Incredibly solid and tough with great pictures to boot
Given the sophistication of the opto-electronics in digital cameras, it’s a wonder more don’t die of user abuse. Olympus has seen fit to encase its latest compact model in a shell so abuse-proof, it unofficially refers to the mju 720 SW as the Olympus mju ‘Tough’.
There is a somewhat disaster-inducing designation of the camera being able to be dropped from 1.5m onto a variety of surfaces. I feel the sound of blood pressure rising in insurance offices up and down the land. The 720 SW is also waterproof to 3m. Inside the safety shell that is its body, there’s a 7.4MP sensor delivering images up to 15×11.5inches. There’s a movie mode of 640×480 pixels but only at 15fps.
You can shoot at just over a frame a second at full resolution for 8 seconds and there’s a somewhat optimistically named Super Macro function that gets you as close as 7cm.
There’s no doubting the feel of invincibility of the 720 SW, but the buttons, tough as they may be, are not necessarily any easier to use for being waterproof and shockproof. The LCD is nice and bright, and the menus are the usual Olympus system of one lot of nested menus and four specific functions selected from the five-way controller.
With the exception of a slightly disappointing minimum focusing distance, there is nothing really to criticise about the 720 SW. It does what it does pretty well, and the image-stabilising system, although it does have a price to pay in terms of sharpness and noise, does the job it is intended to very well. In exposure terms, the Olympus produced a lovely bright set of results. The tonal range was very nice and the results, particularly in good lighting, were decent enough to justify the camera as a picture-taker alone – without its supercharged tough body.
When the 720 SW is good, it’s very very good. There was a degree of image degradation when the image-stabilisation function kicked in, but that’s by no means unique to this model. Exposures are largely accurate and there is a lovely soft gradation to natural colours. Wideangle images are a bit marred by quite a noticeable degree of barrel distortion on subjects with clear horizontals.
Value For Money
Confidence is not a priceless commodity, but it’s certainly a valuable one. Depending on how often you or your (formerly) loved ones have a habit of dropping your digital cameras, this might well be the best £300 you ever spend.
There are very few cameras you’d feel confident about giving to a child on the beach to take pictures with and return it unharmed. This is definitely one of them, and it takes lovely shoots to boot.