To test the colors of a digital camera, we photograph an industry standard color chart under optimal lighting and load the pictures to Imatest. The software analyzed the images, chose the one with the most accurate colors and output a few charts for comparison.
The following chart shows the chart’s original colors in the inner vertical rectangle, the Olympus Stylus 770SW’s recorded colors in the outer square of each tile, and the luminance corrected version of the ideal in the inner square.
To make this information easier to soak in, Imatest also output the next chart. It shows the ideal colors of the chart as squares and the Olympus 770SW’s colors as circles. Each color from the first chart is represented on the spectrum.
Colors are dancing around all over the chart with no clear winner as to which color is the most inaccurate. Blues are way off but so are the greens and yellows. The color itself is completely off, but the saturation appears to be nearly perfect at 100.5 percent. The mean color error came out to 11.5 and the overall score to 5.22. This awful score is the exact same score reported with the camera’s predecessor, the Olympus Stylus 720SW.
The Olympus Stylus 770SW does not have manual white balance; it only supplies presets and automatic. It is likely that this automatic setting will be the most commonly used and judging from our test, that’s not a bad thing. The overall white balance accuracy on this digital camera is poor, but the presets are farther from where they should be. Cross your fingers, set the white balance to auto, and hope for the best.
*White balance accuracy certainly isn’t a strong point for the Olympus Stylus 770SW, and its presets showed that. The weakest presets include the tungsten and flash settings. Users are better off sticking with the automatic white balance setting.
Still Life SequencesWe shoot our still-life scene with every camera we test and post the full-resolution images to allow users to compare them. The fact that our procedure introduces scores of images of plastic sushi into the global data stream is just gravy, as far as we're concerned.
Click on any of the thumbnails below to view the full resolution images.
We tested the 8.1-megapixel resolution of the Stylus 770SW by photographing an industry standard resolution chart under optimal lighting and uploading the images to Imatest software. To be sure we got the absolute sharpest results, we photograph the chart at various focal lengths and apertures, and kept noise to a minimum by using the lowest ISO 80 setting. The image below was shot at f/4.3 and 16mm, achieved by bumping the exposure compensation down a third of a step.
The edges of the image are slightly bowed from barrel distortion and the corners of the frame are blurrier than the center, but the overall result is still impressive. To verify the sharpness of the image, Imatest output results in terms of line widths per picture height (lw/ph). This number describes how many alternating black and white lines of equal thickness could fit across the frame.
Horizontally, the Olympus 770SW resolved 1822 lw/ph using 2.6 percent over-sharpening. Vertically, the camera resolved 1638 lw/ph with 9.29 percent undersharpening. This is quite impressive for a compact digital camera.
**Noise - Auto ISO ***(1.67)*
Under bright lights, most digital cameras automatically select a low ISO to prevent noise from creeping into an image. The Olympus 770SW, however, automatically selected an ISO 200 setting which produced more noise than usual in this test. Thus, the 770SW achieved a low score of 1.67 which is worse than the 720SW’s 3.39.
**Noise - Manual ISO ***(5.4)*
The Stylus 770SW offers the same manual ISO choices as its predecessor, the Stylus 720SW. We measured the noise level in images using each ISO setting and came up with the following chart. The horizontal axis shows the ISO 80-1600 settings, and the vertical axis shows the percentage of the image speckled with noise.
The Olympus 770 and 720’s manual ISO noise charts look similar through ISO 800, and then the 770SW shows a huge jump in noise from 800 to 1600. About 3 percent of the image degraded to noise when the older 720 model was set to ISO 1600. The newer 770SW, however, speckles 4 percent of an image with noise when set to the same ISO 1600 setting. If feasible, users should manually set the ISO to 80 or 100.
**Low Light ***(4.15)*
On paper, the Olympus Stylus 770SW seems like it’d perform decently in low light. After all, it can be frozen and dropped and survive all kinds of other rough conditions. Plus, Olympus stocked it with a host of manual ISO settings and even a few scene modes, including one called Night. Sounds perfect, right? Read on.
We photographed the color chart in declining light levels of 60, 30, 15, and 5 lux. The first two tests are common shooting situations, such as a dimly lit restaurant. The last two tests are extremely dark and more useful for comparison and discovering any limitations on the image sensor.
