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The front of the Olympus Stylus 770SW looks sturdy. There is an outer frame with the Olympus logo on the left side and a shinier metal plate on the inner portion. Bolts occupy every corner of the inner plate except the top right, where a strangely shaped rim sits around the lens. The rim is almost circular except for the top, which is abruptly cut off by the camera’s top. The lens’s specs are printed underneath the lens: "Olympus Lens AF Zoom 6.7-20.1mm 1:3.5-5.0." and"7.1 Megapixel" is printed below the label. To the left of the lens is the auto focus assist lamp and built-in flash unit, surrounded by a black casing that borders the inner shiny metal plate. The left edge of this black border is wrinkled up slightly and serves as a grip for the middle finger. On the left side of the metal plate, "Stylus 770SW" is embossed and "Shock + Waterproof" is printed. To the right of this label is an oddly placed single hole that serves as the microphone.

Back

The back side of the camera looks a bit more traditional in terms of the buttons and big screen, but the bolts in every corner make the Stylus 770SW a bit more distinctive. The 2.5-inch LCD screen graces the left side of the back; it is framed in black and has an Olympus and HyperCrystal LCD labels. The LCD screen is completely flush with the camera body. Below it is a printed label: "Shock + Waterproof." To the right of the LCD screen is a space a bit more than an inch wide that is filled with buttons. At the top are two buttons, labeled "W" on the left and "T" on the right. There is a bump between the two that doesn’t seem necessary as it doesn’t help much in handling. Below the bump is a rectangular LED that blinks when the camera is busy. Below the "T" button is a large circular speaker made up of 18 holes. To the left of this feature are two small buttons: the top one is the mode button (camera, anti-blur, and scene icons are printed above it) and the bottom one accesses the playback mode and tagged favorite pictures. Below the speaker and buttons is a dime-sized multi-selector that sticks out a bit from the rest of the body and is made of a central "OK/Func" button with a ring around it. The ring has icons embossed on all sides: exposure compensation on the top, flash on the right, self-timer on the bottom, and macro on the left. There is a trash can icon underneath the self-timer that signifies pictures can be deleted by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector too. There are two small buttons under the multi-selector: Menu on the left and Print on the right. Protruding from the back right edge is a fin-like plate of chrome with a wrist strap eyelet, which also doubles as a thumb rest.

Left Side

This side is completely plain except for a decorative chrome band down the center and a bolt in the middle to keep it all together – even when crushed by 200 pounds.

Right Side

The right side of the Olympus Stylus 770SW hardly looks like a digital camera with all its bolts and such. The back edge of this side has three bolts that hold on the chrome plate that acts as a thumb grip and wrist strap attachment. At the top of the right side is the port door, which has a plastic latch sunk in a niche that users have to really pry their nails on to open. Once the latch is pushed downward, the door pops open with a tight spring and the rubber seals can be seen. Below the port are four holes, although their purpose is unknown.

Top

The top of the camera shows a brushed metal and chrome band that runs from left to right. Just right of center is the power button, which is small and circular. To its right is a thin oval-shaped shutter release button with a tiny bump to its right that provides a cradle for the index finger.

Bottom

The left side of the bottom houses the battery compartment with the latch almost in the center of the camera. The latch must be pushed outward, then the door unlocks. It doesn’t spring open like the port door, though; it’s a bit stiffer. The door conceals the battery and memory card slots. There are rubber seals throughout. To the right of the latched door is a quarter-inch tripod socket. The right side of the bottom has a sticker that displays serial numbers and company information.

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Viewfinder

There is no optical viewfinder on the Olympus Stylus 770SW; the LCD provides a nice live preview though. It has a 100 percent accurate view, giving it an advantage over most optical viewfinders on digital cameras. Unfortunately, there is no way to rid the view of the file information that clutters the screen. Selected controls like white balance and ISO display icons on the left, the shooting mode appears at the top, the image size and number of pictures left on the memory card at the bottom, and icons for flash and such appear on the right.

