Olympus VG-130 Review
Announced earlier this year, the Olympus VG-130 is an affordable ultra-compact digital camera featuring a 14-megapixel sensor, a 5x wide zoom lens, a set of "Magic Filters", a handy panorama assist mode and a metal body. Other highlights include a 3-inch LCD screen and a dedicated Movie Record button that enables one-touch video recording in HD quality. Available for £99.99 / $139.99, the Olympus VG-130 comes in a choice of silver, black, red and pink.
Ease of Use
The Olympus VG-130 is a neat little digicam that's about the same size as a typical smartphone. Surprisingly for a camera of this class, the outer shell is made of metal, which lends an air of sophistication to what is essentially an entry-level product offered at an entry-level price.
The design of the camera is simple, almost minimalistic. The lens, which sits fully retracted into the body when the camera is not in use, occupies almost the entire right half of the face plate. Spanning a 35mm equivalent focal range of 26-130mm, it goes wider than most compact camera lenses, which again is a nice touch at this price point. Its maximum aperture is a fast f/2.8 at the wide end but a disappointingly slow f/6.5 at full telephoto. The rest of the front plate features two pinpricks indicating a built-in microphone bottom left of the lens surround, a sliver of a window for the on-board flash and AF assist lamp. The top panel offers even less in the way of controls, featuring only a small on/off button and a well-placed and adequately sized shutter release.
The back of the camera is dominated by the three-inch rear screen, whose resolution of 230,400 dots is a bit on the low side for a display of this size. To the right of this monitor, we find a cluster of controls that include a pair of zoom rockers, a red Movie Record button that enables you to start capturing a video clip anytime you see something worth being filmed, a Playback button that can be configured to act as a secondary power button when all you want to do is review the pics and videos stored on the memory card, a standard four-way navigation pad, plus a Menu and a Camera Guide button.
Notable by absence is an exposure compensation button and a direct-access button to ISO sensitivity settings. Both of these important functions are buried in the menu, as is the AF mode, self-timer, macro and flash mode and white balance - all of which tend to be mapped onto the four-way pad on most other compact cameras. Thus, the operation of the Olympus VG-130 is almost entirely menu driven.
The camera has two main menus, a Function Menu and a Setup Menu. The former is accessible by pressing the Left arrow button. The top menu item is always the shooting mode, with the options being Program Auto, Scene, iAuto, Digital Image Stabilisation, Magic Filter and Panorama. The other menu items available depend on the shooting mode chosen, and may include the flash mode, macro, self-timer, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity, and drive mode. The AF mode cannot be set from the Function Menu; you have to enter the Setup Menu for that.
The full set of functions listed above is available in P (Program Auto) mode only. As there is no Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority or Manual mode on offer, you never get to set the aperture or shutter speed yourself. As far as scene modes go, there 14 in total, including Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Sport, Beach & Snow, Indoor, Candle, Pet, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, and Documents. In iAuto mode, the camera analyses the scene in front of its lens and chooses what it thinks is the best scene mode at its own discretion. In Digital Image Stabilisation (DIS) mode, the camera appears to do nothing special apart from picking a high ISO speed in an attempt to avoid motion blur resulting from shaky hands in low-light situations. Crucially, there is no optical or mechanical image stabilisation on board.
"Magic" is probably the most interesting shooting mode offered by the Olympus VG-130. In this mode, you get to choose from seven different "magic filters". These include Pop Art, Pinhole, Fish Eye, Drawing, Soft Focus, "Punk" and "Sparkle". In the Image Quality section of this review, you can see the effect of each filter.
The Panorama mode is essentially a stitch assist function - unlike the manufacturer's more advanced compacts, the Olympus VG-130 does not offer automatic in-camera stitching. After you've selected the pan direction and taken the first shot, the camera shows a part of the just-captured frame on the side of the display opposite the pan direction, allowing you to line up the next one with a healthy amount of overlap for stitching later on the PC using the supplied software. You can capture up to ten frames for a panoramic image.
As mentioned above, you need not enter a special movie mode to shoot video clips with the Olympus VG-130. Courtesy of the red Movie Record button, you can start filming whenever you want, as long as the camera is turned on, of course. The VG-130 can capture movies at a resolution of 1280x720 (HD), 640x480 (VGA) or 320x240 pixels (QVGA). The optical zoom can be used while filming, but you have to turn off audio recording first. If you want to record video with sound, you can only use the digital zoom. Videos are compressed using the Motion JPEG codec and stored in an AVI container. The maximum file size of a single movie is 2 Gigabytes, regardless of the capacity of the memory card.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Once you have captured a photo or a video clip, the Olympus VG-130 has a limited range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your files. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails (up to 30 onscreen at the same time), zoom in for close inspection at up to 10x magnification, view a slideshow, rotate, crop, protect and erase an image, and change the image information display. You can also add a voice memo to any image, and apply some post-capture redeye reduction and lighting fix.
