Olympus SH-50 Review

June 1, 2014 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Olympus Stylus SH-50 is a high performance digital compact camera that's packed full of tech. If the 24x optical zoom, FullHD video recording and touch screen shooting aren't enough, the SH-50 is the first of its kind to feature the 5-axis image stabilisation system, normally only seen in DSLRs. In this review, we'll put the stabiliser to the test and see if it's worth the asking price. Available in silver and black with a black leatherette grip or white with a brown grip, the Olympus SH-50 costs around £249 / $299.

Ease of Use

Olympus had a resurgence of interest with the release of the digital PEN back in 2009 and have been enjoying the limelight for the past five years. They've expanded the PEN range, released the OM-D series and started to give their compacts a retro look.

The SH-50 continues this trend with it's vintage chic shape, faux leatherette grip and there's even a little bulge towards the bottom of the lens bezel to give the impression that the lens is removable. It's not, sadly, but the 24x optical zoom will cover pretty much everything you can throw at it. As well as a large focal range and a super fast start, the SH-50 sports Olympus' multi axis image stabilising technology.

Ricoh CX4 Ricoh CX4
Front Rear

This new technology comes from the Olympus DSLR and MicroFour Thirds system cameras. It works by moving the sensor in multiple directions to aid in stabilising the image. Their are five axis' but only three are used for still photography. It will use the whole five when shooting video, though. Interestingly, the two movements it doesn't use are the left, right, up and down movements. They're the standard settings for image stabilisation, so it will be interesting to see how the camera copes without them.

Another intriguing bit of tech wizardry that the Olympus SH-50 has fitted is the iHS system, It combines the performance of the CMOS sensor giving slightly lower noise along with the dedicated Truepic VI processor and according to Olympus will provide sharper images in the dark, work faster and also utilises the iAUTO mode which analyses the frame and selects the most appropriate scene mode for what you're shooting.

Ricoh CX4 Ricoh CX4
Side Top

One of the things we like about long zoom cameras is that when you're at full telephoto, the camera will produce wonderful bokeh to make your subject stand out. That, of course, is as long as you're far away enough. With a great focal length, comes great focusing distances. However, Olympus have given the SH-50 a 40cm close focusing mode at full zoom. That's around 3x closer than a standard camera with this type of focal range. It means that wildlife – or in particular – insect photography will become easier to do and also more widely available as a genre to people who maybe aren't flexible enough to stoop down to the level of an ant. Should you wish to focus closer, the SH-50 doesn't have a macro mode per se, but does feature Super Macro scene mode. This will automatically move the optical zoom to the optimum range to get a 3cm close focusing distance.

Olympus aren't renowned for their easy to use menu systems, but with the Function menu, the SH-50 has a simple layout of various modes and shooting options all listed down the right side of the screen. Press left on the directional pad on the back of the camera and the menu opens up, spreading out over the screen. You can then scroll up or down to your desired position.

Ricoh CX4 Ricoh CX4
Front Pop-up Flash

Should you require something from the Main menu, it can be accessed via the Function menu right at the bottom or by pressing the Menu button on the back of the camera. It's split into four sections and each page of those sections is listed down the left side in tabs. These can be accessed by pressing left, allowing you to scroll down them by page rather than by option. You can choose from Shooting, Video, Playback or Set-up. The menu is a black background with with font and a yellowy green highlight.

The Olympus SH-50 can start up from cold, focus and take a picture in 1.8sec which is very fast as you can give a couple of hundredths of a second either way due to reflexes. There are five continuous/burst modes on the Olympus Stylus SH-50. Sequential 1 and 2 will shoot continuously with Sequential 2 shooting faster than Sequential 1. We managed to get 25 shots on Sequential 1, but 17 on Sequential 2. However, the pictures in 1 were spread over the 10 second time frame we tested the camera over. The 17 images from Sequential 2 were shot in around 1.5sec. Hi1 and Hi1 and Hi2 are burst modes that will shoot in a much lower resolution setting in order to speed the process up (shooting and downloading, ready to shoot again). Hi1 shoots around 20fps (frames per second) and will shoot a 3sec burst at 3 megapixel. Push the setting on to Hi2 shoots at a much faster rate. The camera records at 60fps, again at 3 megapixel. The download times for all these is pretty good. The Hi1 and Hi2 were downloaded onto the card in 10sec, while the high resolution images were done in 20sec.

