High ISO comparison

The Stylus 800's 'Bright Capture' technology - bascially turning the gain up and reducing resolution - allows for ISOs of up to 2500 (in scene modes) or up to ISO 1600 in P,A and S modes. Below you will find a studio comparison between the Olympus Stylus 800 at it's two highest manually selectable ISO settings; ISO 800 and ISO 1600. The file size is fixed at a maximum of 2048 x 1536 pixels using these two settings (any picture over ISO 400 is recorded at 3 megapixels).

Studio scene comparison (@ ISO 800 & 1600)

  • Olympus Stylus 800: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 800, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +1.0 EV compensation
  • Olympus Stylus 800: Aperture Priority mode, ISO 1600, Default Image Parameters,
    Manual white balance, +1.0 EV compensation
  • Lighting: Daylight simulation, >98% CRI
Olympus Stylus 800
Olympus Stylus 800
ISO 800, 1/800 sec, F4.5
ISO 1600, 1/1250 sec, F4.5

Okay, i don't really have to say much about these do I? The new 'Bright Capture' technology obviously uses 'pixel binning' (combining the output of a group of pixels into one highly sensitive 'super pixel'). It looks like the process also involves some upscaling (interpolation) to get back to a 2048 x 1536 (3MP) image, and the end result is, for want of a better word, 'interesting'. Noise is low, very low, but the amount of information that's been lost to get the extra one or two stops of sensitivity is a joke.

Now, to be fair to Olympus, I did use the ISO 800 and 1600 settings fairly regularly in very low light at a party when flash would have spoilt the atmosphere of the shots, and I was able to get a -just - acceptable 6 x 4 inch print from the files in situations where I otherwise simply wouldn't have been able to take a shot. Given the amount of noise Olympus makes about 'Bright Capture' in its promotional materials I'd hoped for something more than this, but it might well get you out of a tight spot in social situations where 'capturing the moment' is more important than fine detail. Incidentally, our tests would seem to indicate that the ISO 1600 rating is fairly accurate (the ISO 800 is slightly under-stated, I'd say it was more like ISO 1000).