The Olympus VG-130 is powered by a replaceable, proprietary LI-70B lithium-ion battery, which can be charged in-camera via USB and the supplied USB-AC adapter that plugs into the wall. Charging usually takes approximately 3 hours. The battery shares its compartment with the memory card (the camera takes SD and SDHC cards but isn't compliant with the SDXC standard). Battery and card are both protected by safety latches, so they won't fall out accidentally if you open the compartment door. The latter is placed as far away from the tripod socket as possible, so it may be possible to change batteries and cards while the camera is on a tripod, but this will depend on the size of the quick-release plate you use (if you use any).
In use, we have found the Olympus VG-130 to be a moderately responsive camera - start-up and zooming is fast enough for most uses, but the autofocus is generally too slow for most things that move. It's perfectly OK for stationary subjects though, and the focus assist lamp helps the camera lock focus even in low-light conditions. As mentioned earlier, we weren't fond of the menu-based approach, wishing that at least a few functions - like exposure compensation and ISO sensitivity settings - were available at a press of a dedicated button, even if it was simply one of the navigation buttons.
This concludes our evaluation of the handling and features Olympus VG-130. Let us now move on to the image quality assessment.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 10 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 4.5Mb.
During the test, the Olympus VG-130 turned out average-quality images for its class. Colours were a bit muted at the default setting, although you could easily add some punch to your photos by applying the Pop Art filter, if that's what you are after. The lens has a versatile focal range, but resolution is unfortunately low for a 14-megapixel camera, with fine details often lacking even at base sensitivity. The VG-130 tries to counter this by applying over-aggressive in-camera sharpening, but the result is not convincing. Chromatic aberrations weren't a huge issue, although you could spot them in some of our sample images. The supermacro mode worked very well, allowing the camera to capture an area that's smaller than a Compact Flash card. The "magic filters" were fun, while the night shot was OK but not spectacular. Flash exposures were good but the redeye reduction setting made only a minor difference. The camera unfortunately doesn't offer mechanical or optical image stabilisation, which can result in blurred or noisy images in low-light conditions.
The Olympus VG-130 has a sensitivity range of ISO 80-1600.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
The lens has a versatile focal range equivalent to 26-130mm in 35mm terms.
The Olympus VG-130 applies some quite heavy-handed sharpening to the images it captures, perhaps in an attempt to mask the lack of fine detail. Therefore additional sharpening does not improve the look of the images much, if at all.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
There are two JPEG quality settings, Normal and Fine. The camera does not offer raw image capture.
14M Fine (100% Crop)
14M Normal (100% Crop)
The Olympus VG-130 handled chromatic aberrations quite well during the review, with limited purple fringing seen in some of our sample images.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The VG-130 has an excellent supermacro mode that allows you to fill the frame with a subject that's smaller than a standard Compact Flash card.
The available flash settings are Auto, Redeye Reduction, Fill In and Off. These shots of a white ceiling were taken from a distance of 1.5m.
Suppressed Flash - Wide Angle (26mm)
Forced Flash - Wide Angle (26mm)
Suppressed Flash - Telephoto (130mm)
Forced Flash - Telephoto (130mm)
And here are some portraits. As you can see turning on Redeye Reduction does make a bit of difference, but cannot fully eliminate the dreaded redeye effect.
|Forced Flash (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction Auto
Red-eye Reduction Auto (100% Crop)
The camera's minimum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night Scene mode, and only ½ of a second in most other modes, which is disappointing news if you are seriously interested in night photography.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
There are seven so-called "magic filters" available on the Olympus VG-130, including Pop Art, Pinhole, Fish-eye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk and Sparkle.
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus VG-130 camera, which were all taken using the 14 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 quality setting of 1280x720 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 64.3Mb in size.
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
Mating an unusually wide and versatile 5x zoom lens to a high-resolution sensor housed in a metal body, the Olympus VG-130 is one of the more interesting credit card sized cameras around. Add to this the seven entertaining "magic filters" that can add some creative flair to your photos, and you've got a neat little digicam that looks pretty attractive to anyone looking to trade up from a camera phone or a run-of-the-mill 3x zoom compact. At £99.99 / $139.99, it won't break the bank either.
