Olympus Stylus 720 SW review: Olympus Stylus 720 SW

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The Good Waterproof up to 10 feet; shock-resistant to drops and mild impact; easily pocketable; better-than-average outdoor image quality with impressive detail.

The Bad Few manual controls; cumbersome interface; low-light images prone to visual noise.

The Bottom Line For those who need a tough, waterproof, and ultracompact digital camera, the Olympus Stylus 720 SW's strengths outweigh some frustrating usability issues.

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6.8 Overall
  • Design 6
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Image quality 7

Olympus Stylus 720 SW

The most weatherproof Stylus to date, the Olympus Stylus 720 SW is a waterproof, 7.1-megapixel camera that's fully submersible up to 10 feet, for an hour at a time. This ultracompact Stylus also happens to be shockproof (putting the S in SW), rated to withstand a drop of five feet. Sleek, responsive, and outfitted with image stabilization, the Stylus 720 SW makes a rugged and welcome travel companion.

Considering its stainless-steel body and solid, watertight build, the Stylus 720 SW is remarkably thin and light: only 0.7 inch wide and 5.8 ounces with battery and optional xD-Picture Card installed. Contributing to the trim design, as well as the camera's watertight durability, is the fact that the f/3.5-to-f/5.0, 38mm-to-114mm zoom lens (35mm equivalent) doesn't protrude at all from the camera body. The nearly wafer-thin 3.7-volt lithium battery pack doesn't take up much real estate either.

Not unlike a Hollywood cowboy, however, this ruggedly handsome companion is just a little inaccessible; you'll need some time to get to know its intricacies. While the Stylus 720 SW offers some useful features, they aren't always easy to reach. The digital image-stabilization implementation is an example. In other cameras, you can simply press a button to enable and disable image stabilization; in the 720 SW, it's a mode in and of itself. In other words, you have to plan to shoot in image-stabilization mode. If you're shooting in program or full auto mode and notice the effects of camera shake, switching to image-stabilization mode restores the settings (that is, flash or ISO) you were previously using.

Likewise cumbersome is selecting one of the 25 scene modes. A single button on the back controls capture modes; press it repeatedly to select among auto, image stabilization, and scene mode settings. (Neither manual nor aperture or shutter priority are offered.) Combine that with scrolling through a list of 25 scenes, and you end up pushing buttons a lot to access basic features such as movie mode or slow-sync flash.

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