Olympus 720SW

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Olympus 720SW
  • Olympus 720SW
  • Olympus 720SW
  • Olympus 720SW

Pros

  • Some nice features, Shockproof, Waterproof

Cons

  • Images could be better

Bottom Line

Whilst this camera's pictures could be better, it's superior design and rugged features are a huge boon, and for many people will make this the ideal camera.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 7 stores)

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Introduction

When one hears about a shockproof, waterproof digital camera, one tends to think of rugged photography. It would make sense that such a product is designed for the more outgoing individual; a fit, strapping young man who takes it camping, hiking and climbing. But where is the camera for the more slovenly members of society? The bar rats, the gamers and the less nature inclined? Fear not fellow drinkers, your time has come! With the tough MJU 720, Olympus has managed to cater to both of the above groups, and whilst it isn't the best camera around, it has several characteristics that will make it a prime choice for some.

We were extremely surprised when Olympus informed us one of the primary markets for the MJU 720 was people who wanted to take their camera to pubs and parties without worrying about it getting damaged. The more we thought about it however, the more we realised this is spot on. Asking around, we found quite a few people had had their cameras ruined when they were knocked off a table by a drunken friend, or had a drink spilt all over them. The MJU 720 is waterproof up to a depth of three meters and shock proof from as high as 1.5 meters, which means any day to day problems that might befall it will merely be shrugged off. Whilst we couldn't test it to the extent shown in Olympus' presentation (they ran it over with a truck whilst it recorded video and the video was still recording afterwards!) we did perform multiple drop and water tests and are pleased to report it was up to the task. It is also just good to have that little bit of extra toughness for peace of mind.

Image Quality

Of course all the bullet proof, diamond plated casing in the world won't be of any use if the camera performs badly in other areas and whilst the MJU 720 takes some pretty decent photographs, it wound up a little disappointing. The biggest problem was the high levels of chromatic aberration. Imatest gave it a score of .121% in this category, which is way above the average, although not penetrating the .15% barrier which we consider to be horrendous. It is clear from the test shots however this does have an impact on your pictures. Looking at the motherboard you can see an obvious lack of definition towards the outer areas of the shot.

This is a pity because with a 1331 score for sharpness, the rest of our shots were crystal clear. Imatest revealed a little undersharpening, but in general we were really impressed with the quality of the MJU 720's shots. For a small sensor such as this it is a great result.

If Olympus could have accompanied this with strong colour representation we may have been singing this camera's praises, but with a score of 12.5 it really is treading water in the middle of the pack. Surprisingly, the problem colour was green. Most shades of red and blue (which are usually the worst shades) were accurate enough to be indistinguishable from the real thing, but greens were a few degrees lighter than normal. This can be attributed to an over-abundance of yellow. This is present across most of the spectrum, but is most noticeable in the greens and really has an impact on outdoors shots that contain grass and other foliage.

Thankfully, noise performance was a little better. Scoring .68% in our noise test, the MJU 720 produced clean, crisp shots with no signs of the horrible fuzz that permeates some other camera's pictures. Whilst the overall quality of the images isn't exceptional, we think that for the target market, image quality may not be paramount. Obviously it is always an important factor when you're talking about a camera, but for those who want to take it out to the pub with some friends and just muck around, this model's other features may be more of a concern.

Design

Obviously as a shock proof model you'd expect the MJU 720 to have a little weight behind it and you'd be right; it is a hefty camera. Those wanting something that can both take pictures and be used as a projectile weapon, this is the camera for you (it will even still work after being thrown!). It does come sporting the almost sickeningly common silver colour scheme; however it is a much shinier, more reflective coating and doesn't look too bad.

The entire body is metal, as you'd expect and really conveys a rugged feel. All of the possible openings, including the USB port and battery slot, are sealed with rubber, meaning no unwanted liquid can penetrate the exterior. Waterproof to a depth of three meters, the MJU 720 is suitable for snorkeling, swimming or general beach duties. Couple this with a shatter proof LCD and gel mounted sensor and it can also take more than its fair share of knocks. You won't be able to hurl it off a building onto concrete, but unless you jump up and down on it repeatedly you'll find yourself hard pressed to damage this camera in the course of day to day activities. We dropped it, threw it, hit it and put it through all the kinds of torture usually reserved for our foreign prisoners and it passed with flying colours.

Features and Performance

We were quite pleased with the feature-set of the MJU 720. Keep in mind that it is just a compact model, so there is no shutter or aperture priority mode. Indeed, manual functions are basically entirely absent. It does however sport ISO settings all the way up to 1600 and a very decent continuous shot mode that fires off 1.5 fps until your memory fills up. There are also a number of white balance presets, 24 pre-set shooting modes and Olympus' image stabilization technology.

Shutter speed was a little sluggish, but not too bad at .1 of a second. Shot to shot and startup times were right on the average, two and 1.5 seconds respectively.

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