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  DSLR Tips

Olympus µ 790 SW / Stylus 790 SW Gordon Laing, December 2007

Olympus µ 790 SW / Stylus 790 SW gallery

The following images were taken with the Olympus Stylus 790 SW. The 790 SW was set to its best-quality SHQ mode, with Auto White Balance and ESP Metering.

The individual exposure mode, file sizes, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO and lens focal length are listed for each image.

The crops are taken from the original files, reproduced at 100% and saved in Adobe Photoshop CS2 as JPEGs with the default Very High quality preset, while the resized images were made in Photoshop CS2 and saved with the default High quality preset.

The three crops are typically taken from far left, central and far right portions of each image.

Landscape: 2.88MB, Program, 1/500, f5, ISO 80, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)

  Our first sample image was taken on a bright day with the 790 SW zoomed-out to wide angle and set to its lowest 80 ISO sensitivity. As such this represents perfect conditions.

Larger objects in the shot are resolved well with a good amount of detail, but the finest details in other areas are often lost to image processing and optical softness.

It's not a bad result, but as we'll see, the 790 SW is not a compact for the pixel-peepers among us.

Landscape: 2.90MB, Program, 1/400, f5, ISO 100, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)

  Another shot taken at wide angle on a sunny day with the 790 SW set to 100 ISO.

As before, the equivalent focal length of 38mm isn't as wide as some compacts these days and anyone wanting to grab a big vista - or a large group shot - will be better served by a model with 28mm.

The crops as above are reasonably detailed and there's no detrimental effect of increasing to 100 ISO - as you'd hope.

Landscape: 2.86MB, Program, 1/30, f3.5, ISO 100, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)

    Our final 100 ISO sample, although this time taken under very dim conditions.

As before, the 'widest' equivalent of 38mm has resulted in a tighter crop than many compacts these days, but the biggest issue here is the lack of optical or sensor-shift anti-shake facilities. In the absence of either, and not wanting to increase the sensitivity, we've had to balance the camera on a ledge.

The crops are ok, but lacking the ultimate crispness and detail of better models.

Portrait: 2.63MB, Program, 1/640, f8, ISO 200, 6.7-20.1mm at 20.1mm (equivalent to 114mm)

  This portrait shot was taken with the 790 SW fully zoomed-in to an equivalent of 114mm and the sensitivity increased to 200 ISO.

There's no manual control over aperture, so if you want a smaller depth-of-field, you'll need to put the camera into its Portrait preset.

The increase to 200 ISO has resulted in some softening of the image when viewed at 100%, but printed or viewed smaller, it's still acceptable.

Macro: 2.83MB, Program, 1/1000, f7.1, ISO 400, 6.7-20.1mm at 9mm (equivalent to 51mm)

  For this macro shot we increased the sensitivity to 400 ISO and positioned the camera as close at it would focus.

The crops again show a lack of ultimate sharpness and detail, but it's an acceptable result for this subject matter.


Indoor: 3.12MB, Program, 1/50, f3.5, ISO 400, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)


Another shot at 400 ISO, this time taken in dimmer indoor lighting conditions.

The finer details in the crops have become quite smudged by image processing, so you'd only want to use the 790 SW in such conditions for smaller prints or viewing on-screen at less than 100%.


Indoor: 2.97MB, Program, 1/20, f3.5, ISO 800, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)

  Our next indoor sample was taken under very dim conditions at an increased sensitivity of 800 ISO and there's a significant increase in noise levels, along with a further loss of detail.

We're getting to the point where you'd really only want to use this under emergency situations or for small reproductions.

Indoor: 3.30MB, Program, 1/100, f3.5, ISO 1600, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equivalent to 38mm)

  Our final high sensitivity indoor shot was taken with the 790 SW set to 1600 ISO, where there's a further increase in noise and loss of detail.

Even the full image shrunk down to 440 pixels wide here shows some evidence of noise, so this setting, like most compacts, really is for emailing only.

Underwater: 2.71MB, Underwater Snapshot, 1/400, f3.5, ISO 80, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equiv 38mm)

  Of course the big selling point of the Olympus 790 SW is its ability to work underwater without a housing at depths up to 3m.

To put it to the test we dived into Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu for the following three images. Many thanks to Camilla and Michael who braved the lake's chilly temperatures with me!

All three shots were taken with the 790 SW's Underwater Snapshot scene preset and the internal flash, although there was quite a lot of sunlight just below the surface.

Underwater: 2.52MB, Underwater Snapshot, 1/500, f3.5, ISO 80, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equiv 38mm)

  The Underwater Snapshot scene preset uses auto ISO, and in our three examples selected the camera's lowest setting of 80 ISO.

There were unsurprisingly many shots which didn't work out, but those which did were sharp and detailed.

The camera was easy to operate underwater, but the screen could be hard to see at times - it's a shame there wasn't also an optical viewfinder.

Underwater: 2.70MB, Underwater Snapshot, 1/400, f3.5, ISO 80, 6.7-20.1mm at 6.7mm (equiv 38mm)

  This image shows the Sony SPK-HCC underwater housing used to protect our camcorder while filming the underwater segments for our Olympus 790 SW video tour.

It's a good accessory, although again the screen proved hard to view at times.

All in all the 790 SW performed very comfortably underwater, but the chilly waters exhausted a fully-charged battery in 45 minutes of solid shooting.

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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