DigitalCameraReview.com
Olympus Stylus 770 SW Digital Camera Review
by Ben Stafford -  2/27/2007

The Olympus Stylus line has always been the go to camera for “weatherproof” cameras – cameras that are water resistant and dustproof.  Over the last couple of years, they’ve also had at least one shockproof and fully waterproof camera in the Stylus line.  The Olympus Stylus 770 SW is the latest camera to be fully waterproof.  The Stylus 770 SW is a 7.1 megapixel camera with 2.5 inch LCD and 3x optical zoom.  It is also waterproof to 33 feet, shockproof against 5 foot drops, cold proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and crushproof to 220 pounds.  Read on for our full review of the Olympus Stylus 770 SW. 

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What’s New 

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW succeeds the Stylus 720 SW and does get a few new features.  It still has the same 7.1 megapixel resolution and 2.5 inch screen, but the 770 gets more resolution in the LCD (from 115K to 230K pixels).  The waterproof feature is also improved, allowing you to submerge the camera to 33 feet under water.  Olympus has also added some more “rugged” features – it’s crushproof to 220 pounds and it is freezeproof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit.  A built-in manometer records air pressure or water pressure and altitude to your image data and a built-in LED illuminator are other new features to the latest shockproof, waterproof camera from Olympus.

olympus stylus 770 sw
LED lamp illuminated (view large image)

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Display with manometer data (view large image)

NUTS & BOLTS

Viewfinder/LCD

The 2.5 inch LCD on the back of the Stylus 770 has 230K pixels of resolution.  Colors are generally pretty accurate, but the display is sometimes a little “jerky” since the refresh rate of the screen is not that high.  The brightness of the LCD gains up or down depending on lighting conditions.   However, I think the screen is just not bright enough overall – especially outside.

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Lens and Zoom 

The Stylus 770 SW has a 3x optical zoom lens with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 38-114mm.  The lens is covered by a metal plate when the camera is turned off.  Since the focus and zoom mechanisms are internal to the camera, the lens doesn’t extend from the body of the camera.  This also allows for a relatively quick start up time.

In normal focus mode, you can focus as close as 19.7 inches.  In macro mode, the focus ranges from 7.9 inches to infinity.  A super macro focus mode lets you focus on subjects between 2.8 inches and 19.7 inches away from the lens.

Flash / LED Lamp

The built-in flash has a claimed range of 12.5 feet at wide angle, and 8.5 feet at telephoto.  You can leave the flash in auto mode, or one of the following: fill flash (always on), red-eye reduction, or off.

Another neat feature of the Stylus 770 SW is the LED illuminator that sits right next to the flash.  The bright white LED can be used for illumination when using a flash it not desirable.  There is an additional focus mode that enables the LED lamp and super macro focusing so that you can take close-ups with enough light to get a shot and without blowing out the details with a flash.  If you want to turn on the LED lamp manually, you can do so by holding the menu button for a few seconds.  This feature may also come in handy while shooting underwater to poke your camera into the tiny crevice in that reef to see what may be peering out at you. 

Memory Media 

The Stylus 770 SW uses only xD-Picture Card memory media in capacities up to 2GB.  There is also about 18MB of internal memory in case you fill up your media card. 

Image File Format(s) 

Images are created as JPEG files only 

Connectivity

USB 2.0 full speed, A/V out, DC input via a single multi-connector 

Power 

The camera is powered by an Olympus LI-42B lithium-ion battery pack. The charge time is around 5 hours. Battery life was very good. I took over 200 shots and the battery meter was still full.

EXPOSURE  

Auto/Program Mode 

The Stylus 770 SW is truly a point and shoot camera with auto and program auto shooting modes (in addition to the scene modes).  There are no manual exposure modes, like aperture priority or shutter priority.  In auto mode, you can really only change the flash mode, focus mode, exposure compensation and timer mode.  If you switch to P or program auto mode, you can adjust white balance, ISO, metering method, drive mode, and you have access to the camera menu. 

Scene Modes

There are plenty of pre-programmed scene modes.  You can get to them by using the button that toggles through the main capture mode, digital image stabilization mode and scene modes.  Once in the scene mode area, you can choose the scene mode that you’d like to try.  You can choose from Portrait, Landscape, Landscape & Portrait, Night Scene, Night & Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select1, Shoot & Select2, Beach & Snow, Under Water Wide1, Under Water Wide2, Under Water Macro, Under Water Snapshot, and Movie.  I don’t like the fact that you have to dig into the scene modes to get to the movie capture mode. 

Movie Mode 

You can capture movies, with sound, at 640x480/15fps, 320x240/15fps, and 160x120/15fps. 

Metering 

When you’re in P (program auto) mode, you can switch the metering method between multi-pattern metering and spot metering.  Multi-pattern metering evaluates the entire frame (or most of it, at least) to determine correct exposure.  With spot metering, the camera determines exposure by only looking at the center point of the frame. 

White Balance 

There is an automatic white balance setting and several presets, including sunlight, overcast, tungsten and 3 fluorescent settings. 

Sensitivity 

In addition to auto ISO, you can set the camera at ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600. 