A few problems arose when shooting the low light tests. In the Night and Fireworks modes, the ISO wouldn’t boost any further than 250 but could lengthen the exposure time to 4 seconds. Boosting the ISO to 400 in other modes shortened the shutter speed to a half-second. Despite all this, the images retained illumination but picked up more and more noise. The Olympus Stylus 770SW performed just slightly worse than its predecessor, with a score of 4.15.
To see how well the camera could handle details in bright and dark areas of a single image, we photographed a Stouffer test target film that was lit from behind. It consists of a row of rectangles that range from transparent to light to dark to opaque and represents about 13 values of exposure, more than most digital cameras can handle anyway.
We load the images into Imatest which measures how many exposure steps the camera records that depict detail at two levels of quality. Low Quality measures steps of range with up to a full stop of noise, while the High Quality unit measures steps with a tenth of a stop of noise. We tested each ISO setting on the Olympus 770SW because dynamic range typically decreases as ISO sensitivity increases. The ISO is depicted on the horizontal axis of the chart below with the number of exposure stops recorded at the two quality levels on the vertical axis.
The Olympus 770SW performed far better than the older 720SW and even better than most of its compact colleagues. There is a steady decline in dynamic range as the ISO is heightened, but there is still a decent range of values available at all ISO sensitivities. The 770SW received a respectable dynamic range score of 6.2.
*Startup to First Shot (7.7)
*There isn’t much improvement in this area from the older 720 model. It took the older model 2.6 seconds to start up and snap its first shot. It takes the newer Olympus Stylus 770SW 2.3 seconds to take its first picture.
*In the 770SW’s standard continuous burst mode, the camera snaps a shot every 0.9 seconds for only 4 pictures. This isn’t fast or long. And after those 4 shots, it takes another 5 seconds to process them and record them to the memory. There is a high-speed mode that shoots much faster, but this mode records low-quality images that won’t be suitable for large prints. The high-speed mode provides speed and longevity; it can snap 4 fps for up to 34 shots. The length of the burst wasn’t always consistent. Sometimes, the camera stopped after 23 shots, and other times, it stopped after 34 shots. After the approximately 10-second burst of images, it takes the camera about 4.5 seconds to process them.
The auto focus system added some lag time as it took about 0.6 seconds to snap the image from start to finish. When the exposure was locked, however, it only took the camera a tenth of a second to take the picture.
*The Olympus 770SW snapped 4 shots in its continuous mode and then processed them in 5 seconds. It’s disappointing to see a camera take longer to memorize than to photograph; the camera took an average of 1.25 seconds to process each image.
Video Performance *(1.79)*
*Bright Light - 3000 lux
*Recording a video in the bright lights of the studio resulted in more accurate colors than the still images could manage. Still pictures had a mean color error of 11.5, but the video had a mean color error of 9.83. Colors were slightly undersaturated at 98.97 percent, and the average amount of noise hovered around 0.44 percent of the image.
*Low Light - 30 lux *
We dimmed the lights in the studio to 30 lux, which is a similar setting to a basement room with a single 40-watt bulb. Colors suffered as the mean color error increased to 17.6, and the saturation jumped to 109.3 percent. Noise leapt into the image as well – it covered 2.37 percent of the frame.
We recorded a video of the resolution chart and analyzed it with Imatest software. The top video resolution of 640 x 480 pixels didn’t fare well. Horizontally, the Olympus Stylus 770SW resolved 179 lw/ph with 22.8 percent undersharpening. Vertically, the camera reads 332 lw/ph with 109.4 percent oversharpening. That’s not a typo: 109.4 percent. The video mode produces an incredible amount of sharpening that produced white artifacts around the borders of the resolution chart in the video. The camera was having trouble as there was a lot of clipping. The video wasn’t exposing properly; it seems that this camera does better in brightly lit situations than low light.
After lackluster performance indoors, we took the Olympus Stylus 770SW outside and videoed a few cars going by and other moving subjects. The camera responded with poor exposure and contrast, and hazy areas of the frame that had less detail. The white balance seemed to change with the passing of the cars giving the movie a trippy effect. Add in abundant color moiré and the movie mode’s performance was very poor outdoors.
