under pressure - Olympus Mju 770SW
so ago I rushed to buy an Olympus Mju720SW when it was
as it seemed the perfect tough cookie camera to pick up all those deck
which my big, heavy housed diving camera was now just too bulky to
camera was robust, it could be dropped from 1.5m, and waterproof, it
taken to 3m without a case but despite its credentials I never dropped
didn't take it unhoused into the water - those levels of
weren't quite enough to feel comfortable abusing it. It seems I was
unjustified in my squeamishness.
generation 7series SW model has just landed and now it's grown up, it
has a 10m
underwater rating and adds 100kg crush resistance to shrugging off
the same height as before. The surprise is that you'd be hard pushed to
construction has changed. It looks as though the original ratings were
Like the 720 it's a gorgeous thing to hold; exuding
solid, big watch feeling rather than the flexible, creaky feeling that
< The Mju770SW
|It appears almost comically small beside other housed cameras (an Olympus C7070WZ here) >
There is a raised
the front face to make life a little easier. However dressed in gloves
water the camera is hard to hold onto and it is very tricky to pick out
tiny buttons. With bare hands this isn’t such a problem and I
suppose that would
probably put a limit of around 14degrees C on its use
– though dry gloves
would perhaps retain enough precision. The camera itself
isn’t bothered by the
cold and is ok down to minus 10degrees C, by which time
diving is pretty
tough! The matching PT-035 dive case allows the camera to be used down
and moves it up by a size or two – making the buttons larger
and adding a
threaded port for additional lenses and filters, a top cold shoe for
strobes and a tripod plate (which the camera also has). If you just
keep scratches at bay there’s some silicone skins on the way
to protect the
finish on the metalwork.
Spot metering has taken care of the prawn (below)
external casing is entirely metal, a matt cast
with brushed, bolted on panels and a 2.5" LCD on the back. All the
are metal too. It isn’t rubbery and toy-like - which is the
shorthand for waterproof, it feels machined. You could suggest that
little ‘bling’ but even that's been toned down to a
sheen from the chromed 720.
underwater trial was undertaken during a trip to Zeeland, Holland,
where many of the dives were to less
than 10m making it a suitable venue to carry it as a matter of course.
impressed by the true to life colours and found it responsive and fun.
casually doesn’t lend itself to quality photography but we
were surprised by
the ratio of scrap to keepers (which is always tough underwater).
We’re used to
pixel peeping to assess pictures for huge enlargements or publication
normal user would get excellent standard prints and enlargements.
Getting a bit
more nerdy; steadying, concentrating and framing will yield better
|Like the 770 this crab has a shock proof
casing, however he has moving external parts and someone has
made off with one of his claws >
worth noting that unhoused the camera doesn’t suffer the 1-2
stop loss of light
due to a case’s flash diffuser. This helps the range of the
little flash, but
does nothing for backscatter. What you miss from the case is a sunshade
shield the screen from the sun in shallow water. With the sun behind
you it can
be hard to see the picture – at least you have a free hand to
use as a shade!
sub 5m vis in Holland
didn’t really allow distant shots, which are generally
more predictable in any
case, so we majored on macro use. We both noticed how easy it was
the camera at arms length whilst tracking the subject and watching the
down holes and under rocks which just isn’t possible with big
cameras. Anyone can take a bad picture with cameras like this but when
to their strengths you realise that any diver could quickly learn to
get a library
of decent pictures from a trip. After years of big, heavy, bulky
cameras it was
fun to have such a tiny camera and to enjoy snapping away. The 770 uses
same matchbook sized Li-ion battery as the 720 and we were struck by
better the battery life was. Little batteries get a real workout in
cameras and rarely last long but during a frenzied hour I managed more
pictures. A 1GB xD will hold around 300 pictures in SHQ mode or double
HQ (The SHQ jpeg file size is around 3.5MB).
< This smiling oyster's orange neighbours are bright and true to life
these ‘flat’ cameras the 770 uses a folded optical
path, which means there is
no external lens movement as you operate the zoom aside from a metal
the lens window which is treated to dispel water droplets after you
The lens itself is a 3x zoom, with the 38-114mm equivalent range
most compact cameras. There’s a ‘plain’
macro mode which works down to 20cm as
well as two super macro modes which can get you to 7cm. These
breaking macro distances but you win another 25% magnification
means it will be light rather than proximity that will be the problem.
The standard macro mode retains full use of the flash and zoom which
good fish, crab or urchin setting for subjects a few inches across from
Super macro fixes zoom mid way and disables the flash so if
light you can get close but is less use when it’s dark.
There is a second
super macro mode which uses a white LED as a focus aid and torch and
bit but the camera still has to elevate the ISO (film speed) to keep
shutter speed useable. At super macro distances focus is super critical
depth of field is limited so taking extra effort to steady yourself
crab was shot in super macro mode. The camera has
raised the ISO rating to 800 to keep the shutter speed useful >
As an unexpected bonus the
camera even has an onboard pressure meter (manometer) which means it
altitude) of every shot and will start to warn you as you approach
its 10m limit. Depths beyond that limit are recorded as 10m but
the camera continues working - we took it as far as 16m with no sign of
any problem. At less than 10m this has the
effect of profiling your dive and keeping your depth in view. When
computer failed on our last dive it was a pleasant surprise to
backup depth gauge. Above water the gauge reads pressure and
which means you can check on aeroplane cabin pressure (820hPa, 1800m
Virgin Atlantic). You can even check weather forecasts to help plan
elevated tables, although I learnt that about stuff in my BSAC training
was never something I or anyone else checked on the spot before.
The 770's small size is
less imposing to animals than a housed camera. The crab (left) is still
nervous but the lobster (below) has no reservations.
All in all,
the ‘indestructible’ camera has come of age.
It’s not quite a dedicated diving
camera, but it maybe as much as some people would need underwater. On top it has real
all round ability for arduous adventure sports such as rafting, skiing,
and climbing without having to worry about getting a record. Ever been
trek where your camera had to be safely packed, tucked out of the rain
away from the snow? Not anymore!
Only a fool
would expect a tiny camera to rival larger and more flexible models but
770SW just doesn’t have to stop when the going gets tough.
Understand this is a
point and shoot rather than some gross uber camera and it’ll
reward you with fine,
first hand records of your adventures which no other unhoused digital camera can match.
Pros: Tiny, tough, cool, depth/attitude gauge, simple
Cons:Too small for cold water gloves, no flash for
super macro, limited to 10m.
The pictures in the review were all taken with the Mju770SW (aside from the ones it appears in obviously).
They have been scaled down to 640x480 or less for this webpage.
The coating on the lens window certainly works. Post dive surface shots come out really well (below)
Macro at full zoom needs a steadied hand
but can give good results