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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus Stylus 720 SW


Olympus Stylus 720 SW Review

Review Date: Jul 28, 2006

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Olympus Stylus 720 SW


The Olympus Stylus 720 SW is without doubt one of the best built compact digital camera available: not only does it look tough, it is tough, being able to sustain a fall from a height of 5 feet, which we have verified (see User's Experience section). This rugged camera with excellent construction is also light and compact enough to be easily carried in a jeans pocket or fashion purse. Fashion? Yes, this is one camera that suceeds in looking both tough and elegant! The Olympus 720 SW uses the xD-Picure Card.

Shockproofing is only one of the attractive attribute of the Olympus 720 SW. It is also waterproof [other Stylus models are only certified "weatherproof"] down to a depth of 10 feet for up to 1 hour. We have also verified that the camera can be dunked under water [we spent 4 days at the beach and took it swimming] without adverse effect but have not tested the "up to 1 hour" part [after every saltwater use, we rinsed it well and soaked it for about 10 min. in a tub of fresh tap water].

This waterproofing is made possible by a case that seems bolted together tight. The only openings are the Connector Cover and Battery/xD-Picture Card Cover, which each has a rubber "gasket" to provide waterproof protection. The covers snap shut securely and requires that you push down a switch to open them, i.e. there is no chance of accidentally opening them underwater or of them opening up with a fall.

The Olympus 720 SW is attractive in its all-metal clad brushed silver body with chrome accents. There are 2 screws at the front to serve as "grip" helpers and a metal strip for the strap eyelet that juts out along the right side (viewed from the back) and also helps serves as a grip [use of the wrist strap is highly recommended]. The lens never extends outside the body.

Startup and shot to shot times are average at about 2 sec., and there is a shutter lag.

- Colours: overall silver with chrome accents
- Looks: tough, elegant
- Comfortable to hold and operate, though can be slippery
- Controls & FUNC. menu are intuitive to use
- Compact: fits in a jeans pocket or small fashion purse
- Dimensions: 91 x 58.7 x 19.8 mm /
3.6 x 2.3 x 0.78 in.
- Weight: 149 g / 5.3 oz.
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery Li-42B 3.7V 740mAh
- Startup and LCD turning on in about 2 sec.
- Shot to shot time less than 2 sec.
- Shutter lag

Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion battery Li-42B, which takes approx. 5 hrs [according to the manual, though it seems to take me far less than that] to recharge fully. Olympus does not rate the battery, and I got less than 200 shots per charge, so a spare battery is highly recommended.

The flash has a max. range of 3.8m/12.5 ft. at wide-angle, which is adequate only for close range. You can set the flash to Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, On (Fill-in) or Off.


Olympus Stylus 720 SW Top View

The top of the camera has the Power button and Shutter button. Both buttons are on the small side but Olympus designers have cleverly made a "well" around each so they are easy to push down. I had no trouble operating either, though if you have particularly large fingers, you may want to give it a try first.

The lens is at top right (viewed from the front) and so you need to be careful your finger(s) do not get in the way.

There is no Mode Dial but a SCN button that plays that role. You press this button repeatedly to switch from Auto/P (set in FUNC.) to Digital Image Stabilization to Scene Modes.

Note that you will either be in Auto or P mode, depending on what you selected in FUNC menu.

Digital Image Stabilization [not to be confused by the real and better type of image stabilization which stabilizes either the lens or the image sensor] will select a high ISO and favours a fast shutter speed so as to reduce or eliminate blur caused by camera shake and/or subject movement.

There are 28 shooting modes in all: AUTO, P, Digital Image Stabilization, 24 scene modes to cover almost every possible situation, and Movie (technically the "25th" scene mode, since it is accessed under the Scene Mode menu). There are, of course, scene modes for Beach&Snow and Underwater photography.

If you shoot lots of movies, I would recommend setting Movie as the default scene mode so you can access it quickly when you press the SCN button. You just have to select it and press OK to set it as the default scene mode.

Almost all the shooting functions are accessible through the new OK/FUNC. button placed in the middle of the 4-Way Arrows.

You can record movies with sound (until the memory card is full) at either 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120 pixels at 15fps. You can preset optical zoom before any movie recording, but cannot zoom during recording.

Video Storage Capacity
(h m s)
1m 52s
15m 03s
5m 33s
44m 31s
2m 09s
14m 08s
1 h 53m 17s

No card comes with the camera but there is approx. 19MB of Internal Memory. 19MB can record only 17 sec. of SHQ movie.

xD-Picture Card Storage Capacity (approx. # images)
Quality Pixels 19MB 128MB 1GB
SHQ 3072x2304 5 36 294
HQ 2272x1704 11 73 586
SQ1 2560x1920 16 105 841
SQ1 2304x1728 19 128 1031
SQ1 2048x1536 24 163 1305
SQ2 1600x1200 30 194 1560
SQ2 1280x960 46 307 2460
SQ2 1024x768 71 469 3762
SQ2 640x480 116 726 5815

As the above chart shows, at SHQ, only 5 images can be saved into the 19MB of Internal Memory. We recomend that you purchase a 1GB xD-Picture Card.

