Olympus SH-50 Review

June 1, 2014 | Matt Grayson |

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)

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ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)

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ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)
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Red-eye Reduction Auto

Red-eye Reduction Auto (100% Crop)

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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)

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Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)

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