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Olympus Stylus 770 SW Compact Camera

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Olympus Stylus 770 SW Compact Camera

    TechHive Rating

The two letters at the end of the Olympus Stylus 770 SW's name indicate that it's shockproof and waterproof, without the need for an optional housing. I found that it lives up to its name, but I still wouldn't buy it for use underwater.

Olympus warrants the Stylus 770 SW to operate to a depth of up to 33 feet--that's plenty for snorkeling or a pool, but not nearly enough for scuba diving. Compare that to Olympus's "weatherproof" Stylus cameras, such as the Stylus 1000, which can withstand splashes but can't be dunked or dropped, or to Olympus's FE series cameras (such as the FE280 we've tested); cameras in that series claim no special protections against the elements.

I took this compact camera on a snorkeling excursion off of Maui, Hawaii, exposing it to salt water for a couple of hours. I dove with it to a depth of perhaps 20 feet at most, and it never failed to operate.

Unfortunately, many of my underwater shots came out badly framed or blurry, because I couldn't see my subjects; the 2.5-inch LCD, while bright enough above the water, is much too dim under it, even though I was diving just before noon, when I had plenty of sunlight. I ended up aiming the camera where I thought it ought to be pointed and hoping for the best.

Back on dry land, I had to cleanse the camera of salt by rinsing it and then submerging it in fresh water for 10 minutes, opening and closing the cover on the 3X zoom lens, and refraining from opening the battery/memory card panel or USB connector cover, so I had to wait to download pictures.

I dropped the camera on purpose, several times, from Olympus's maximum rated height of 5 feet, onto a low-pile carpeted floor; the camera came away unscathed.

The camera has 4 scene modes devoted to underwater use, plus another 19 scene modes for more general use. It has no manual exposure modes (no aperture- or shutter-priority, and no full manual); it has no manual focus capability, either.

The Stylus 770 SW has a manometer, which measures air or water pressure to determine the depth or height. Unfortunately, the camera does not record the information to images' metadata, so it's not very useful. One feature that I did find useful is the surprisingly strong LED on the camera that can work instead of or in addition to the flash to illuminate shots. But I didn't like that the camera obscures images with shot information for a few seconds when you play them back on the LCD.

In our image-quality tests, the Stylus 770 SW earned near-average scores for most measures but received slightly above-average marks for color accuracy and exposure accuracy. It took 246 shots on one charge over 2 hours, 15 minutes, which doesn't sound too bad, but that result is nearly a hundred shots below the average of all point-and-shoot models we've tested.

The Stylus 770 SW is relatively expensive for a simple compact camera. You're paying for the waterproofing and shockproofing--and while it's nice to have and the end product is certainly less expensive than any other camera with an optional housing, the waterproofing isn't usable enough for me. You can get better, more sophisticated compact cameras for less money.

--Alan Stafford

This story, "Olympus Stylus 770 SW Compact Camera" was originally published by PCWorld.

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At a Glance
  • TechHive Rating

    This small pocket camera is waterproof and shockproof, but its LCD is hard to see underwater.

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