Review - Olympus 795 SW

For the past year or so I've used a Panasonic TZ1 whilst afloat. It's a cracking camera with Carl Zeiss optics giving a highly impressive 10 times optical zoom. Allied with the ability to take decent video when required it's performed very well for me.

So, why the need for something else?. It's very simple, the TZ1 isn't waterproof, and on a kayak where the surfaces are often wet, even pooled with saltwater in places hence it's far from ideal. I've managed by keeping the camera in an Aquapac at all times, though it's a rather tedious process and it's only a matter of time until it gets a good soaking, something that no doubt prove terminal to the camera.

There's a couple of cameras which appear to be very kayak friendly, Pentax produce the Optio in the 30 and 60 versions and Olympus produce a few cameras in their 'SW' range. SW standing for shock and waterproof.

One thing that was obvious from the start, it didn't matter which one I chose, I was going to loose the long zoom facility that I've enjoyed with the TZ1. Having read many reviews online I'd settled on the Olympus, though which one. Top of the range is the 1030/1050SW, though it was stretching my budget a little more that I'd wanted.

That left the 790/850SW, and I'd pretty much decided on the 850 as being suitable for my needs. However, I bumped into a fellow yak fisherman who was using this very camera, and I was surprised how much superficial damage the plastic outer casing had endured, it was rather disappointing.

From further researching online it appeared that Olympus had softened the brand somewhat with these models, reducing the drop height to which they were deemed unbreakable, as well as the maximum operating depth. The fully metallised case was replace with a partially metallised case sporting plastic covers. Why?, profit making perhaps?

More by luck I stumbled across a review for the 795SW, built around the earlier 'solid' specification with a very respectable 7.1MP resolution. Amazon seemed to offer the best price at around £170, though I managed to snap up a new item on Ebay for £130!, bargain or what.

795 no1
The basic specifications are as follows:
  • Shockproof when dropped from 1.5m
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Operates at temperatures as low -10°C
  • Crush weight of 100kg
  • 7.1 Mega pixels
  • 3x Optical Zoom
  • 2.5" LCD Screen

It's also nice and compact measuring in at 91.8mm x 59.2mm x 20.6mm.

I opted to fit a 2GB memory card, which with the resolution set to maximum allowed 600 photos to be stored. With the memory card removed and the resolution dropped down slightly you can store around 20 photos. Quite handy should you forget the memory card!.

The power button is on top, operating this cause the lens guard to retract, almost silently and the camera is powered up within a second, it's very fast. The display is large and the resolution quite good, though not as good as the TZ1, however it's only required to frame and view a photo at the end of the day.

795 no2 
795 no3
The shutter release button is alongside the power button, requiring half a press for focus to occur, prior to depressing fully to take a photo. The time taken to store a high resolution photo is a second or two, not too bad at all.

The camera has video/sound recording facility, allowing 30 minutes video with sound to taken. The 30 minutes seems to be a software limit, as it can be re-started for another 30 minutes immediately on completion of the first shoot. The size of the memory card ultimately limits the amount of video that can be stored. It's also possible to add a few seconds of commentary to a still photo.

The battery and memory card are accessed on the lower edge of the camera behind a watertight hinged cover. Maintaining the watertight integrity of the camera requires that this seal is kept scrupulously clean at all times.

795 no5
795 no6 
The same can be said for the computer/USB connection point.

795 no4
There are many preset scene programs, twenty fours in all - Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach & Snow, Underwater Snapshot, Underwater Wide 1, Underwater Wide 2, Underwater Macro, Movie.

There are 3 macro modes allowing focusing as close at 7cm, with many other features including a 12 second self timer, Digital Image Stabiliser and Face Detection. It also sports a bright white LED either to illuminate a subject in poor light, assisting with focusing, or merely to act as a torch - the latter is achieveable as it can be selected whilst the camera is switched off.

The camera obviously comes with a box of bits, these include:
  • Wrist Strap
  • Battery
  • Battery Charger
  • USB Cable
  • AV Cable
  • Manual
  • CDROM - Olympus Master 2 Software

The photos to date have proved to be more than acceptable for my requirements, the same can be said about the video capability. Below are a couple of examples of photos taken by myself using this camera, landscape, portrait, underwater and macro. Obviously the quality of these photos has been dramatically reduced by uploading them here onto Blogger.




So my initial impressions are good, the camera produces acceptable photos and video. It also appears to be very rugged, ideal for the saltwater environment in which it's going to spend most of its time. Obviously it'll require regular care in the form of thorough freshwater washing and drying post each trip, but that goes for anything that come afloat with me.

The last thing I've done is to attach a small float to the camera, allowing it to effectively float and be seen should it be accidentally be dropped overboard.
Please feel free to comment.


Anonymous said...

Great review and love the blog,

Perhaps you can add mine to your blog list?

(About to have an overhaul, will return the favour)

Anonymous said...

weeee.. thanks for the post. i've been confused on which one to buy, 850 or 795.. i'll go for 795 then. ciao.

Anonymous said...

thanks for the post. After a couple of months of use/abuse especially underwater, is your camera still working in tip top shape? I have the same camera and used it for diving at 8m depth only and now the LCD does not work. It can still take pictures though, but we do it blindly. We know it's working because we see the pictures when we upload it to the PC. Would appreciate your feedback.

Unknown said...

Nice review. Anyone bought one? If so can you tell me if you are happy with it? Is the language in English? Thanks.

r4 dsi

Rob Appleby-Goudberg said...

The setup menu allows you to select several different languages. The language choices that are available will depend on where you purchased the camera.

Still happy with it after two years.