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Olympus Stylus 1030SW digital camera
Waterproof, crushproof, drop proof extreme sports digital camera
By John Virata

Compact digital cameras are easy to use, output excellent quality images, and are loaded with features that can enhance the user's photographic capabilities. One thing that many compact digital cameras are not, as with most personal electronic devices these days, are sturdy. If you have dropped one, as I have in the past, chances are the LCD screen has cracked internally but still may work, or the unit won't power up at all, relegating it to the round file in the sky. Most just aren't built to withstand the rigors of everyday happenings.

That is not the case with the Olympus Stylus SW series of compact digital cameras. The company released its first models several years ago, and its latest version, the 1030SW continues with a series of features that virtually no other digital camera has. The 1030SW is a 10.1 megapixel digital camera that on the outside, looks like a typical digital camera. But what the company has built into the camera is a series of features that give it more durability than other cameras of similar price points. For starters the 1030SW is waterproof up to 33ft, shockproof to 6.6ft, freeze proof to 14 degrees, and crushproof to 220lb feet. These features make the 1030SW ideal for such endeavors as water sports, winter sports, and more. The camera is built like a tank, featuring an all metal body in a choice of colors, making the camera dustproof as well. The normal specifications include a 3.6x wide angle zoom lens, 2.7-inch HyperCrystal II LCD, face detection technology, digital image stabilization, in camera panorama, shadow adjustment technology, built-in LED for shooting in macro and other low light modes when a flash can't be used, and a built in manometer that can measure air and water pressure so you can calculate the altitude and depth.

In use
What I like about the 1030SW is its compact form factor. But this is just the icing on the cake. The real reason I purchased this camera was because it is waterproof to 33ft. This enabled me to use it while snorkeling off Hawaii. A friend of mine has been shooting from the water with various iterations of the camera at jdubsingles.blogspot.com. All photos on his blog are taken with this type of camera. The form factor has been refined a bit since the last Olympus digital camera that I've looked at. The top of the unit has your power and shutter release button, while the back of the camera has your telephoto and wide controls, menu, print control and playback button, Disp button where you can switch LCD modes so you can see white balance function, a plain LCD screen, and the rule of thirds screen.

the Stylus 1030SW comes in several colors

The camera's flash and macro buttons are also easily accessed, as is the timer button. Moving the controls from say video camera to still is achieved via the scroll wheel in the upper portion of the camera. The scroll wheel is where you change certain aspects of the camera, including changing the scene mode, auto mode, playback, Favorite (your favorite photos saved in memory), video mode, and Guide mode, which explains to you how to set the camera to shoot in certain situations, such as Brightening subject, shooting into backlight, Blurring background, etc. The camera's 3.6X optical zoom features its own protective metal covering, and the lens stays within the confines from within the metal body, and does not protrude from the unit at its highest zoom range.

Image reduced for Web display

What needs to be improved upon
I would suggest only a few improvements to the 1030SW. First, the battery must be removed from the camera for charging. This design seems to run counter to the point and shoot ease of use coming from other camera manufacturers that rely on a simple USB cable to charge the camera's battery in the camera. Second, you need to buy a large enough memory card, because the card the 1030SW uses, the Olympus proprietary xD card format, can't be as easily found as the standard SD, or microSD card format, though there is an adapter that ships with the camera to avail of your existing microSD cards. While it is an ideal size, the packaging that the card came in is ridiculous. Olympus needs to rethink the packaging of its xD cards, as all that plastic for a tiny little card is just more wasted space in the world's landfills.

Video size reduced and converted to QuickTime for Web

While the camera is drop proof to 6.6ft, the all metal construction is fairly slippery, so much so that I've already dropped the camera twice, dinging the corners but in no way affecting the camera's performance. On a similarly priced digital camera, the LCD screen cracked after I dropped it, rendering it unusable, but I availed of Costco's liberal 90-day return policy for a refund. I also don't like the limited video capture when in high quality, 30fps VGA 640x480 mode. This 10 second limitation is just plain lame. In QVGA 320x240, there is no such limitation.  

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