Additionally, two separate controls, one next to the lens and the other at the shutter, enable you to adjust your zoom according to how you prefer to hold and control these essential settings.

Moreover, the camera’s 3” 1040k-dot LCD screen is outstanding, more than holding its own in direct lighting and as clear and sharp as it is bright. However, if you instead prefer relying on the electronic viewfinder, then that qualities carries through there as well. Incidentally, the screen automatically turns off when you raise the viewfinder to your eye, and we were most impressed by how distinct the crucial readings looked in the viewfinder, even as we tend to be more accustomed to using an optical viewfinder.

Pros abound

The screen can also be tilted such that it enables you to take photos, or full HD video, from above your head, as well as from waist level, enabling shooters to mix up their perspective a bit. The lens eschews a lens caps (which invariably tend to go missing as frequently as odd socks) in favour of a shutter design, which is certainly handy.

The other feature that won us over was the real time preview of exactly how the end-result would look when dialing in exposure compensation. In general, we found image quality to be pretty good, with the exception of some cases where we set auto ISO and the camera dished up more noise than we would have liked.  

One of the features we particularly liked was the main control dial which encircles the lens, which proved easy to access and a swift way of changing settings. 

And yet, a couple of cons too

If there is one issue we have with Olympus in general, it is their menu structures, which is more fragmented and not quite as intuitive as some other manufacturers and takes a little getting used to.

Ultimately though, the Stylus 1’s strengths surpassed and superseded its weaknesses. At the end of the day, it was not difficult to envision it as being the (near) perfect travel camera, and we were sorry to lose it from our grip and let it go through its departure gate. It comes with a pricey RRP of R10 000.

PROS
Extremely solid, well built body, Terrific ergonomics, Superb LCD screen, Lovely control dial encircling the lens
CONS
Convoluted menu structure, Some quality issues at high ISO
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