Olympus VG-170 review

New 14MP compact camera offers premium features at bargain price

Olympus VG-170
This £99 compact with oversized flash is available in red, black and white

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Olympus vg-170 review

Packing so many features into such a reasonably priced camera begs the question, what corners has Olympus cut?

The 14 megapixel Olympus VG-170's 5x optical zoom starts at a wider than average 26mm and has a bright maximum aperture of f/2.8. However, zoomed into 130mm, the maximum aperture is just f/6.5, which means that even in broad daylight and on landscape shots the camera often chooses to fire the flash and/or up the ISO.

The camera's lens displays mild barrel distortion at 26mm, but distortion across the rest of the zoom range isn't noticeable.

Viewing images at 100% shows that image quality is compromised even in daylight, with smeared detail regardless of ISO setting and a dappled, textured look to images.

Olympus vg-170 review

Sharpness is further reduced on images taken at the telephoto end of the Olympus VG-170's lens, but this is excusable considering the low price.

Exposure generally appears to be accurate, but the camera has a slight tendency to under-expose, and mild fringing is visible when photos are viewed at full size. Daylight shots also highlight the camera's limited dynamic range, with blown highlights and fuzzy shadow detail evident in photos taken in overcast conditions.

Noise levels are also high, with some visible noise in ISO 100 images when viewed full size, and a significant amount of noise in ISO 400 flash images.

As for the auto white balance, the camera has a slightly cold colour cast that, allied with the camera's low colour saturation levels, makes some scenes look quite dull.

The Olympus VG-170's Landscape mode features similarly down-key colours. However, several of the scene modes enliven images. Both the Pop Art and Pin Hole Magic Filters offer more saturated colours, with the Pin Hole setting adding a vignette for a retro look.

Olympus vg-170 review

Autofocus on the compact camera is average, generally locking onto subjects but sometimes hesitating and occasionally taking slightly out of focus portrait shots indoors.

More irritating, though, is how long the camera takes to write pictures to memory in some modes, such as Beauty and 3D.

On the other hand, the flash lives up to Olympus's hype, since it's evidently much more powerful than most compact camera flashes. On the negative side, the flash can be dazzling, and occasionally flash images are out of focus.

The Olympus VG-170's large LCD display puts in a good performance with its size and high resolution, although it can be hard to see in bright light.

The camera's 720p HD video capture is another bonus, although zooming while filming isn't possible and image and sound quality aren't great.

Being able to record 3D images is another positive and some images taken in this mode really jump out of the screen with 3D glasses, which Olympus includes with the camera.

Battery life also seems good, with around 400 shots possible from a single charge.