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 of the front. 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. Around the bottom edge of the rim are the specs to the lens: "Olympus Lens AF Zoom 6.7-20.1mm 1:3.5-5.0." Below the lens is a label for "7.1 Megapixel." 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 to serve as a finger grip. 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.
The back side of the camera looks traditional in terms of the buttons and big screen, but there are bolts in every corner that make the Stylus 770SW 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 label printed in white: "Shock + Waterproof." To the right of the LCD screen is an inch-wide space that is occupied by lots of buttons. At the top are two buttons labeled "W" on the left and "T" on the right. There is a bump between these two buttons that doesn’t seem very 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 next to it), and the bottom one accesses the playback mode and tags favorite pictures. Below the speaker and buttons is a dime-sized multiselector that sticks out a bit from the rest of the body. It is has 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. The embossed icons are hard to see, as are the other white printed labels on the back of the 770SW. Beneath this is a white trashcan icon indicating pictures can be deleted. There are two small buttons under the multiselector with Menu/LED Illuminator being 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; this gives the thumb a ledge to rest on while providing a place for the hand strap.
**Left Side ***(8.0)*
This side is completely plain except for a decorative chrome band that runs down the center and a bolt in the middle that keeps it all together – even when being crushed by 200 pounds.
**Right Side ***(8.0)*
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 on the chrome plate that act as a thumb grip and the wrist strap attachment. At the top of the right side is the port door that has a plastic latch sunk in a niche which users will have to really pry with a fingernail to open. Once the latch is pushed downward, the door pops open and the rubber seals are revealed. Below the port are four holes, although their purpose is unknown.
The top of the camera shows a brushed metal and chrome band running from left to right. The left side has '3.0x Optical Zoom' embossed into it. Just right of center is the power button that is small and circular. To its right is a thin oval-shaped shutter release button with a tiny bump to its right to provide a cradle for the index finger.
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 and then the door unlocks. It doesn’t spring open like the port door, though. Below the door, the battery slot is near the top and the memory card slot is just beneath it. There are rubber seals throughout. To the right of the latched door is a quarter-inch tripod socket. Serial numbers and company information appear on the right side of the bottom.
There is no optical viewfinder on the Olympus Stylus 770SW. Despite this, the LCD provides a nice live preview. It represents a 100 percent accurate presentation of the recorded image that gives it an advantage over most optical viewfinders on digital cameras. Unfortunately, there is no way to get rid of the file information that clutters the screen. Selected controls like white balance and ISO display icons on the left while the shooting mode appears at the top. The image size and number of pictures left on the memory card are displayed at the bottom, and icons for flash and such appear on the right. The refresh rate of the screen is about 30 fps which looks slow when moving the camera around or viewing active subjects. When the shutter is pushed halfway and the exposure locks, the refresh rate bumps up a notch so that subjects look much smoother. Once a picture is taken, the shot appears for about 2.5 seconds while the red indicator light flashes.
**LCD Screen ***(7.5)*
The Olympus Stylus 770SW has a 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD screen with Bright Capture technology. This technology takes information from 9 pixels on the sensor to create 1 pixel on the LCD screen that 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 a power-saving mechanism that dims the LCD screen when not in use for a few seconds.
The 770’s display screen is a big improvement from the older 720’s. The Stylus 720SW 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. It can be viewed at a much wider angle too at 140 degrees. Above and below eye-level and side-to-side, the image can be seen. The only drawback to the view is the shiny surface of the screen itself; it easily catches the glare from lights but repels fingerprints very well. It isn’t spectacular in bright sunlight. You still have to squint in daylight to see it even when the brightness is boosted. However, it still beats out most cameras’ screens currently on the market.
The small built-in flash unit is located to the left of the lens when viewing from the front. The flash isn't very powerful or even, so should be avoided if possible. It reaches 12.5 feet when the lens is zoomed out or 8.5 feet when zoomed in. Don't bother using it on close-up subjects. The harsh shadows and occasional blown-out highlights should discourage users from activating it in the macro mode. Perhaps to avoid this, Olympus included an LED super-macro mode that shoots out the white LED beam to illuminate subjects. The light stays on while shooting unlike it's purpose as an auto focus assist lamp. The LED lighting is softer than the flash, but it still causes stark shadows behind subjects and uneven flashlight-like lighting.
