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Olympus Stylus 710 Digital Camera Review
by Ben Stafford -  3/16/2006

Introduced at the end of January, the Olympus Stylus 710 is a new 7.1 megapixel digital camera in the weatherproof Stylus line. The Stylus 710 was announced at the same time as the Olympus Stylus 810 (8 megapixels) and the Olympus Stylus 720SW (shockproof and waterproof 7.1 megapixels).

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At first glance, the Olympus Stylus 710 is very stylish and more compact than expected. The weatherproofing features are apparent in rubber O-rings and seals and the build quality of the camera is excellent. The nice-performing 2.5" LCD is also a nice selling feature of this camera.  Read on to see what you think about its picture taking ability.

Included in the Box

In the box, you'll find the camera, wrist strap, USB 2.0 cable, lithium-ion rechargeable battery with charger, basic instruction manual, quick start guide, warranty card, and CD that includes Olympus Master software and advanced manual.

Features

The main feature of the Stylus 710, and the whole Stylus line, is that they're weatherproof. They can't be submerged, but they will survive a rain shower just fine. Rubber O-rings on the battery compartment door and access door to the USB jack are the most obvious ways that you can see the waterproofing.

The camera also includes Olympus' Bright Capture technology. This Olympus innovation allows for better results in low-light shooting.

The Stylus 710 shoots at resolutions up to 7.1 megapixels (3,072 x 2,304). A pretty typical 3x optical zoom has a 35mm equivalent focal length of 37-111mm. The 2.5" LCD on the back has 115K pixels and there isn't a viewfinder. Images and movies can be stored on 19.1MB of internal memory or an xD-Picture card. The camera is powered by a lithium-ion rechargeable battery.

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A fun high-speed continuous shooting mode allows you to shoot at 3.7 frames per second at a lower resolution (SQ mode). You can get "11 or more" frames at a time like this. It's pretty amazing to listen to a point and shoot camera capture images this quickly.

There are a total of 9 image capture settings that vary in resolution and compression, ranging from 3072 x 2304 pixels down to as small as 640 x 480. When you want to capture movies, you can choose from three sizes: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, and 160 x 120. All movie capture resolutions occur with a 15 frames per second (fps) frame rate, which is a bit disappointing. Most cameras offer at least a lower resolution movie capture mode of 30 fps.

There are plenty of shooting modes on the Stylus 710, just not any manual modes. You get full Auto, Program Auto (allows you to adjust ISO, white balance, focus method), SCN mode (preset scene modes, like Portrait, Sport, Night, Underwater, etc), Digital Image Stabilization mode, and Movie mode. The Digital Image Stabilization (denoted by the shaking hand on the mode dial) just bumps up the sensitivity (ISO value) to allow faster shutter speeds.

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Choose a scene mode (view large image)

There are two focus modes, iESP auto and Spot mode and then you can shoot in Normal range, Macro range, and Super Macro range. While shooting in Normal mode, the range is 23.6" -- infinity. In Macro mode, you can focus on objects between 7.9" and infinity. Super Macro mode gets you a bit closer, so that you can focus between 3.2" and 23.6" away from the camera.

For flash modes, you get Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, and Off. The claimed flash range of 13.1 feet at wide angle seems to be pretty close to what I experienced during real world use.

When you're done taking your pictures, the Stylus 710 is not done. During playback mode, there are plenty of editing options in case you want to edit pictures before transferring to you computer. First, you can use the calendar view to see the pictures you took on a certain day. The calendar view is a nice way to organize images on the camera, especially for those of you with humongous memory cards that never transfer images off of the card. An Edit menu during playback allows you to:

By the way, if you do want to take this underwater, Olympus has two underwater housings available for this camera. The PT-032 housing allows you to take the Stylus 710 down to depths of 40 meters. The CWPC-02 water resistant housing is waterproof to 3 meters.

Design and Build

The Stylus 710 is actually pretty tiny, regardless of how it looks in pictures. It's easily pocketable and I have no worries about damaging the camera while it rides in a shirt or pants pocket. The metal body has 24K gold plating covered with a platinum alloy that resists scratches. It's a very sturdy camera, as is expected from a Stylus camera.

