I wouldn't consider myself a fan of superzooms. In general, the extra zoom range they offer has never been worth the image quality compromise of using a small sensor for the kind of shooting I like to do. The additional bulk of long zoom lenses is also pretty off-putting - again, once I've made the decision to carry something that isn't pocketable, I want a step up in image quality to make up for that inconvenience.
The Stylus 1 joins the Sony RX10 in offering a slightly different balance of features that make the idea slightly more appealing. The Stylus 1 isn't as ambitious as the RX10 and we wouldn't expect it to offer the same absolute image quality but it's also considerably smaller and significantly less expensive. 28-300mm equivalent is a very flexible focal length range and the larger sensor should offer a quality improvement over high-end superzooms such as the Panasonic FZ200, let alone its more pedestrian, variable aperture rivals. The Fujifilm X-S1 is one of the only other cameras we've seen before to offer a larger sensor and long zoom, but again that's a significantly larger camera.
The other plus, in my eyes, is the camera's close relationship to the XZ-2 - one of my favorite compact cameras to shoot with. The Stylus is one of the few compact cameras to offer a proper twin-dial user interface - though its limited control over depth-of-field (even with a constant F2.8 lens) limits the usefulness of that in aperture priority mode. It's also nice to see a respectable battery life figure from an enthusiast compact - I'm happy to take a slight size hit if it means I don't have to worry about whether I've charged and brought a spare.
As usual for an enthusiast-targeted Olympus, the Stylus 1 is nothing if not feature packed. Although you can pick it up and use it as a point-and-shoot, there's a lot more to be gained from learning its intricacies and foibles, to really tune it to the kinds of shooting you want to do. Having said I'm not a fan of superzooms, I'll be interested to find out what sorts of photos I end up taking, if I get a chance to throw the Stylus 1 in my bag over the coming weekends.
- Richard Butler
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Olympus Stylus 1 Preview Samples
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