Operation and controls

The Stylus Verve is first and foremost a point and shoot camera, albeit a fairly sophisticated one (there's a grand total of 13 subject and scene modes), and as such simplicity of operation is of utmost importance. Fortunately Olympus has made great strides in making its user-interface as friendly and intuitive as possible, though some functions are still less obvious than we'd like, and some require more key presses than is ideal. Overall, however, it's hard to fault the Stylus Verve when it comes to everyday picture taking.

Rear of camera

Despite the rather unusual styling, the rear of the Stylus Verve is fairly conventional, with a smattering of external controls ranged to the right of the color screen. To the left of the screen is a single 'Quick View' button (which displays the last saved image and switches to playback mode). To the right are the small zoom buttons and a four-way controller that's used to navigate the on-screen menus. The four arrow keys also offer direct access to the scene modes, macro (and super macro) mode, flash setting and self-timer. All other functions (white balance, file size and so on) require you to enter the menu system.

Top of camera

The top of the camera is home to the power switch, main mode switch (record/playback/movie) and shutter release. The lens, shown here extended, retracts flush into the body when power is turned off.

Display and menus

The record screen offers basic shooting information (remaining frames, file size/quality, exposure and flash mode). Half-press the shutter and the display changes to indicate the focus area selected (in iESP mode). There's no exposure information (shutter speed/aperture) but a green dot shows correct focus, and the flash symbol turns red if it is turned off and the exposure is likely to result in camera shake (as shown above).
Pressing the menu button in the middle of the four-way controller brings up this menu - pressing one of the arrow keys takes you to one of the four sections. The 'up' arrow selects AE compensation (+ and - 2.0 EV in 0.33 EV steps). As you need to press the OK button to accept the change a simple AE compensation takes a minimum of four button presses, which can get annoying if you use it a lot!
The left arrow brings up the file size/quality menu. The default is HQ 2272x1704 (and the camera will revert to this every time you turn it off and on again... annoying if you want to shoot at the best, SHQ setting, all the time). The down arrow gets you into the white balance menu. There's no manual setting, and only four presets in addition to the default auto mode.
The right arrow takes you to the slightly more advanced menus. There's three 'tabs'; camera, card (formatting) and setup. The camera menu has options for metering, drive (single or burst), ISO, AF mode, voice memos, panorama (with an Olympus card) and '2-in-1' (split screen double exposure). The setup menu is where you change basic camera settings; audio, color schemes (for the menus) and startup images, LCD brightness and date/time. This menu is also accessible from playback mode.
The Stylus Verve has 13 subject modes in addition to the standard default 'program' mode. Each mode is illustrated with a photo thumbnail.
In playback mode you can choose between no information or basic shooting information (filename/size/quality, AE compensation, white balance, ISO setting). Again, unfortunately, there is no indication of the actual exposure values. The left zoom button switches to a thumbnail display.
In the setup menu you can opt for a 2x2, 3x3 or 4x4 thumbnail grid, which is a welcome - and unusual - option. The playback menu has four tabs - play, edit, card and setup (the latter two being the same as found in the record menu). The play tab offer file locking, rotation, voice memo and DPOF print ordering.
One unusual feature of the Stylus Verve is in-camera image editing. Here you can add Soft Focus, Fisheye, Black & White and Sepia effects to images, or resize them. In each case a new file is created, so you won't lose the original.