Olympus VR-310 Review

December 30, 2011 | Gavin Stoker | Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Olympus VR-310 is a pocketable 14 megapixel travel-zoom camera that won't break the bank. Featuring a 10x optical zoom with a versatile focal range of 24-240mm, the VR-310 also offers dual image stabilisation, 720p HD movie capture, 3-inch LCD screen, a 1cm super macro mode, range of Magic Filters, auto-focus tracking and Intelligent Auto Mode. The Olympus VR-310 is available now in silver, black, red and purple, priced at around £129.99 / $179.99 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

To further distance themselves from the smartphone incorporating built-in cameras of increasing megapixel resolution, you'd nowadays be hard pressed to find a digital compact camera over £100 with just a 3x or even 5x zoom. In trying times we all want more for less, and that means a 7x, 8x or even 10x zoom is now within the grasp of even camera buyers on a tight budget.

Sporting the same physical dimensions and appearance as its VR-320 bigger brother which means it too can claim to be just 19.3mm at its slimmest point and finished in metal rather than the expected plastic, its looks belie the fact that the VR-310 is, as the model number suggests, a pared down alternative. Suggested pricing for the 14-megapixel snapshot at the time of writing was the 'magic' £99, as opposed to a penny less than £120 for the VR-320. For this cheap-as-chips outlay can it really be a star performer?

Outwardly identical, so that one would only be able to tell them apart by the small print model number etched on the top plate and the base, price aside the two cameras chiefly differ in that while the VR-320 sports a 12.5x optical zoom, the likewise 14 megapixel VR-310 makes do with a modest but still useful 10x optical reach. This is the equivalent of a wide angle 24-240mm in 35mm terms, just about stretching into 'travel zoom' or 'compact superzoom' territory. And again this is supported by dual image stabilization, with light sensitivity settings between ISO80 and ISO1600.

Though it sports a Program shooting mode, the default setting on this camera is the scene and subject recognizing iAuto which also incorporates AF tracking and Olympus' Shadow Adjustment technology; this and other modes selected and pulled from the top of a toolbar running down the right hand side of the screen. There's no physical mode dial provided here for instant access with a twist of the wrist, which would make selection easier still.

With the camera available in silver, black, red or purple, photos and 720p HD video are here composed with the aid of a 3-inch, 230,400-dot resolution, 4:3 aspect ratio LCD screen. And once again there are seven digital filters - or as Olympus calls them 'Magic Filters' - acting as a unique selling point. As found on the VR-320, users can choose from Punk, Pop Art, Pin Hole, Drawing, Fish Eye, Soft Focus and new addition Sparkle, adding twinkling reflections to shiny objects. Images are saved to either SD or SDHC card, a lost for which is provided alongside the battery at the base.

There's no mains charger supplied with the VR-310, but rather a mains adapter with plug and USB cable which means that the battery is charged within the camera at all times. Like with the VR-320, it also means that the camera can be charged with the aid of a USB port, not just via the mains. We also get a standard AV lead, but unsurprisingly there's no HDMI port on offer here. More disappointingly, the optical zoom cannot be used and audio recorded at the same time when recording video. You have to drill into the video options within the camera's menu folders to turn the sound off first. This is a little mystifying as the mechanics of the VR-310 doing its zooming 'stuff' are not particularly loud. That said, Olympus has decided to locate the built-in microphone at the front so close to the actual lens that it's almost a part of it.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Front Rear

Apart from an inscription detailing the 10x zoom on offer here, as noted the front of the camera is a dead ringer for the VR-320. In fact, although said inscription looks like the usual manufacturer's sticker at first glance, this cannot be removed.
The VR-310's lens takes up about half of the faceplate, in either its retracted or extended state - standing proud by a couple of inches in the case of the latter. We had the silver version of the camera in for review that looks less drab than the black, but still a little plastic-y despite Olympus insisting it's a mainly metal build.