Ricoh CX4 Ricoh CX4
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Pictures on the SH-50 can be played back by pressing the Playback button on the back of the camera. This can be done whether the camera is off or on, but if it's off, you need to hold down the button slightly longer for the camera to respond. When the image pops up, it will be full size in the window with no information about the shooting details on. This allows you to examine the picture to ensure it's right so you can reshoot if you have an issue. Press the Info button (up on the navigation pad) and you can choose a viewing version that shows a thumbnail of the image which can still be zoomed into for viewing convenience. But it also shows the full file info such as aperture and shutter speed, ISO and white-balance, resolution, compression and there's even a Histogram so those of you in the know can check the exposure is correct. Simply press down on the navigation pad to erase single images and if you press Menu, the Palyback section of the Main menu is prioritised. You can choose to create a slide-show, edit pictures such as resize, crop, add sound, adjust shadows, eradicate red-eye, rotate or fix the skin of portraits.

In the box you'll find a Basic Manual which looks bigger than it should for a Basic guide, but is in multiple languages. The enclosed CD sits on the top with the manual and it contains the full User Guide as well as a way of registering the camera online and Olympus Viewer 3 which is Olympus' editing suite. In the lower section with the camera, there's a charging unit, wriststrap, lithium ion battery and touch stylus (appropriate or ironic?).

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.


All through the test of the Olympus SH-50 we were continuously impress with how the photographs looked on the back of the camera. Of course, this can be completely misleading as to how it looks on screen due to the difference in resolution so we kept some reservation until we saw them back at the office. Low ISO pictures are exceptional with no noise whatsoever, bright colours and sharp edges. Because of this perfect result, we have to be hyper-critical when noticing the first ebbs of noise poking through. This materialises at ISO 400 with a slight shimmering of otherwise straight edges as noise reduction software begins to smudge detail to eradicate noise. At ISO 800 we can detect amounts of colour noise in the darker areas of the picture and to combat it, the noise reduction has began to desaturate the image. Primary colours are the first to suffer as they become less prominent in the frame.

ISO 1600 sees the crackling of mid-tones as noise seeps through onto them. Colour noise is being suppressed well, but at the expense of colour in the image. There are two more settings and at normal viewing distance, they still look ok. There's certainly not any cast over them even at ISO 6400. Close in to full magnification and you can see green blobs of colour noise beginning to stifle the noise reduction software. It can't cope with the sheer amount of noise coming into the picture, but it's fair to say that this type of reaction is normally seen at around ISO 400.

In an attempt to stop the advance of colour noise swamping the entire picture, primary colours have been practically drained from the image. Edge definition is shot, but only to a degree that we'd see at ISO 800 on other compact cameras. Salt and pepper noise cover the whole image, but we're still seeing one of the best noise test in recent times.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso125.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

iso400.jpg iso800.jpg

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

iso1600.jpg iso3200.jpg

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The 24x optical zoom on the Olympus Stylus SH-50 offers a focal range of 25-600mm in 35mm terms. Couple that with the new image stabilising tech and you have some pretty sharp images at close quarters.



focal_range1.jpg focal_range2.jpg


The lens on the SH-50 is a good one. The pictures are nice and sharp to begin with and the camera also adds its own amount of sharpening. Putting the photographs into an editing suite and using sharpening does add a little extra to the pictures.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

File Quality

A full resolution image will produce a file size around 5.5Mb or slightly lower. Knock the compression down to Normal from Fine (found in the Main menu) and it will lose more information to preserve memory space. A typical Normal compression image is around 3Mb. The amount of definition in the Fine images is noticeable but only at full magnification.