LCD Screen

The Olympus Stylus 770SW has a 2.5 LCD HyperCrystal LCD screen with Bright Capture technology. This technology takes information from nine pixels on the sensor to create one pixel on the LCD screen, which theoretically makes a more accurate image. It still doesn’t look that close to reality though, if you ask me. The LCD’s brightness can be adjusted in full steps on a +/- 2 scale in the setup menu. There is also some kind of mechanism that dims the LCD screen when not in use for a few seconds; this is probably to save battery power.

The 770’s display screen is a big improvement on the older 720’s. The Stylus 720SW also had a 2.5-inch screen, but it only had 115,000 pixels. The new screen has a much smoother view at 230,000 pixels and can be viewed at a much wider angle of 140 degrees. The image can be seen when the LCD is moved above and below eye-level and side-to-side. The only drawback to the LCD is its shiny surface; it catches the glare from lights. It isn’t spectacular in bright sunlight, but the screen still beats out most cameras currently on the market.

**Flash

**The small built-in flash unit is located to the left of the lens when viewing from the front. This odd placement doesn’t affect its coverage much though; it did produce a hot spot, but it looked nearly centered. However, the flash doesn’t reach very far. It could hardly reach across a wide conference table and the lighting and shadows were harsh-looking. The Olympus 770SW’s flash can reach as far as 12.5 feet when zoomed out or 8.5 feet when zoomed in.

The following modes are available by pushing the flash icon on the right side of the multi-selector: Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On, and Off. The red-eye reduction mode delays the shot significantly because it sends out strobe lights for about a half-second. This effectively eliminated red eyes, but caused some subjects to blink because of the delay. The red-eye reduction mode is necessary though, as other settings still saw red eyes in the pictures. Overall, pictures taken with the flash didn’t look very good; the stark lighting and occasional red eye aren’t worth the extra shutter delay.

**Zoom Lens

**The 3x optical zoom lens on the Stylus 770SW is the same one that is included on the older 720SW. The lens measures 6.7-20.1mm, which is equivalent to a 38-114mm lens on a 35mm camera. The lens is made of 10 smaller lenses in 8 groups, with 3 aspherical lenses. It has max apertures of f/3.5 (wide) and f/5.0 (telephoto), neither of which are very impressive. Most digital cameras offer a max aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end, which lets in enough light for decent pictures in low light. The smaller aperture on the 770SW means that the camera’s image sensor has less light to work with when capturing pictures.

The lens is controlled by two tiny buttons on the back of the camera. In the top right corner, the buttons occupy the space where the thumb naturally rests. The buttons are labeled just fine, but there is a bump between them that certainly doesn’t help in handling. Perhaps it is meant to help differentiate between the two buttons, but it protrudes in a similar fashion and almost feels like another button. The zoom control isn’t very impressive; it only allows about six different focal lengths to be accessed within the 3x range.

The Olympus lens is internal, so it never protrudes from the camera body; it makes a little electronic noise when it zooms in and out though. My main concern with the lens is its placement in the top right corner of the front. This is where the left fingers wrap around the camera and they could easily block the lens and show up in photos. One of the things I like about the Stylus 770SW is that I can let my toddler hold it and snap a few pictures without worrying about him dropping and breaking it. He doesn’t pay much attention to details like finger placement, though, so he snapped several pictures of his fingers. Sure, I don’t expect him to be a little Ansel Adams already. But he did look at the LCD screen rather strangely when his finger pictures showed up as pink fuzzy blobs. The lens placement won’t just be a problem for toddlers; I snapped a few fuzzy blobs myself. It could definitely be an issue if snorkeling and paying more attention to the fish than the camera.

Model Design / Appearance

The Olympus Stylus 770SW looks like something pulled straight from a construction site. It is a sturdy and hefty chunk of metal with bolts visible on almost every side. This Stylus is meant to be more functional than aesthetically pleasing. The camera is "proofed" from just about everything: water, shock, crush, and freeze. The sales team at Best Buy is going to have a hard time selling insurance plans for these things; the insurance is practically built in to the camera.

Size / Portability

The Olympus Stylus 770SW may be hefty, but it isn’t big. It measures 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.8 inches, and has only one major protrusion off the rear right edge of the camera, where a plate that acts as thumb rest and wrist strap eyelet adds another 0.15 inches across. The camera can fit into a pants pocket easily, mostly because of its flat surfaces. Better still, if the camera is in your back pocket and you take a seat, you’re not going to crush the 770SW (unless you weigh more than 220 lbs). The 770SW weighs 5.5 ounces without the battery and memory card, which feels hefty for its size, but the extra weight will be much-needed when it’s underwater.