Even when the lens is retracted the front of the camera is not completely flat and level as a series of rings surround and accentuate the lens' prominence. It's into the outer chrome ring on our VR-310 that the microphone has been set. And, as this camera is so similar to the VR-320, zoom and pricing apart, you'll forgive us if some of our observations are shared.
Top right of the lens, if viewing the VR-310's faceplate, we find a small indicator lamp for the AF assist/self timer, and, to the left of the lens, a lozenge shaped window for the built-in flash. The same practical issue here blights the VR-310 as it does the VR-320: we found the flaah was not located sufficiently far enough away from the slender concession to a handgrip at the front for fingertips to avoid inadvertently straying in front of the flash. At least if you realise this early on you can take measures to avoid it, but the problem is exacerbated if you hand the camera to someone else to take your portrait, and so on occasion we ended up with flash portraits where one half of the frame was well exposed, the other half in shadow. If Olympus extended the raised 'grip' so that it ran from top to bottom and shifted the flash in slightly, as we noted with the VR-320 this might prove to be less of an issue.

The top of the VR-310 presents the same straightforward control layout as its big brother. Featured here are a small on/off button, raised shutter release button plus encircling zoom lever set into a chrome strip that runs the length of the top plate. As this strip is mirrored it inevitably attracts fingerprints, so you'll be constantly tempted to rub it clean.

Provided the photographer has first set time and date and selected their region, this Olympus snapshot can be lined up ready for the first shot from cold in all of a couple of seconds. Alternatively a half press of the shutter release button automatically clears this preliminary set up screen. As a default the VR-310 remembers the previous setting selected if powering down and up again. This saves time, say, if you want to pre-select any of the Magic Filters or scene modes for a shot you've got in mind that's coming up, and you want to ensure the camera's prepped and ready. The other shooting modes here are Program, Scene, Panorama, and iAuto, with the modest available settings in each mode shown on a toolbar that just out below and runs down the right hand edge of the screen; how long this list of options runs depends on the shooting mode selected.

The fact that the shutter release button is here raised ensures that it falls neatly under the photographer's forefinger as the camera is gripped in the right hand, with the ability to slide the self same finger over to the zoom lever and 'feel your way' to make framing adjustments without taking an eye off the screen or your subject - thanks to the zoom lever's raised front lip.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Side Top

Press said shutter release button halfway and focus and exposure is determined in a second or so, the screen very briefly visibly adjusting before the familiar green AF square appears on screen. Go on to take the shot and with minimal shutter delay a full 14 megapixel JPEG is committed to memory in the standard 2-3 seconds, the screen briefly blanking out before freezing with an image of the captured shot. These timings are pretty average for a camera in the Olympus' point and shoot class.

Moving around to the back of this compact, and once again the LCD screen dominates the available space, with buttons located to its right and running from top to bottom where they fall under the thumb.

The layout here is more spare and simplistic, with the now expected camcorder-like red video record button located near the top right hand edge. Press this whatever stills shooting mode might be in use at the time, and the regular screen display narrows, black bands cropping it top and bottom to provide a widescreen ratio image. It takes a couple of seconds' wait for recording to actually commence however. And, as explained earlier, the user can only access the optical zoom if disabling the audio, which is a shame. Video in the case of the VR-310 is then probably best viewed as an add-on for occasional use rather than a motive for purchase.

Video nevertheless gets its own folder among the six offered when the backplate 'menu' button is pressed. This controls image size, frame rate, and allows image stabilization to be turned off or on during recording, and ditto sound, as discussed. The choice of video resolution is either the top quality 720p, VGA (640x480) or QVGA (320x240). The frame rate can be left at the top setting of 30fps or swiched to 15fps as desired: all very straightforward.

The button below the backplate video record button is identically sized and obviously for playback. Press the menu button in this setting and the menu folders are not altered from capture mode. Tabbing down to the triangular 'play' icon provides the options of kick starting a slide show, editing images in-camera (downsizing, cropping, adding audio or carrying out an automatic lighting or red eye correction), plus erasing, setting a print order, locking against accidental deletion or rotating shots.

Below the playback button is the largest control on the VR-310's back, which is the familiar four-way control pad. At 12 o'clock here we have a setting marked 'info'. Give this a press in capture mode and the display is altered however, losing the on-screen icons with the exception of an indication of whichever shooting mode has been selected, or calling up a nine zone compositional grid for anyone wishing to practice the photographic Rule of Thirds. Again this is all identical to the VR-320. In playback however a press of 'info' naturally brings up an image's capture data, including shutter speed, aperture, exposure and the like.