The flash on the Olympus Stylus 770SW's coverage is spotty. It produces a hot spot slightly above the center and to the right in the frame. This leaves the bottom corners of the frame much darker, and the top two corners only a shade lighter than the bottom. 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 worked in eliminating red eyes, but because it took so long it caused some blinked eyes. The red-eye reduction mode is necessary though, as other settings still saw red eyes in the pictures. Pictures that used the flash didn’t look very good. The stark lighting and occasional red eye aren’t worth the extra half-second delay.
Olympus tried to include a few alternatives to the built-in flash. There is an Available Light scene mode that boosts the ISO and disables the flash. There is also the aforementioned LED super-macro mode that only works in very specific situations. Overall, the flash is something to be avoided as it is weak, spotty, and hardly ever produces attractive lighting.
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) which isn’t 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 dim living rooms and clubs. 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 similar fashion and almost feels like another button. The zoom control isn’t very impressive; it easily allows about six different focal lengths to be accessed within the 3x range. If users really try, they can stop at seven focal lengths when zooming in and nine when zooming out. To its credit, the lens settles well when the control is released. It doesn't breathe in and out or backfire into place like on some other models.The Olympus lens is internal, so it never protrudes from the camera body. It does make 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 end up blocking the lens and showing 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 ruining 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 attention more to the fish than the camera. **Model Design / Appearance ***(8.5)* 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 isn’t meant to be aesthetically gorgeous. It is meant to be functional despite a dunk in water, freezing tempertures, a dust storm, or a fall from 5 feet. The camera is "proofed" of 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 into the camera. With its bolts and metal shell, the 770SW makes other digital cameras look like preppies. Despite functionality being its main selling point, the Stylus 770SW comes in three body colors: silver, bronze, and royal blue. **Size / Portability ***(7.0)* 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 hurt the 770SW (unless you weigh more than 220 pounds). The palm-sized 770SW weighs 5.5 ounces without the battery and memory card, and feels hefty for its size. That weight may be helpful when snorkeling, but it will cause users to juggle it hand to hand. Olympus sells a carrying case in six different colors. The Stylus 770SW is rugged enough that it doesn’t really need one, but trendsetters may still want to tote it around. After all, they come in chocolate suede and red leather. **Handling Ability ***(6.5)* The body design of the Olympus Stylus 770SW doesn’t have protrusions, and this is mainly to keep things from breaking off when tossed, crushed, etc. The design makes it sturdy as a rock, but it also has the handling of a rock. 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. This hefty camera requires a firm grip, so users will probably have to hold it with both hands. If using one hand, the camera is most comfortable to hold when the right thumb is cradling the bottom of the camera, the pinky stabilizing the right side, and the other three fingers clutching the top. This is not very dainty, but it works when snapping pictures on the move or when carrying groceries and a squirmy toddler at the same time. Still, the 770SW is not comfortable to hold. 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 will have to take care to keep fingers from blocking the poorly positioned lens.
Control Button / Dial Positioning / Size ***(6.0)*
With the exception of the shutter button, the buttons on the Olympus Stylus 770SW are too small. All of the buttons are properly labeled, although the icons on the multiselector can be difficult to see in sunlight. The labels on the preproduction model were printed in black, red, and green. This changed on the final production model, where the labels appeared in a much less readable white color. The labels may still be easy to see on the royal blue model but were difficult to see on the silver model we reviewed. The placement of the buttons is just fine, but the size and faint labeling is sub-par.
**Menu ***(5.25)*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 in icons, but there is an overlay with a live view in the background. The icons in this menu are fairly intuitive. Users should use this menu rather than the main menu system, which 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.
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.
This menu is organized into five tabs, which is nice because this menu is long enough that you don’t want to scroll end to end if you can avoid it. The setup menu is composed mainly of text with few icons. The text is in an archaic font and all capital letters that makes it 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. On the preproduction model, there was a variety of languages available in the setup menu. This changed on the final model though since there were only four languages available on the model we reviewed. According to the supplied owner's manual, 'Available languages vary depending on the area where you purchased the camera. You can add other languages to your camera with the provided Olympus Master Software.' Overall, the menu's capital letters and unlabeled tabs make for an unpleasant viewing experience.
