16 megapixels, 24x zoom, 5-axis stabilization, 60p Full HD video recording with stereo sound, continuous shooting at 11 frames per second, or slow-motion videos at 240fps, all that in a camera that fits in any pocket? Meet the Olympus SH-1, the super-zoom compact that I held for testing a whole week. It is small and very versatile, and gave me a number of very pleasant surprises. I would say that it is the surprise of the summer in the category of small compacts, thanks to the impressive package of functions that it integrates. We now get to know this little camera together.
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The tech specs at a glance
Here are briefly the technical specifications of the Olympus SH-1:
- CMOS 1/2.3″ sensor
- 16 Megapixel resolution
- 25-600 mm (35 mm equiv.) zoom lens
- Aperture: f/3.0-f/6.9
- ISO 100-6400
- Integrated pop-up Flash, 4m range (GN 4, ISO 100, at 600 mm)
- MOV H.236 Full HD 1080 60p video recording with stereo sound
- Image stabilization system on 5 axes
- Continuous shooting with 11.5 fps
- LCD touch screen, 3.0″ (3:2) with 460,000 dots
- Storage on SD/SDHC/SDXC/Memory Stick Pro Duo (1 slot)
- Integrated Wi-fi 802.11 b/g/n with NFC
- Lithium-Ion LI-92B battery
- Autonomy approx. 300 shots (CIPA)
- Weighs 271 g
- Dimensions: 108.8 x 63.2 x 42.4 mm
Build and handling
Small and compact, with a design that calls to mind the Olympus PEN series, the new SH-1 fits well in hand and has a solid build, despite its small size. On the casing we find the shooting modes selection wheel, which offers quick access to the main work modes (including iAuto, Scene Presets, Panorama, night photography, but also the P (Program) and Manual modes). The back of the camera is 70% covered by the large LCD screen, which is offers a good view even in bright light, and is touch sensitive, allowing the user to select the point of focus and to trigger just by touching the screen.
The main advantage of the SH-1 is the lens that provides an impressive 24x zoom, or a 25-600mm equivalent, which together with the 5-axis stabilizer allows to shoot both wide-angle frames and remote details. The lens extends when zoom is activated, as in the image below.
How does the 24x zoom translate exactly? How versatile is the lens of the SH-1? Here’s an example:
And here are two more samples, two series of images shot from 25 mm to 600 mm (approximately 24x zoom).
Click on the thumbnails to enlarge:
As you can see, the magnification power provided by the SH-1 is really impressive. This fact recommends this camera for vacations and travels, and the reduced size, which allows us to have it with us all the time (this camera is truly pocketable, and I mean it) makes us forget about the lack of an electronic viewfinder or of a folding screen, features present in other compacts. Nevertheless, when it comes to recording details from large distances, the SH-1 is a true contender.
All the images of the Olympus SH-1 in our review:
The integrated Wi-fi
Olympus SH-1 includes a wireless module and can be connected via Wi-Fi to any iOS or Android smartphone. The manufacturer offers a free app, available on the Apple Store or Google Play, called Olympus Image Share, which allows you to connect easily and quickly (simply by scanning with the phone a QR code displayed on the camera screen), and to transfer the photos from the camera to your phone, where you can easily share them with your friends or publish to social networks. Moreover, Olympus SH-1 proves once again to be a remarkable compact with the remote shooting function, which allows one to operate the camera directly from the mobile phone, from a distance.
