Olympus Tough 770SW
- Basically everything proof, macro light for close up photography, good
- noise performance at ISO 100
- Some under sharpening issues, slow burst mode, slow shutter speed
Designed specifically for a niche market, the Tough 770SW is an ideal camera for those into the rougher side of life. Its pictures aren't the best we've seen, but for some that isn't the primary concern when buying a camera, and for those people this model may be a good choice.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
Are you tough enough? This is the question Olympus keeps asking the models in the Tough series of cameras, and apparently the answer is no, because they just keep getting tougher. The latest entry into this range, the Tough 770SW, is an extremely rugged device that is not only shockproof and waterproof, but also crush and snow proof too. While its pictures do have a few flaws they are still more than satisfactory and this model is a great camera for the more out doors inclined photographer.
Previous iterations of the Tough series cameras have been shock proof and water proof. Shock proof meaning you can drop it from a reasonable height and it will still operate perfectly, and water proof being, well, fairly self explanatory. The Tough 770SW has upped the stakes a little in comparison to the previous unit, the Tough 725SW. The unit is still shock proof to a height of 1.5 metres, however the depth with which you can take it swimming has now doubled from five metres to 10 metres. Furthermore, the Tough 770SW is also crushproof up to a weight of 100kg, and snow proof to temperatures of up to -10 degrees Celsius. This makes it an ideal choice for people regularly taking pictures in more rugged conditions and particularly for those looking for a travel camera.
We ran our usual suite of Imatest benchmarks and subjective analysis on the camera's images to check the quality of the pictures and received reasonable but not outstanding results. Our sharpness test awarded the Tough 770SW a score of 1434, which is a good score for a 7.1 megapixel sensor. However the clarity of our shots was adversely affected by some under sharpening, which Imatest also picked up, and gave the camera a score of 19.6% for. This result is quite a bit higher than other units and is cause for concern. The under sharpening manifests itself as speckling around sharp edges, and almost looks like image noise when you aren't zoomed in. It definitely had a noticeable impact on the crispness of our pictures. That said, they are still fine for small and medium sized prints.
We followed this test up with our chromatic aberration check, and again the Tough 770SW performed roughly as expected, with a score of 0.125%. Our shots exhibited some minor blurring and haloing in areas of high contrast and a lack of clarity towards their corners, but this wasn't terrible and was roughly in line with the results from similar models.
Image noise was handled well, with this model scoring a low 0.51% in this test at ISO 100. Our shots had no visible signs of noise, aside from the aforementioned under sharpening, which can appear similar to noise if not looked at closely. As we increased the ISO sensitivity, the noise naturally ramped up. Shots taken at ISO 200 were fine, but at ISO 400 there was a sharp increase in image noise and we'd only recommend using these pictures for small prints. Above that level, our shots became extremely blotchy and were basically unusable.
Colour reproduction was quite good. Colours weren't nearly as oversaturated as they usually are and everything was nicely balanced. This was particularly evident in our motherboard and block test shots, both of which were rich and vibrant without being too bright.
We also ran our standard set of speed tests on the Tough 770SW, with mixed results. Like other Olympus compacts we've looked at recently, its .12 second shutter speed was a little on the slow side. The same can be said of its 2.1 second start up time, however the 1.7 second shot-to-shot time is relatively good and should be fast enough to ensure you don't miss any of the action.
The unit's feature set is standard for an Olympus compact, with a variety of white balance presets (with no manual option), ISO sensitivities up to 1600, 24 scene modes and a rather sluggish 1.2 frame per second burst mode. There is a speedier version, but it drops the resolution of the image, meaning it has limited usefulness. Also bundled in this time around is Olympus' optical image stabilisation, which works well to combat hand shake. They have also thrown in a nifty feature for divers, namely, a powerful LED light that helps illuminate your target for close up macro photography under water. The light is extremely bright, and should help capture snaps in those dark, hard to reach places.
Aesthetically the Tough 770SW isn't anything to write home about, especially when compared to the other Olympus compacts which are known for their incredibly stylish design. However it's hard to object considering the features and intended market for the Tough 770SW. It is flat and brick shaped, with a dark blue, metallic face plate and silver edges. All the various openings, such as the battery slot and USB port and covered with rubberised panels to stop water leaking in. The controls are fairly standard, although there is no function wheel, with several buttons scattered around the back of the unit having multiple functions to make up for this.
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