In-Camera Image Adjustment 

During playback mode, you can apply some effects and fixes, like red-eye fix, black & white, sepia.  You can also resize, change brightness, adjust saturation, add a frame, add a title, or make a calendar with your image. 

CONTROLS, DESIGN, ENGINEERING, & ERGONOMICS

The camera is very well built – pretty much how you would expect a shockproof, crushproof camera to be.  However, it’s also not bulky at all, measuring 3.6” W x 2.3” H x 0.8” D.  With those measurements, it’s still very pocketable.  Buttons are easy to operate, but they’re pretty tiny.

On the front of the camera, you’ll see the lens (and its built-in cover), the flash, LED lamp, and microphone.

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Flash and LED lamp (view large image)

The top of the camera is home to the shutter button and power button.

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For such a simple camera, there are quite a few buttons on the back.  At the top are the zoom buttons.  Moving down, there is a button to toggle between capture modes (normal, image stabilization, and scene modes).  Next comes the button to enter playback mode.  After that is the customary 5-way directional pad for navigating menus or accessing shortcuts to flash modes, timer modes, exposure compensation, and focus modes.  Finally at the bottom of the camera is the menu/LED button and the DPOF button.  Also on the back is the speaker.

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The right side of the camera (when looking at back) has a door to access the USB/AV/DC IN multi-connector.

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

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olympus stylus 770 sw
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Included

LI-42B battery and charger, USB cable, A/V cable, wrist strap, manual, and CD-ROM with Olympus Master software

PERFORMANCE 

Overall, image quality was average to good.  Images had plenty of detail and crisp edges throughout most of the frame, but I did notice some corner softness.  This softness is not very noticeable in every day shooting, and a common occurrence in small cameras with small lenses.  The color reproduction outdoors was very good, as long as the metering could handle the shot.  The camera had some difficulty in back-lit conditions.  It’s an (admittedly) hard situation for a camera, but I feel that other cameras can handle the shot better. 

olympus stylus 770 sw sample image
Tough back-lit shot (view medium image) (view large image)

There was some barrel distortion at the wide angle setting, but it was about average.  At the telephoto end there was also some pincushion distortion, again about average for a camera in this class.

Indoors, you’re basically at the mercy of the white balance, especially when shooting without a flash.  With the flash turned on, the camera knows what to set the white balance to since it is the source of light.  To get indoor shots with mixed lighting that don’t have any color cast, you may have to experiment with the white balance settings in program auto mode.  As I mentioned in my first thoughts article, the preview of the image is not actually a good indicator of the white balance setting.  I was just shooting casually one day and noticed that, during preview, the image looked good.  However, after it was capture the white balance was very off and I got a pretty heavy color cast.  So, just make sure that you review your images after capture to make sure you got everything right.

The shots below were taken in a pretty dark room, about 8-10 feet from the wall.

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Auto without flash (view medium image) (view large image)
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Flash enabled (view medium image) (view large image)
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Digital image stabilization mode on (view medium image) (view large image)
 

Flash range is pretty average.  If you stay within 8-10 feet of your subject, you will have good results.  The Stylus 770 SW has a digital image stabilization mode that boosts the sensitivity and this will help with the flash range when you need it. 

Timing/Shutter Lag 

Focus times on the Stylus 770 SW are pretty good.  As is pretty typical, focus time in low light conditions take a little longer while the camera finds something with some contrast to get accurate focus.

Cycle (shot to shot) times are pretty good.  With my Fujifilm Type M xD-Picture Card, write times were about 3 seconds.  If you turn of the post-shot review, cycle times were just a little bit longer than that.

Shutter lag is pretty good, if you get a pre-focus accomplished first by depressing the shutter halfway until the camera beeps.  With a pre-focus, shutter lag is about 0.1 seconds.  If you don’t get a chance to pre-focus, the shutter lag is around 0.7 seconds.

Additional Sample Images

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olympus stylus 770 sw sample image
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olympus stylus 770 sw sample image
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A Few Concerns 

My biggest concern is the white balance for indoor shots and my biggest annoyance is the camera not remembering my flash setting in digital image stabilization mode. 

Who is this Camera best suited for? 

This camera is a great choice for someone who needs a rugged, compact, and stylish camera for outdoor sports or water sports.
 
Conclusion 

The new additions and improvements to the Stylus 770 SW, add a fair amount of value.  The better resolution screen is nice and the LED illumination lamp is a very cool and very useful feature.  For outdoor enthusiasts and snorkelers, the added rugged features (crush proofing, cold proofing, and better waterproofing) add a lot of value. 

Image quality is good outdoors and average indoors.  Images showed a lot of detail, but the camera could do a better job of metering and the automatic white balance is not great.  The images were sharp and showed good detail.  The camera is able to shoot at up to ISO 1600 which enables the digital image stabilization and a theoretically longer flash range.  However, you should get a feel for the noise the creeps into the shots at higher ISO so that you can keep it as low as possible and still get the shot that you want.

I also think that the lack of a 30 fps movie mode is also another thing that is holding the Stylus 770 SW back, especially when compared to other waterproof cameras.  Personally, it’s not a big issue for me since I don’t take a lot of movie clips, but a lot of people place a lot more significance on it. 

Pros

Cons