**Ease of Use ***(5.75)*
If the camera is in 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 it isn’t very easy to use when the scene mode or ISO (for example) have to be changed.
**Auto Mode ***(6.5)*
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 multiselector: flash, exposure compensation, macro, and self-timer. The Auto mode takes decent pictures, but it isn’t as easy to find as it should be.
Movie Mode* (3.5)*
The movie mode isn’t as easy to find 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. This model doesn't have a mode dial or switch, but I would have thought that the movie mode would have its own spot aside from the Auto/Program, Digital Image Stabilization, and Scene modes accessed with the mode button. Surely, the movie mode is more useful than the digital image stabilization mode.
The following resolutions are available: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. Unfortunately, this movie mode isn’t improved from the Olympus Stylus 720SW. 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 that will make the lighting and colors look more accurate. But the overall quality of the movies is poor. Movies can be played back with audio but not edited within the camera, and movies don’t play during slide shows. Only the first frame shows up as a still image.
To see how the 720SW performs in movie mode, refer to the Video Performance section of the review
Drive / Burst Mode ***(5.25)*
**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 for four pictures at a time, although the camera's specs claim it can fill up an entire memory card. The high-speed continuous burst limits the resolution to 3 megapixels and shoots 3.5 fps for 12 shots.
**Playback Mode ***(7.0)*
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 like those made by Kodak and Canon. This menu screen shows "Playback Menu" in the center.
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 4 seconds while the LCD screen displays a "Busy" message. The editing feature shows this menu.
The red-eye fix function did not work when I tried it. The color modes showed dull colors, but it saved pictures as separate files from the originals. The brightness and saturation can be changed with a live preview, 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 and scrapbooks. Erasing pictures is fairly easy on the Olympus 770SW. Users can delete a single image by pushing the bottom of the multiselector or can 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. The only other option for slide shows is what type of transition is to be used between pictures in the show: Normal, Fader, Slide, and Zoom. Movies can’t be played in slide shows; instead, only the first frame appears with a filmstrip-like frame around it. There are quite a few editing options and a decent venue for slide shows and deletion. This is nice, but the delay when scrolling through pictures was undesirable. The red indicator light flashed for about 1.5 seconds when I pushed the multiselector to the right and left to scroll through the pictures. The next shot appeared only after the red strobe light show. Despite the annoying delay, the playback mode is useful since pictures can be easily viewed via the high-resolution LCD screen.
**Custom Image Presets ***(8.0)*
The mode button just below the zoom controls rolls between auto/program, digital image stabilization, and scene modes. Yes, the digital image stabilization mode has its own special place outside the regular scene mode menu. This mode uses high ISO sensitivity with quick shutter speeds and gets trigger-happy with the flash to reduce the occurrence of blur in images. It does its job in reducing blur, but the pictures that used the flash didn't look very good at all because of the stark contrast and uneven coverage. That is a flaw of the flash component though - not necessarily of the preset mode.
All other scene modes are squished into a lengthy menu that appears when the scene position is entered or when the Menu button is pushed and the Scene option is chosen from there. The scene menu displays text titles of the modes and 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. There are plenty of underwater modes listed to cater to the camera's waterproof nature. 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, but 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. This is just fine for the camera's main point-and-shoot audience.
***Auto Focus (6.25)
*The Olympus 770SW has two auto focus modes in its menu: 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. The focus in the macro and super macro modes isn't very reliable even within that range. There is an LED super macro mode that is accessed by pushing the left portion of the multiselector. This mode constantly illuminates close-up subjects with a white LED; this doesn't necessarily help the focus but provides softer lighting than the flash - although its coverage is even spottier. The camera often had trouble focusing even when the subject was centered. This only worsened underwater when shooting subjects closer to the water's surface. The focus was even more unreliable in low light despite the auto focus assist lamp that can be turned on in the setup menu. This white LED lamp is located to the right of the flash on the front of the camera. The auto focus causes a few tenths of a second of shutter lag, which is a little annoying. Users can get around this by pushing the shutter release halfway so that the camera focuses and locks the exposure.
