Olympus Mju 770SW £241.43

10th Apr 2007 | 23:00

Olympus Mju 770SW

Olympus takes the term 'rugged' to a whole new level

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Well worth buying for its rugged build quality alone. Well worth a test run, dive, hike or jump


<p>Goes where other cameras fear to tread</p><p>Innovative manometer</p>


<p>Average image quality</p>

There's something about a toughened camera that tends to bring out my brutal side. While I don't normally allow so much as a drop of moisture near my gear, within an hour of picking up the 770SW it had been dropped on concrete, submerged in water, jumped on and then popped in the freezer. And it still came out alive and kicking.

Pentax launched the concept of go-anywhere style-cams with its waterproof W range, but now Olympus has pushed the envelope with the 770SW. This latest shock- and weather-proof Mju is the toughest compact ever. It's water-resistant to 10 metres, drop-resistant to 1.5 metres (meeting macho US military specifications) and it's crush-proof to 100kg.

All this comes in a body that weighs in at a mere 170g yet feels as stylish and accessible as any of its lightweight rivals. The all-metal case has a few more rivets and bolts than you might be used to, but the buttons are no chunkier than normal. In fact, they're a bit too subtle and recessed if you're wearing ski gloves, especially the tiny power button and modest zoom rocker switch.

In use, the corner-mounted lens is silent and responsive, albeit slightly jerky with just ten steps over its 3x zoom range. The scratch-resistant polycarbonate layer protecting the LCD doesn't detract from its brightness or colour but the extra pixels don't improve the sharpness much. The 770SW also has the distracting habit of downgrading the display momentarily when you shoot or press the shutter half-way.

Go-slow snow

If the controls are underwhelming then at least the Mju's menus and scene modes appear to be well thought out. Program exposure offers quick access to ISO, White Balance, Metering and Burst modes. At full resolution the 770SW achieves a leisurely 1.1fps, which detracts from its extreme sporting credentials.

Olympus has wisely opted for scene modes (rather than manual controls) and there's a good selection, including a Snow mode that exposes well in a range of light. There are even four Underwater modes to help lock focus beneath the waves.

Apart from that, you have spot focusing and metering, exposure compensation and an Image-stabilisation mode that relies on a boost in the ISO sensitivity rather than the excellent CCD shift system found on the 770SW's super- zoom sibling, the SP-550UZ.

A gimmicky addition that may appeal to some skiers and scuba divers is the integration of a manometer that measures atmospheric pressure, and therefore altitude. It works fairly reliably on the piste and gives read-outs every 100m. Sadly, the altitude info isn't captured in the metadata of the image.

The 770SW's ESP metering does a superb job of exposing under a wide range of conditions, including snow, sunlight and underwater. However, the 7MP chip doesn't work well with the folding zoom lens. Detail is hesitant at best - smeared at worst - and there's some purple fringing visible at wide-angle settings.

Fortunately, colours are faithfully rendered and the flash unit is first rate. It's well worth leaving the flash on, to blast away shadows in daylight, or you can play around with the Night Portrait mode for well-judged slow-sync exposures. Fun post-exposure features include in-camera red-eye elimination and cropping of images. There's even the ability to alter the saturation and brightness of recorded images. The results are somewhat cartoon-esque but usable at a pinch - they're very handy if you're printing directly from the camera.

Ultimately, the 770SW is less about pure photography and more about capturing experiences and activities where most other cameras fear to tread. Not only is it as tough as it claims to be, but it's light, easy to use, responsive and delivers decent, well-exposed images that would shame many a weaker snapper. A great addition to the backpack of any hiker, biker, snowboarder, diver...

OlympusDigital cameras
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