Olympus Stylus SH-2 compact camera retains 5-axis stabilization, adds new night modes

Correction: We originally stated RAW image capture is a feature carried over from the SH-1. It is a new feature added to the SH-2.

Olympus has a follow-up to last year’s Stylus SH-1, which was the first compact camera to feature a mechanical 5-axis image stabilization system that’s normally found in Olympus’ higher-end cameras. However, the new Stylus SH-2 doesn’t seem to offer anything new from its predecessor, apart from the introduction of Nightscape Modes and RAW image capture.

As for specs, the SH-2 mirrors the SH-1. It has the 5-axis system borrowed from the OM-D E-M1, and uses the same 16-megapixel sensor in the SH-1; while it may have the looks of Olympus’ Micro Four Thirds PEN-series cameras, don’t expect the smaller 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor to have the same performance. Still, the 5-axis IS should provide steadier and shaper images than many compacts, particularly in low-light situations and when the lens is at full telephoto; it’s also handy when shooting videos. The ability to capture uncompressed RAW images also contributes toward improved image quality. The lens remains the same at 24x (25-600mm, 35mm equivalent), which gives you a good range for most uses (although it pales in comparison to Nikon’s ultra-long 83x). Like the SH-1, the SH-2 shoots Full HD videos at 1080/60p (with stereo sound), has Wi-Fi (no NFC) to pair with smartphones, and retains the 3-inch, 460k-dot fixed touchscreen. (All the specs can be found here.)

Design wise, the SH-2 is nearly identical to the SH-1, with the exception of a different-looking leatherette on the body. It is made with aluminum alloy, and at 10 ounces, the compact camera is ideal for travel (although it’s an ounce heavier than the SH-1). The SH-2 will come in two-tone black or silver.

Those who like to shoot after dark will appreciate the new Nightscape Modes. These scene modes help to capture everything from lit city buildings to star trails. Night + Portrait uses the flash to take portraits with dark background (although we usually prefer not using the flash in the dark); Night Scene uses a longer shutter speed to capture more light, even without a tripod; Fireworks are self-explanatory; and Live Composite and Hand-Held Starlight modes “extract the brightest areas from a sequence of interval shots and combine them into one perfectly exposed image,” Olympus says.

The SH-2 will retail for $400 when it arrives in April. If you like to shoot at night, the new night modes might be beneficial. However, being that the camera is nearly the same as the previous model, you could possibly pick up the SH-1 at a discount.

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