Olympus offers carrying cases in six different colors. The Stylus 770SW is rugged enough that it doesn’t really need them, but trendsetters may still want to tote one around. After all, the cases come in chocolate suede and red leather.

**Handling Ability

**The body of the Olympus Stylus 770SW doesn’t have protrusions mainly to keep parts from breaking off when the camera is tossed, crushed, etc. The design makes it sturdy as a rock, but gives it the handling of a rock too. It does have a few subtle handling features: a tiny black ridge in the front for a finger grip, a chrome plate on the back as a thumb grip, and a cradle on top around the shutter button for the index finger. Still, these don’t make the 770SW a comfortable-to-hold camera. Perhaps the biggest handling mishap isn’t one of discomfort, but of placement. The zoom lens is located where the left fingers naturally rest, so users have to be mindful of where they place their fingers.

Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size

In general, the buttons on the Olympus Stylus 770SW are small. The shutter button is properly sized and positioned in a comfy cradle, but besides that the buttons are too small. All of the buttons are nicely labeled, although the icons on the multi-selector can be difficult to see in sunlight. The placement of the buttons is just fine; all are within easy reach of the right thumb. However, the buttons’ small size require that they be pushed with more force than usual.

**Menu

**There is a designated Menu button near the bottom of the back, but that’s not the only place you’ll find a menu. A more accessible menu appears when the OK/Func button is pushed. The following menu appears mainly as icons, but as an overlay with a live view in the background.

Shooting Mode Program, Auto

White Balance Auto, Daylight, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3

ISO Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

Drive Single, Continuous, High-Speed Continuous

Metering ESP multi-pattern, Spot

The icons in this menu are fairly intuitive. Users should access this menu when possible and avoid the main menu system, as it gets confusing very fast. When the Menu button is pushed, "Camera Menu" appears in the center of the screen with the following options surrounding it clockwise from the top: Image Quality, Setup, Silent Mode, Scene, Demo, and Reset. The Camera Menu within this menu is as follows.

White Balance Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3

ISO Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

Drive Single, Continuous, High-Speed Continuous

Metering ESP multi-pattern, Spot

Digital Zoom Off, On

AF Mode iESP, Spot

Voice Memo Off, On

Panorama (automatically sets up panorama left to right)

Deja vu? Yes, some of the very same options in the OK/Func menu are here too – only without live views. Like I said, avoid this menu when possible. This menu is divided into two tabs on the left side, but it isn’t a very long menu so it isn’t tough to scroll down that far. The tabs aren’t organized into sub-categories or anything either, so I often scrolled from top to bottom in the menu anyway. The setup menu is accessed via the first screen that appears when the Menu button is pushed.

Format Yes, No

Backup Yes, No

Language English, Japanese, Spanish, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, French, Korean, German, Portuguese, Dutch, Italian, Swedish, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Czech, Finnish, Polish, Turkish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Latvian, Serbian, Estonian, Arabic

Camera/Playback Button On, Off

Save Settings Yes, No

Power On Setup Screen (Off, 1, 2, My Favorite), Volume (Off, Low, High)

Menu Theme Normal, Blue, Black, Pink, My Favorite

Beep Off, Low, High

Playback Volume Off, Low, High

Shutter Sound Off, 1, 2, 3 (Low, High options for each)

Volume Off, Low, High

Rec. View Off, On

File Name Reset, Auto

Pixel Mapping Start

LCD Brightness +/- 2 in full steps

Clock Set (set date and time)

Dual Time Off, On (set date and time)

Alarm Clock Off, One Time (Time, Snooze, Alarm Sound), Daily

Video Out NTSC, PAL

Power Save Off, On

LED Illuminator Off, On

Manometer Off, On (calibrate -10 to +5000m)

m/ft m, ft

This menu is organized into five tabs, which is nice because it is long enough that you don’t want to have to scroll end to end. The setup menu is composed mainly of text, with few icons. The text is in an archaic font and in all capital letters, which is a bit obnoxious to read. The background of the menu can be changed to blue, black, or pink. A designated "favorite" image can also be set as the background of the menus, although this can be distracting.