Fujifilm FinePix HS10 Fujifilm FinePix HS10
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

At the centre of the dial are a self explanatory 'OK' button for implementing any setting changes required during function or menu selections, while at the bottom of the dial at six o'clock is a handy delete icon, to save having to wade into playback menus to dispatch obviously abominable images.

The menu button we've already touched on. This sits below the control pad, where it's joined by an enigmatic button detailed with a question mark; a press of 'Menu' as we've detailed gives access to six folders of digital 'goodness'. From the top we have two stills capture mode folders - allowing the adjustment of image size and quality, the activation of digital zoom, image stabilizer, AF illuminator and the like - the, as the third setting down, the aforementioned video mode folder. Beneath this we have the already touched upon playback mode, plus two Set Up menu screens, for formatting the card in use, adjusting function sound volume, screen brightness and all the expected regulars. Press the '?' button when highlighting any of these options, keep the button held down and a brief text explanation will appear on screen. For example, in the case of pixel mapping, we get: 'Checks the CCD and image processing functions. This check should be conducted once a year at lest at least one mute after shooting/playback.'

Of course you might need to read the manual to discover how to use the '?' button, or why it's there, but once discovered, use of it goes some way to avoiding the need to pick it up again. As usual we get the cursory Quick Start manual in the box, with the full text on CD only.

While the right hand flank of the camera - if continuing to view the VR-310 from the back - features an eyelet for attaching a wrist strap, the left hand side is devoid of any features except the customary pair of fixing screws.

The base of the Olympus meanwhile features a central screw thread for attaching a tripod, plus a slide-open plastic cover protecting the compartment housing the rechargeable lithium ion battery and optional SD/SDHC card. Tucked just behind this is an unprotected/exposed port for attaching the supplied cabling.

So while the operation of the VR-310 is as straightforward as one could hope for from a £99 camera in the absence of a physical shooting mode dial, what of the actual shots it takes? Do these better what we might expect to see in our mind's eye from a camera in this pocket money price bracket, or are we better off spending our parents' hand-me-down money on a quarter pound of sherbet lemons? Read on to find out…

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.

Although with plenty of light we were able to chance upon some sharp and warm, colour-rich results from the VR-310, which anyone would be happy with from an outwardly unassuming point and shoot, generally we felt these came about more by accident than design.

Like the VR-320 we were testing alongside this model, shots from the VR-310 are something of a mixed bag. At maximum 24mm equivalent wide angle we were getting a softening in definition towards the corners, while at maximum telephoto camera shake meant that our best efforts to get a sharp shot were often thwarted, though to a lesser degree than the 12.5x VR-320.

Some quite alarming purple fringing made itself evident between areas of high contrast, and at its worst images from the VR-310 resembled those from a camera phone, with burnt out highlights. We persevered however and among the selection displayed here believe there are at least a few keepers. Generally iAuto gets it right, but not all the time, so be prepared to sift through a few blurred shots to get to the sharp ones. As we say, performance can be hit and miss, but the cheap asking price goes someway to deflecting our critical barbs.

As for low light performance without flash, again it's a similar story to the VR-320: be prepared to disregard ISO 800 and ISO 1600 settings unless you're really desperate. Above ISO 400 noise levels do become very noticeable. Still, there's always the option to turn on the flash and most point and shooters will be happy to do just that.


The Olympus VR-310 has six sensitivity settings ranging from ISO 80 to ISO 1600. The 100% crops below show what the quality is like at each setting.

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little bit soft at the default sharpening setting, and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The Olympus VR-310 handled chromatic aberrations fairly well during the review, with some purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the examples below.

Example 1 (100% Crop)

Example 2 (100% Crop)


The Olympus VR-310 offers a Super Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.

Macro Shot

100% Crop


The flash settings on the Olympus VR-310 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (24mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (24mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

Flash Off - Telephoto (240mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (240mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are some portrait shots. Both the Flash On and the Auto/Red-eye Reduction settings caused a small amount of red-eye.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Olympus VR-310's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Candle scene mode, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds at ISO 400.

