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 andshock 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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.