On the other hand, the VG-130 isn't exactly a speed demon, especially when it comes to focusing, which means it isn't particularly well suited to shooting moving subjects or capturing fleeting moments. It's unfortunately not a great performer in the image quality department either - 14 megapixels might sound like a lot of resolution, but the actual images taken by the camera tend to lack the kind of fine detail you would expect from a sensor with so many pixels. This comes from a variety of factors ranging from insufficient resolving power on the lens' side to smudging caused by heavy-handed noise reduction. Of course if you don't plan on making big prints, then this won't be a problem, but if you were attracted to the camera by its huge pixel count, you might feel a little disappointed. On the plus side, the camera does put up a great macro performance, with the ability to completely fill the frame with a subject that is smaller than a Compact Flash card.
At this price point there aren't many competitors offering a similar feature set, but it's still worth having a look round for alternatives. If you can forgo the metal body, the dedicated video record button and some of the "magic filters", the older Olympus FE-5030 offers the same resolution and zoom range at the same price, while throwing in mechanical image stabilisation, something that's missing from the VG-130. Or, if you can give up some of the telephoto range, the Casio EX-Z550 also has the same pixel count, wide-angle lens and movie record button, while adding some creative Art Shot filters and optical image stabilisation to the mix for just a few pounds more.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4.5|
|Effective pixels||14 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Full resolution||14.5 Megapixels|
|Type||1/2.3 '' CCD sensor|
|Optical zoom||5 x (WIDE)|
|Focal length||4.7 - 23.5 mm|
|Focal length (equiv. 35mm)||26 - 130 mm|
|Maximum aperture||2.8 - 6.5|
|Structure||7 lenses / 5 groups|
|Aspherical glass elements||5|
|Enlargement factor||4 x / 20 x combined with optical zoom|
|Monitor size||7.6 cm / 3.0 ''|
|Brightness adjustment||2 levels|
|Method||TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection|
|Modes||iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking|
|Standard mode||0.6m - ∞ (wide) / 1.0m - ∞ (tele)|
|Makro mode||0.2m - ∞ (wide) / 0.6m - ∞ (tele)|
|Super Macro mode||Closest focusing distance: 7 cm|
|Modes||ESP light metering|
|Shutter speed||1/2 - 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Candle Scene)|
|Enhancement function||Digital Image Stabilisation
Advanced Face Detection Technology
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps|
|Modes||i-Auto, Programme automatic, DIS mode, Scene Modes, Magic Filter, Panorama, Movie|
|Number of scene modes||14|
|Modes||Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet|
|Types||Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fisheye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle|
|Manual||ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|AUTO WB system||Yes|
|Preset values||Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3|
|Modes||AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off|
|Working range (wide)||0.2 - 4.8 m (ISO 800)|
|Working range (tele)||0.6 - 2.1 m (ISO 800)|
|Sequential shooting mode (high speed)||10.0 fps / 20 frames (in 3MP mode)
2.3 fps / 200 frames (in 3MP mode)
|Sequential shooting mode||0.8 fps / 200 frames (Full Image Size)|
|Modes||Single, Index, Zoom, Slide show|
|Index||4x3 / 6x5 frames|
|Zoom||1.1 - 10 x|
|Image protect mode||Yes|
|Modes||Frame by frame, Fast forward, Reverse playback|
|Still Image Recording|
|Movie Recording System|
|Recording format||AVI Motion JPEG®|
|Movie quality||1280 x 720 / 30 fps Recording time: no limit
640 x 480 / 30 fps Recording time: no limit
Note: maximum file size 2GB
|Sound Recording System|
|Sound recording||Yes , format: WAV|
|Image footage||4 s|
|Internal memory||49 MB|
|Removable Media||SD / SDHC|
|14M||4288 x 3216|
|8M||3264 x 2448|
|5M||2560 x 1920|
|3M||2048 x 1536|
|2M||1600 x 1200|
|1M||1280 x 960|
|VGA||640 x 480|
|16:9||1920 x 1080|
|Menu languages in camera||40|
|Perfect Shot Preview||Yes|
|Self timer||2 / 12 s|
|Panorama function||Image marker (Software)|
|Battery||LI-70B Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Combined A/V & USB output||Yes|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||96.0 x 56.5 x 19.3 mm|
|Weight||125 g (including battery and memory card)|