The Olympus VG-170 was released in January 2012 and is a budget compact digital camera with a flash which is twice as powerful as a regular compact camera. The VG-170 is available in white, red and black for £89.00.
Olympus VG-170 Features
The VG-170 has a modest 5x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 26-130mm, as well as 14 megapixel sensor. An unusual feature is the large flash which has a guide number of 8.8, whereas a typical compacts are rated between 4 and 5.6. This means that objects can be lit up from 15 meters away in long flash mode.
To help take great pictures there is Intelligent Auto mode and Digital Image Stabilisation. There are a range of magic filters to add creativity to both pictures and videos. There are also a number of scene modes as well as 3D image shooting, Face Detection and AF Tracking. In playback mode there are options to edit your photos, including beauty, lighting and red-eye fixes.
Videos are recorded at 720p HD with optical zoom available.
14 megapixel sensor
5x wide optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 26-130mm)
720p HD movie recording
Powerful and big built-in flash
3.0 inch 460,000 dot colour LCD screen
Digital Image Stabilisation
Magic Filter Movie and/or Stills
Face Detection incl. Shadow Adjustment
iAuto and AF Tracking
3D Photo Shooting Mode (Red & Cyan)
Eye-Fi Card compatibility
Olympus VG-170 Handling
The large flash and grip on the front of the camera give the VG-170 a unique look amongst other compact cameras. There is also a grip on the rear of the camera for your right thumb, but it's worth noting the grips are plastic rather than rubber. The camera isn't packed with lots of buttons, with most of the controls set via the menu which appears down the right-hand-side of the screen, using the d-pad and OK button. Other buttons are menu, playback, movie record, on/off, shutter and zoom rocker.
The 3 inch LCD screen is bright and clear to see in most lighting conditions. There is no CIPA rating provided for the camera battery. During testing it was capable of all our test shots over a number of days without requiring charging.
We tested the camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
Sequential shooting (14 megapixel)
High-speed 1 (3 megapixel)
High-speed 2 (3 megapixel)
Sequential shooting takes pictures at 16 megapixels, with High-speed 1 and High-speed 2 restricted to 3 megapixels.
Olympus VG-170 Performance
Images taken by the VG-170 are well exposed with good colour reproduction. When viewing the images at full size there is a respectable amount of detail when shooting a both ends of the lens, with purple fringing evident on occasion. The camera has a minimum focusing distance of 5cm, this doesn't stop it from being able to take a pleasant macro shot.
Olympus VG-170 Lens test images
Noise has no affect on image quality quality at the lowest ISO settings of 80 and 100 with only a slight amount creeping in at ISO 200. Noise does start to have a significant impact on quaity from ISO 400 with the higher settings of ISO 800 and ISO 1600 best saved for images which are to be resized for use on the web.
Olympus VG-170 ISO test images
The first two images below have been taken using landscape mode, with good blues and greens produced. Portrait modes takes pictures with pleasant skin tones but when using the flash there is some red-eye, although this can be removed in playback mode. There are also further examples using sports mode (to freeze to motion of the water) and documents mode. The last two examples have been shot using the flash, the room was completely dark when taken. There are further examples in the Equipment Database.
Olympus VG-170 Scene modes
When shooting outdoors, the auto white-balance (AWB) does a good job, but the results weren't as pleasing under our studio lighting. Under the incandescent lights the AWB setting gives an orange cast, with the preset giving a magenta cast. Under the fluorescent lights the AWB preset gives a very slight magenta cast, with the respective preset taking a much better result.
Olympus VG-170 White-balance test images
The VG-170 has nine magic filters: Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fisheye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, Watercolour and Reflection with examples below.
Olympus VG-170 Digital filters
Below is a short example video shot at 720p HD. The camera can record with use of the optical zoom, an example of which can be seen on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Page.
There are loads of similar digital compact cameras available for under £100, so it is good to see that Olympus have given the VG-170 a unique feature in the extra powerful flash. Image quality is pretty good if you can shoot at a lower ISO, which should generally be possible if you are happy to use the flash in low light conditions. Overall, for its money, the Olympus VG-170 is a decent buy.
Olympus VG-170 Pros
Larger flash is a unique feature
Good value for money
Grip on front of camera
Good colour reproduction
Olympus VG-170 Cons
No optical stabilisation
Purple fringing on occasion
Significant noise from ISO 400 upwards
AWB struggles under indoor lighting