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Olympus Stylus 740 @DASHING THING REVEIW

07 Jul

 

5.00x zoom 2.5 inch
LCD
image of Olympus Stylus 740


Olympus Stylus 740


With a pocket-friendly all-weather chassis, the Olympus Stylus 740 features an Olympus-branded 5x optical zoom with a useful 36-180mm equivalent focal length range, and an f/3.3 to 5.0 maximum aperture, a cut above the 3x zooms offered on most point-and-shoot cameras. This extended range lens is coupled with a 7.1 megapixel imager, and 2.5 inch LCD display with a higher-than-average resolution of 215,000 pixels. As is common on many digicams these days, this LCD is the sole method of framing images, as the Stylus 740 forgoes any form of optical viewfinder.

Autofocus is via contrast detection, and ISO sensitivity ranges from 80 to 1,600 equivalent (2,500 being the maximum in some scene modes), and can be controlled automatically, or manually. The Olympus 740 also offers what the company calls “Digital Image Stabilization” mode — which should not be mistaken for true hardware image stabilization, where either lens elements, or the image sensor are moved based on sensors that detect camera shake. The 740 does have a gyro sensor to detect the amount of camera shake, but the correction is made in software by compensating with blur removal after the exposure, plus increased sensitivity, faster shutter speeds, and tweaks to sharpening.

By default, exposures are determined with Olympus’ Digital ESP multi-pattern metering, with spot metering also available. Users can also tweak the exposure with +/-2.0 EV of exposure compensation, in 1/3 EV steps. Shutter speeds range from 1/1,000 to 4 seconds, and the Olympus Stylus 740 offers automatic, or preset white balance control courtesy of six presets, but no custom white balance mode. The 740 also includes a four mode internal flash good to a distance of 12.5 feet at wide-angle, and offers beginner-friendly control over images courtesy of a very generous 23 scene modes.

As well as still images, the Stylus 740 can capture movies at VGA or lower resolution, at a rate of 15 frames per second. The 740 also has a twelve second self-timer to let you get into your own pictures. The camera stores images on xD-Picture cards, or 17MB of built-in memory, and also offers both video, and USB 2.0 Full Speed computer connectivity (sounds fast, but it’s actually slower than the USB 2.0 High Speed connections on many cameras these days). Power comes from a proprietary Lithium Ion battery, of Li-42B type.

The Olympus Stylus 740 ships from September in the USA, priced at $350. A separately available PT-034 underwater housing will allow the camera to be used underwater at depths of up to 40 meters, and is priced at an additional $250.

 

Olympus Stylus 740 User Report

Fully Extended. And in the rain, too.

Intro. The attractive Olympus Stylus 740 is packed with some cutting-edge technology, like Bright Capture technology, Olympus’ TruePic TURBO image processor, and a 5x optical zoom in an ultra-compact case. Not to mention the all-weather Olympus design.

What most impressed me, however, was the Guide option on the Mode dial. Dial in Guide and answer a few questions with a click of the navigator buttons and the camera sets itself up to solve whatever problem confronts you. Very, very slick.

Compact. Compared to the compact Nikon S7c and the slightly larger Nikon S10, the Olympus Stylus 740 is indeed slim and light.

The Stylus 740 is very similar to the identical looking Stylus 750, except that model has image stabilization. The Stylus 740 does offer an Anti-shake shooting mode, however.

Design. There’s no question about one thing. The Stylus 740 is unique. Its ultra compact form factor fits in any pocket. But its stunning asymmetrical design means it’s going to spend a lot of time in the limelight. It’s unusual, yes, but beauty is unusual.

The Stylus 740 doesn’t weigh much. In fact, its 4.59 ounces (130 grams) loaded with card and battery is well under average. But weight is a funny thing. A little heft is good for a digicam, helping to stabilize it as you press the Shutter button. And the Shutter button on the Stylus 750 is pretty stiff. So, guess what? The light weight and stiff button are a prescription for blurred images.

Back. Dominated by the large LCD.

For such a compact camera, the Stylus 740’s grip is very comfortable and intuitive. The wedge shape design puts the fat part of the camera in your right hand where all the controls are. While there aren’t any grip-like elements in the design, there are spaces your fingers find easily that avoid obstructing the flash, with a little practice.

On such a small camera, control placement isn’t much of an issue. They’re going to be within reach. Still, we had an issue with the Stylus 740’s control buttons. A big one. They’re too small. And the navigator is not a dial but a set of buttons. Even worse, the cross formation is filled out with more small buttons in the corner. A set of nine in three-quarters square inch.

Top. A small Power button and a stiff Shutter button detract from the useability of the Stylus 740.

That confusion is, sadly, mirrored by the LCD menu system those buttons call up and navigate. There’s something to be said for the lists and tabbed pages that dominate most modern digital camera interfaces. Olympus prefers a scattered approach, with items located like the buttons in corners and the center. If you get dizzy, it’s not your fault.

Only four languages are supported out of the box: English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. But you can download a fifth language using the Olympus Master software included with the camera.

Display/Viewfinder. With 215,00 pixels, the Stylus 740’s 2.5 inch LCD has enough resolution to display text and graphics clearly, as well as confirm focus before and after capture. There’s no optical viewfinder.

Olympus’ Bright Capture technology comes into play when you’re shooting a dark scene with the Stylus 740. The display is brightened so you can see what you’re shooting. It also comes into play in the Available Light Portrait Scene mode. I did try that out, fan of available light that I am, and liked what it did. It will reduce the size of the image to minimize noise, however. But you are starting with 7.1 megapixels, so that’s not a bad approach.

Controls. Just buttons, nine of them — and small ones at that.

Unfortunately, like the Stylus 750, the highly reflective surface covering the LCD makes it very hard to use in sunlight. And, to my surprise, just as hard to use in the rain. We took advantage of a little rain to test the Stylus 740’s all-weather features and had a hard time composing our shots.

The Stylus 740’s LCD also showed a bit less than the sensor captured, which also surprised me. LCDs tend to be about 100 percent.

Performance. I punched our test numbers into a spreadsheet that compares them with similar cameras and the Stylus 740 had average startup times. That’s no doubt due to its telescoping, three-part zoom lens, which pops out about 3/4 inch at startup and a full inch and an eighth at 5x telephoto.

Flash recycle time was average and the flash managed to light up an average sized room adequately.

The Olympus Stylus 740 has a strange little dual Auto mode, set by pressing the OK button with the Mode dial set to Auto. It functions as either Auto (setting aperture, shutter, white balance, and ISO) or Program Auto (setting just aperture and shutter automatically). EV compensation is available whichever you select, fortunately.

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Posted by on July 7, 2011 in cameras

 

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