The best way that I can describe Olympus' new Stylus 1 premium compact camera is as a curate's egg: it's good in parts. Some elements of it really appeal and some leave me indifferent at best. For a camera that Olympus had hoped would shake up the top end of the compact camera market it feels rather lack-lustre.
For a start, the zoom range is impressive. At the equivalent of 28 to 300mm, it beats its Nikon, Canon, and Fujifilm rivals into a cocked hat. None of those (the Nikon P330, Canon S120, Fujifilm XQ1) goes beyond 120mm. And the Stylus 1 has a constant ƒ/2.8 aperture across the range; there's no dropping down to ƒ/5.6 as you zoom in on your subject. But this is where some trade-off comes in. The others have bright ƒ/1.8 apertures at their lenses' widest angles, which narrow as the focal length increases. What would you prefer?
The standard resolution for this type of camera is 12 megapixels and Olympus hasn't deviated from that. Is there any need to? There's wi-fi, which you'd expect; a customisable lens ring and to button to put your most-used functions where you want them; it has a sensitivity range of ISO 100 to 12,800; and everything is powered by a TruePic VI processor.
Aesthetically, the Stylus 1 is channeling the OM-D E-M series, a look that is driven home by the inclusion of an EVF that comes with a 'hump'. This is a strange addition for something that is designed to slip into a pocket; it measures 116 by 87 by 56.5mm, but would you want something lumpy sitting against your thigh? There appears to have a disconnect between the camera's technical intentions and its ergonomics. It's not a design that's blowing back my hair and I'd be inclined to pass it over in favour of the Fujifilm XQ1.
The biggest disappointment, though, is the 1/1.7" sensor. Fujifilm squashed a 2/3" sensor into the XQ1 and Sony has managed a full-frame sensor in a compact body. We know that it can be done and this is where Olympus really could have broken away from Canon and Nikon, but it hasn't. And at £550 (or $700), it feels very unsatisfactory.
There are things to like about the Stylus 1, but for me, there isn't enough. Olympus, you could have done better.