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Olympus VG-170 Compact Digital Camera Review

The Olympus VG-170 is a compact digital camera with an extra powerful flash, Daniel Bell reviews.

| Olympus VG-170 in Compact Cameras
Olympus VG-170 Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus VG-170

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 Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus VG-170

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.

Olympus VG-170 Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus VG-170

Key Features

  • 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)
  • Beauty Mode
  • Scene Modes
  • Eye-Fi Card compatibility
  • Super-slim body
  • USB-Battery Charge
Olympus VG-170 Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus VG-170

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.

Shutter Response   0.2 seconds
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.625 seconds
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.9 seconds
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   2.2 seconds
Shot to Shot (without flash)   2.7 seconds
Shot to Shot with Flash   4.9 seconds
Sequential shooting (14 megapixel)
  0.5 fps
High-speed 1 (3 megapixel)
  1.9 fps
High-speed 2 (3 megapixel)   15.5 fps

Sequential shooting takes pictures at 16 megapixels, with High-speed 1 and High-speed 2 restricted to 3 megapixels.

Olympus VG-170 Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus VG-170

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

Video Mode

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.

Value For Money

The Olympus VG-170 is currently priced at £89.00. The market for similar budget cameras is very competitive, with the bigger flash setting the camera apart from the competition. Other compacts to consider are the Fujifilm FinePix Z90 at £64.00, Pentax Optio S1 at £69.95, Canon PowerShot A3200 IS at £99.00 and Samsung SH100 at £114.00.

Olympus VG-170 Verdict

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


Olympus VG-170 Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.8 - f/6.5
35mm equivalent26mm - 130mm
Optical Zoom5x
Image Sensor
Pixels14Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4288
Pixels (H)3216
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor Size1/2.3 inch
Sensor Size (width)6.16mm
Sensor Size (height)4.62mm
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution460,000
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/2000sec
Shutter speeds longest4sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • Scene modes
  • ESP Light Metering
ISO sensitivity80 - 1600
White balance
  • Auto
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shooting15fps
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
Video FPS30
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLI-50B
Battery Life (CIPA rating)No Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsLI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery, F-2AC AC Adapter, CB-USB7 USB Cable, CB-AVC5 Audio/Video cable, 3D Glasses (Red/Cyan), Hand Strap, World Wide Warranty Card, Instruction Manual, [ib] Image Management Software

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Photographs taken using the Olympus VG-170

Autumn afternoonThrough the RoofWhere is the StationRBS Millienium MarkerSinking GravesMusic at ElevenThree Shire Stones

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