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Olympus Stylus 790 SW

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

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 or 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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