Olympus 770 SW Review

 
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Olympus Stylus 770 SW Exposure


Color

Saturation & Hue Accuracy
Pretty good overall color, though some oversaturation of strong reds and blues.

In the diagram above, the squares show the original color, and the circles show the color that the camera captured. More saturated colors are located towards the periphery of the graph. Hue changes as you travel around the center. Thus, hue-accurate, highly saturated colors appear as lines radiating from the center.

Most consumer digital cameras produce color that's more highly saturated (more intense) than found in the original subjects. This is simply because most people like their color a bit brighter than life. The Olympus Stylus 770 SW does oversaturate the strong red and blue tones, as well as some yellows. Still, results here are within acceptable limits.

Where oversaturation is most problematic is on Caucasian skin tones, as it's very easy for these "memory colors" to be seen as too bright, too pink, too yellow, etc. Here, the 770SW left skin tones a little flat. They should actually be warmer, but our indoor shots in Incandescent mode left the skin looking claylike. Not flattering.

The other important part of color rendition is hue accuracy. Hue is "what color" the color is. In this case, the 770SW pushed blue toward cyan, yellow toward green, and red toward orange, but overall color is still pretty good.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sensor

Exposure and White Balance

Indoors, incandescent lighting
Good color with the Incandescent white balance setting, though very warm results with Auto. Average exposure compensation required.

Auto White Balance +1.0 EV Incandescent WB +1.0 EV

Color balance indoors under incandescent lighting was quite warm with the Auto white balance setting, though results were nearly accurate with the Incandescent setting. The Olympus Stylus 770 SW required the average amount of positive exposure compensation here, at +1.0 EV. Overall color looks very good, though the blue flowers are dark and purplish. (Many digital cameras have trouble here.) Our test lighting for this shot is a mixture of 60 and 100 watt household incandescent bulbs, a pretty yellow light source, but a very common one in typical home settings here in the U.S.

 

Outdoors, daylight
Somewhat dark color outdoors, with a hint of a cool cast. Good exposure, though high contrast.

Auto White Balance,
+0.3 EV
Auto White Balance,
Auto Exposure

Outdoors, the Olympus Stylus 770 SW produced slightly dark overall color, with an overall cool cast. Exposure-wise, the 770SW required less than the typical amount of positive compensation. The 770SW's default contrast is rather high, producing washed-out highlights and dark shadows under the deliberately harsh lighting of our "Sunlit" portrait test shown above left.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Resolution
High resolution, 1,400 ~ 1,500 lines of strong detail.

Strong detail to
1,500 lines horizontal
Strong detail to
1,400 lines vertical

Our laboratory resolution chart revealed sharp, distinct line patterns down to about 1,500 lines horizontally, though I'd argue only for about 1,400 lines vertically. Extinction occurred at around 1,900. Use these numbers to compare with other cameras of similar resolution, or use them to see just what higher resolution can mean in terms of potential detail.

See full set of test images with explanations
See thumbnails of all test and gallery images

Sharpness & Detail
Reasonably sharp images overall, though some edge-enhancement on high-contrast subjects. Noise suppression limits detail in the shadows.

Definition of high-contrast elements is a little fuzzy, and still accompanied by visible edge enhancement. Subtle detail: Hair
Noise suppression tends to blur detail in areas of subtle contrast, as in the darker parts of Marti's hair here. This softness is pretty pronounced for the 770 SW's lowest ISO setting.

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW captures relatively soft images, with some visible edge enhancement artifacts on high-contrast subjects such as the crop above left. (Edge enhancement creates the illusion of sharpness by enhancing colors and tones right at the edge of a rapid transition in color or tone.)

Noise-suppression systems in digital cameras tend to flatten out detail in areas of subtle contrast. The effects can often be seen in shots of human hair, where the individual strands are lost and an almost "watercolor" look appears. The crop above right shows this, with darker areas of Marti's hair showing only limited detail, and the individual strands also appearing fairly soft.

ISO & Noise Performance
Moderate noise at the normal sensitivity settings, though a big jump in noise with strong blurring at the high settings.

ISO 80 ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800 ISO 1600

Noise levels are moderate at the Olympus Stylus 770 SW's lower sensitivity settings, with higher noise at ISO 200. At the 400, 800, and 1600 ISO levels, noise is quite high with very strong blurring that obliterates fine detail. Chrominance noise also begins to take over at ISO 1600, as the Stylus 770 SW tries to maintain some detail. For best results, we recommend sticking to ISO 200 or below.

Extremes: Sunlit and low light tests
High resolution with good overall detail, but high contrast and limited shadow detail. Very limited low-light performance, capable of capturing bright images under average city street lighting only at the highest sensitivity settings.

Default Exposure +0.3 EV +0.7 EV

Sunlight:
Because digital cameras are more like slide film than negative film (in that they tend to have a more limited tonal range), we test them in the harshest situations to see how they handle scenes with bright highlights and dark shadows, as well as what kind of sensitivity they have in low light. The shot above is designed to mimic the very harsh, contrasty effect of direct noonday sunlight, a very tough challenge for most digital cameras. (You can read details of this test here.)