12M Fine (5.10Mb) (100% Crop)

12M Normal (2.44Mb) (100% Crop)

quality_high.jpg quality_normal.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The lens quality is very good on the SH-50 and we struggled to find chromatic aberrations on the pictures we took. We struggled, but didn't fail. It only manifests on extremely high contrast areas, such as burnt out highlights and for the majority of instances, at the far edges of the frame.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)

chromatic1.jpg chromatic2.jpg


The SH-50 doesn't have a typical macro mode that we all know and love, but it does have a Supermacro mode in the Scenes menu. This will focus down to 3cm. One of the most interesting features of the SH-50 is its ability to focus on objects as close as 40cm away while at full zoom. This type of close focusing simply isn't available on everyday compact cameras. It's the addition of the new image stabiliser that allows it to be possible. Without the 3-axis stabiliser, there would be too much camera shake at that distance. A typical focusing distance at full zoom is 1.2m.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


Wide-angle shots show vignetting regardless of whether the flash is turned on or off. This is an indication of a smart flash system that works with the other systems on the camera to get a balanced exposure. It compliments the available light instead of over powering it. Unfortunately, no-one has worked out how to get it to over power vignettes without bleaching the main subject. Vignetting does disappear by the time you get to full zoom.

Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)

Forced Flash - Wide Angle (25mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (600mm)

Forced Flash - Telephoto (600mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Should you get red-eye on your portraits, the flash has a red-eye reduction option on the flash menu which only activates once the flash has been popped up. If you require something a little stronger, once you've taken the picture, go to the Playback menu and select Edit. From there, you can choose a red-eye removal. We didn't suffer from red-eye on our test images, though.

Forced Flash

Forced Flash (100% Crop)
flash_on.jpg flash_on1.jpg

Red-eye Reduction Auto

Red-eye Reduction Auto (100% Crop)

flash_redeye.jpg flash_redeye1.jpg


The SH-50 selected very similar settings to us for the Night scene. We opted for a low ISO 125 which gave us a 10sec exposure. It appears that the camera enjoys a wider range of sensitivity though, because it used a setting of ISO 160. It's only around 1/3 stop difference, but allowed the camera a 4sec exposure. This will lessen the type of noise generated from heated pixels during long exposures and therefore obviate the need for noise reduction. We feel that the ability to use a manual white-balance in Program mode has also helped with the overall image quality. Also there's more detail in the Program mode image.

Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

night_scene.jpg night_scene1.jpg

Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)

night_program.jpg night_program1.jpg

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus SH-50 camera, which were all taken using the 16 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the jighest quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 43 second movie is 97.9Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus SH-50

Front of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Front of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Side of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Side of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Side of the Olympus SH-50 / Flash Raised

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Image Displayed

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Turned On

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Manual Mode

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / OK Menu


Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Special Effects

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Turned On

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Settings Menu

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Movie Menu

Olympus SH-50

Rear of the Olympus SH-50 / Playback Menu

Olympus SH-50

Top of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Bottom of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Side of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Side of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Front of the Olympus SH-50

Olympus SH-50

Memory Card Slot

Olympus SH-50

Battery Compartment


The Olympus SH-50 is like a breath of fresh air for digital compact cameras at this price point. It's perfect for the tech-savvy thanks to the 3-axis image stabiliser that has come straight from DSLR waters. Not only does it provide the camera with a unique benefit in pictures being sharper at full zoom, but also allows you to get closer to the action with the 40cm close focusing system at telephoto. This kind of feature is perfect for insect photographers who want to get close to the action without scaring the creatures away.

The SH-50 is very well made. Olympus have fitted some great glass to the front which prevents all but the worst chromatic aberrations. The command dial is stiff, but only so it stays in place, though if we were to be highly critical, the corner of the camera where the command dial is can get in the way of comfortable operation. The battery door has a locking switch on it and is solid enough even without a lot of metal backing it. We're disappointed to see a plastic tripod bush, but then given the increased performance of the lens system, you won't need it that much.

We're happy with the FullHD video and stereo sound, but we're unsure why the 5-axis stabiliser is only available in video. If the technology is in the camera, we can only surmise that Olympus simply can't do it as opposed to not wanting to.

For less than £200, the Olympus SH-50 is a very capable camera. It offers manual control for those of you with an interest in photography or for any newcomers wanting to learn more about it. Our only gripe is that we would have liked to see shutter and aperture priority added too, but you can't have everything on one camera. The feature set make the SH-50 a highly robust camera, capable of meeting the needs of multiple types of photography. The lens quality and image stabiliser should sway your decision if nothing else when looking to buy a new camera.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 5
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus SH-50.

Canon Powershot SX280 HS

The Canon PowerShot SX280 HS is a new travel-zoom camera for 2013, offering a 20x zoom lens and a 12 megapixel back-illuminated image sensor. Other key features of the Canon SX280 include built-in GPS and wi-fi connectivity, a 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080p HD movies with stereo sound, fast 14fps burst shooting, and a full range of manual and automated exposure modes. Read our in-depth Canon PowerShot SX280 HS in-depth review now...

Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR

The FinePix F900EXR is the range-topping camera from Fujifilm, sporting a 20x lens with a versatile focal range of 25-500mm. The 16 megapixel F900 EXR also features fast phase-detection autofocusing, wireless image transfer, GPS support, full 1080p movies, a high-contrast 3 inch LCD screen and 8fps continuous shooting. Read our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix F900EXR review now...

Nikon Coolpix S9700

The Coolpix S9700 is Nikon's new flagship travel-zoom compact camera. Featuring a 30x zoom lens with a focal range of 25-750mm, the slimline Coolpix S9700 has a 16 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, high-resolution 3-inch OLED screen, 7.5fps burst shooting and boasts GPS tracking and wi-fi connectivity. Read our detailed Nikon Coolpix S9700 review now...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ60

The Lumix DMC-TZ60 is Panasonic's new flagship travel-zoom compact camera for 2014. The TZ60 (also known as the ZS40) adds a 30x wide-angle zoom lens, lens control ring, RAW file format, focus peaking and an electronic viewfinder to last year's TZ40/ZS30 model. Read our Panasonic DMC-TZ60 review to find out if it's still the best travel-zoom camera...

Samsung WB850F

The Samsung WB850 is a new travel-zoom camera with a mouth-watering specification. The WB850 offers a wide-angle 21x zoom lens, 16.2 megapixels, Full 1080p video recording, 3 inch AMOLED screen, built-in wi-fi and GPS, plus full manual controls. Read our detailed Samsung WB850 review to find out if it's a contender for the travel zoom crown.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350 is the world's slimmest camera with a 20x zoom lens. This affordable travel-zoom also offers an 18 megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor, 10fps continuous shooting, built-in wi-fi/NFC connectivity and Full HD movie recording. Priced at around £239 / €289 / $299, read our Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX350 review to find out if it lives up to its full promise...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus SH-50 from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The Olympus SH-50 was announced at CES in January 2013. It has a 24x optical zoom lens and multiple-axis image stabilisation for both images and videos. It is available in black, silver and white for £249.99.
Read the full review »

steves-digicams.com »

In early 2013 Olympus announced the SH-50 iHS, "a new premium, compact long zoom camera" with a host of impressive features trickled down from their flagship Micro Four Thirds cameras (like the OM-D E-M5). They begin with an upgraded, 16-megapixel backside illuminated CMOS image sensor, mated to the TruePic VI Image Processor developed for the Olympus PEN series, and a 24x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent of 25-600mm.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Effective pixels

    16 Megapixels

  • Filter array

    Primary colour filter (RGB)

  • Full resolution

    16.8 Megapixels

  • Type

    1/2.3'' CMOS


  • Optical zoom

    24x (WIDE)

  • Focal length

    4.5 - 108.0mm

  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm)

    25 - 600mm

  • Maximum aperture

    3.0 - 6.9

  • Structure

    11 lenses / 10 groups

  • Aspherical glass elements


  • ED glass elements


Digital Zoom

  • Enlargement factor

    4x / 96x combined with optical zoom

  • Super Resolution Zoom

    2x / 48x combined with optical zoom


  • Resolution

    460000 dots

  • Monitor size

    7.6cm / 3.0'' (3:2)

  • Monitor type

    LCD - Touch Panel

  • Live Guide


  • Frame assistance


  • Brightness adjustment

    +/- 2 levels

  • Protection panel


Focusing System

  • Method

    TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection

  • Modes

    • Touch target
    • iESP
    • Face Detection AF
    • Spot
    • AF Tracking
  • Standard mode

    0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.4m - ∞ (tele)

  • Super Macro Mode

    Closest focusing distance: 3cm

  • AF illuminator


  • Focus areas


Light Metering

  • Modes

    • ESP light metering
    • Spot metering
  • Histogram in shooting mode


Exposure System

  • Modes

    • i-Auto
    • Programme automatic
    • Advanced Movie
    • P + Movie clip
    • Panorama
    • Hand-held Starlight
    • Scene Modes
    • Magic Filter
    • Manual
  • Shutter speed

    1/4 - 1/2000s / < 15s (Manual Mode)

