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Olympus VG-170 Digital Camera Review


Digital Camera Review by: Keith Parsons


Do not be fooled by the Olympus VG-170 inexpensive RRP of ??? as it contains some great features like 3D mode and the most powerful flash in the Olympus “Smart” range that would, based on these features justify its purchase alone.

Offering a 14 megapixel sensor and 26-130mm lens in a tough sector of the market the VG-170 has been positioned well to offer a very competitive option for buyers.


Appearance & Functionality

The VG-170 comes in a very size concious slim design and would easily fit into a jacket pocket or handbag when heading out for any occasion. Which is perfect as its great for shooting nighttime shots with its powerful flash .

Black is the only colour available for this camera although I doubt anyone would have an issue as the overall design speaks of a camera well above the VG-170's price range.

olympus20120501eb.jpgThe camera has a slightly plastic feel due to its casing although Olympus has added a porous touch pad on the right hand side adding some much needed grip. The buttons are logically placed and finished in silver allowing them to be easily distinguishable from the black camera body.

The VG-170 powers up quickly without any lag time and delivers the user straight to a live picture screen. By using the 4 way directional pad the basic shooting options are accessed with ease and speed. Menu navigation is kept quite simple and is accessed from a separate button on the rear panel allowing a lower level of customisation given this is a compact “point and shoot” camera.

There are a number of shooting modes available including Full Auto, P (program), DIS (blur reduction), Beauty, Scene, Magic (stylised filters) and Panorama. The Magic filters mode is now a trademark of the olympus range and offers a mix of both usable and cheesy filters you can take  your images with. DIS is an intriguing mode as it claims to minimise blur in pictures, a problem associated with point and shoot auto modes. Basically it wont let the shutter drop below 1/250th and instead increases the ISO and utilises the large flash. This is great for consistently sharp pictures (especially in low light) although the image quality will often suffer. The other notable mode is the cameras Scene mode which lets the user select a range of subjects from candlelit scenes to sports and then fixes the cameras settings for you.

A great feature included under the Scene mode is 3D images. Many cameras claim to offer this function though it is usually dependant on the owner having a 3D television to view them on. The VG-170 however uses a different method whereby the camera takes two images that are then viewed with the included 3D glasses either the cameras LCD or a Monitor, with very decent results. The only drawback is that the image quality drops back to 2 megapixel. Even so, a great feature!

Battery charging is done in camera via a USB to power socket cable. A great feature for those using the camera for travel as it appears Olympus have ditched the heavy and baulky external chargers associated with digital cameras. Charging is also possible though takes twice as long via a computer USB port.

The VG-170 incorporates a very good flash that is rated with a guide number (flash output at 100ISO) of 8.7, almost double that of the VG-160 (guide number = 4.8). This is incredibly powerful for a compact camera and it is able to be controlled reasonably well with settings like fill, red eye reduction or long duration.


Image Quality / Lens Quality

olympus20120501ec.jpgThe VG-170 uses a 1/2.3” CCD sensor that at maximum resolution is around 14 megapixels. Whilst the megapixel number is high the sensor is fairly prone to noise at most ISO levels although is less evident below 400ISO. It must however be remembered that this camera is not a large sensor SLR and should therefore not be expected to perform like one.

Images are available in JPEG quality only and at full 14 megapixel resolution produce a 3mb file. You are also able to select a lower resolution with options of 8, 5, 3, 2 and 1 megapixel also available depending on your desired output.

The automatic WB is quite effective although it is also able to be set manually from the sidebar. Along with the standard white balance settings (daylight, tungsten, fluorescent etc) you can have two custom white balances set by taking a snapshot of a light source.

The 26-130mm lens offers a decent amount of zoom and will allow for wider group portraits as well as enough zoom for most subjects. Perhaps zooming into a giraffe standing 1km away whilst on safari is out of the question although your child on stage at a concert would be achievable.


