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Olympus 790SW Hands-on Review - quickTrip - Jan 27, 2008 3:45am
Reviews @ Technology / Gadgets / Digital Cameras / Olympus 790SW - Views (11380) - ( Unrated )
Well, searched and waited for a very long time for a waterproof camera to come out right...it just didn't happen. I couldn't wait any longer so I had to go and grab the best of what was available as of November 2008 - the Olympus 790SW.

It was $280 sale price at Best Buy for only a short time. When it first came out, it was in the $350 range.

I waited for quite a while since the 770SW came out. That camera was WAY OUT OF REACH for a typical point-and-shoot quality camera. It's price was $400+. So I had to painfully wait it out.

Another reason for my long wait was the stupid memory card format that Olympus stubbornly chose. Why the heck do they have to go with xD card format? Isn't the world hard enough as it is where we have dozens and dozens of memory card types to be confused with. Why CAN'T they just go with SD for a change?!!! (Oh, I've seen people say that xD cards are superior in speed and whatever else...I don't see no difference after using this new camera with the new Olympus xD 1GB card. It's slow as hell for the 7MP camera and the performance is just like ANY OTHER damn SD equivalent digicam I have used and tried with!).

Alright enough for the rants about xD cards. Here's the scoop.

I got the brand new unopened box 'Orange' Olympus 790SW camera...guess what? That was the ONLY non-silver camera they had in stock on the last night of sale. I wished to get the blue or black one. So, I painfully accepted my faith with a waterproof digital camera (as I had to fly to Hawaii the next day for my trip - see my Jounals).

It came out of the box really shiny. It had a fairly nice 2.5in LCD screen. Buttons are firm and solid. The screen brightness and clarity is pretty decent except in sunlight and underwater!

I started taking shots and tried out with different modes of operation. Movie clips are in fairly good quality. You can record to fill up your memory card in 320x240 size but only 10sec length for 640x480 size. I'm very disappointed with this limitation. So, I didn't use this feature all that much because of what's its worth - 10-second clips or camera-phone video quality.

Picture quality is nice in daylight. Night time and low light is not so good. Any picture taken at 800+ ISO are really poor in quality. Even if you had it at full 7MP size, still no use for the wasted memory to store mostly noise in the frame.

Underwater picture was nice for a compact camera. Of course, you'd need clear water and full sunlight. Once there is any overcast, your underwater picture quality is degraded quickly. Flash works well to take pictures of fishes close by. However, you will be taking a lot of snow effects of the floating debris if you kicked up the water nearby then take photos.

The operation of the main knob to switch from movie clip to still image was extremely difficult underwater! I struggled badly to switch it from one mode to another. This is possible due to the fact that the button is so firm for its obvious waterproof design yet it protrudes so little for your finger to twist underwater. So it slips and slips when I tried to twist it. I ended up using my thumbnail to click it down like it is a mechanical gear. It worked but still not as easy as I'd like. Also, the LCD is near unviewable level when you go underwater. Somehow its pretty hard to see when the sea water constantly moving your body and the light reflection somehow just made it so hard to view the screen for settings and adjustments.

The best thing to do is to not try to switch that main knob so often once you are underwater.

The given battery is the bare minimum that you can use for a party or some special occasions but not for full day trips. Be prepared to buy a couple of extra batteries for this camera when you go full day activities like hiking, camping, touring and the likes. One battery will set you back very quickly after about 200 shots at most (mixed flash and non-flash).

Taking shots is easy enough by pressing down the shutter button on top-right of the camera. However, there is a very annoying and noticeable long delay between the time pressing down the button and waiting for the camera to take the shot. I thought my old Casio ex550 (5MP) was slow but this camera just came out is SLOWER than a 3-year-old+ digital camera. Delay time between shot-to-shot is about 1 second! Holly macro. I can't change it that much. It's just too long for this camera to follow some fast action. It does have continuous shooting mode...but quality is about the same like a 1MP camera. I tried many settings and even in fair sunlight. The continuous shooting mode is NOT useful as the picture quality is degraded. Or maybe I hadn't find the best settings?

Overall, I kind of like this camera it can produce fairly good quality shots if you have nice sunlight and still enough position. Close-up macro shot is very nice on this camera however. It got LED illumination light that you can turn on if you wish. Super macro is also supported.

Here are some example shots:

**Underwater shot


**Close-up shot


**Normal portrait

Last Edit: Jan 27, 2008 1:00pm - by quickTrip        Comments | Report




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Olympus 790SW Hands-on Review
:: quickTrip - Jan 27, 2008 3:45am

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