Olympus Stylus 1030SW
The Olympus Stylus 1030SW is a 10.1 megapixel point-and-shoot digital camera with a rough-and-ready body that is waterproof, crushproof, shockproof, and freeze-proof. A 3.6x optical zoom lens provides a wider-than-average 35mm-equivalent focal length of 28mm-102mm and is complemented by a 5x digital zoom. At f/3.5-f/5.1, the lens isn’t the fastest glass in town, but the camera specializes in outdoor shooting, so the speed of the lens should suffice under most outdoor conditions.
As is common for point-and-shoot cameras, aperture and shutter speed cannot be set manually on the Olympus Stylus 1030SW. Instead, you’ll find a total of 29 shooting modes, 25 of which are scene modes. The 1030SW’s basic feature set is complemented by on-board Help, a Shooting Guide, the very useful Perfect Shot Preview (which gives you a preview of how a photo will look with various settings such as White Balance), a live Histogram and Frame Assist. There’s also a Shadow Adjustment feature on the Olympus 1030SW that is designed to balance shadows and highlights in various situations such as backlit scenes, and a Manometer that measures air pressure, so mountain climbers and scuba divers have a reference point of the height (or depth) at which an image is captured. Face Detection and a post-processing automatic Perfect Fix feature add to the Olympus Stylus 1030SW’s capabilities. Optical image stabilization is not available. Instead, the 1030SW utilizes its ISO range of 80 to 1600 for what the company calls “Digital image stabilization.”
Like most compact cameras, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW does not have an optical viewfinder. However, the camera is outfitted with a high resolution 2.7-inch LCD that has a wide angle of view and 5 brightness settings.
All things being equal, even considering its feature set, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW’s real claim to fame is its ability to withstand conditions that other cameras (or their manufacturers) can only dream of.
Olympus Stylus 1030SW User Report
by Theano Nikitas
Like its predecessors in the SW lineup, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW is made for the outdoors and can handle just about anything you can think of. You can drop it from 6.6 feet, sit or stand on it (it can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure), take it underwater to a depth of 33 feet, or outdoors in sub-freezing weather (down to 14 degrees F). But you don’t have to be an outdoor adventurer to test the Olympus 1030SW’s durability; just think of it as a camera that can go where no other camera can — or should — venture. The Olympus 1030SW is a perfect companion for the swimming pool, beach, boat, or anywhere water, dirt, dust, and other elements would wreak havoc with the electronics of most cameras.
At its core, though, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW is a point-and-shoot camera with the standard array of shooting options. But its feature set holds a few pleasant surprises with extras that make shooting easier for novices, and provide more experienced users with a couple of handy options as well.
The camera has a few shortcomings that may detract from its usefulness as your one-and-only digital camera, but the Olympus Stylus 1030SW is a hardcore camera for those who want to take pictures under conditions where other cameras fear to tread.
Look and Feel. Built like a workhorse, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW’s metal body is incredibly sturdy. Thanks to special protective seals and gaskets, the camera can be submersed in water to a depth of 33 feet. Because it’s so well-sealed, the Olympus 1030SW is impervious to rain, snow, sleet, hail, dust, sand, and other outdoor camera hazards. At the same time, the metal body can be dropped from a height of 6.6 feet with no ill effects; and while you may not make a habit (as I did) of purposely dropping your camera, accidents happen and it’s always comforting to know that a slip-through-the-fingers drop or bump won’t harm the camera. You should, however, check the sealed areas for specs of dust or sand, which can interfere with the seals.
The Olympus 1030SW’s crushproof feature is probably more important than you imagine as I recently found out. After setting the camera on the couch next to me one day, a friend innocently sat down on it. Although he weighs less than 220 pounds, this made me a believer in Olympus’ claims that the 1030SW’s body and reinforced LCD can withstand up to 220 pounds of pressure. Since freezing temperatures are long gone in my area, I didn’t test the 1030SW’s ability to function in 14-degree Fahrenheit conditions; but in last year’s test of its sibling, the 770SW, there were no problems (other than my frozen hands and face).
Measuring 3.7 x 2.4 x 0.84 inches, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW is small enough to be carried comfortably in pocket or purse. It weighs about 6.8 ounces with the battery and xD-Picture Card, a little heavier than other compact cameras, but the weight certainly adds to the camera’s sturdy feel.
