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Conclusion - Pros

  • Excellent resolution
  • Bright, vivid and sharp results (though see cons, below)
  • Weatherproof
  • Excellent build quality
  • Attractive design and good handling
  • Aperture priority and shutter priority modes
  • Lots of scene/subject modes
  • Fast, reliable focus
  • Excellent screen, remains usable in very, very low light
  • Very little purple fringing
  • Excellent low-light focus
  • Good 'super macro' mode
  • Good flash exposures
  • Good battery life
  • Lots of 'fun' features and playback options
  • Good price

Conclusion - Cons

  • Visible noise reduction / sharpening / demosaicing artefacts at all ISO settings, especially if you don't use the SHQ mode
  • Images over-sharpened and too contrasty
  • Occasional white balance problems in scenes with one predominant color
  • Smearing of low contrast detail (such as foliage and hair)
  • Tendency to mis-expose in bright high contrast scenes
  • Slow flash recycling
  • Some basic controls too deep in menus
  • Writing to xD picture card slow
  • No orientation sensor

Overall conclusion

It's hard to know how to rate a camera like the Stylus 800. On the one hand it's responsive, well-specified, well made, well priced and has a fantastic screen. That it's weatherproof too is a significant added bonus if you like to shoot in challenging environments. On the other hand the results are - if we're going to be very critical - disappointing, especially if you use any setting other than the best 'SHQ' mode (the artefacts mentioned above are much worse in 'HQ' shots than 'SHQ'). To be honest, if you're printing at 'normal' sizes (say under 10 x 8 inches) you won't see most of the issues mentioned - there are after all 8 million pixels in each image, and the typical buyer will no doubt be very pleased with his or her bright, punchy pictures. Even the 'Bright Capture' modes (which actually offer ISOs of up to 2500) have benefits, and are perfectly usable (often in situations where you simply couldn't otherwise take a shot at all) - as long as you don't mind pictures that look like blown-up camera phone shots.

So, if you're looking for a nice, weatherproof camera capable - with careful exposure - of very sharp, very colorful results (providing you use the best quality setting) the Stylus 800 is well worth a look. If you're a pixel-peeper, purist or post-processing junkie I'd have to advise you give this one a fairly wide berth and look at one of the 7.2MP cameras still on the market.

As with all our tests I'd urge you to take a close look at the gallery samples - and print out one or two of the full resolution files - before making a decision; the Stylus 800 is an excellent, well-specified camera that is let down by its image processing (and what is, I suspect, a fairly noisy sensor). We'd be more comfortable with the noise / noise reduction / sharpening issue if there was any control over it, but there isn't, and - by our measure of what makes a good camera at least - this is a serious enough issue to (just) miss getting a recommended...

Above Average

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