When someone tells a reviewer that a camera is drop, shock and water-resistant, what do they seriously expect to happen? Quite... the claim's going to be tested. What red-blooded reviewer is going to take some camera maker's word for it?
The Olympus µ790SW is designed for hikers and ramblers... the sort of people who wear beanie hats and take a flask of tea and packet of fish-paste sandwiches with them on their walks. They're just the kind of people who are likely to be caught in a rainstorm, lose their rucksack in a brook or generally fumble around and drop their camera thanks to the mittens they're wearing.
Well, we didn't exactly dress up for the test but we did decide to drop the µ790SW in a stream. So far so good. The camera didn't let a drop of water in, thanks to some very high-quality rubber seals and some clever engineering.
Next we dropped the camera onto the floor of the forest we were walking through. Once again, the µ790SW coped admirably although we think a drop onto concrete would scratch the silver body so we didn't bother attacking it with an angle grinder to test its resilience.
After the 1.5m drop test, we stuck the camera in the fridge, next to the Veuve Clicquot (you can tell we're not ramblers, can't you?) and the µ790SW carried on working. A spell in the freezer did however make the LCD screen appear a bit squiffy and the battery decided to pack up. To be fair, the camera's not designed to work alongside a bag of frozen peas.
Other tests included a spell at high humidity and a general bit of rough and tumble. The result? A positive pass. It's a lot tougher than it looks. While it doesn't look as rugged as its predecessor, the µ760SW, it's waterproof and can withstand shocks of up to 1.5 metres. It does exactly what is says on the tin.
Image quality is well up to the usual high Olympus standards, with vibrant colours and reasonable noise levels. We particularly like the LED light for illuminating super macro shots.
Our only gripe is the use of xD-Picture cards and the rather fiddly buttons on the rear. Let's face it, when you're out in all weathers and you do have some gloves on or your fingers are frozen stiff, you'd find those controls just too small to use.
For the everyday demands of the great outdoors, this is a great option. A slightly more rugged and more scratch-resistant finish would be nice, but in most other respects the µ790SW fits the bill.