Olympus Stylus 1030 SW review

Started Feb 11, 2009 | User reviews
jeffharris
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Olympus Stylus 1030 SW review
Feb 11, 2009

I recently bought an Olympus 1030SW for a 10 day snorkeling trip to Aruba. It seemed to be the only half-way decent compact waterproof camera available, especially compared to the Pentax cameras. User reviews here were mixed, but I decided to take a chance, buy one and
sell it on craigslist if I didn't like the results. It was certainly cheaper than opting for using disposable film cameras and processing!

The size and build are very good for an inexpensive camera like this. It fits nicely in one hand, which is extremely helpful when swimming and diving. The surface is a bit too smooth for swimming, though. A rubberized fascia would have been a nice detail.

The Oly takes pretty good photos, very good in full sunlight, but quite noisy in low light. Using higher ISOs makes it worse. I tried to keep it at 80 or 100.

The flash is very hot, so I shut it off whenever I could. I want to try making a diffuser for the flash, since other reviewers mentioned it was a good fix for the flash. I generally prefer available light photos, anyway.

The equivalent 28mm wide angle is nice, but photos seem to have a slightly darker unfocused cast to them round the edges.

The interface is okay. It feels a bit like a hybrid between Nikon CoolPix and Canon PowerShot SD, which I use regularly. Everything is fairly easy to find. There's a handy guide built-in, too. HOWEVER, It does NOT remember settings when you shut it off, so you need to reset a few
things before shooting again. While swimming, it's a minor annoyance.

At 10MP, photos are strangely soft and hazy... even in full Aruban sunlight!
Shooting at 5MP, they’re much better. Macro shooting is very good and really the only time where the 10MP setting is excellent.

Tweaking pictures in Photoshop with the FixerBundle FocusFixer and NoiseFixer v2 filters clears a lot of the problems up, though it's time consuming.

Several reviewers complained about battery life. Since there's no auto-shutoff or sleep feature, it's important to plan when to turn it on, then shut it off ASAP. I had no trouble regularly shooting a couple hundred photos a day with no recharge. This included snorkeling every day
for 4 hours or more (2 in the morning, 2 in the afternoon) and shooting around 100 photos each time.

Some reviewers complained about blown seals and water leakage. I took that into account, read and followed the instructions carefully. I made sure that the rubber seals of the battery/memory card doors had NO dust, hairs or sand on them. I carefully flushed the camera in clear
fresh water after using it and allowed it to completely dry for several hours before pulling out the memory card and battery for recharging. I use an
ExpressCard/34 card reader with my MacBook Pro, BTW. USB doesn't cut it.

Shooting underwater is great fun! The results I got, even 15 to 20 feet down shooting under rocks and through vegetation were pretty satisfying. One trick I discovered was to swim straight down and shoot upside
down, I was less likely to float up and had a few extra seconds to compose a picture.

This camera is far from perfect. You're really paying for the underwater capabilities of a lower quality camera. Like any tool, it takes some time to get used to the pros and cons, but after a few days of trial and error, I was able to get some very good photos with it. For a take
anywhere-even-underwater camera, it's really a lot of fun! Besides, you can SHOW people the octopus you met face to face!

Problems:

10MP shooting is not very good. 10MP is way too much for a camera of this size and price. It would be better to have a larger sensor at 6 or 7MP.

The XD Picture card is a slow and overpriced format. I took reviewers' suggestion and bought a 4GB microSD card and used the adaptors that came with the camera and the microSD card for transferring photos.

The video is washed out and grainy. I tried it a few times, but it was so bad, I didn't bother again.

The location of the lens is problematic. I had to be very careful not to put a finger on it or near it while shooting. Even so, I took a quite a few finger tip pictures, until I got used to it.

Low-light is bad. High ISO is bad. The flash is too hot, with no adjustments available.

No auto-shutoff or sleep mode. Need to be careful to preserve battery life!

Doesn't remember all camera settings after shutting it off.

The camera body surface is slippery when wet. The wrist strap can't be adjusted, so I had to twist it tight around my wrist to keep it from slipping off.

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