Here’s how to install the Olympus Image Share app and how to easily connect the camera via Wi-Fi to a smartphone, then download the pictures and to wirelessly control the camera directly from your phone:
Olympus SH-1’s menu looks, at first glance, just like any other compact’s. However, characteristically for Olympus, a lot of the really interesting functions are hidden quite well in the menu pages. It takes a short period of time to get accustomed, but then you’ll start to discover the advanced functions of the SH-1. Here are the most noteworthy functions, some of which will be examined in greater detail below, with sample images:
- Wi-Fi: Connect the camera to your smartphone (already mentioned above)
- Timelapse: the camera automatically records frames at predetermined intervals (from 10s to 1minute), up to 999 images, which it then composes into a timelapse animation
- Photo Story:create photo collages that tell stories
- Super Macro: capture details from 1 cm to the subject, with active zoom
- Selfie (Self Portrait): for successful self-portraits; in this mode the camera automatically optimizes skin tones and ensures that all persons in the foreground are in focus
- HDR: record images with extended dynamic range
- Shadow Adjust: automatically optimizes the level of detail in the shadowed areas of the frame
- Cuisine: shooting mode for gastronomy (the camera adjusts settings to optimally capture food images)
- Panorama: take images with very wide angle (panoramas), vertically or horizontally
- Sports (4 modes): photograph moving subjects at up to 11 frames per second
To see more details and functions as well as the way they’re displayed on the screen, here’s a few pictures with the menus:
The “Live View” screen (for framing):
The Main Menu:
All images with Olympus SH-1’s menus:
Image quality, ISO and the autofocus system
Olympus SH-1 manages to record quality images with good contrast and impactful, vivid colors. The CMOS sensor does a good job including at high ISO values, where the noise level is kept within acceptable limits. The focus system works well and is faster than most cameras in this class, and although 90% of the images were properly focused, in certain situations, especially at night or in poor light, I encountered some focus miss. Apart from these issues (to be expected by the way), the camera takes good quality images, and the 5-axis stabilization system does a good job cutting down on vibrations, even when the zoom is extended to the max.
Olympus SH-1 is capable of recording panoramic images in two ways: manually or automatically. In the manual mode, you will have to combine the frames on your laptop with an editing program, whereas in the automatic mode the camera generates a finished image. The camera is able to create panoramic photos very successfully. The only complaint here is the focus, which missed in two out of seven panoramas.
Here are two panoramic images recorded automatically by the Olympus SH-1:
(Click on the photos to enlarge)
One of the nice surprises provided by the Olympus SH-1 is the TimeLapse mode. It allows the automatic recording of animated sequences of still images, automatically composed by the camera into video files in QuickTime format at Full HD 1080 24p resolution. Basically, the device takes a frame every two seconds, and then creates a timelapse animation playing all of these frames at normal speed. In addition, you can apply effects directly from the camera, so you can generate even more interesting timelapse animations.
Here is an example of a timelapse recorded with Olympus SH-1, to which I applied the Miniature (diorama) filter:
Action photography (continuous shooting)
For those who want to capture images of subjects in motion (sports, action, cars, etc.), Olympus SH-1 can shoot images at a speed of up to 11 frames per second, in sets of up to 40 frames (so about 3 seconds in all). This is what such a continuously recorded sequence of 40 frames in the Action/Sports mode looks like – this is a slideshow of the images thus taken:
Night shooting with the Olympus SH-1 (the Hand-held Starlight Mode)
Because it’s a versatile, compact camera suitable for trips and vacations, the Olympus SH-1 offers a mode dedicated to the taking of night photography. Quickly and easily accessible on the selection wheel located near the trigger button, the Hand-held Starlight mode allows to take images at night without using a tripod. It automatically records several successive frames which it combines into a single, optimized image, processed to reduce image noise specific to photographs taken at high ISO values. The technique is also effective when using the zoom. Here are some examples:
The “Super Macro”
Olympus SH-1 has a Macro mode that’s a little different from other compact cameras’. Not only does it allow photographing from 1cm away from the subject, but it uses the zoom to bring the image even closer.
The Cuisine Mode (for culinary photos)
In the Cuisine mode, which you’ll find in the list of scene presets of the camera (the “SCN” marking on the selection wheel near the releaser) you can take better dish photos, because the device automatically optimizes the exposure and colors to match this situation. Here’s an example!
