Olympus Stylus 790 SW review: Olympus Stylus 790 SW

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The Good Camera is waterproof to 10 feet, shock resistant to short drops and mild impact, and freezeproof down to 14 degrees Fahrenheit; also, has nifty Perfect Shot Preview function.

The Bad No manual exposure controls; slightly soft images.

The Bottom Line If you need a camera that you can take snorkeling or skiing, then the Stylus 790 SW might be just the ticket, but you can find better image quality elsewhere for the same price.

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

Do you like to drop your digital camera on the floor? Dunk it in water? Bury it in snow? Who doesn't? But usually, that can cause some problems, since most cameras hate water, won't operate in freezing cold temperatures, and don't take well to falls. However, Olympus' Stylus 790 SW, like the Stylus 770 SW before it, is tough enough to shoot in 10 feet of water or when it's 14 degrees Fahrenheit. Plus, it can withstand drops of up to 5 feet, so if you're klutzy, you won't have to worry quite as much. If you swim deeper than most, the 770 SW might be better for you than this model, since it can operate down to about 33 feet. Other than that, a slightly different body design, and a new feature or two in the 790 SW, the two cameras are basically the same.

If it didn't say so on the front of the camera, you might not think that the Stylus 790 SW is a waterproof camera. While last year's 770 SW's body design screamed rugged, with its all-metal construction and tougher-than-nails look, the 790 SW has a softer look, with plastic accents on the top, side, and front. Also, the 790 SW is about one ounce lighter and comes in five bright colors, while the 770 SW only had three, more-muted colors.

All of the camera's buttons are on the right side of the camera back, except the shutter and on/off buttons, which are on the top. The mode dial, also accented with black plastic, is on the back, and in my opinion, a bit small. The plastic has little notches in it, though, so it's thankfully not all that hard to turn. Menus are separated into the shooting menu, accessed by pressing the OK button in the center of the four-way rocker, and the main menu, which you get to by pressing the Menu button. The main menu lets you activate the silent mode quickly, but makes you choose a submenu before proceeding to anything else. This slows things down a bit, but Olympus does organize the menus well, and the shooting menu and four-way rocker let you quickly change anything you need while shooting.

In our lab's performance tests, the Stylus 790 SW had decent shot-to-shot times, but otherwise didn't impress. The camera took 1.3 seconds to start up and capture its first JPEG. Thereafter, it took 2.3 seconds between images with the flash turned off. With the flash turned on, that wait increased to 3.2 seconds. Shutter lag measured 0.6 second in our high-contrast test and 1.6 seconds in our low-contrast test, which mimic bright and dim shooting conditions, respectively. In burst mode we were able to capture an average of 1.5 full-resolution frames per second.

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