Manual Focus *(0.0)*
This is not an option on the Olympus Stylus 770SW.
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 the better option because it has a live view. The Olympus 720SW has a similar ISO range, although its lowest ISO is 64 instead of 80.
**White Balance ***(6.25)*
Also found in both menus is the white balance that is much better viewed in the OK/Func menu because of the accompanying live view. There is no manual white balance setting, but the following options are available: Auto, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, and Fluorescent 3.
To view the 770SW's White Balance Performance, go to the Performance Section of the review here.
By pushing the top of the multiselector, users can access a +/- 2 exposure compensation scale with 1/3 increments. There is a live view that is helpful. Some digital cameras have a histogram so that users can closely monitor the exposure, but that is not included on the Olympus 770SW.
There are ESP and Spot metering options in both the OK/Func and standard menus. The OK/Func menu's live view makes it easier to see the difference between the multi-pattern default ESP mode and the spot mode that meters from the center. Most cameras also include a center-weighted metering mode, but the 770SW does not.
**Shutter Speed ***(0.0)*
The Olympus 770’s shutter speeds range from 1/1000-1/2 second, or up to 4 seconds in the Night Scene and Fireworks modes. The auto focus system causes a significant 1/4-half-second delay.
The Olympus lens included on this camera has a max aperture of f/3.5 at its 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. The 770SW, on the other hand, will have to fire its ugly flash more often or boost the noise-inducing ISO sensitivity.
**Picture Quality / Size Options ***(6.75)*
The image quality sub-menu can be found on the initial 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. In the playback mode, users can shrink pictures to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240 pixels in the menu.
**Picture Effects Mode ***(7.75)*
There aren’t any picture effects that can be applied before recording, but there are plenty in the playback mode. Black & White and Sepia color modes can be applied although neither looks stellar. Better results can be found with the included Olympus Master Software. On the camera, the brightness and saturation can be tweaked on +/- five 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 an anniversary card for them directly from the camera. Calendar and scrapbook layout pages are available too.
*The Olympus Stylus 770SW comes with the most recent version of Olympus Master Software. The older version was virtually unusable because of its horrific organization, but version 2.0 is much improved. It comes on a CD-ROM along with QuickTime for watching movies. When it is installed and viewed for the first time, users can customize the look with different 'skins' or different colored backgrounds. A Quick Start Guide also appears with answers to questions such as 'How to transfer images to PC?,' 'How to enjoy slide show?,' and 'How to print images?'
The Quick Start Guide can be accessed any time from the top of the window where a host of icons and functions are listed: Transfer, Slide Show, E-mail, Print Menu, Edit, RAW, Panorama, Options, Update/Language, and Help. Pictures can be viewed in albums or folders organized at the left side and viewed in pages of thumbnails on the right. When users double-click on a thumbnail, a larger preview appears with editing choices to the right.
The editing features are fairly vast when compared to included software with other point-and-shoot digital cameras. WIth this version of Olympus Master Software, users can tweak tone and gamma curves and adjust brightness, contrast, hue, sharpness, and saturation. Colors can be balanced, blur and red eyes can be reduced, distortions corrected, and text inserted. Typical cropping and resizing tools are available too. Monochrome and sepia filters can be applied and they look much better than the on-camera versions because the contrast can be easily changed on a sliding bar.
Overall, the included software provides the basics plus a little more for point-and-shooters. Images can be viewed and organized, edited and printed all from the software.
Jacks, ports, plugs (9.0)
*Many digital cameras have a flimsy cover for their jacks, but the Olympus Stylus 770SW protects them behind a sturdy door with a plastic lock that snaps into place. The door is located on the right side and springs open nicely when the lock is released. Under the door, there is only one jack that connects to everything: USB, AV-out, and DC-in cables. In the setup menu, the AV function can be set to NTSC or PAL standards. The door to the jack isn't sealed around its edges. There is only a rubber pad that surrounds the smaller jack itself. After dunking the camera in water and snapping a few pictures in the sink, I set it out to dry for an hour. After that time, I opened the door so I could transfer pictures with the USB cable. To my dismay, I saw water droplets in the sides of the compartment. Sure, they weren't in the jack itself, but they could have streamed into it if I had been tilting the camera the right way. It's an accident waiting to happen; the door should be better sealed as Olympus touts the 770SW as being a completely waterproof digital camera.