The Photo Story Mode
Another mode that’s exclusive to Olympus is Photo Story. It allows the automatic taking of collages of photographs, offering a few predefined templates. With a little skill, you can make vacation collages that include selfies. Here are some examples:
From the menu you can choose between different collage templates
Filters and special effects
Another pleasant surprise from SH-1 is the rich assortment of filters and special effects that can be applied to photos. This area is as well represented as in the mirrorless cameras from Olympus, offering some interesting and cool-looking filters and effects. Here are some specific examples:
The Mirror Filter
Dramatic Tone Filter
Miniature filter (“diorama”-type photos)
Soft focus (Dreamy) filter
The Grainy Film filter (Black and White Grainy Film)
Other images with filters and effects available from the camera menu:
Video recording with Olympus SH-1
Olympus SH-1 is capable of recording movies in Full HD 1080 at 24, 30 and 60p with stereo sound, zoom and image stabilization active during filming. In addition, even if it does not provide controls for manual image parameters adjustment, you can use the exposure compensation to adjust the brightness of the recorded clips and you can even apply some filters and special effects. The camera shoots video well, but at maximum zoom the stabilization system starts to show its limitations. In addition, I would have liked it that the transition from wide to zoom to be slower during filming. On another note, besides the standard video recording mode, Olympus SH-1 allows to record slow-motion clips, at 120 and 240 fps!
Here are two video sequences recoreded with the Olympus SH-1 from hand, without using a tripod (it totally depended on the integrated stabilization system):
The above movies were recorded in Full HD at 1080 60p resolution
I mentioned already that you can apply special effects to the recorded videos directly from the menu. Here’s an example with the Dramatic Tone filter enabled:
After taking some 700 images for this review, here’s what I can conclude about the autonomy of the Olympus SH-1’s battery: with a single charge, the battery will allow you to capture approximately 300 frames. Which is really good for a compact camera. In any event, for travel or vacations, I recommend you buy an extra battery.
What’s in the box?
In the box of the Olympus SH-1 I found the user manual together with the warranty certificate, a CD with drivers, shoulder strap, battery and charger and a USB cable. The charging of the battery is done directly in the camera through the USB connector.
As of this writing, the Olympus SH-1 is found in stores at a suggested retail price of $ 399 here. (click for the updated price)
Olympus SH-1 is one of the nicest surprises of this summer. Even though it’s a compact, the SH-1 stands out not only by its large zoom (24x) and the quality of the images, but mainly by its rich set of functions and modes that make the difference between a very versatile camera able to record high quality images in many situations, and a ‘ regular ‘ one (a fact proven by the long list of pros that I’ve synthesized in the list below). For sure, at this moment, SH-1 is the camera of choice that I would recommend in the compacts category with a price under $500, making it suitable for travel, vacations, family events, etc. That’s an ambitious little camera, which shows that compacts can still pack a punch of surprise!
Max’s Grade: 8.5/10
Olympus SH-1 can be found in stores at a suggested retail price of $ 399 here. (click for updated price)
- Good image quality
- Fast focus
- Large, very versatile zoom
- Wide coverage angle (25 mm at the wide end)
- Video recording in Full HD 60fps with stereo sound, zoom and stabilization activated during filming
- Filming in slow-motion at 120 or 240fps
- Versatile “Auto” mode + automatic mode for night photography from hand, without a tripod
- Solid build
- Touch-sensitive screen, with touch-to-shoot function (focus on and release on a screen touch, as in smartphones)
- WiFi connection that’s quick and easy to set up
- Many filters and special effects (including HDR)
- Recording of automatic Panoramic images
- Time-lapse function (recording of images at a predetermined interval)
- Continuous Action photography with 11 frames per second
- “Super Macro” mode (with zoom)
- Photo Story mode (for collages)
- Short startup time
- Imperceptible shutter delay
- Very silent (both in operation and on release)
- Good battery autonomy (approx. 300 frames)
- Slight tendency to overexpose certain frames (approx. 10% of the total)
- The lack of RAW format (JPEG-only recording)
- Zooms too quickly during filming
- Occasional focus miss in the Panorama and in low light modes
- The flare effect is quite pronounced in contre-jour images
- The lack of an electronic viewfinder (useful not only for framing but also to stabilize the camera at large zoom)
All the sample images used in this Olympus SH-1 review: