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Olympus Stylus 730 Digital Camera Review
by  -  12/5/2006

The Olympus Stylus 730 is a slight design departure from its Stylus brethren.  It is still weatherproof, but instead of the wedge-like, tapered design, the Stylus 730 is the same depth all the way across the camera.  It’s reminiscent of the Stylus 720 SW.  At 0.8 inches thick, the Stylus 730 fits into the ultra-slim category.  The Stylus 730 also features a very nice and large 3 inch LCD.  It also takes pictures at 7.1 megapixels and a 3x optical zoom.

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In the Box 

You’ll find the camera, wrist strap, lithium-ion battery, battery charger, USB cable, AV cable, and Olympus Master software on CD-ROM.

Camera Design 

The Stylus 730 is a bit different from the Stylus 750 and Stylus 1000 that I’ve recently reviewed.  Instead of the tapered, “wedge” design, the Stylus 730 is the same thickness from left to right and is more reminiscent of the Stylus 720 SW design – with a nice industrial look.  Personally, I think the Stylus 730 is a lot more stylish (even though the others are pretty stylish on their own).  At only 0.83 inches thick, the camera qualifies as “ultra-slim” in my book.


Stylus 730 on top right, Stylus 1000 top left, Stylus 750 bottom (view large image)

The Stylus 730, like the other Stylus cameras, is weatherproof.  When you open the battery compartment, you’ll see the rubber seal.  The camera can’t be submerged, but can handle a quick splash of water from a rain shower or amusement park.

The front of the camera has the lens with a built-in lens cover, self-timer lamp, flash, and the microphone.  The lens on the 730 does not extend at all from the body of the camera.

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The back of the camera has large 3 inch, 230K pixel LCD and a cluster of backlit buttons in addition to the speaker.  There is a button for capture mode, one for playback mode, a 5-way directional pad that is well-labeled, a menu button, and delete button.  Please note that there is no mode dial.  If you want to take a movie or use a scene mode, you use the capture button (with the picture of a camera on it) to access the capture modes.

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The top of the camera has button to toggle the digital image stabilization mode, one to reset settings, the power button, shutter release and zoom control.

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On the right side of the camera, you can access the “multi-connector”, which handles USB, AV out, and DC in.  A button on the right side switches the camera between normal mode and simple mode.  There are two places to attach the wrist strap.

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The bottom of the camera has a tripod mount and a door that provides access to the battery and memory media.

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Camera Features 

All of the cameras in the Stylus line have Olympus’ Bright Capture Technology (BCT) that is kind of an “umbrella” term for several features.  First, with BCT, the LCD gains up automatically in low light so you can preview the image before you take it.  (An important feature since there is no optical viewfinder).  Then several scene modes are built-in for low light shooting: Available Light Portrait, Indoors, and Candle.  These modes increase the sensitivity of the sensor to enable low-light shooting or faster shutter speeds. They also utilize the digital image stabilization system which uses camera movement data to correct blur when image processing occurs.

The Stylus 730 has a 7.1 megapixel imaging sensor.  In addition to capturing images at full resolution (3,072 x 2,304) in two compression levels (SHQ and HQ), you can also capture images at 2,560 x 1,920, 2,304 x 1,728, 2,048 x 1,536, 1,600 x 1,200, 1,280 x 960, 1,024 x 768, and 640 x 480.  At SHQ quality, the file size, on average, is about 3 MB.

The lens on the Stylus 730 provides a 3x optical zoom.  The focal length of 6.7-20.1mm has a 35mm equivalent range of 38-114mm.  The lens has an aperture range of f3.5-5.0.  There is a “fine zoom” option that will let you zoom to 5x zoom, without losing image quality, by decreasing the capture resolution.

The LCD is 3 inches diagonally and has 230K pixels of resolution.  Colors are good on the screen and the refresh rate is just enough to provide smooth viewing under most conditions.  The LCD has average visibility outside in the sunlight.  There is no optical viewfinder on this camera.  The LCD does gain up or down, depending on the ambient lighting.

Movies are captured as Quicktime files.  You can capture movies at resolutions of 640x480 at 30fps, 320x240 at 30fps, and 160x120 at 15 frames per second.  The nice thing is that this camera can do 30 frames per second, but it comes at a price – you can only take 15 second movies at 640x480.  Optical zoom is not available during move capture.

The camera has 22MB of internal memory, but you can expand it with xD-Picture Cards (up to 1GB).

The camera is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (LI-42B).  To charge the battery, you plug in the charger and insert the battery into the charger.  Charging time is around 5 hours. Battery life was very good.

The Stylus 730 is a truly point and shoot digital camera – there are no manual exposure modes.  There is a full automatic mode, program auto (which lets you set ISO, white balance, etc), and several scene modes.  The available scene modes are Portrait, Landscape, Landscape & Portrait, Night Scene, Night & Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, and Beach & Snow.

If you need a more simple camera, the button on the right side of the camera toggles between normal mode and simple mode.  While in simple mode, the display is simplified, you can only enable or disable the automatic flash, enable or disable macro, enable or disable the self timer, etc.   You also cannot access the menu system.

The camera also has a panorama mode that can stitch together up to 10 images.  The images are stitched together using the Olympus Master software after the images are transferred to your computer.  Another requirement is that you need to use Olympus-branded xD-Picture Cards.

The camera has a self timer setting of 12 seconds.  There are two “sequential” shooting modes.  The fast one can capture 3.5 frames per second for up to 12 frames at SQ1 resolution.

The built-in flash can be set to auto, red-eye reduction, fill flash, and disabled.  At wide angle, according to the spec sheet, the Stylus 730 has a range of 12.5 feet.  At telephoto, this decreases to 8.5 feet.

A built in “Guide” system is pretty handy.  You get to it by pressing the button with the camera icon.  When you turn on the guide, you can choose from several options.  For example, entry #4 is “set particular lighting”.  By following the arrow, you get several other options, like “outdoor in sunny”, “outdoor in cloudy”, “incandescent lighting”, and so on.  This option essentially sets the white balance, but puts it in terms that a beginning shooter won’t be intimidated by.

Since the camera has a 3 inch screen, Olympus decided to utilize the screen space, by adding a lot of features for playback, editing and enhancing images.  You can play back normally, with a calendar view, or as a slideshow.  If you want to edit, you can resize, crop, convert to black & white or sepia, add a frame, add a label (which you can make yourself), adjust brightness, adjust saturation, and more.

Camera Performance and Image Quality 

Camera performance was good.   It performed a bit quicker than its siblings.  Start up time is around 2 seconds.  If you achieve focus lock first (with a partial press of the shutter button), shutter lag is minimal (up to 0.1 seconds) and about average among current compact point and shoot cameras.  If you aren’t able to do a partial press of the shutter, expect some shutter lag (about 0.5 seconds) since the camera has to focus and calculate exposure before capturing the image.

For an ultra-slim camera, controls are easily accessible – your finger will find easy access to the shutter and zoom control.  It’s not extremely comfortable to hold, but that also comes in the ultra-slim category.  The buttons on the back of the camera are more or less flush with the back of the body and they’re quite large, so people with large fingers will have no problem.

Auto focus performance was good.  With plenty of light, auto focus was achieved quickly.  At full telephoto and with lower light, it can take a little bit for focus to be achieved, but this is pretty normal   Also, the low light focusing capability of the camera would be greatly improved with a focus-assist lamp, which this camera does not have.

Of the three Stylus cameras that I’ve reviewed recently, the image quality on this one is my favorite.  Images were sharp and showed good color.  The colors in the images from the Stylus 730 were just a bit cooler, and in my opinion, more accurate and more pleasing (at least to me).  I did notice some slight softness in the corners, but it was not bad.  Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) was pretty apparent in a shot that I took of some tree branches against a bright sky.

Macro performance was decent.  You could get pretty close, but as you can see below, the depth of field was very shallow so only the middle of the frame is in focus - which is fine when taking those macro shots of a flower centered in the frame.


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The Stylus 730 can shoot at auto ISO, or ISO values of 80/100/200/400/800/1600/3200.  Between ISO 80 and ISO 200, results are very good.  ISO 400 is still good enough to make a print.  At ISO 800 and above, the noise (graininess) is very noticeable.  This camera can shoot at up to ISO 3200, but only use sensitivity settings from ISO 1600 and up very sparingly.  Also, the camera will automatically change the capture resolution when shooting at ISO 3200 (which you’ll see in the 100% crops below).

Additional Sample Images

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olympus stylus 730 sample image
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olympus stylus 730 sample image
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Specifications 

Conclusion

Whenever someone is looking for weatherproof camera, an Olympus Stylus model always gets a mention.  Not only are they protected against the elements (with rubber gaskets), but they’re very stylish, sturdy and compact. 

Image quality on the Stylus 730 was good, and in my opinion, slightly better than the Stylus 750 and Stylus 1000.  I preferred the slightly cooler images that came out of the Stylus 730.  They were also sharp and well exposed with some chromatic aberration (purple fringing) going on.

The speed of the camera was good and even a bit better than the Stylus 750 and Stylus 1000.  When you do a partial press of the shutter to get a focus and exposure lock, shutter lag is minimal – around 0.1 seconds.  A full press of the shutter will take longer, with a shutter lag around 0.5 - 0.6 seconds.

A lot of people like the wedge design of the Stylus 750 and Stylus 1000, but I think that they will be even more impressed with the looks of  the Stylus 730.  It’s flat all the way across and has nice industrial-looking styling.

Pros

Cons