Olympus Stylus 710
If you've ever sat through a graduation in the rain, you know that life's memorable moments don't wait for the sun. At times like that, a camera that can handle the elements sure comes in handy. Though the Olympus Stylus 710's gasketed body fills the bill and its combination of ISO 1,600 support and digital image stabilization can handle any fog banks that roll in, you'll likely be disappointed by the photos.
According to Olympus, the Stylus 710's metal, vaguely wedge-shaped body is gold-plated and coated with a platinum alloy to produce an attractive, clean, scratch-resistant surface. The camera's fairly standard control layout is easy to navigate. The shutter release and the power button rest alone on top of the camera. The back panel holds the zoom rocker; the four-way-plus-OK control pad; the mode dial; and the menu, print, display, and trash buttons.
The mode dial sits just under the zoom rocker and lets you quickly switch between automatic, preset scene, movie, playback, and guide modes. Guide mode displays a list of common shooting situations such as backlit or close-up subjects, and it automatically adjusts settings for the shot. The cursor-pad keys can directly change macro mode, the timer, the flash, and exposure compensation. The center OK button opens a menu for additional adjustments, such as ISO sensitivity, white balance, and burst shooting.
Olympus claims its Bright Capture technology improves the image both on the camera's LCD screen and in the shot itself. Bright Capture evaluates a scene using nine-pixel blocks on the sensor for each single-image pixel, then averages out extraneous noise and color variations between these larger pixels to create brighter LCD images and improved exposures.
The Stylus 710's f/3.4-to-f/5.7, 37mm-to-111mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) can focus as close as 3.1 inches in supermacro mode and 7.8 inches to infinity in standard macro. The camera has 28 scene modes, ranging from the mundane (portrait and landscape) to more novel options such as Cuisine and Behind Glass. Its Shoot and Select feature captures a series of shots in a burst and displays thumbnails of those pictures so that you can choose the best image.
Unfortunately, the Olympus Stylus 710 delivers generally mediocre performance. Burst mode is the one minor exception. Although it can't match the impressive 4.6fps rate of its 8-megapixel brother, the Stylus 810, it has a full-resolution continuous-shooting mode that captures 3 shots in about 2 seconds, for a rate of 1.5fps. In lowest-quality burst mode, it grabbed 113 shots in around 31 seconds, racking up a commendable 3.7fps.
Standard operation is more sluggish, however. After a 2.4-second wait for the camera to power on, there's a 2.5-second delay between shots. With the onboard flash enabled, that bumps up to 3.7 seconds. Shutter lag was an adequate 0.6 second on a well-lit subject but a middling 1.7 seconds in dim light.
The Stylus 710's onboard flash reached 13.7 feet (auto ISO), falling a bit short of the more sensitive Stylus 810's 17-foot reach. Red-eye reduction disappointed, doing little to fix flashed pupils. The LCD looks decent in low light, though we noticed some ghosting at times. Outside, the LCD washes out easily in sunlight.