Olympus Tough 720SW

If you're after a camera that can survive the knocks, splashes and general messy nature of everyday life -- especially everyday family life -- then the Olympus 720SW is a very sensible buy.

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The 720SW is, from the outside, a nice and shiny, fairly compact digital camera with a large LCD on the rear of the camera. It's only if you were to crack it open -- and we wouldn't advise you do that, as it'll void the warranty -- that you'll find what makes the camera truly special. The insides of the camera are all housed in a shock-absorbent and waterproof gel that gives the camera a remarkable level of physical sturdiness that's not normally associated with consumer level cameras.

Normally, in order to make any product robust, the designers have had to skimp on the visual details -- Panasonic's line of undoubtedly strong Toughbooks are the classic example of a design that not even its mother could love -- but in the case of the 720SW, that's not true. As mentioned, externally it looks just like any camera out there, although out of necessity a number of components -- most notably the zoom lens -- are more encased than you'd expect on a normal camera. Our review sample was encased in a silver body, although there is also a "Polar" Blue casing as well.

The rear of the camera body houses the 2.5-inch LCD display screen. There's no true optical viewfinder on the camera itself, which some snappers might find irksome. Camera controls have been kept simple, and like many compact cameras, they're also on the small side, which could be problematic for those with chunky fingers.

The camera within the casing is a 7.1 Megapixel model with a 3x optical zoom. The smallish zoom is an understandable enough compromise when you realise that the entire zoom casing has to be contained within the 91mm x 58.7mm x 19.8mm camera body. It's also got a 5x digital zoom function and 25 preset shooting modes, including quite a few built with the camera's waterproof casing in mind. How many cameras do you know that have an underwater macro mode?

The 720SW uses Olympus' BrightCapture LCD technology, which Olympus claims uses the information captured by the camera's CCD to brighten up the LCD display -- making accurate picture taking easier -- while also reducing the need to utilise the camera's inbuilt flash capabilities.

In terms of durability, Olympus rates the 720SW as being shock resistant to falls of up to 1.5 metres and waterproof for up to 3m -- within a one hour timespan. That puts it solidly within the purview of most surfers, pool swimmers and arguably the best fit for family snapshots, as it'll take a bit of accidental abuse -- and the odd splash -- without complaint.

As with the rest of Olympus' consumer range, the 720SW uses xD format picture cards, although one isn't provided in the box. The 19MB integrated memory will only take around 5 shots at highest quality (3072 x 2304), so you'll realistically need to add the cost of a reasonable capacity xD card to the camera's AU$599 asking price.

The 720SW performed well but not exceptionally during our tests; for most photographic purposes it's quite well suited, although we did notice that the shutter was a touch sluggish when attempting any kind of quick photography. Despite the claims of the BrightCapture technology, we found that the camera also tended to overfill any dark scenes with its admittedly dazzling flash, leading to more than a few washed out pictures.

The Olympus 720SW did perform as advertised in terms of its robustness and waterproof capabilities, although it should be noted that we didn't test a unit to destruction, so it could realistically be a few centimetres either way in terms of its physical sturdiness. For research purposes, we gave it briefly to a small group of toddlers while it was on, and aside from a few grubby jamprints on the camera LCD, it survived quite well. Simple falls didn't seem to bother it at all, although we did find that it wasn't entirely scratch resistant.

Underwater shots work quite well on the camera, although understandably it can be a touch tricky accurately framing your shot in that kind of environment. Undoubtedly, keen underwater photographers -- especially scuba types or those who need longer underwater exposure -- will still be looking for something with a more robust body and better shooting options, but for the average snapshot taker who wants a camera that can take a few knocks and catch a few shots of the kids at the pool, the Olympus 720SW comes highly recommended.

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Natalie posted a comment   

The Good:Great underwater, great in situations with good lighting, light and compact, cheap.

The Bad:Not completely scratch-proof

This is my first digital camera, and I've had it for almost 4 years, and it's still in great working condition.

I've used it in pools hundreds of times and also in the ocean, and I've dropped it a few times, and it has withstood everything.

A great camera all around - I still love it!