LCD Screen / Viewfinder

olympus20120501ed.jpgThe 3” LCD screen is a great size for a camera at this end of the market and will allow for decent inspection of images and indeed assist greatly in composing your photos. The resolution is fairly low at  230,000 dots although images are designed to be viewed on a monitor or in print and not on the back of your camera. Text is easily discernible in the menus and the user will find the brightness and contrast enough to use in moderate sun.



The camera does shoot videos via a separate red recording button thats simple to find on the back of the camera. Though video is not the primary function of a camera such as this, it is unfortunately a little disappointing. The quality can be set at either 720p, VGA or QVGA and unfortunately shows signs of noise in the shadows. Zooming is also not available in video shooting and the audio is susceptible to wind noise and could benefit from a better microphone.





Whilst this camera may have a few annoyances it must be remembered where this camera sits it terms of price (RRP). The flash is an absolute standout and will give great results when shooting groups of people at night. The 3D mode is interesting and worth the cameras price alone if its your thing and the 3” LCD is of a very good size.



Accessories Used During Testing:

SanDisk Extreme Pro 95MB/s SD Card 

Tamrac Pro Compact Digital / 5689 Camera Bag  


Recommended Retailer:

View / Buy The Olympus VG-160 



Appearance rating 4.5 stars
Functionality rating 4 stars
Image quality
3.5 stars
Video quality
3 stars
Lens quality
3.5 stars
LCD screen (Rear)
3.5 stars
Value for money 4.5 star
Street Price $149.95
Effective Pixels 16 Mega pixels
Sensor Type
1/2.3" CCD sensor
Image Sizes 8
Lens 24mm - 240mm, Wide(W) F3.0; Tele(T) F5.7
Lens Mount
Resolution Settings: Stills 4608 x 3456
4608 x 2592
3264 x 2448
2560 x 1920
2048 x 1536
1920 x 1080
1600 x 1200
640 x 480 
Resolution Settings: Video 1280 x 720
640 x 480
320 x 240
Face Detection Yes
Manual Focus No
Auto Focus Yes
Aperture Priority No
Shutter Priority
Shutter Speeds 1/2 - 1/2000s (Candle scene longest 4 sec)
ISO Auto, High Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
LCD Monitor 3.0 Inch, TFT color LCD, 460,000 pixels
Viewfinder -
Flash Yes
Hot Shoe No
White Balance Auto, daylight, fluorescent 3, overcast, tungsten, one touch
Self Timer 12 and 2 seconds
Stills Format/s
Video Format/s AVI Motion JPEG
Video Recording Time/s Maximum file size is 2GB
Storage Type - External SD/SDHC
Storage Type - Internal
Connectivity USB 2.0 High Speed, AV cable (CB-AVC3)
Power Source In-camera via USB, Optional LI-50C external charger
Battery Options LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
Battery Life Approx. 220 shots
Dimensions 104.3 mm (W) x 60.2mm (H) x 28.3mm (D)
Weight 170g (including battery)




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About Olympus


In Greek mythology, Mt.Olympus is the home of the twelve supreme gods and goddesses. Olympus was named after this mountain to reflect its strong aspiration to create high quality, world famous products.

"Olympus" has been used as a trademark since the time of Takachiho Seisakusho, the predecessor of Olympus Corporation.

In Japanese mythology, it is said that eight million gods and goddesses live in Takamagahara, the peak of Mt.Takachiho. The name "Olympus" was selected as the trademark because Mt.Olympus, like Mt.Takachiho, was the home of gods and goddesses. This trademark is also imbued with the aspiration of Olympus to illuminate the world with its optical devices, just like Takamagahara brought light to the world.

Takachiho Seisakusho was renamed Takachiho Optical Co., Ltd. in 1942 when optical products became the mainstay of the company. In 1947, the name was changed again to Olympus Optical Co., Ltd. in an attempt to enhance its corporate image.

And in 2003, the company made a fresh start as Olympus Corporation, to show its willingness to establish a dynamic corporate brand by unifying the corporate name and the well-known brand.

In recent years, Olympus Corporation has focused on "Opto-Digital Technology" as its core competence, technological strengths that competitors cannot easily imitate, to maximize corporate value and to become one of the top optical instrument manufactures.

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