Olympus STYLUS VG-190: Lags Behind the Rest

The Olympus STYLUS VG-190

The Olympus STYLUS VG-190

Shridhar Kunte tests the Olympus STYLUS VG-190 to see if it can withstand the competition from other compacts and smartphone cameras.

The compact camera market is shrinking day by day. This is mainly because of the improvement in quality of cameraphones, and the simultaneous popularity of social networks like Facebook and Instagram. To combat this, it has become mandatory for every manufacturer to give something extra. With the VG-190, Olympus has decided to offer a Long Flash capabilities and a Digital Image Stabilisation mechanism.

Before we get into what these highlight features mean, let’s get into the basics. The VG-190 is a slim 16MP camera that has a 1/2.3-inch CCD sensor. It has a 5x zoom, which spans from moderate 26mm wide angle to a 130mm medium telephoto.

Besides 14 Scene modes, the camera has something called Magic Filters, which are similar to the in-camera Art Filters that are found in Olympus’ DSLRs and mirrorless cameras. One can choose from multiple aspect ratios—the default 4:3 ratio, along with 16:9, 3:2 or 1:1. The Super Macro mode is a misnomer. Unlike other compact cameras that focus as close as 1cm, this Olympus has a minimum focusing distance of 5cm.

Unlike some of the competiton, you cannot shoot Full HD video. The footage is captured at 720p. One fun addition is that you can use the Magic Filters while shooting video too. Zoom is locked during video, but AF is fast. The footage is sharp, but shows some noise in the shadows while shooting in low light.

The two ‘standout’ features do not really stand out. The Digital Image Stabilisation mechanism is not very useful. It only increases the ISO and leads to soft, smudgy images—unlike real optical or sensor-shift stabilisation that allows one to shoot at slower shutterspeeds. This feature also cramps the ISO, that is, you cannot control it yourself anymore.

The Long Flash works well. The flash tube of the VG-190 is more powerful than other compact cameras in this class, and this helps to increase the throw of the illumination.

The grip on the front is small making it difficult to hold the camera but the rubberised texture helps improve the grip. The exterior of the camera is made of tough plastic and has a matt finish.

On the top, the power switch is recessed to avoid switching on the camera accidentally. The entire cluster of switches can be easily reached with the thumb without any twinge.

The 3-inch LCD screen was difficult to use outdoors as it produced a lot of glare. You can not overcome this problem as there is limited scope to control the brightness of the screen. There is USB charging, but I am not a big fan of the battery being charged inside the camera, as it is slower and does not allow you to use a backup battery while charging the first one.

I struggled to calculate a balanced exposure while using the VG-190. There is no option for Metering, which is a serious omission, even though this may be a budget camera! The omission is compounded by the fact that the default metering overexposes photos to a large degree. I needed to dial in an Exposure Compensation of – 1EV to get decent exposures. Even then, the dynamic range is poor and it is very difficult to avoid blown out highlights.

At low ISOs, there is hardly any noise but the JPEG images are a little too compressed. At ISO 400 the noise is noticeable and the image loses detail. This is poor quality, considering the level of advancement we have otherwise seen in 2013.

The quality of the lens is poor and and the dynamic range, disappointing. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8 Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The quality of the lens is poor and and the dynamic range, disappointing. Exposure: 1/30sec at f/2.8. Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

If you are a casual user, what would convince you to buy a camera instead of merely using your phone? A lot of zoom, more control or probably, better image quality. With the VG-190, Olympus has missed some key features like Full HD video, optical (or even sensor shift) stabilisation and control over Metering.

There are many other cameras in this price range that offer more zoom and IS. The CCD sensor does not match up to modern-day CMOS sensors and the lack of metering options make it very difficult to shoot in contrasty light. Sadly, one can even say that some flagship smartphones already produce better image quality than this, and the day is not far when even a majority of budget phones too, would reach this level of quality.

Magic Filters, no IS, only 720p video
Decent AF, blown out highlights
Build Quality
Polycarbonate body
Easy to handle, dedicated video button
Warranty & Support
Limited number of service centres


MRP Rs. 8490
Who should buy it? We would not recommend this camera to anyone who is serious about quality.
Why? At a similar price, you will find other compact cameras that have more zoom and other features too. The image quality, also, is below average.
Tags: Olympus, Shridhar Kunte, better photography, june, Digital Camera, 2013, Olympus STYLUS VG-190