Paul posted a review   

The Good:can't think of any

The Bad:poor quality photos, not waterproof, slow warranty claim process (and the replacement only has warranty from original purchase date, not date of replacement)

Flooded on first contact with water 30cm deep. Warrantly replacement was very slow. Shop said flooding was very rare, but I have a friend on her 4th camera - each one has flooded within warranty period.


ddawgslc posted a review   

The Good:pretty blue color

The Bad:flash takes way too long. sliding lens cover moves all the time without knowing it.. focus doen't work well...

horrible.. i am a very outdoorsy person.. i hate this camera

<a href=http://www.digital-camera4u.com/categories/Kodak/>kodak</a>

kodak posted a review   

The Good:LCD is good and large.
Shock proof and water proof feature is great.

The Bad:Zoom quality is poor.

All features of this camera is great. I like its easy to use and understandable controls. Its shock proof and water proof features are great.


Paul posted a review   

The Good:Can take it anywhere without worrying about damage (if it lives up to it's claims)

Reasonably inexpensive - if it works.

The Bad:Poor quality control
Lengthy warranty response times
Waterproofness not good.
Poor photos in low light conditions
Video mode looks like those staggering '70s home videos.

A neat little camera that takes good outdoor shots, but Olympus have very poor quality control. I have returned two cameras under warranty now and am about to pickup my third one month after purchase! The first time it didn't work straight out of the box (just some garbled code appeared on the display) and the second time it leaked on its first underwater adventure, at 30 cm deep - much shallower than the advertised 3m. To be fair, Olympus have (slowly) stood behind their warranty, but the destruction of the xD card isn't covered, and I lost a number of irreplaceable holiday shots (and had no camera at that holiday after it broke down). Would not recommend it and hopefully another manufacturer brings a decent affordable underwater camera to the market soon.

Thumbs up for me

Thumbs up for me posted a review   

Bought it only a week ago and took it surfing with me. It transforms the picture taking experience! Now I get to enjoy the surf even when I am out of it Woo hoo! I love it. My friends all want to get one now! Not sure about how long it lasts but I've got a 3 year warranty on it so hopefully that's gonna cover me :) Also used the camera at a wedding and was pleasantly surprised at its available light shooting capabilities. When its really dark of course the image is grainy but I was at a reception with a spotlight on the MC and only candle light elsewhere and picture turned out fine. Haven't printed photos yet.

R. J. H.

R. J. H. posted a review   

The Good:Underwater snaps
3X optical zoom is internal

The Bad:Pictures could be better quality

Great for underwater use in swimming pool. Tough camera with relatively good quality photos.


akajj1234 posted a review   

The Good:Good camera but for 3months only

The Bad:Poor Warranty. I never really thought about that before I buy. lol

I replaced my Kodak 2megapixel camera with this One, thought that the ruggedness and versatility even in the water would make it last for years, but it strangely become unstable even with great care. The bright capture wont work anymore coz all I got is blurry and hazy pictures in this mode, will have to use Flash in order to take a shot but obviously will create not real life pictures. Also, take note of the International Warranty coz they wont repair your camera if you bought it abroad even if under 1 year. Olympus is not recommend to Holiday Shoppers specially Tourist. I bought mine in Hongkong and they wont repair it in Olympus Philippines. Now Im selling it at Bargain price.


PICUTraveler posted a review   

The Good: Waterproof

The Bad: TERRIBLE indoors and with flash, all flash photos had a hazy, cloudy section on one side of the photo. Long shutter lag time

Good underwater and fairly good outdoors, although tends to overexpose a bit. Colors are washed out and need to be photoshopped.


Emma posted a review   

The Good:Although there are many options i found it very easy to use, very user friendly, Compact, And most of all enjoyable to use.

The Bad:Zoom range is fairly average

I got a pink one (So Cute) for my 21st birthday a few days ago. Finally got around to checking it all out last night. And it was great fun.

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User Reviews / Comments  Olympus Tough 720SW

  • Natalie


    "This is my first digital camera, and I've had it for almost 4 years, and it's still in great working condition.

    I've used it in pools hundreds of times and also in the ocean, and I'v..."

  • Paul



    "Flooded on first contact with water 30cm deep. Warrantly replacement was very slow. Shop said flooding was very rare, but I have a friend on her 4th camera - each one has flooded within warranty pe..."

  • ddawgslc



    "horrible.. i am a very outdoorsy person.. i hate this camera"

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