Review: Olympus Stylus 1050 SW

Are you the schlemiel who’s always dropping his cellphone or camera at parties? Or maybe you’re the schlemazel who always gets the drink spilled on him? Either way, if you’re looking for a camera to fit a clumsy or accident-prone lifestyle, the shockproof, waterproof, and cold-resistant Stylus 1050 SW can take the beating from fumbles, faceplants or full-speed crashes, and still keep clicking. Add in some unique features, and you have a tough camera that’s good for, well, just about anyone.

But if you thought that the SW’s resistance to gravity, moisture and cold were all it had up its sleeve, you’d be hideously wrong. With skiing and snorkeling in mind, Olympus equipped the 1050 with an accelerometer letting you tinker with settings by tapping on the top and the sides. This lets you do useful stuff like turn the flash on and off with a gloved mitt or preview pictures with one hand while you fend off a tiger shark with the other. On the other hand, Olympus misses the opportunity to enhance the camera further by using the accelerometer for dynamically rotating the images in review mode.

Another cool feature? Perfect Shot Preview, a program that shows you what different settings — such as exposure — will look like in the finished picture through a side-by-side comparison on the LCD screen. We also dug the calendar view in the playback, where you can sort photos by the date they were taken. The SW also offers in-camera panorama stitching, which sounds useful but doesn’t really look so great.

And there are some disappointments with the SW, too. First off, the cover that protects the lens and powers the thing on glides open a little too easily; it kept sliding agape while in-pocket, leaving the lens open to scratches and annihilating battery life. The 3x zoom makes the Olympus no good for wildlife photography, unless you’re really good at sneaking up on birds and alligators. And the autofocus often had trouble locking onto a subject, making for long shutter lag at times. Oh yeah, the macro function is also weak; regular macro has a minimum focal length of 7.9 inches, and super macro is 2.8 — not so super.

Most photos looked pretty decent if you discounted the occasional autofocus flub or the macro issue. We were certainly stoked that you can shoot video until you run out of space on your card. Olympus also includes a microSD adapter with the camera, so you have greater media versatility, and if you have a microSD-to-SD adapter, you can slap a card into most current notebooks, which lack xD readers.

About the size and shape as a pack of smokes, the Olympus won’t take up any more space than a box of Camel Lights, but without all that pesky cancer. The 1050 SW’s flaws are easier to forgive when you take into account its ability to tough out the cold, handle a hit or take a plunge. See if a pack of Parliaments can survive that.

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