The Olympus Stylus 790 SW continues
to be without doubt one of the best built ultra compact
digital camera available: tough enough to sustain
a fall from a height of 1.5 m (5 feet) without incurring internal damage. This rugged and shockproof digital camera is encased in a durable metal body and redesigned with elegant lines. It is
also light and compact enough to be easily carried
in a jeans pocket or small fashion purse.
But there's more! The Olympus 790
SW is also waterproof (other Stylus models
lacking the "SW" designation are only certified "weatherproof")
down to a depth of 3 m (10 feet) -- and freezeproof, able to operate normally in -10°C (14°F) temperatures. There is probably not too many places on Earth
you could not safely take the Olympus Stylus 790
The waterproofing is made possible by a case
that seems bolted together tight with rubber seals to ward off moisture, dust and water. 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 require 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 790 SW is attractive in its all-metal
clad brushed body with chrome and black accents.
Depending on your country, it is available in four or five different colours: Silver, Black, Blue, Orange, and Green in US & Canada. There is
a slight projection at the
front to serve as a finger grip. As usual, the use of
the wrist strap is highly recommended. The lens
never extends outside the body.
Startup is fast at approx. 1 sec. and shot to
shot times average at about 3 sec. There is a
slight shutter lag, so pre-focusing is recommended.
Colours: Available in 4 or 5 colours (depending on your country) with chrome
and black accents: Silver, Black, Blue, Orange and Green.
Looks: tough, elegant
Very little thumb rest and can be slippery; otherwise comfortable enough to hold and operate
Controls & FUNC. menu are intuitive
Ultra Compact: fits in a jeans pocket or
small fashion purse
Dimensions: 93.6 x 60.9 x 21.3mm /
3.7 x 2.4 x 0.84 in.
Weight: 136g / 4.8 oz. without battery
and media card
Included in the box is a rechargeable Li-ion
battery 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
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.
The top of the camera has only the Power button and
Shutter button. Both buttons are on the small
side but Olympus designers have cleverly made
a "well" around the power button and the shutter release button juts out slightly 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 the camera a try first.
The shutter button is redesigned from the one on the 770 SW. On the 770 SW, the power button was too soft so that on occasion I found myself taking a picture when
all I wanted to do was touch the shutter button to return to Record mode
from Playback mode. On the 790 SW, the shutter button works perfectly: the two-stage release is soft for half-press and requires a distinct press for full press.
Watch out for finger in the picture!
The lens is at top right (viewed from the front)
and so you need to be careful your left finger(s) do
not get in the way, especially at first as you get used to the camera and how best to hold it. Again, Olympus engineers cleverly added a circular border around the lens so you can be aware of where your fingers should stay away from.
You can record movies with sound at either 640x480 at 30fps (the 770 SW records only at 15fps). You can preset optical zoom before
any movie recording, but cannot use optical zoom
during recording (though digital zoom is available).
No card comes with the camera but there is approx.
14.7MB of Internal Memory. 14.7MB can record only
8 sec. of SHQ movie.
As the above chart shows, at SHQ, only 4 images
can be saved into the 14.7MB of Internal Memory.
We recommend that you purchase at least a 1GB xD-Picture
There is now a Mode Dial on the back with AUTO/P (set in FUNC), Digital Image
Stabilization, SCN (Scene Modes), GUIDE, Movie, Favorites and Playback. The Mode Dial is easier to use than pressing a button repeatedly (as on the 770 SW), but the thumb rest area at the back of the camera is now almost non-existent. The Mode Dial has just the right stiffness so it's easy to rotate but won't change inadvertently when you place your thumb on it. However, because of the lack of thumb rest space, at times I have inadvertently pressed the zoom button while trying to hold the camera steady.
Digital Image Stabilization 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. It's not quite the same or as good as mechanical optical or CCD-shift image stabilization, but it can be helpful at times.
There are 27 shooting modes in all: AUTO, P,
Digital Image Stabilization, 23 scene modes to
cover almost every possible situation, and Movie.
There are, of course, scene modes for Beach&Snow
and Underwater photography.
Mode is also available in the Menu (now available in all modes) which will immediately turn all beeps and other warning sounds off. It is a very quick and convenient feature for times when you need absolute quiet. Note that in Movie Mode, you can set the camera to Silent Mode but sound will still be recorded. When you play back the movie, simply turn Silent Mode off to listen to the sound.
Almost all the shooting functions are accessible
through the OK/FUNC. button placed in the middle
of the 4-Way Arrows.