Olympus Stylus 720 SW Back View

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the Zoom Button)
- Zoom: It takes about 2 sec. to zoom from wide-angle to telephoto (I counted 9 steps).
- SCN (Mode) Button: AUTO/P, Digital Image Stabilization, SCN (Portrait, Landscape, Landscape+Portrait, Night Scene, Night+Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot&Select 1, Shoot&Select 2, Beach&Snow, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Underwater Snapshot, Movie)
- Speaker: remarkably, waterproof
- Playback
- Arrow Pad: UP=Exposure Compensation, RIGHT=Flash, DOWN=Selftimer/Erase, LEFT=Macro
- OK/FUNC in the middle of Arrow Pad
- Print (with direct printing to any PictBridge-enabled printer)

Press the LEFT ARROW key to select between MACRO and SUPER MACRO.


MACRO allows you to focus as close as 20cm (7.9 in.) and SUPER MACRO at 7cm (2.8 in.).


Select Drive from the FUNC menu.


Normal speed: 1.1 fps, up to 6 frames in SQ mode

High speed: 3.7 fps, up to 11 frames in HQ mode

- The drive mode is kept and restored when the camera is turned off and on again, so remember to reset it back to Single Frame.
- Press the UP ARROW key to select Exposure compensation
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)

At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount thread is metal, which is so much better than the easily damaged plastic threads used in most P&S digital cameras. There is a very nice Battery/Card door and the battery has a latch to keep it from accidentally falling. You won't be able to change battery or card when the camera is on a tripod.

LCD & Menus

There is no optical viewfinder but an extra large 2.5 in. LCD monitor with an average 115,000 pixels resolution. The LCD has a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth display in good light, but is just a bit choppy in low light. It can sometimes be difficult to see in bright sunlight, but you can adjust the brightness in MENU/SETUP. It is one of the few LCD monitors that gains up very well in low-light.

There is no AF-assist Illuminator so auto focusing in low-light can sometimes be challenging.

While the FUNC. button gives access to the shooting settings, the MENU button gives access to the Menu and Setup settings.


MENU 1 of 2

- WB: Auto, Pre-set (Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3)
- ISO: Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
- Drive: Single, Normal, High
- Metering: ESP, Center
- Digital Zoom: On, Off

MENU 2 of 2

- AF Mode: iESP, Spot
- Voice memo: On, Off
- Panorama: only guides, no semi-transparent overlay

SETUP 1 of 4

- Format
- Backup
- Language: English, Francais, Espanol, Portugues
- Playback ON: Allows Playback button to display images without powering on camera for shooting
- PW ON SETUP: Display logo or not on power on

SETUP 2 of 4

- (Menu Background) Color: Normal, Blue, Black, Pink
- Beep: Off, Low, High
- Warning Sound: Off, Low, High
- Shutter Sound: Off, 1, 2, 3 (Low, High)
- Rec View: On, Off

SETUP 3 of 4

- File Name: Reset, Auto
- Pixel Mapping
- LCD Brightness
- Clock
- Dual Time: Off, On

SETUP 4 of 4

- Alarm Clock: Off, One Time, Daily (Time, Snooze, Alarm Sound)
- Video Out: NTSC, PAL


- Portrait
- Landscape
- Landscape+Portrait
- Night Scene
- Night+Portrait


- Sport
- Indoor
- Candle
- Self Portrait
- Available Light


- Sunset
- Fireworks
- Museum
- Cuisine
- Behind Glass


- Documents
- Auction
- Shoot&Select 1
- Shoot&Select 2
- Beach&Snow


- Underwater Wide 1
- Underwater Wide 2
- Underwater Macro
- Underwater Snapshot
- Movie


- Wait for 3 sec.

FUNC - Shooting Mode

- P (Programmed AE), Auto

FUNC - White Balance

- AWB, Day Light, Cloudy, Tungsten, Fluorescent1, Fluorescent2, Fluorescent3


- Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600


- Single, Normal, High Speed


- ESP (Multi-Pattern), Spot


- SHQ (3072x2304)
- HQ (3072x2304
- SQ1 (2048x1536)
- SQ2 (640x480)


- P=Programmed AE, Exp. Comp.=+0.3EV, Flash On, saving to xD-Picture Card, space left for 292 images, SQG 3072x2304 Image Quality, Macro ON

The Olympus Stylus 720 SW is easy to use and operate. It is built as tough as it gets, yet succeeds in being elegant as well. It lives up to its claims to be both shock proof as well as waterproof, making it the ideal choice for boaters, campers, hikers, and anyone else who values a digital camera that does not go out of commission at the first bump. All compact digital cameras should be built this way.

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