Olympus Tough 790 SW

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Olympus Tough 790 SW
  • Olympus Tough 790 SW
  • Olympus Tough 790 SW
  • Olympus Tough 790 SW

Pros

  • Incredibly sturdy design, suitable for a huge variety of users, sharp pictures

Cons

  • Colour and white balance issues, a little sluggish at times

Bottom Line

Olympus' latest tough model, the 790 SW, is a brilliant camera suited to a wide variety of users. Whether you want a family device that you can give to the kids or a rugged photography machine for skiing and hiking, it will do the job, and while its pictures aren't exceptional they will be more than adequate for most.

Would you buy this?

Ever found yourself accidentally dropping your camera into a pool of water on a dusty and snowy day? Then we bet you wish your camera of choice was the Olympus Tough 790 SW. It comes in a waterproof, dustproof, shockproof, crushproof and snow proof chassis, the 790 SW can take just about as much pain as you can dish out, and still captures some fairly good pictures to boot. There were some white balance and colour issues, but these aside, the unit performed well and is a great choice for people leading a more rugged life.

Waterproof to three metres, it is ideal for snorkelling or days at the beach. Meanwhile it is also shockproof to 1.5 metres so you never have to worry about knocking it off a table or having it slip from your hands. It is snow proof to -10 degrees and also crushproof up to 100kg, so you can comfortably throw it in your bag and forget about it. All of this adds up to a camera that is great for everybody, from families to those with a more extreme lifestyle.

Its 7.1-megapixel sensor also captures some good pictures. The only issue we encountered was with regards to the white balance. Shooting outdoors using the daylight preset, we noticed colours looked a little inaccurate but this became more obvious during our indoor tests. When using the tungsten preset (we use two 3200K tungsten lights for our testing), our images had a noticeably cool cast that had a negative impact on the colour balance. Switching to automatic white balance improved this slightly, but the hues still weren't as accurate as on other units. Imatest's rather poor score of 21 for colour is therefore not surprising.

This issue aside our pictures were fairly impressive. The 790 SW scored 1504 for sharpness, which is in line with our expectations for a 7.1-megapixel model. Our shots were crisp and clean with sharp edges and minimal blurring. There was quite a bit of haloing in high contrast and high exposure areas, and Imatest confirmed this awarding a score of 0.125 per cent for chromatic aberration, but this generally won't be an issue in small- to medium-sized prints.

Image noise was fairly minimal, with the 790 scoring 0.54 per cent at ISO 100 in Imatest's noise test. This is a strong performance; however, we did notice a little blotchiness in areas of block colour even at this low sensitivity. The noise ramped up as expected as we increased the sensitivity. Shots captured at ISO 400 should be fine for small prints but this is as high as we'd go.

In our speed tests, the 790 SW performed moderately well. Its 0.12-second shutter lag was a little disappointing as was the 2.1-second shot-to-shot time, but the 1.6-second power up was impressive. The burst mode operates at roughly 2.4 frames per second, although a much higher speed version is also on offer if you don't mind low resolution pictures.

Most of the usual features are present including ISO sensitivities up to 1600, a variety of focus and metering modes and a host of scene modes. Face detect makes a welcome appearance as does Olympus' guide mode, which is brilliant for helping new users (although the interface is extremely intuitive). Our only disappointment in this regard was the lack of manual white balance.

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