**Ease of Use

**If the camera is set to auto mode, then it is easy to use. But if you plan on entering menus or changing settings, you’re in trouble. The buttons are small, the menus confusing, and the handling undesirable. The Olympus Stylus 770SW is a great point-and-shoot, but isn’t very easy to use when the scene mode or ISO (for example) have to be changed.

Auto Mode

The auto mode isn’t as easy to access as it should be. There is a button below the "W" zoom button that accesses shooting modes. It cycles through anti-shake, scene, and shooting modes represented by a camera icon. In the shooting mode, the OK/Func menu must be entered and the Auto mode selected. This isn’t as easy as twisting a mode dial to a camera icon or even scrolling through a list of modes to Auto. When the Auto mode is selected, all other options in the menu are disabled. Users can still access the functions on the multi-selector: flash, exposure compensation, macro, and self-timer. The Auto mode takes decent pictures, but isn’t as easy to find as it should be.

**Movie Mode

**The movie mode isn’t as easy to find as it should be either. It is listed at the bottom of a long list of scene modes. Most cameras have an on-camera switch or a spot on the mode dial for the movie mode. The following resolutions are available: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. Unfortunately, the 770’s movie mode isn’t improved from the 720. The movies still record at a very choppy 15 fps. The optical zoom isn’t available either. The white balance and metering can be set from the OK/Func menu, which make the lighting and colors look more accurate. But the overall quality of the movies is poor. Movies can be played back but not edited within the camera, and movies don’t play during slide shows. Only the first frame shows up as a still image in the shows.

Drive / Burst Mode

The burst mode is available in the OK/Func menu only when the Program menu is activated. Don’t get too excited about it though. It consists of Single, Continuous, and High-Speed Continuous options that aren’t as great as they sound. The continuous burst mode shoots at full resolution at 1.1 frames per second until the memory card fills up. The high-speed continuous burst limits the resolution to 3 megapixels and shoots 3.5 fps for 12 shots. Limiting the resolution makes the pictures poor quality though.

Playback Mode

The playback mode is accessed with a button that also shows off the user’s "favorites." Images can be added as "favorites" via the first screen that appears when the Menu button is pushed. Favorite pictures on the Olympus 770SW are saved only on the camera; there is no syncing with the software like on other digital cameras, such as those made by Kodak and Canon. This menu screen shows "Playback Menu" in the center.

Protect Off, On

Rotate +90, 0, -90

Voice Memo Yes, No

Surrounding the central playback menu are eight options. From the top, clockwise, they are Edit, Print Order, Setup, Silent Mode, Erase, Calendar, Add Favorite, and Slide Show. There isn’t much in the regular playback menu. The voice memo feature records for about 4-5 seconds while the LCD screen displays a "Busy" message. The editing feature shows this menu.

Trim 640 x 480, 320 x 240

Red-Eye Fix OK, Cancel

Black & White OK, Cancel

Sepia OK, Cancel

Frame Birth announcement, Suitcase frame, Polka dots, Heart, Frame on clock, Airmail, Circle on blue, Pink lacey rectangle, Vertical heart, Pink rectangle, Sixties cutout, Vertical invite, Angel wings

Label Congratulations, Thank You, Happy Birthday, Good Luck, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, Best Wishes, Missing You, Love, Smile

Calendar 9 calendar page layouts to choose from

Brightness +/- 5 in full steps

Saturation +/- 5 in full steps

The red-eye fix function didn’t work on the pictures when I tried to eliminate red eye. The color modes showed dull colors, but saved pictures as separate files from the originals. The brightness and saturation can be changed with a live view, and all kinds of projects can be printed directly from the camera with the frame, label, and calendar features. The Olympus Stylus 770SW can create birthday and greeting cards in the playback mode, as well as pages for calendars.