The Olympus Stylus 770 SW produced high contrast with bright highlights and deep shadows under the harsh lighting of the test above. Noise suppression is visible in the shadows, and contributes to the loss of detail in those areas. I found the best exposure at +0.3 EV, though even here, some areas are a little too bright on the white shirt, and skin tones are a little dark. Skin tone is again not very rich. (In "real life," be sure to use fill flash in situations like the one shown above; it's better to shoot in the shade when possible.)

  1 fc
11 lux
1/2 fc
5.5 lux
1/4 fc
2.7 lux
1/8 fc
1.3 lux
1/16 fc
0.67 lux
ISO
80
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200
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400
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800
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ISO
1600
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Night
Scene
(ISO
100)
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3.2 sec
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Night
Scene
(ISO
160)
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Night
Scene
(ISO
250)
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4 sec
f3.5
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4 sec
f3.5

Low light:
The Olympus Stylus 770 SW captured bright images down to the 1/2 foot-candle light level (about 1/2 as bright as average city street lighting at night), but only at the highest ISO setting, which produced quite a bit of image noise. Under average city street lighting, about one foot-candle, the camera only captured bright images starting at ISO 400. Thus, the flash will be required for most shots under dim lighting. That said, the camera's autofocus system was able to focus on the subject down to the 1/16 foot-candle light level without AF assistance, which beats its exposure system. Do keep in mind though, that the longer shutter times necessary here demand the use of a tripod or other camera support to get sharp photos. (A useful trick is to just prop the camera on a convenient surface, and use its self-timer to release the shutter. This avoids any jiggling from your finger pressing the shutter button, and can work quite well when you don't have a tripod handy.)

NOTE: This low light test is conducted with a stationary subject, and the camera mounted on a sturdy tripod. Most digital cameras will fail miserably when faced with a moving subject in dim lighting. (For example, a child's ballet recital or a holiday pageant in a gymnasium.) For such applications, you may have better luck with a digital SLR camera, but even there, you'll likely need to set the focus manually. For information and reviews on digital SLRs, refer to our SLR review index page.

Flash

Coverage and Range
Dim exposures at the default exposure setting; the camera required much more than average exposure compensation for flash exposures. Limited flash range as well.

38mm equivalent 114mm equivalent
Normal Flash +1.7 EV Slow-Sync Flash +1.3 EV

Flash coverage was quite uneven at wide angle, and still slightly uneven at telephoto as well, with a much dimmer exposure. Indoors, under incandescent background lighting, the Olympus Stylus 770 SW's flash underexposed our subject quite a bit at its default setting, requiring a +1.7 EV exposure compensation adjustment. Even with such a large exposure boost, the image is still quite dim. The camera's Slow-Sync flash mode required less positive compensation at +1.3 EV, and overall coverage is more even. However, the longer shutter speed results in a strong yellow cast from the background lighting. Not the best performance.

Flash Range: Wide Angle
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
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12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
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ISO 100

Flash Range: Telephoto
6 ft 7 ft 8 ft 9 ft 10 ft 11 ft
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12 ft 13 ft 14 ft 15 ft 16 ft
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ISO 100

This is our standard flash range test method, which uses a fixed setting of ISO 100, to provide a fair basis of comparison between cameras. The Olympus Stylus 770 SW's flash had limited power, with good intensity only to eight or nine feet at wide angle and ISO 100. At telephoto, the 770SW's flash was insufficient even at six feet.

Manufacturer-Specified Flash Range
Wide Angle Telephoto
Click to see OS770SWFL_MFR125WA0400.JPG
12.5 feet
Auto ISO 400
Click to see OS770SWFL_MFR085TA0160.JPG
8.5 feet
Auto ISO 160

We now also shoot two shots using the manufacturer-specified camera settings at the range the company claims for the camera, to assess the validity of the specific claims. In the shots above, the 770SW performs well at wide angle, but not as good at telephoto, at the rated distances with its ISO set to Auto. Note that at wide angle, the camera boosts the ISO to 400, a move that might have helped the quite underexposed telephoto shot at right.

Output Quality

Print Quality
Good print quality, muted color, usable 11x14 inch prints. Very high ISO settings work okay for 4x6 prints, ISO 400 shots are soft but usable as large as 8x10 inches.

Testing hundreds of digital cameras, we've found that you can only tell so much about a camera's image quality by viewing its images on-screen. Ultimately, there's no substitute for printing a lot of images and examining them closely. For this reason, we now routinely print sample images from the cameras we test on our Canon i9900 studio printer, and on the Canon iP5200 here in the office. (See the Canon i9900 review for details on that model.)

The Olympus Stylus 770SW delivered enough resolution to make decent-looking prints as large as 11x14 inches. ISO 400 shots are really better kept at 8x10, and ISO 800 shots look decent at 5x7. ISO 1600 shots are still a little blotchy at 4x6, but most folks won't mind much.

Color-wise, we found the Stylus 770's photos definitely have more understated color than most consumer cameras on the market. In isolation, they really don't look bad at all, but when you hold them next to prints from some competing models, they can look a little dull.

 

The images above were taken from our standardized test shots. For a collection of more pictorial photos, see our Olympus Stylus 770 SW Photo Gallery.

Not sure which camera to buy? Let your eyes be the ultimate judge! Visit our Comparometer(tm) to compare images from the Olympus Stylus 770 SW with those from other cameras you may be considering. The proof is in the pictures, so let your own eyes decide which you like best!

Olympus 770 SW

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