While it might not be as garish as the previous tough models in the series (notably the ), the 1050SW probably won't turn many heads with its boxy exterior. The 1050SW is custom built for surf and snow first and foremost, encased in a tough brushed metal finish on the front, with silver chrome accents on either side — an unfortunate magnet for fingerprints.
It's top heavy, given the hefty sliding flap that covers the lens and flash. Shutter and power on buttons are at the top of the unit, whereas menu controls are located on the back of the camera, next to the 2.7-inch LCD screen.
Shooting modes are all accessed from a rotating dial on the back. It's a little fiddly, especially when trying to operate the camera underwater, but it does the job nonetheless. All the buttons are finished in silver; a classy look that tries to bridge the gap between adventure camera and standard point-and-shoot. They are, however, very small — large fingers will probably have trouble pressing a single button, as opposed to mashing all of them at once.
Though the 1050SW is designed more for the action-lover than the couch potato, it still has the same functions that any other point-and-shoot on the market should have today. Face detection is there (but not underwater), so too is digital image stabilisation and a 3x optical zoom. Things begin to get a little different when considering the 1050SW is waterproof up to a depth of 3 metres, shockproof for drops up to 1.5 metres, and functions at temperatures up to -10 degrees Celcius. It seems that 10.1 megapixels is the standard number in resolution on compact cameras, and the 1050SW doesn't stray from this imperative.
But the real trump card of the 1050SW is tap control. Designed for skiers who don't want to remove their gloves to operate the camera, the 1050SW lets them tap the camera around the sides of the body to activate different controls. Tapping the top of the unit twice activates this mode, and whacking either side allows you to flick through photos and select menu options.
In theory it's a great idea, and in practice it does work — in most situations. While we couldn't head down to the ski slopes to test it in its true environment, it's still a novel function that's sure to start a conversation (and some heavy tap-and-play interaction) when you whip the camera out. We'll save the potential tap-related pick-up lines for you to think of though.
Panorama mode is intuitive, with the camera piecing together the image for you based on the first shot you take. Simply move the camera along the same axis and match the dot to the box that appears on the side of the screen. Three frames later and you have yourself a panorama, automatically stitched in-camera. Unfortunately, it's only available if you use Olympus' proprietary xD-Picture Card, not if you use microSD cards with the camera (not provided, but a microSD adapter is in the box).