Erasing pictures is fairly easy on the Olympus 770SW. Users can delete a single image by pushing the bottom of the multi-selector, or delete groups of selected images within the playback menu. Also in the playback menu is an option to play slide shows. The cheesy background music that was on the 720SW is back for a reunion tour on the 770SW. It’s the same two measures of elevator music over and over and over again. I suggest not using it in long slide shows just to stay sane; you don’t want to get this stuck in your head. Users can also pick what type of transition to use between pictures: Normal, Fader, Slide, or Zoom. Movies can’t be played in slide shows; instead, only the first frame of the movie appears and has a filmstrip-like frame around it.

Overall, the playback mode is useful in that pictures can be easily viewed via the high-resolution LCD screen. There are quite a few editing options and a decent venue for slide shows and deletion.

**Custom Image Presets

**The mode button just below the zoom controls rolls between auto/program, anti-shake, and scene modes. Yes, the anti-shake mode has its own special place outside the regular scene mode menu. The anti-shake mode seems to use high ISO sensitivity with quick shutter speeds and sometimes even the flash to reduce the occurrence of blur in images. It works fairly well, especially when compared to results from the auto mode. All other scene modes are squished into a lengthy menu that appears when the scene position is entered or the Menu button is pushed and the Scene option is selected. The scene menu displays text titles of the modes, then a brief explanation appears about a half-second later with a sample photo. The following modes are listed: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach & Snow, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, and Movie. The helpful menu is a nice touch and it’s also great that some of the scene modes can still access controls from the OK/Func menu. However, the movie mode shouldn’t be grouped with the still scene modes.

Manual Control Options

The Olympus Stylus 770SW has just about the same amount of control as its predecessor, which isn’t much. There is a Program mode that is as manual as this camera gets. There are a few manual controls located in the OK/Func and standard menus , but there isn’t direct control over shutter speed and aperture.

Focus

Auto Focus – The Olympus 770SW has two auto focus modes: iESP and Spot. The iESP mode is the default and evaluates the entire frame to find the subject. The Spot mode focuses only on the center. Neither mode operates very fast, although they’re not as slow as the 720SW. The contrast detection system can focus as close as 2.8 inches in the super macro mode, 7.9 inches in the macro mode, and 19.7 inches normally. This isn’t very impressive because most cameras can now shoot within an inch of the lens. In the setup menu, users can activate the auto focus illuminator. This lamp is located to the right of the flash on the front of the camera and projects a bright white light.

Manual Focus – This is not an option on the Olympus Stylus 770SW.

**ISO

**The Olympus Stylus 770SW has an expansive ISO range from 80-1600, all available in full resolution. There is also an automatic ISO setting. The ISO can be found in both the OK/Func and standard menus, although the OK/Func menu is nicer because it has a live view. The Olympus 720SW had a similar ISO range, although its lowest ISO was 64 instead of 80.

White Balance

Also found in both menus is the white balance, which is much better viewed in the OK/Func menu because of the accompanying live view. Although there is no manual white balance setting, following options are available: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, and Fluorescent 3.

**Exposure

**By pushing the top of the multi-selector, users can access a +/- 2 exposure compensation scale with 1/3 increments. There is a live view that is helpful.

Metering

There are ESP and Spot metering options in both the OK/Func and standard menus. The live view in the OK/Func menu makes it the better choice though. It makes it easy to see the difference between the multi-pattern default ESP mode and the spot mode, which meters from the center. Most cameras also include a center-weighted metering mode, but the 770SW does not.

Shutter Speed

The Olympus 770’s shutter speeds range from 1/1000 to 1/2 second, or up to 4 seconds in the Night Scene mode. This is after a significant shutter lag between1/4 and 1/2 second.

**Aperture

**The camera’s Olympus lens has a max aperture of f/3.5 at the 6.7mm focal length and f/5.0 at the 20.1mm focal length. These numbers aren’t all that impressive because most cameras offer a max aperture of f/2.8 at the widest focal length; f/2.8 is much brighter than f/3.5, so cameras with it won’t need to hike up the exposure compensation or ISO to make up for lost light.

Picture Quality / Size Options

The image quality sub-menu are on the first screen that appears when the Menu button is pushed. The following options are found.

