The menu system is identical with the previous cameras, and is still fiddly and over-complicated, despite the fact that the 770 SW is decidedly short on features. Apart from white balance, ISO (80-1600) and exposure compensation there is little manual control available. There are 24 scene modes, but no real surprises. However despite this simplicity Olympus has decided to only include a full manual on a CD, with only a very basic multi-language printed guide included. Given that this is by no means a cheap camera, this is a bit mean in my opinion.
For some reason Olympus has never been any good at menu systems, but they do keep trying new ones from time to time so maybe one day they’ll get it right. Also, the grey-on-silver lettering makes the external controls very difficult to operate in low light.
The AF system also seems to be much the same as the one in the 725 SW, which is okay because it’s actually pretty good. It is accurate and while it’s not exactly lightning-quick, it’s fast enough and performs reasonably well in low light. However like the previous model the 770 SW has no AF illuminator so it doesn’t like total darkness.
Comparing the photos I took today using the 770 SW with the shots I took with the 725 SW back in December, there doesn’t appear to have been much improvement in image quality, which is unfortunate because it does let the camera down badly. The compression rate seems to have been slightly reduced, with files now averaging around 3.1MB each, but there are still visible compression artefacts, as well as purple fringes on highlights, and image noise in darker area on all shots above 200 ISO. The vertically-mounted 38-114mm equivalent lens is relatively slow at f/3.5 – f/5.0, and while it only produces a small amount of barrel distortion, it shows considerable softening in the corners of the frame at wide angle.
Unfortunately one thing that has also not been improved is the lacklustre video performance. In both 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolution it can only manage 15 frames a second, which is slow and jerky.
If you’re looking for a completely indestructible camera to suit your adrenaline-junkie lifestyle, the Olympus mju SW series is still the only game in town, and the 770 SW is the most everything-proof one yet. It’s able to survive anything short of an atomic bomb, but it is slightly lacking in the picture quality department. Still, the fact that it can take any kind of picture at all 10m deep in freezing water while being crushed is remarkable enough.
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