I found the camera hard to hold -- it just never felt "at rest" in my hand. I think the biggest contributor to my discomfort was that it always felt like it would just slip out of my hand. There was no grip or physical feature of the camera that solidified my grip. This may not be an issue for everyone so, as always, try it out before you buy.

The controls are laid out in a pretty simple and easy to use manner. On the top of the camera, all you have to worry about is the power button and the shutter release.

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The back of the camera has the 2.5 inch LCD that gains up in low light (in addition to having adjustable brightness in the Setup menu). A zoom rocker is on the top right of the back, right above the mode dial. Below the mode dial is the main cluster of controls. A 5-way directional pad is surrounded by 4 buttons (Menu, Print, Disp/?, and Delete).

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The right side of the camera has an access door for the USB cable and optional AC adapter. There is also an attachment point for the included wrist strap.

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The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount and the access door to the battery / memory card compartment.

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Image Quality and Performance

Overall, image quality and performance was good. Colors were accurate, the auto white balance did a good job in tricky lighting conditions, and exposure was good.

Noise levels at ISO 64 and ISO 100 were good. At ISO 200, you could probably still get away with the noise in decent-sized prints. At ISO 400 and above, noise was very high.

olympus stylus 710 sample

I was also impressed with the macro performance. While you can't get as close to your subjects as other cameras, the macro images that I took showed excellent detail. See the image below of a brick.

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The zoom performance was ok. The 710 was slower than I prefer as you move through the focal length range. Chromatic aberration was moderately high, as is to be expected, at the telephoto end of the zoom range in high contrast areas. It was not easily apparent at the wide angle end of the zoom range.

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Wide angle (view medium image) (view large image)

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Full telephoto (view medium image) (view large image)

The operational speed of the camera was acceptable. The start up time of under 2 seconds is not the fastest out there, but just fine for most people. Shutter lag was also just "ok". I had some difficulty capturing my running four year old at the right point in the frame, even with the auto focus already locked. Cycle time was also about average for a camera in this class.

Auto focus was achieved quickly in a range of conditions. I couldn't verify in the manual, but it sounds like the camera does some continuous focusing (not only when you partially depress the shutter). It may be a "coarse" auto focus that enables a quicker "fine" auto focus when you do get around to partially depressing the shutter. I also couldn't find a setting to turn off this coarse continuous auto focus off. The downside to this is that there will be higher than normal battery drain. The upside is that auto-focus happens more quickly.

I was not impressed with battery life. Under moderate to heavy usage, I got around 170 shots on a single charge. I spent plenty of time reviewing, using flash, etc, so I probably put higher than average drain on the battery. However, getting 170-200 shots per charge is less than other cameras in the class.

As far as ease of use, the Olympus Stylus 710 does a good job. During normal Auto or Program Auto capture, you get one touch access to the focus type (normal, macro, or super macro), flash mode, exposure compensation, and self-timer mode. You can use the Ok button to display a miniature menu to change settings or you can push Menu to open the main menu to change the same settings. One very minor annoyance that I had was that during SCN shooting, you have to dig into the main menu in order to change the scene mode you selected in the first place. A quicker way to get to the other scene modes would have been better.

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Main menu (view large image)

Additional Sample Images

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Summary Specifications

For full specs see the Olympus Stylus 710 Specifications at the Olympus website.

Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus 710 is an attractive camera that provides the weatherproofing that the Stylus line is known for. A quite capable camera, it captures nice pictures with accurate color and good exposure. It does suffer from high noise when the sensitivity is increased for indoor shooting or to use the digital image stabilization. The 15 frames per second movie mode is also disappointing when compared to most other cameras in this class.

The Stylus 710's menu system is easy to use and get around. Even though the menus area all vertical (no horizontal tabbing), the screen provides an indication of where you are at all times. If you don't want to dig for the right settings for a particular shot, use the Guide mode to find your scenario and let it set the camera for you.

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Guide mode (view large image)

The Olympus Stylus 710 is a good option for the folks who need a little more ruggedness in a camera but don't need a full waterproof camera. The 710 will survive a rain shower unscathed. The 7.1 megapixel capture resolution is more than enough to make a large print of a great landscape that you mountain biked 25 miles to get to. The camera is also stylish and compact enough to take out on a night on the town.

Pros

Cons