Fact Sheets on the Best Digital Cameras
 
     
    Bookmark and Share  
 
Home
News
Articles (RSS Feed)
Press Releases
Site Map
 
Best Digital Cameras
Buyer's Guide
Point-and-Shoot
Beginner
Serious
Advanced
Ultra Compact
Ultra Zoom
User Manuals
 
Digital Camera Reviews
Reviews Matrix
Photoxels Awards
 
Fundamentals
Tutorials
Glossary
 
History of Cameras
Featured Sites
Contests
 
About Us
Contact
Privacy Statement
 
Photo Store
Digital Cameras
Accessories
 
 

 
You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus Stylus 790 SW Review


   

Olympus Stylus 790 SW Review

Review Date: Sep 17, 2007

Category: Point-and-Shoot

Olympus Stylus 790 SW
Choose your colour: Silver | Black | Blue | Orange | Green

HANDLING & FEEL

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 SW.

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.

STYLE
- 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
   
FEEL
- Very little thumb rest and can be slippery; otherwise comfortable enough to hold and operate
- Controls & FUNC. menu are intuitive to use
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- 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
- Takes 1 rechargeable Li-ion battery Li-42B (3.7V 740mAh)
   
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Startup and LCD turning on in about 1 sec.
- Shot to shot time less than 3 sec.
- Slight shutter lag; prefocusing recommended
   

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 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.

Controls

Olympus Stylus 790 SW Top View

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!
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.

xD-Picture Card Storage Capacity (approx. # images)
Quality Pixels 14MB 512MB 1GB
SHQ 3072x2304 4 147 294
HQ 3072x2304 8 293 586
SQ1 2560x1920 12 420 841
SQ1 2304x1728 15 515 1031
SQ1 2048x1536 19 652 1305
SQ2 1600x1200 23 779 1560
SQ2 1280x960 36 1228 2460
SQ2 1024x768 55 1879 3762
SQ2 640x480 89 2904 5815
16:9 1920x1080 28 968 1938

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 Card.

Olympus Stylus 790 SW Back View

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.

A Silent 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.

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (top to bottom)
- Zoom: It takes about 2 sec. to zoom from wide-angle to telephoto (I counted 9 steps).
- Mode Dial: AUTO/P, Digital Image Stabilization, SCN (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 Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Underwater Snapshot), Shooting Guide, Movie, Favorites, Playback
- Speaker: remarkably, waterproof
- MENU button
- Playback (allows playback w/o turning on camera) / Print (with direct printing to any PictBridge-enabled printer)
- 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
   
MACRO
-

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.).

   
CONTINUOUS SHOOTING
-

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.
   
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION
- 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)
- 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.)
   
DISP/HELP/LED Illuminator
-

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 focus.

-

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.

MAIN MENU

- Note the Silent Mode option

MENU 1 of 2

- WB
- ISO
- Drive
- Fine Zoom
- Digital Zoom

MENU 2 of 2

- Light Metering
- AF Mode
- Voice Memo
- Panorama

WHITE BALANCE 1 of 2

- Auto
- Sunny day
- Cloudy day
- Tungsten light

WHITE BALANCE 2 of 2

- Fluorescent lamp 1 (daylight / home)
- Fluorescent lamp 2 (neutral white - desk lamps)
- Fluorescent lamp 3 (white - offices)

ISO 1 of 2

- Auto
- 80
- 100
- 200

ISO 2 of 2

- 400
- 800
- 1600

DRIVE

- Single
- Continuous
- Hi Speed (2048x1536)

METERING

- ESP (Multi-Pattern)
- Spot

AF MODE

- Face Detect
- iESP (camera selects area to focus on)
- Spot (Center)

PANORAMA

- Horizontal Left to Right or Right to Left
- 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 MENU

SETUP 1 of 4

- Format
- Backup
- Language
- Power On Setup
- Menu Theme

SETUP 2 of 4

- Beep
- Warning Sound
- Shutter Sound
- Volume
- Rec View

SETUP 3 of 4

- File Name
- Pixel Mapping
- LCD Monitor Brightness
- Clock
- Dual Time

SETUP 4 of 4

- Alarm Clock
- Video Out
- Power Save
- LED Illuminator

LANGUAGE

 

MENU THEME 1 of 2

- Normal
- Blue
- Black
- Pink

MENU THEME 2 of 2

- My Favorite

ALARM SET

- Time
- Snooze
- Alarm Sound
- You can set an Alarm with three different rings with Snooze capability and specify whether it is a one-time or daily setting

ALARM DISPLAY

- Year.Month.Day
- Current Time
- Alarm Time
- 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.

 

SCENE MODE 1 of 5

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

SCENE MODE 2 of 5

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

SCENE MODE 3 of 5

- Sunset
- Fireworks
- Cuisine
- Behind Glass
- Documents

SCENE MODE 4 of 5

- Auction
- Shoot & Select 1
- Shoot & Select 2
- Beach & Snow
- Underwater Snapshot

SCENE MODE 5 of 5

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

SCENE MODE HELP

- After approx. 4 sec. a help screen appears for the selected Scene Mode

 

SHOOTING GUIDE 1 OF 3

- Shoot w/effects preview
- Brightening subject
- Shooting into backlight
- Set particular lighting
- Blurring background

SHOOTING GUIDE 2 OF 3

- Adjusting area in focus
- Shooting subject in motion
- Targeting with assistance
- Close up photo
- Super close up photo

SHOOTING GUIDE 3 OF 3

- Shooting at night
- Reducing blur
- Reducing red-eye
- Adjusting image quality

 

FUNC - Shooting Mode

- P (Programmed AE), Auto
- The display is a bit funny but you get used to it real fast: the selection bar is always at the bottom; the selected functions are highlighted

FUNC - White Balance

- AWB, Sunny day, Cloudy day, Tungsten light, Fluorescent lamp 1 (daylight / home), Fluorescent lamp 2 (neutral white - desk lamps), Fluorescent lamp 3 (white - offices)

FUNC - ISO

- Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600

FUNC - DRIVE

- Single, Continuous, High Speed

FUNC - METERING

- ESP (Multi-Pattern), Spot

 

IMAGE QUALITY

IMAGE QUALITY 1 of 2

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

IMAGE QUALITY 2 of 2

- 16:9 1920x1080

SILENT MODE

- Turns off operational sound (warning beeps, shutter sounds, etc.) though Movie sound is still recorded even in Silent Mode

 

PROGRAM

- 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

BUTTON GUIDE

- 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 buttons markings

 

PLAYBACK 1 of 7

PLAYBACK 2 of 7

PLAYBACK 3 of 7

 

PLAYBACK 4 of 7 - EDIT

- Crop
- Color Edit
- Frame
- Label
- Calendar

PLAYBACK 5 of 7 - SLIDESHOW

- BGM
- Type

PLAYBACK 6 of 7 - PERFECT FIX

- All
- 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!

<< Image Quality

User's Experience >>

 

 

 

 


 


 

  Home | Best Digital Cameras | Digital Camera Reviews | Tutorials | Special | About | Shop  
 

Product technical specifications are as represented by the manufacturer
and subject to manufacturer's change, so please do not rely on them without verification.
All trademarks, service marks, and Copyrights are the property of their respective owners.
Privacy Notice. Copyright © 2002-2015 Photoxels. All rights reserved.