*Direct Print Options*(6.5)*
The Olympus Stylus 770SW comes with several effects in the playback menu that make it a prime candidate for direct printing. Users can create ready-to-print cards and calendars within the playback menu. This can be done via the USB cable since the 770SW is PictBridge compatible. Users can also create print orders from the playback menu. They can choose to add all photos to a print order or scroll through pictures individually and choose how many of each to print from 0-10. They can also opt to print the date and time on them. Once the order is made, it can be transferred to the connected printer with a touch of the designated Print button. If users want to print an occasional picture, they can do it with the Easy Print option.
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 one in the 720SW that got 300 shots per charge but is a version Li-40B battery. According to the specs, the battery gets 200 shots in the Stylus 770SW. On the LCD screen’s view, there is a battery indicator, but it only shows two levels of power. It begins to blink when it has about 5-10 minutes of power left. The camera comes with a battery charger and a cable that connects it to the wall. It takes about 5 hours for it to fully charge according to Olympus.
*The Olympus Stylus 770SW has 18 MB of internal memory to hold 4 pictures at the maximum resolution. There is a 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 and backup feature in the camera.
**Other features ***(8.5)*
Shockproof - The Olympus Stylus 770SW can withstand the impact of a 5-foot fall. My toddler dropped the camera from his height a few times and I tried it from 5 feet, although I was more nervous about scratching my hardwood floor than destroying the camera. The Olympus Stylus 770SW is quite a hefty chunk of metal too, so I was more worried about my toddler using it as a weapon against me than throwing it on the ground. Users probably won't be chucking it against the wall on purpose (although the specs make it tempting for users to try, I'm sure), but it's nice to have a camera that will definitely be able to survive a few hits in a bag and falls to the ground. *Waterproof* - This is one of the camera's main features and one of its biggest draws. The 770SW has four underwater scene modes that cater to this feature. It can withstand depths under water up to 32.8 feet, which is an improvement over the 720SW that could only go to 10 feet. The newest waterproof Olympus has seals around the jack, memory card slot, and battery slot, but not the doors themselves. After a dunk in the sink and a tan on the windowsill for an hour, the Stylus 770SW still had moisture droplets in the edges of the door. These could have leaked into the jack or slots if tilted, but I wiped them away. Is the camera waterproof? Yes. But caution should still be used. If users want to go deeper than 33 feet, an optional underwater housing is available for $299. It can go 40 meters below the surface of the water. *Freezeproof *- According to the specs, the 770SW can function in weather as cold as 14 degrees Fahrenheit, which is about when breathing through the nose becomes painful. I put the camera in the freezer for a half-hour and when I took it out, it functioned normally. This makes the Olympus 770SW an attractive choice for hikers and adventure-seekers because not many digital cameras will function during those frigid mountain climbs.
***Crushproof –* 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 four seconds of monaural audio – so if you use it, speak quickly. It records just after the picture is taken, so there is about a half-second delay between the picture and the start of the audio.
Panorama Mode – This mode isn’t very impressive. It can only be used if an Olympus-branded xD-Picture memory card is in camera's 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 that will then attempt to patch them together.
Manometer – This feature can be turned on and off in the setup menu so that it can measure air or water pressure so users know their depth or altitude. Users can calibrate the manometer by entering their current elevation, which ranges from -10 to +5000 meters. The manometer isn't very sensitive when above sea level; it can be adjusted from 0 to +5000 meters in increments of 200 meters. From 0 to -10 meters though, it can be adjusted every half-meter. This setup isn't very functional for me because I live 4 meters above sea level, so locations that are even a 200-meter increase in elevation are a long drive away. The manometer could be useful for hikers or scuba divers who want to record their elevation into the file info though.
