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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


Thursday, Jul 6, 2006 - Here's what I receive in the box:

  • Stylus 720 SW
  • No memory card
  • Li-Ion rechargeable battery LI-42B (3.7AV 740mAh)
  • Battery Charger LI-40C with Power Cord
  • Wrist Strap
  • USB and A/V Cables
  • Documentation: Quick Start Guide (English and French versions); Basic Manual (includes English, French, Spanish)
  • Software CD: Olympus Master U; Advanced Manual (English, French, German, Russian, Spanish)

Seemingly following the philosophy [or, is it strategy?] of "going where no [digital camera] has gone before," the Olympus Stylus 720 SW breaks new ground by being both waterproof down to 3m (10 feet) for up to 1 hour and shock proof, certified to withstand a fall from up to 5 feet. This tough, rugged, and excellently constructed digital camera is targeted to point-and-shoot photographers who love the great outdoors.

All of this in a compact body that easily slips into a jeans pocket. Plus it is fashionably elegant, handles very well, and takes very good quality images. I was surprised by the good to very good image quality.

I love the extra large 2.5-in. LCD, and Olympus' "Bright Capture Technology" is impressive, making it possible to see clearly even in very low levels of ambient light. However, in the incredibly bright sunlight of the beach, it is quite difficult to see. I know it sounds a bit unfair to say this because almost 99% digital cameras will also not pass this sunny outdoors test, but the Olympus 720 SW is meant to be used at the beach on very bright sunny days [as well as gloomy rainy days].

Improvement Suggestion 1: Since the camera is going to be used in bright sunny environment, the LCD needs a better anti-glare coating.

Never mind, frame as best as I can and take the pictures, in, out of and under water. Not having to worry about damaging the camera in any way can feel quite liberating!

Soaking the camera in fresh tap water for 10 min.

When I finally return to my hotel room, I rinse off the camera and give it the obligatory 10 min. soak in a tub of fresh tap water. Then, I shake out excess water, wipe everything (especially the lens) dry with a soft cloth. Now, I can download the images to my laptop and have my first look at the images: they are beautiful. The Beach&Snow scene mode and ESP (Pattern) metering work quite well in the bright sunny environment, though I did have to adjust levels for a few in post processing (to be expected when 'working' in such harsh lighting situation).

The only thing you have to be careful about is that water will wet the lens and a drop on the lens will result in a foggy patch on your picture, as in the example below:

Be careful to wipe lens dry after cleaning or water spots leave mark on pictures

Improvement Suggestion 2: It would be helpful to include a Framing Grid. In many of my beach pictures (as the one above), I concentrated on the beach line, but simply forgot to ensure the horizon was horizontal.

If you are in the water already, just shake the water drops off the lens and shoot. It is really a tough camera.

How tough?

We were on the monorail at Disney Florida on our very first day swishing to the Magic Kingdom to watch the Festival of Lights when my son who was happily snapping away handed the camera back to me and I dropped it onto the steel floor. It made enough of a clanking noise that almost everyone in the compartment looked at the camera lying on the floor, then at me, mouths aghast.

I don't blame them. Any other compact digital camera, and the chance is pretty good that it would sustain external body -- as well as internal mechanism -- damage, and it would be "back to the repair shop."

Not the Olympus 720 SW. I picked it, wipe it against my pants, looked at it [not a scratch], turned it on, and announced, "Shock proof." Looks of amazement all around.

Later, at the beach, it also seemed to other bathers visibly staring that I was a) out of my mind, b) a complete fool, c) both, when I walked into the water with camera in hand, and started snapping pictures.

If you need a waterproof and "built tough as a tank" all-purpose digital camera, you might as well stop reading right here, and put in your order.

There is no AF-assist light, so in low-light conditions, locking AF can sometimes be challenging: I found that the AF works well most of the time, only hesitating when the subject is not contrasty enough.

I was a bit disappointed with the shutter lag, but prefocusing easily solves this problem.

There is a very nice handstrap that comes with the camera. However, it unfortunately does not have an eyelet to fasten the strap tightly around your wrist, and I find that I was pretty worried when swimming that I would not accidentally let go of the camera, and watch it sink to the bottom of the ocean floor.

Improvement suggestion 3: Since this camera is supposed to be used in conditions where it gets wet, it would be safer if there were some kind of rubberized handgrip to prevent the camera from slipping from one's fingers. The handstrap specially needs an eyelet to allow the handstrap to be tightly fastened to your wrist; as it stands now, it can easily slip out of your wrist while in water

Olympus Master U

The Olympus Master U software is very user-friendly and displays all info on one screen, including very complete EXIF info [including both the camera's and the 35mm equivalent focal lengths]. You can do basic image editing, re: red-eye reduction, color balance, auto tone.

As usual for Olympus, there is only a printed Quick Start Guide and a printed Basic Instruction Manual. To learn more about the camera and all its features, you need to consult the Advanced Manual, which is on CD in pdf format (therefore searchable).

The Olympus Stylus 720 SW is well designed and well-built, and the "SW" designation means that you do not have to worry about damaging it either from a fall or from the elements. More importantly, it gives great results and should find a home in the pocket of anyone who requires a camera "tough enough to take anywhere." If your middle name is "Adventure" then the Olympus 720 SW should probably be in your pocket ready at an instance to capture those special moments of life.

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