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Olympus S600

Stylish, and pretty much waterproof
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

If you're looking for a true ultra-slim camera that weighs next to nothing, the Olympus Stylus 600 isn't it. It's not that it weighs much at 5.5 ounces, but it's a full inch thick, and almost twice that once the 3X zoom lens motors out. And it feels large. With all of its curves and overall hefty design, it's clear that Olympus wanted a very compact camera that easily fits into a purse or perhaps a big pocket, and not a fashion statement. And as a matter of fact, Olympus stresses performance and all-weather durability over size. Still, that's what they sent us when we asked for an ultra-thin, and so it will be judged. If thin is what you're after, don't even bother considering the Stylus 600.

Despite its bulk, it would be a mistake to dismiss this camera. If you frequently shoot in the great outdoors, it might be comforting to know that all of the camera's doors and latches are sealed with rubber rings and gaskets. We even have some nice press shots where the Stylus is subjected to a shower. We wouldn't try that, but that's the kind of camera it is. The lens, likewise, is automatically protected with a very solid metal lens cover that snaps over the glass when the camera is turned off.

There are other desirable features. The Stylus 600 has a 2.5-inch LCD that's protected under an acrylic cover. Its larger size means there is room for a beefier battery than most others have. The battery has almost twice the capacity of, say, the Konica Minolta X60 which is rated at 150 pictures per charge, and true to form it is rated at 300 images. Olympus also supplied this Stylus with a 6 megapixel CCD imager, and we take that over 5 anytime. Finally, in this day and age of cameras that need cradles to be charged and connected to a PC, we truly appreciate any device that still has an onboard power jack and USB connector, and the Stylus 600 has both. And a separate battery charger.

In daily use, the Stylus fares well. Tiny, ultra-slim cameras are easy to carry, but not always easy to hold. You have no such problem with the Stylus. External controls are all industry standard and easy to understand and use. We're not fond of the mix of text, icons and various colors and/or embossing that's used for labeling, but the Stylus is no worse than some others in this arena. The large LCD is nice, but there is no optical viewfinder. This camera is big enough to have one, and it should.

Now we'll get to some of the lesser qualities of Olympus' all-weather camera. First, you're looking at a 6-megapixel camera that comes with a meager 8MB of onboard memory--enough for all but two images in the highest quality mode. Second, Olympus, for reasons known only to itself, insists on the uncommon and more expensive xD-Picture card format used only by Fuji and Olympus. Third, no such card is included. We wish Olympus would get with the program and use SD Cards like the rest of the world.

Next is the Olympus menu system that you either love or hate, and that in its complexity seems hardly necessary in a simple point & shooter which the Stylus is despite its 24 scene modes. It's never clear which option is active or how to back out of a menu.

The movie mode is weak by today's standards. You do get 640 x 480 pixels, but only at 15 frames per second and there is no onboard sound, nor are there any additional features.

We greatly respect Olympus, but have been disappointed by some of their recent models. We hope to see renewed focus in future models, plus better adherence to commonly accepted standards.

The Olympus ran with the pack in our image tests. It produced very consistent pictures with good sharpness and contrast. However, sometimes it captured a lot of detail and other times it didn't. Another camera that benefits from expert handling.

We like:

  • Large LCD
  • Large, powerful battery
  • Some degree of weather sealing
Not so much:
  • Large and bulky
  • Minimal onboard memory, no card included
  • Confusing on-screen menus
  • No onboaard sound

Specifications Olympus stylus S600
Status Added 11/2005
Camera Type Ultra-compact
Size 3.8 x 2.2 x 1.0
Weight (oz.) 5.5 with battery
Effective Pixels 6.0 mp
CCD Type 1/2.5
Max pixel size 2816 x 2112
File formats JPEG, PIM 3
Compression SHQ, HQ, SQ1, SQ2
Movie recording (best) @ 15fps
Max movie pixels 640 x 480
Voice recording none
Lens 5 elements, 3 groups
Focal length 5.8-17.4mm (35-105mm)
Zoom (optical/digital) 3X/5X
Aperture f/3.1 - f/5.2
Focus modes auto/spot AF
Focus minimum/macro 2.8 inches, 1.8 feet
Shutter speed 1/1000 to 4 sec
Sensitivity (ISO) auto/64-1600
Autofocus system CCD contrast detection
Metering Digital ESP multi-pattern/spot
White-balance modes auto, 6 presets
Shooting modes auto, 24 modes
Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
Viewfinder Type none
LCD size 2.5" LCD (115k)
LCD type outdoor viewable
LCD construction fixed
Flash type built-in
Flash range up to 26 feet
Flash modes 4
Camera internal memory 8MB
Storage Medium xD-Picture Card
I/O mini-USB + AV
Battery type Li-Ion 12B (3.7V, 1230mAH)
CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 330 images
List Price $299.99
Contact www.olympusamerica.com.com

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