The Olympus 1030SW’s design is a little different from most, and looks more industrial than sexy. However, the 1030SW comes in three cool color combos: silver/silver, black/silver, and green/silver. A self-covering lens is located in the upper right hand corner (when you’re looking at the camera from the front), with the flash just out of the way of your forefinger when gripping the camera. The lens is protected by the automatic cover, which opens when you power up the camera and the lens’s surface showed no droplets or other picture-altering effects when wet. But it’s a little too easy to let the forefinger on your left hand stray in front of the lens and ruin the shot, so be particularly careful if you have large hands. Generally, though, the Olympus Stylus 1030SW is fairly comfortable to hold.
The Olympus 1030SW doesn’t have an optical viewfinder; rather, your sole method of composing is its 2.7-inch, 230,000-dot LCD. The display has a wide angle of view so you can easily see your composition from the side or overhead. This also allows you to easily share images with family and friends right after you’ve photographed them. The ability to adjust the LCD’s brightness in five steps is an extra benefit so you can easily tweak the monitor according to shooting conditions. In low light, the 1030SW’s LCD lights up automatically so you can clearly see what you’re shooting.
Interface. Olympus’ designers had some good ideas when they put the Stylus 1030SW together. Dedicated external controls and a Function Menu make it easy to adjust settings without going into the 1030SW’s menu system. The four-way controller on the back of the camera can be used to set Exposure Compensation, Flash, the Self-Timer, and Macro. Nestled into the four corners of the controller are the Menu, Playback/Direct Print, Shadow Adjustment On/Off, and Display/Menu Guide/LED Illuminator buttons. The Function Menu provides access to White Balance, ISO, Single/Continuous shooting modes, Metering, file size, and compression options.
On the rear of the camera, just above the control buttons, you’ll find a small Mode Dial that falls in line with your thumb when holding the camera. It’s tightly ratcheted so there’s less chance of accidentally changing the mode with an errant finger. This design is preferable to the old method, which used a button to cycle through the various modes. The dual-button Zoom sits above the Mode Dial. A nice-sized shutter and a small power button sit along the top edge of the camera, rounding out the 1030SW’s external controls.
The control layout is logical and, in many ways, works well. However, as is common with compact cameras equipped with large LCDs, the controls are small. This can pose a problem for photographers with larger hands and, perhaps more importantly, for those wearing thick gloves when putting the 1030SW’s freezeproof features to the test. The other challenge for photographers is figuring out what each button does. The identifying icons and fonts are either white or engraved into the silver surface and are almost impossible to see. The identifiers on the Mode Dial, on the other hand, are perfectly legible.
Along the top edge of the camera you’ll find a nicely sized shutter button and a small power button. Both are easy to use with bare hands but, like many of the other controls, the low profile power button may be difficult to find with a thickly-gloved hand.
I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of Olympus’s virtual menu system. Rather than breaking up the menu into tabs, the Stylus 1030SW uses separate icons for each section, i.e., Camera Settings, Setup, Image Quality, Reset, SCN (Scene), and direct access to Silent Mode and Panorama. Maybe I’m old-fashioned (if digital photography is old enough for one to be old-fashioned) but I think the tabbed layout format found on many other cameras is more efficient to use since it’s easier to jump between options. Given all the external controls and Function Menu, you’ll rarely have to access the main menu. Unfortunately, though, you’ll have to venture into the menu to activate Face Detection, which is one of the AF options.
Modes. As expected, the point-and-shoot Olympus Stylus 1030SW doesn’t offer manual control of Aperture and Shutter Speed; though you do have a choice of Auto or Program AE. With the latter mode, you have access to a number of features, including metering, Exposure Compensation, and others that allow you to adjust the way the camera captures images. Mostly standard stuff, but the Olympus 1030SW shines with 25 Scene modes that range from the standard portrait and landscape to Behind Glass, Auction (a 3-shot exposure bracket mode with Web-ready file sizes), Shoot & Select (continuous shooting but you choose the images you want to save) and several underwater modes. Each Scene mode is accompanied by a very helpful text description of the mode’s function and when to use it.
Olympus addresses the issue of blurry images from camera of subject movement with a digital stabilization mode. That means that the camera automatically boosts the ISO, which subsequently increases the shutter speed, to help avoid blur. Fortunately, the Olympus 1030SW’s LCD shows the shutter speed and f/stop when you press the shutter button halfway, so you bypass the auto ISO boost and manually adjust the ISO until you get a shutter speed that is fast enough for you to handhold the camera. That way, you have control over the ISO (and the amount of image noise associated with each setting).