Olympus 770SW

Last May, I took a look at the Olympus 720SW, the waterproof and drop proof camera that proved itself to be pretty tough in even the most extreme of circumstances. Olympus are at it yet again with the 770SW, designed for either the clumsiest person ever or for those who want to enjoy a holiday taking snaps without worrying about getting it wet!

Featuring a 7.1 Megapixel resolution CCD, 3x optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCD and a mind boggling 25 different scene modes to choose from, the 770SW seems to fit in the upper end of digital cameras but nothing you read there really strikes you as any different to what everyone else is doing.

As with all Olympus cameras, xD cards are mandatory, offering fast transfer rates albeit at a slightly higher cost than SD cards (depending on where you shop). The built in capacity only offers 18MB, which essentially forces all buyers to invest in a decent sized one of at least 512MB

Somehow, the boffins at Olympus have designed this camera to withstand the severest of beatings and even then it continues to work. You need not treat this camera like a new born baby (don’t drop it, get it wet or freeze it), because you can now take this camera 10 metres under water and use one of the 4 underwater modes to snap some shots, or perhaps polar bear spotting in Alaska where temperatures are sub-zero. This camera can do it all and it can even survive 100 kg of pressure or be dropped from up to 1.5m height with its amazing shock proof and crush proof body.

It’s unlike anything else I’ve seen before. Sure you can probably get underwater cases for most modern cameras these days and some are splash proof. But none are capable of coming close to what the 770SW does without having excess baggage attached to it. It’s truly amazing how they’ve managed to do all this in a camera chassis that is barely an inch thin. To be precise it’s just 2.6 cm!

This camera can handle water pressure of up to 10 metres of depth and be frozen to -10 Celsius, how many electrical gadgets do you know of that can resist brave this?

Olympus tout the BrightCapture technology as their solution to low light photography, allowing the built in sensors to automatically adjust picture settings to boost brightness by up to four times. With 25 scene modes, in which four of them are for underwater shooting, it can either be very handy or very annoying having to select a different setting every time you want to shoot a different type of shot and with so many to choose from it can get confusing.

Thankfully, if you pause your selection for a few seconds, a brief description that outlines what conditions are best for this type of setting, however a pure and plain simple Automatic mode is the missing key for me.

Various Macro modes are also available with one of them including the activation of a spotlight that helps light up the close up image you’re taking. Naturally if you’re doing a close up, you don’t want the flash to be blanking out the image when it’s taken, so the spotlight is a nice touch to illuminating the shot without the need for a flash.

Image stabilisation is almost a must for any compact digital camera these days in an attempt to wipe out those blurry shots, camera manufacturers are starting to put this feature in most of their mid-range and upward models.

Although low light shooting is meant to be boosted with its BrightCapture technology, I still experienced ‘noisy’ images at the higher ISO settings. This is common for most compact cameras that suffer from the inability to allow more light in to its lens and try to compensate by increasing the ISO to improve brightness but compromising on image quality.

You can see from my pictures that I was keen to test its waterproof abilities by putting it in a sink of cold water and also dunking it in a glass. The camera software does have a sensor for detecting water pressure and a gauge appears on screen giving you an indication of when you’re reaching its limits.

I did the usual drop tests by letting it go at a height of 1.5 metres at various angles and positions. Corners, lens, screen facing down and its edges were all tested in the impact test and I was relieved to find that it survived all the tests. What’s most impressive is the fact that the screen didn’t scratch, using a toughened diamond crystal material that is extremely tough and makes you wonder why they don’t use that type of display in other portable devices.

With only average picture quality, the Olympus 770SW more than makes up for this snag by offering a superb feature set for the adventurous user. It’s especially ideal for this up coming Summer if you’re going to be partying by the pool or snapping shots of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, then this camera might just be the one that you’ve been looking for.

This tough, shock-resistant, freeze-resistant, water-resistant and blur-resistant camera breaks new ground when it comes to rugged cameras without adding bulk or weight and from the outside looks like any other compact camera. It’s the very discreet nature of the 770SW that makes it so special. It can be used on land, ice, water and will resist the weight of a very heavy person standing on it.

Bottom line is, what Olympus have created is an average point and shoot camera that doesn’t excel itself for picture quality but holds its own but it’s the combining of the durable exterior that is where the camera really shines.

2007-04-25 Onwah Tsang

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