6 Aug 2007

Olympus Stylus 770SW 7.1MP Digital Camer

Salt water spray has claimed two of my previous cameras so when I read about this camera and the Pentax Option W30 I decided one of the two would be a very valuable investment. The next question was deciding which one to buy.

The Pentax is a superior camera. Colors are more saturated, and it has lower noise higher up the ISO range. Also, the Pentax produces videos that are 30FPS (the Olymmpus only goes up to 15FPS) which is a huge advantage. Also, the Pentax uses SD cards, which are available at higher density and faster speed.

The Olympus, on the other hand, is much more bulletproof.

First of all, it will survive down to 30' whereas the Pentax is limited to 10. I wanted a camera that could survive light snorkeling. I routinely breath-hold dive to 12'-15' and I'd hate to have a camera on me that I would worry about. With the Olympus I just do whatever I want.

Second, the Olympus is crush proof. I can slap the thing in my backpocket and sit on it and not break it (I weigh about 190#). I can get on my boat, throw the thing on the deck with the rest of my gear, and watch it bounce around unharmed. The Pentax is just not that strong.

In the end, since I already have a camera that takes brilliant, vivid pictures with great resolution and also takes great video (a Canon SD550) I decided rugged was more important than marginally better optical rendition. I figured the Olympus would take acceptably good pictures and I went with the Olympus.

I'm not disappointed, but I'm not thrilled.

The camera is every bit as waterproof and bulletproof as is claimed. I've slapped it around, thrown it, had it around the boat, seawater, sun, kids, and it's just fine. I can take this camera with me on the boat, take it with me swimming and snorkeling, and it will work when I'll want it. A camera is only useful when you have it and I'm not afraid to have the Olympus with me at all times in any environment.

Having said that, the picture quality stinks, I suspect as a result of the lens design dictated by the water resistant qualities of the camera. In bright sunlight, with the ISO set to 100 (and even up to 200 it's not bad) there is no significant noise. On the other hand, the colors appear washed out and dull compared to similar pictures taken with the Canon. Its resolving power is also inferior to the Canon and there's no question but that I'll continue to use my Canon in environments that are friendly to it (like, no salt water spray risk). On the other hand, since I can't take my Canon everywhere, I love having this camera; I recently went to see America's cup practices in Valencia and I'm happy to say I have a couple of shots of Alinghi that will make decent poster prints. They'd look better taken with my Canon but....right, I would not have taken my Canon in that environment, so...

Focusing delay is very short, as is shutter delay. If you prefocus, the shutter delay is non-existent. Without prefocus, it's less than a second: not bad. On the other hand, shot to shot delay is annoyingly long, a couple seconds at full resolution.

Image compression is average. In the best quality mode you can still see some compression artifacts but the average person will not notice. If you do know what to look for, you'll find it annoying but not a deal-breaker.

I bought a 2Gb H Xd card, and it's pretty fast but not as good as high speed SD. Also, it's nowhere near the density that SD has reached, but 2Gb will go a pretty long way.

In short: buy this camera to take it in places where other cameras fear to go. Don't buy this camera if all you want is great pictures for the backyard or the trip to Disneyland.

Ah, almost forgot. Buy a large styrofoam float and attach it to the lanyard. If you lose the camera over the side of your boat, it's nice to be able to go back and pick it up.

Variation Parent: Olympus Stylus 770SW 7.1MP Digital Camera with Dual Image Stabilized 3x Optical Zoom (Silver)


Anonymous said...

One of my buddies just started snorkeling with this and get some very nice photos for being near the surface. That said, you might want to consider something with a better depth range; last them we went diving he was stuck leaving it in his car. The housing for your SD550 is under $150 so you'd get all the benefits of that camera to a depth of over 100'