Olympus SH-1 Review and Samples

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The first impression you might have pulling the Olympus SH-1 out of the box is how much this camera looks like a Pen Camera.  For better or for worse, it isn’t.  Instead, the SH-1 is decidedly a point and shoot camera with a large zoom range and excellent video.  But what else does the Olympus SH-1 boast?  And is the camera’s price tag a fair indicator of image quality?

Shooting with the Olympus SH-1

So it isn’t a digital Pen, but is it still worth buying?  For some, the Olympus SH-1 will make a big difference in terms of what can be captured, and when it can be captured.  The biggest feature on this small camera is, without a doubt, the 5-axis image stabilization, which is being implemented in compact FULL HD video for the first time (so Olympus says, at least).

At any rate, that IS is really helping out video and Image Quality and long ranges, so it’s safe to say that those looking for a compact megazoom – or a pocketable camera that also delivers excellent video – will find this little runt appealing.

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Controls

Like most compacts, especially Olympus compacts, the controls and their layout are minimalist but functional.  Missing are any dials for shutter and aperture, and between the mode dial on top and the concise menu layout, it’s plain to see that the Olympus SH-1 is an easy-to-use camera streamlined for a more automatic shooting experience.

Built in WiFi is easy enough to sync to your smartphone or tablet, and the relative ease with which one can change shooting modes (set the mode dial, then press the “ok” button to select different options), gives this camera a certain appeal not readily found in other brands.

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Zoom

What can I say, the reach on this sucker is fantastic.  From a 25mm equivalent at it’s widest, to a whopping 600mm equivalent at it’s furthest in, the lens is great.  That 5-axis image stabilization only bolsters the performance.

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“Manual”

Manual Mode on the Olympus SH-1 is a bit of a pain.  Like most compacts, here you’re working with a D-Pad to adjust your settings – from Shutter Speed and Aperture, to ISO.  If you’re working in a location with constantly-changing lighting, it may not be the easiest way to use this camera, but if you can set it and run with it, you won’t be disappointed.

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Art Modes

As usual, Olympus throws in some nifty art filters for certain effects.  While most might seem gimmicky, I personally like the Grainy Black And White effect, which tends to offer extreme contrast for a love-it-or-hate-it feel.

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Panorama

Panorama mode allows wider images with decent stitching.  It works best with still subjects, and if you wanted a panoramic shot of architecture or landscapes, this feature would prove itself useful.  If you’re looking to capture busy scenes with lots of movement, you may want to look elsewhere, as the stitching software still seems to mar some difficult, moving subjects.

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Image Quality

Image quality is the big bust on the SH-1, and while it might not be perfect, it certainly isn’t abysmal.  As with most small-sensor cameras, the big point one should keep in mind when considering this camera is that you’ll want to get the image right while in-camera.  TRYING TO SAVE A SHOT IN POST IS VERY DIFFICULT.

That being said, I’m still surprised at how this little puppy held up.  I especially enjoyed setting up the WiFi and using my old iPhone as a remote LCD while I held the camera nonchalantly, taking some pretty nice candid shots of people walking by.

Conclusion

It’s no RX-100ii, but the Olympus SH-1 may be the compact to look at.  Generally, it strikes you on paper as being a go to workhorse for stable handheld video, and long-distance lens performance.  With the added WiFi and some minimalist design, however, it could lend itself to almost anyone who wants a basic camera with some decent output.  In general, I would say it performs about as well as – if not better than – Fuji’s X20.  You might lose a viewfinder and a lot of manual controls, but a more portable design will have many right in the Olympus Brand pocket.

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