  • Exposure compensation

    +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps

  • Enhancement function

    Mechanical Image Stabiliser (3-axis Sensor shift)


    Advanced Face Detection Technology


    Shadow Adjustment Technology


    Pet Detection

Scene Modes

  • Number of scene modes


  • Modes

    • Portrait
    • Beauty
    • Landscape
    • Night Scene
    • Night Scene with portrait
    • Sports
    • Indoor
    • Self-portrait
    • Sunset
    • Fireworks
    • Cuisine
    • Documents
    • Beach and Snow
    • Pet (cat)
    • Pet (dog)
    • Super Macro
    • Backlight HDR

Magic Filter

  • Types

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Sparkle
    • Water colour
    • Reflection
    • Miniature
    • Fragmented
    • Dramatic


  • Modes

    • Photo & Movie Capture
    • Photo with Movie Clip


  • Auto

    AUTO / High AUTO

  • Manual

    ISO 125, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

White Balance

  • AUTO WB system


  • Preset values

    • Overcast
    • Sunlight
    • Tungsten
    • Flourescent 1
  • One-touch white balance

    1 custom settings can be registered

Internal Flash

  • Modes

    • AUTO
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Fill-in
    • Off
  • Working range (wide)

    0.1 - 9.4m (ISO 3200)

  • Working range (tele)

    0.4 - 4.0m (ISO 3200)

Sequence Shooting

  • Sequential shooting mode (high speed)

    60fps / 60 frames (in 3MP mode)


    20fps / 60 frames (in 3MP mode)


    11.5fps / 17 frames (Full Image Size)

  • Sequential shooting mode

    2.5fps / 200 frames (Full Image Size)

Image Processing



  • Pixel mapping


  • Engine

    TruePic VI

  • Shading compensation


  • Distortion compensation


Image Editing

  • Resize


  • Trimming


  • Correction of saturation


  • Beauty Fix


Movie Editing

  • Still Image Cropping


View Images

  • Modes

    • Single
    • Index
    • Zoom
    • Slide show
    • Event
  • Index

    4 x 4 frames

  • Zoom

    1.1 - 10x

  • Auto rotation


  • Image protect mode


  • Histogram in playback mode


View Movie

  • Modes

    • Frame by frame
    • Fast forward
    • Index jump
    • Reverse playback

Still Image Recording

  • DCF


  • RAW


  • EXIF


  • PIM


  • DPS


  • DPOF


Movie Recording System

  • Recording format

    QuickTime Motion JPEG®

  • Image Stabilisation Mode

    Hybrid sensor shift + digital (5-axis)

  • HD Movie quality

    1080 60i Recording time: 29min.


    720P Recording time: 29min.

  • Movie quality

    VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity

  • High-Speed Recording

    432 x 324 / 240fps Recording time: 20sec.


    1280 x 720 / 120fps Recording time: 20sec.


    Note: maximum file size 4GB


    When shooting 1080P/720P movies, use SDHC / SDXC class 6 or higher.

  • Magic Filter

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Water colour
    • Reflection
    • Miniature

Sound Recording System

  • Internal microphone


  • Sound recording

    Yes , format: PCM

  • Image footage


  • Voice playback


  • Speaker



  • Removable Media

    SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS-I class supported)

  • Capacity


  • Internal memory


  • Eye-Fi Card compatible


Image Size

  • 16M

    4608 x 3456

  • 8M

    3264 x 2448

  • 3M

    2048 x 1536

  • VGA

    640 x 480

  • Aspect ratio

    4:3 / 3:2 / 16:9 / 1:1


  • Menu languages in camera


Other Features

  • Self timer

    2 / 12s Pet auto shutter

  • Perfect Shot Preview


  • Menu guide


  • Panorama function

    Smart Panorama

  • Photo Surfing


  • Date imprint


  • SNS upload


Power Supply

  • Battery

    LI-90B Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Internal Charging



  • DC input


  • Combined A/V & USB output


  • USB 2.0 High Speed


  • FlashAir compatible


  • HDMI™

    Yes Micro connector (Type D) *


    * "HDMI", the HDMI logo and "High-Definition Multimedia Interface" are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.


  • Dimensions (W x H x D)

    112.1 x 63.5 x 42.4mm

  • Weight

    269g (including battery and memory card)


  • Material



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