Olympus Stylus Digital 710 Review
By Movable Type Admin
Building on the success of the popular Stylus Digital line from Olympus, the Stylus 710
offers users 7.1-megapixels of resolution combined with a 3x optical zoom lens, a high
quality VGA-size movie mode, as well as various user-friendly exposure modes. This is a very
compact and stylish little point-n-shoot model that every member of your household or office
will love to use. Whether the beginner or novice user, you can be sure to capture great
looking images with either the Program AE mode, Full Auto, of one of the 23 pre-programmed
scene modes. It also includes Digital Image Stabilization Mode, which will allow you to
capture steady handheld shots in conditions that usually require some sort of camera support.
The 710's ergonomics are excellent. This is a durable model that has a well built feel to it. The very compact size allows it to be carried in almost any size pocket or purse. But, its unique "wedge" shape still offers a comfortable feel, with the right hand side being "fatter" for an easier grip. The various controls laid out across the back of the body are well placed and functional, with your thumb falling over them naturally. This model features a newly updated menu system. All menus have a new look to them, but we were glad to see the function and arrangement of camera settings was very similar to past models. We loved the new FUNCtion menu, which allows you to quickly change settings for White balance, ISO sensitivity, Drive mode etc.
The large 2.5-inch "HyperCrystal" LCD works great outdoors, even on the brightest of days, and when used in low-ambient lighting it "gains up" to help brighten your subject; this is a very useful feature considering the LCD is the only viewfinder. Like we saw on past models, it is very prone to fingerprints; nothing a clean cotton tea shirt can't fix. As with all Stylus series cameras, the 710 features a durable metal exterior and is made water tight by rubber gaskets on the inside to seal gaps and prevent moisture from entering the body. This allows it to be used in a gentle sprinkle or even a torrential downpour, however it can not be submerged. If your picture taking leads to the beach and into the water, then the optional PT-032 Underwater Housing is required.
Shooting performance was impressive. From power up to first image captured measured approx. 2.1 seconds, this includes the time it takes to extend the lens and boot up. Shutter lag was 1/10 of a second when pre-focused and 3/10 of a second including autofocus. Using single exposure mode, the shot to shot delay averaged about 1.5 seconds without the use of the flash and about 2.5 - 4 seconds with the flash, depending on subject distance and battery power. The Stylus 710 offers two sequential (burst) modes (Continuous, and High Speed Continuous.) Using the standard mode, I was able to capture 4 frames in about 2.4 seconds. With High Speed mode, the image size is reduced to SQ1, and even then, I captured 12 frames in abut 2.6 seconds. When using both modes, the LCD briefly displays the last image captured, making it somewhat difficult to follow a moving subject; too bad it doesn't also have an optical viewfinder. Our tests were done using a standard (not High Speed) Olympus 512MB xD-picture card, SHQ quality, preview off, flash off, and all other settings at default (unless otherwise noted.) Times may vary depending on lighting conditions, camera settings, media, etc.
One of the most important aspects when considering a digital model is of course the image quality. While I was pleased with our SHQ images, I have seen better on similarly priced 7-megapixel models. The majority of our samples showed good overall exposure and nice color saturation. I did notice a bit of edge softness, and average amounts of image noise were present in high and low contrast areas. This is common with consumer models that feature such small imagers with high resolution. Outdoors it captured nice sharp images, with beautiful sky detail (when there are clouds present.)
While shooting indoors, I noticed that the White balance system sometimes favored the cool side, when using the flash. You can see what I mean by taking a look at out indoor portrait shots on the samples page. Olympus rates the flash to have an average range of approx. 13 feet at wide angle. I found this was pretty accurate while testing the camera in mid-sized rooms. This model features a special scene mode located on the Mode dial called Digital Image Stabilization Mode. It uses Olympus' Bright Capture and digital stabilization technology to help reduce the effects of camera shake and subject movement (or blur) in your photos. Bright Capture boosts ISO up to 1710 when needed (you can also manually set the ISO this high when using Program mode.) I found image quality does noticeably suffer when using ISO speeds of 400 and above, but the usefulness of this feature greatly outweighs its disadvantages. While you won't want to create a huge 13x19-inch print with an image, your typical 4x6's will look just fine. Be sure to see our Digital Image Stabilization Mode examples on the samples page.
The Stylus 710 also has the ability to record high-quality video at resolutions of 640x480, 320x240 or 160x120, with a fixed frame rate of 15fps. I was very happy to see that Olympus included a built-in microphone so audio can be recorded. Some of the past models did not feature this, forcing users to capture silent movies. Note, this added feature doesn't allow the use of zoom during movie mode. Overall it captured good movie with noticeable compression noise. Just be sure you purchase a large xD card, as it consumes about 1MB per second.
The Stylus 710 is powered by a small 3.7v 660mAh LI-40B rechargeable lithium battery, which is charged by the handy LI-40C charger. Because it charges the batteries out of the camera, it's easy to charge a second battery so you always have a fully charged one ready. You can't power the camera with any other battery type so we strongly recommend the purchase of a second battery. Olympus does not specify the battery life but our testing revealed it to be quite good. I was able to capture a large majority of our sample images (approx 100 pictures and 25 short movie clips) and conduct some of our other tests before the camera posted a low battery warning. Exactly how many pictures you can capture is going to vary depending on how many are taken with flash, how often the lens is zoomed in or out and how frequently you review images. Lithium batteries hold a charge much longer than NiMH type batteries when sitting idle and can be "topped off" whenever desired without shortening their life span.
Bottom line - the Olympus Stylus 710 continues the tradition of the Stylus line by offering good image quality, great performance, and sleek design all packed in a weather resistant shell. This is one of our favorite models in this series, when you pick one up you'll see why. It was a blast to use and I found very few problems in actual use. The image quality could be better and unfortunately it uses the incredibly slow xD memory cards that Olympus and Fujifilm designed (we hope someday they'll switch to SD). If you're in the market for a versatile little pocket-rocket that you can take out into the rain, look no further. With an MSRP of about $349, we feel it offers an outstanding value and should be a very popular model this year.
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