Night Shot

Night Shot (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus VR-310 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 highest quality setting of 1280x720 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 33 second movie is 132Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus VR-310

Front of the Camera

Olympus VR-310

Front of the Camera / Lens Extended

Olympus VR-310

Isometric View

Olympus VR-310

Isometric View

Olympus VR-310

Rear of the Camera

Olympus VR-310

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed

Olympus VR-310

Top of the Camera

Olympus VR-310

Bottom of the Camera

Olympus VR-310

Side of the Camera


Olympus VR-310

Side of the Camera

Olympus VR-310

Memory Card Slot

Olympus VR-310

Battery Compartment


For less than £100 the thinking will be 'you can't go wrong' when it comes to the Olympus VR-310. And up to a point that's true. Unfortunately when it's image quality letting a camera down, it might actually be the wiser move to spend a little more, unless you really are considering this camera as something for the kids or grandma to knock around with as a bit of fun. Or looking for a short-term investment yourself that gives you a little bit of 'poke' at the telephoto end of the zoom.

So the VR-310 is no star performer and you get what you pay for. Olympus would argue that the combination of small price but big zoom is a winning combination, and, on paper it is and in reality would be true too if the VR-310 performed perfectly well. Unfortunately its hit and miss results mean that here is one camera that we cannot unequivocally recommend. It's adequate, but in an ideal world who wants to settle for adequate?

The positives however are that the VR-310 is a camera that is easy to use, has that broader than average focal range (although not 100% perfect throughout), some fun built-in digital filters and a simple and approachable layout. And, in hitting that £99 sweet spot it should just fly off the shelves no matter what critical barbs we aim at it.

3 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3
Features 3
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 3
Value for money 3.5

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus VR-310 from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The Olympus VR-310 is a slim high-zoom compact camera, launched in January 2011 with an RRP of £129.99, available in silver, black, red and purple. With the price now having fallen to £107.99, Daniel Bell investigates whether the camera is quite the bargain it seems...
Read the full review »


Camera Type: Compact
Effective Megapixels: 14 MP
Image sensor type: CCD
Image sensor size: 1/2.3"
ISO range: 80 - 1600
Lens focal length: 4.2 - 42.0mm
Film lens equivalent (35mm): 24 - 240mm
Widest aperture: Wide(W) F3.0; Tele(T) F5.7
Optical zoom range: 10x
Digital zoom: 4x (40x maximum combined zoom)
Nearest focusing distance: Normal - 0.6m (W); 1.0m (T)
Macro - 0.2m (W); 0.9m (T)
Super Macro - 0.01m
Viewing screen type: TFT
Viewing screen size: 3"
Screen resolution: 230,000
Secondary viewfinder: No
Image stabilisation: CCD Shift
Autofocus system type: CCD contrast detection
Focus modes: Face Detect iESP/Spot/tracking
Low-light AF assistance: AF illuminator built-in
Light metering system: Multi-segmented
Metering modes: ESP, Spot
Scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, Night, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Beach & Snow, Documents, Pet
Panorama recording: Yes (with included software)
3D recording: No
Creative filter system: Magic Filters (Photo)
Photo Magic Filter types: Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fish Eye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle
Video Magic Filter types: No
Shutter speed range: 1/2 - 1/2000s (Candle scene longest 4 sec)
Self timer: 12/2 seconds
Remote: No
Flash type and power: Built-in (GN 7)
Flash working range (ISO): W: 0.2m - 4.7m (ISO800)
T: 0.9m - 2.4m (ISO800)
Flash hotshoe for external flash: No
Compatible external flash units: No
Wireless flash capability: No
Wi-Fi Compatibility: No
Electronic Compass: No
Date imprint: Yes
Memory card type: SD/SDHC
Internal memory: 33MB
Photo recording format(s): JPEG
Video recording format: AVI Motion JPEG
Recording time: No Limit
Video file sizes: Maximum 2GB
Video with sound: Yes
Built in microphone type: WAVE
External microphone option: No
Computer interface (Cable type): USB 2.0 High Speed
AV interface (Cable type): AV cable (CB-AVC3)
Battery type (model): LI-42B
Battery charging: In-camera via USB
Battery life (CIPA standard): Approx. 190 shots
Manometer: No
Dimensions WxHxD: 100.6 x 58.2 x 28.5
Weight: 158g
Box content: VR-310 Digital Camera, USB Cable & Charger (F-2AC), Instruction Manual, [ib] Software CD, Audio/Video Cable, Wrist Strap, Lithium-Ion Battery (LI-42B), Warranty Card
RRP AUD: $149.00
Underwater housing option: No

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