SHQ – 3072 x 2304

HQ – 3072 x 2304

SQ1 – 2560 x 1920, 2304 x 1728, 2048 x 1536

SQ2 – 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960, 1024 x 768, 640 x 480

Some scene modes and settings limit the resolution. For instance, the high-speed continuous burst mode only shoots at a 2048 x 1536-pixel image size. Candle and Available Light scene modes are also limited to that size, which is hardly enough for a decent 4 x 6-inch print.

Picture Effects Mode

There aren’t any picture effects that can be applied before recording, but plenty in the playback mode. Black & White and Sepia color modes can be applied, although neither looks stellar. The brightness and saturation can be tweaked on +/- 5 full-step scales. Frames and labels can be added to individual pictures, so users could essentially snap a picture of their parents, add a label like "Congratulations," put a cute frame around it, and print off a card for them directly from the camera. Calendar layout pages are available too.

Connectivity

*Software

*Other Olympus digital cameras come with Olympus Master Software, which provides very basic organization, editing, and printing options. The 770SW should come with a recent version of this.

*Jacks, ports, plugs

*Many digital cameras have a flimsy cover over the jacks, but the Olympus Stylus 770SW protects them behind a sturdy door that is well-sealed with a locking latch on the outside and rubber surfaces on the inside. The door is located on the right side and springs open nicely when the lock is released. There is only one jack that connects to everything: USB, AV-out, and DC-in cables.

Direct Print Options

The Olympus Stylus 770SW’s playback menu effects make it a prime candidate for direct printing. Users can create cards and calendars within the playback menu, so it’d be easy to make a card and print it directly from the camera. This can be done via the USB cable, as the 770SW is PictBridge compatible. From the playback menu, users can create print orders. They can choose to add all photos to a print order, or can scroll through pictures individually and choose to make 0-10 prints. There is an option to print the date and time on the photos. Once the order is made, it can be transferred to the connected printer with a touch of the designated Print button.

Battery

This camera comes with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that packs in 3.7 volts and 740 mAh. The Olympus Li-42B battery is skinny. It is the same size as the 720SW’s battery, which got 300 shots per charge but is a version Li-40B battery. On the LCD screen’s view, there is a battery indicator; it only shows two levels of power though.

Memory

The Olympus Stylus 770SW has 18 MB of internal memory that holds 4 pictures at the maximum resolution. There is an xD-Picture card slot next to the battery in the bottom compartment, and the camera can accept cards up to 2 GB. An Olympus-branded xD card is required to access the panorama mode in the camera.

Other features

Shock, Water, Crush, Freeze Proof – Yep, this digital camera can take just about anything. It can take a fall from 5 feet in the air. I handed it over to my toddler and had him test it from his height. The Olympus Stylus 770SW is quite a hefty chunk of metal too, so I’d be more worried about my toddler using it as a weapon against me than throwing it on the ground. I dropped it from 5 feet, although I was more nervous about scratching my hardwood floor than smashing the camera.

The camera can be immersed in water to 33 feet, which, I must admit, I did not try. The only nearby body of water that deep is about 30 degrees right now. And while the camera may be able to withstand that temperature, I cannot. I did, however, dunk it in the bathtub and in the kitchen sink a few times. I snapped a few pictures, none of which were that great. The 770SW has a manometer in the setup menu that can be turned on and off; when on, it records the altitude or depth within the file info of each picture. The freeze-proof Stylus can work to a frigid 14 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about the temperature that makes breathing through the nose painful. And just to make this camera the sturdiest ever, the Olympus 770SW is also crush-proof to 220 pounds. If your weight falls at or under this number, put the camera in your back pocket and take a seat. Nothing happened, you say? Good; that’s how it should be. Takes a bruising, and keeps on shooting…

Demo – If you forget just how cool this camera really is, you can find this demo in the menu system. The demo consists of a slide show that displays text like "7.1 Megapixels" and "3x Optical Zoom," then goes on to the fancier features: "Waterproof 33 ft," "Freeze Proof 14 degrees." It then shows examples of pictures taken with and without the digital image stabilization, for example.

Voice Memo – This feature can be turned on and off in the shooting menu. When enabled, it records about 4 seconds of monaural audio – so if you use it, speak quickly.