BY CONTROL BUTTONS (top to bottom)
Zoom: It takes about 2 sec. to zoom
from wide-angle to telephoto (I counted
Playback (allows playback w/o turning
on camera) / Print (with direct printing to any
Arrow Pad: UP=Exposure Compensation,
RIGHT=Flash, DOWN=Selftimer, LEFT=Macro,
Super Macro, Super Macro LED
OK/FUNC in the middle of Arrow Pad
DISP (Info, No Info, Info + Grid, Info + Live Histogram) / Help (when in MENU) / LED Illuminator (hold for 2 sec)
Shadow Adjustment / ERASE
Press the LEFT ARROW key to select
between MACRO, SUPER MACRO and SUPER MACRO LED. The latter uses
the LED Illuminator to light up your
subject -- a brillant idea!
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
HQ mode (3072x2304)
High speed: 3.5 fps, up to 11 frames
in SQ1 mode (2048x1536)
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. If you usually shoot HQ mode and selected High speed continuous, image quality will switch to SQ1 mode, so remember to reset back to HQ mode, too.
Press the UP ARROW key to select Exposure
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)
A brand new feature is Perfect Shot Preview which displays small thumbnails with the range of effects displayed
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.)
The LED Illuminator will
throw a small light source on your close-up
subject. You can use it to add light,
remove shadows or to help achieve
Press the DISP/HELP/LED Illuminator button
when the camera is OFF to display
the Date and Time (and Alarm if you set it in SETUP) for 3 sec. You can set an Alarm with three different rings with Snooze capability and specify whether it is a one-time or daily setting.
Press and hold the DISP/HELP/LED Illuminator
button (whether the camera is ON or
OFF) for about 2 sec. to turn on the
LED illuminator. The LED illuminator
turns off after 30 sec. of inactivity; or press and
hold the MENU/LED Illuminator button
again to turn it off immediately
Shadow Adjustment / ERASE
In Shooting mode, automatically brightens shadow areas to reveal details.
In Playback mode, erase displayed image.
Not marked but nonetheless available: In Shooting mode, press and hold this button for 2 sec. to display the Button Guide. This is seful when shooting in the dark and you cannot see the controls clearly.
At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount
thread is metal, which is 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 a large 2.5
in. LCD monitor with a high 230,000 pixels resolution.
The LCD has a fast enough refresh rate for a smooth
display in both good light and 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
well in low-light.
There is no AF-assist Illuminator but you can use the novel LED Illuminator to throw a light source onto your close-up subject. A warning note is appropriate here for the LED Illuminator is quite bright and you should avoid shining it into people's eyes to prevent eye vision damage.
While the FUNC. button gives access to the shooting
settings, the MENU button gives access to the
Menu and Setup settings.
- Face Detect
- iESP (camera selects area to focus on)
- Spot (Center)
- Horizontal Left to Right or Right to
- Vertical Top to Bottom or Bottom to Top
- No transparent previous image to allow precise alignment -- simply a frame guide
- Only with Olympus xD-Picture Card
SETUP 1 of 4
- Power On Setup
- Menu Theme
- Turns off operational sound (warning
beeps, shutter sounds, etc.) though Movie sound is still recorded even in Silent Mode
- Programmed AE
Shooting Mode, Self-timer, Exposure Compensation
+0.3EV, Flash On, xD-Picture Card used,
Space left for 111 images, Image Size 3072x2304,
Image Quality SHQ, Macro ON, WB Tungsten
- Press and hold the Shadow Adjustment/ERASE button for 2 sec. to bring up a visual
representation of the control buttons
- Useful when using the camera in low-light
and it may be difficult to read the control
PLAYBACK 1 of 7
PLAYBACK 2 of 7
PLAYBACK 3 of 7
PLAYBACK 4 of 7 - EDIT
- Color Edit
PLAYBACK 5 of 7 - SLIDESHOW
PLAYBACK 6 of 7 - PERFECT FIX
- Shadow Adjustment
- Redeye Fix
PLAYBACK 7 of 7 - ERASE
- Selected Image
- All Erase
The Olympus Stylus 790 SW is easy to use
and operate. It is built as tough as it gets (though not as tough as the 770 SW it replaces),
yet succeeds in being elegant as well. Being shockproof as well
as waterproof makes 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. For those living in cold climates, the Stylus 790 SW is also winterized so there's no fear it'll get damaged if accidentally dropped into the snow (choose the orange colour to make it easier to find). It is a beautiful and fun digital camera for travel and hiking to any part of the world. All digital
cameras should be built this tough!