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. It takes less than ten seconds for the process to occur, which is nice. Cameras by other manufacturers must be sent in for this service and can take weeks or months to return. *LED Flashlight - *In the setup menu, the LED illuminator can be turned on and off. When the camera is turned off and the Menu button is pushed, the white LED on the front of the camera lights up for 30 seconds. This flashlight function doesn't provide a bright spotlight but does give enough light to find keys in a bag, for instance. I wouldn't rely on it during a camping trip, but it comes in handy.
The Olympus Stylus 770SW has a retail price of $379. This is $20 less than the 720SW's original retail price, and it now can 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 adventures with them. The $379 is steep when compared to other digital cameras with similar modes, controls, and performance. None of those cameras would survive a climb on Everest though.
Comparisons*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 LCD screen of 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 it 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) that snaps a hundred shots less at a time. The 720SW originally retailed for $399 when it was released last year and can now be found online for less than $300. Pentax Optio W30 - There aren't many waterproof digital cameras out there, but the Pentax W30 provides some competition. It has 7.1 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom lens, and a 2.5-inch LCD screen with half of the resolution at 115,000 pixels. It has a similar listing of automatic and scene modes including a digital shake reduction mode that is much like Olympus's digital image stabilization mode. The W30 boasts a movie mode that records 640 x 480 pixels at a much smoother 30 fps. There is a green button on the camera body that makes activating the auto mode much simpler, and it includes a face detection system. The W30's body isn't as slim at 4.2 x 2.1 x 0.93 inches, but it has a similar hefty 5.6-ounce weight. The Pentax Optio W30 is waterproof for up to 2 hours in depths of up to 10 feet, so it can't go as deep as the Olympus 770SW, and it isn't guaranteed to survive a fall or freeze in the cold either. Still, the Pentax W30's retail price of $299 makes it a tempting option. *Differences between the Pre-production Model and the the Final Production Olympus Stylus 770SW**We got to briefly review the 770SW before it hit the assembly line and only a few minor changes have been made since. 1. The preproduction model had the same silver body, but the labels were printed in black, red, and green. The final model came with white labels that are much more difficult to read.
2. An LED icon was added on the Menu button. This activates the LED flashlight function that was not included on the preproduction model, but it now provides light for 30 seconds when the camera is turned off and the Menu button pushed.
3. A long list of languages was included on the preproduction model: 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, and Arabic. The final product we received had only English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese - although all the other languages can be loaded onto the camera with the included software.
4. Perhaps the most disappointing difference was that the preproduction model could shoot pictures in a burst until the memory card was full, but the production model stopped after four pictures in each burst.
**Who It’s For
***Point-and-Shooters –* The 770SW is 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 rock, and in freezing temperatures.
Budget Consumers – At $379, these consumers could purchase a simpler and cheaper model and maybe even an optional waterproof housing.
Gadget Freaks – There is an LED flashlight and a manometer that gauges the pressure on the camera, but these are the only unique gadgets – and users will hardly even know they're included 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.
**The Olympus Stylus 770SW has an impressive set of specs that surpass the older Stylus 720SW. The new camera is just as sturdy with its 5-foot shockproof rating, but it can go deeper into the water to 32.8 feet. It reaches a whole new level of ruggedness by withstanding weights of up to 220 pounds and freezing temperatures to 14 degrees Fahrenheit. The 770 will appeal to adventurers with its rugged specs, sturdy housing, and Swiss Army knife-like functionality. It has a manometer that records the elevation of each shot, an alarm clock for those early morning canyon hikes, and even an LED flashlight to help campers find their boots in the dark. Perhaps the next model will have a fork that folds out of the top. Despite all this, the 770SW has a ways to go in terms of organization and imaging. The buttons are incredibly small, the movie mode is buried in menus, the auto focus system takes a little too long, and the lens is placed in the way of fingers. The flash rarely looked good in pictures but was hard to avoid using in low light situations, which also impacted the reliability of the auto focus system. The Olympus Stylus 770SW is a fun camera and a practical option for a specific group of photographers because of its ability to be dunked, frozen, dropped, and crushed, but it isn't a serious camera in terms of performance and image quality. Its body is built for adverse conditions, but its modes and controls work best in optimal conditions.
Meet the tester
Emily Raymond is a valued contributor to the Reviewed.com family of sites.
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