Panorama Mode – This mode isn’t very impressive. It can only be used if an Olympus-branded xD-Picture memory card is in the slot. It only aligns panoramas from left to right, and doesn’t provide any overlay of a previous image to line everything up. There are guidelines, but they aren’t as handy as overlay images. Lastly, the camera doesn’t stitch the pictures together; users have to upload the photos to a computer with Olympus Master Software, which will then attempt to patch them together.

Manometer – This unseen device calibrates from -10 to +5000m via the setup menu. Once calibrated, the manometer can measure air or water pressure so users know their depth or altitude. The reading is saved in the file information of the photos.

Pixel Mapping – Found in the setup menu, this option is available on most other Olympus digital cameras. This procedure scans the image sensor and finds any dead pixels, then uses the surrounding pixels to interpolate the values. Olympus recommends that this feature be used about every six months; it’s like a check-up for your camera. The process takes less than 10 seconds, which is nice. Cameras by other manufacturers must be sent in for this service, and can take weeks or months to return.

Value

The Olympus Stylus 770SW retails for $379. This is $20 less than it’s predecessor’s original retail price, which can now be found online for under $300. The Stylus 770SW can survive just about any conditions, making it a tempting choice for adventurers and outdoorsy people who need a digital camera that will survive rough and tumble. The $379 price is steep when compared to other digital cameras with similar modes and controls. None of those cameras would survive a climb on Everest though.

**Comparison to the Olympus Stylus 720SW

**The Olympus Stylus 720SW also has 7.1 megapixels and a similar sturdy body design. There are a few tweaks to the housing, but they’re all pretty much cosmetic. The cameras have the same dimensions, 3x optical zoom lens, and 2.5-inch sized LCD screens. The resolution on the older 720SW isn’t as good though at only 115,000 pixels. The Stylus 720SW is shockproof to 5 feet, like the new model, but the older camera is waterproof only to 10 feet. It is also not crush or freeze-proof. The Olympus Stylus 720SW had a solid body, but wasn’t a solid performer. It had decent resolution and some noise, but terrible color reproduction and lengthy shutter lag. The new and old models have the same modes and controls, including ISO options to 1600. The Olympus Stylus 720SW uses a Li-40B rechargeable battery that gets 300 shots per charge; the new camera has the same size battery, but a different version (Li-42B). The 720SW originally retailed for $399 when it was released last year, and can now be found online for less than $300.

Who It’s For

Point-and-Shooters – The 770SW seems built for these consumers with its list of automated modes, few controls, and built-in help guide. And you can even point and shoot in 33 feet of water, under 220 pounds. of rocks, and in freezing temperatures.

Budget Consumers – At $379, these consumers could purchase a simpler and cheaper model and an optional waterproof housing.

Gadget Freaks – There is a manometer that gauges the pressure upon the camera, but this is the only unique gadget – and users will hardly even know it’s there without checking a spec sheet.

Manual Control Freaks – There are a few control options, but not enough to entice this audience into giving the 770SW a serious look.

Pros/ Serious Hobbyists – Professional photographers won’t look at this camera, but perhaps professional mountaineers, divers, or other outdoorsy types might give the Olympus Stylus 770SW a glance.

Likes

  • Very sturdy construction

  • More languages than any other camera

  • Compact body

Dislikes

  • Confusing menus

  • High-speed burst mode limits resolution

  • Small buttons

  • Small f/3.5 max aperture

Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus 770SW continues the legacy of the 720SW as being one of the sturdiest digital cameras on the market, and even takes the meaning to a whole new level. It can take a drop from 5 feet, swim in depths of 33 feet, get crushed by 220 pounds, and freeze to 14 degrees. It’s like the Hummer of digital cameras – a very small Hummer, of course.

Except this Hummer has the steering wheel on the floor, the speedometer and other gauges in the back seat, and a gas pedal the size of a green bean. The Olympus Stylus 770SW’s menus are confusing, its buttons are tiny, and its components aren’t smartly placed. The interface of the sturdy, compact camera is disappointing.

In the end, the pictures aren’t much better. The shutter lag will cause plenty of blinked eyes and past action. Blur plagued action shots, and the camera didn’t perform well in low light. The sturdy Stylus 770SW, despite all its classifications, takes pictures best in sunny conditions.

Meet the tester

Emily Raymond

Emily Raymond

Editor

Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.

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