The Olympus Mju series of digital cameras has long stood for stylish design, and excellent weatherproof build quality. In this review Gary Wolstenholme takes a look at whether the new addition to this illustrious line of compact digital cameras is worthy of the reputation associated with them. Specification
Build and handling
- 7.1 million pixels
- 19.1 MB internal storage for images.
- Removable xD-Picture Card
- 3x Zoom
- 2.5inch TFT LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels.
- BrightCapture Technology: Improved live-view especially in dark surroundings.
- 8cm Super Macro
- 23 Scene modes
- Weight: 103g
The wedge shape of the Olympus Mju 700 is very comfortable to hold. The wider end fits snugly in the palm of my hand making access to the well laid-out control system very easy indeed. For such a small camera, the tapered contour of the camera feels reassuringly secure to hold.
The zoom control, shooting mode dial and menu controls are all located on the back, next to the ample 2.5inch display. When holding the camera with one hand, the shutter button on the top, and the zoom control on the back, fall exactly where your finger and thumb rest naturally. This well-thought-out design really aids the usability of the camera.
Materials used in the construction are of high quality, the camera feels sturdy without being heavy and the metallic finish looks the part. Display screen
The large 2.5inch screen on the back is clear and satisfyingly bright when used indoors or in dim light. Dim light is where this display excels, the process of brightening the on-screen image that is termed 'BrightCapture Technology' by Olympus, really does help with composing shot in low light conditions. The Autofocus also performs brilliantly in low light. In bright daylight the performance of the display is less impressive. A tough sheet of clear acrylic material protects the screen, but this material is also quite reflective. This can make it difficult to see properly in bright daylight, I found myself constantly having to shade the screen with my hand, so that I was able to see the image well enough to compose my shot. Autofocus
Half-pressing the shutter button sets the autofocus system into action. The camera automatically selects what it thinks is the correct focus point for your image, while this is very quick and simple, sometimes I found that the point it chose was not ideal for the shot I was composing. In low light the autofocus system is superb, quickly locking onto the subject and rarely hunting around for focus. Battery life
An Olympus Li-42B lithium-ion battery supplies plenty of power, happily filling a 512MB xD card with almost 300 images, and still showing full battery. Menu and controls
This little Olympus has a raft of simple features to help novice photographers get the results they desire. With a little knowledge of just what settings each mode alters, more experienced photographers can also use these mode for creative effect.
Most of the camera's exposure options are first accessed by selecting the appropriate section on the mode dial. The dial is divided into the following sections:
| ||Allows you to shoot with the camera's automatic settings. |
| || |
| ||Reduces the blur incurred by a moving subject or camera movement when taking pictures. |
| || |
| ||Allows you to shoot pictures by selecting a scene according to the shooting condition. |
| || |
| ||Allows you to set the target items by following the shooting guide displayed on the screen. |
| || |
| ||Record movies. |
| || |
| ||Allows you to play back still pictures or movies. You can also play back sound. |
In the automatic mode, the camera takes control of all exposure settings, leaving you free to decide on the composition of your shot.
Next on the mode dial is the anti-blur mode. This mode is essentially the same as the automatic mode with the exception of it setting a higher ISO sensitivity by default. This increases the shutter speed, reducing camera shake and blur caused by fast moving subjects.
23 scene modes are selectable when SCN is selected on the mode dial. These modes include portrait, landscape, night scene, sport, indoor, candle, self portrait, available light, sunset, fireworks, museum, cuisine, behind glass, documents, auction, shoot and select, beach and snow and under water. When highlighted in the menu, each of the scene assist modes are accompanied by a brief description of how they affect the exposure.
The Guide mode asks questions to determine how to best achieve the effect you are after. An example of this is 'Brightening the subject'. When this is selected the camera presents two options; Increase the exposure compensation value, or set to fill-in flash. For a complete photography novice this is a very useful feature. Not only will there be an improvement in the pictures taken, but the person using the camera can learn from the suggestions, and find what suits them best. Zoom lens
The Olympus Mju 700 comes equipped with a 3x zoom lens which gives an equivalent angle-of-view of approximately 37-111mm on 35mm cameras. The tiny 3x zoom lens protrudes from the front of the camera by about 2cm when the camera is switched on, zooming from one extreme of the range to the other is fairly swift, but maybe not the fastest I have used taking just over 2 seconds. Macro Mode
This macro close-up mode allows closer focussing throughout the whole zoom range, from about 20cm at the wide end of the zoom and as close as 50cm at the telephoto end. There is also a separate Super Macro mode which fixes the zoom at the wide end. In this mode you can get as close as 8cm from your subject, which isn't very close at all.
This shot was taken using the Super Macro mode. This is as close as it will get.
Plenty of detail is recorded when using Super Macro
There are four different image quality levels on this camera - SHQ, HQ, SQ1 and SQ2. All images in this review were taken on SHQ and at maximum resolution, so that I could truly see what the camera is capable of producing.
The auto white balance performs well indoors as well as outside leaving only a slight colour cast in all but the most difficult conditions.
Colours look natural and display a good level of detail and sharpness. In the auto mode the camera has a tendency to overexpose difficult subjects. Exposure compensation can be accessed through the menu for correction where it is needed.
Images display natural looking
levels of colour
The level of detail and sharpness is consistent
right to the edges of the frame
| || |
| || |
| || |
|Difficult subjects are often overexposed |
in the automatic mode
|Reducing the exposure by 1 stop |
resulted in a more balanced exposure
on this occasion.
|The following images illustrate the amount of digital noise apparent at each ISO setting. |
The image to the right is the full image. The crops below are taken from where the red square is.
| || |
|ISO64 ||ISO100 |
| || |
| || |
|ISO200 ||ISO400 |
| || |
| || |
|ISO800 ||ISO1600 |
Images taken at ISO64 are free of noise, sharp and full of detail. Unfortunately, Jpeg artefacts can be seen at some edges, even in the SHQ mode. From ISO100-400 images start to display more signs of noise, but levels of detail are still high. The in-camera noise reduction appears to kick in properly at ISO800, the crop actually displays slightly less noise than ISO400, without sacrificing much detail. This is impressive, images taken at ISO800 are definitely usable for small to medium sized prints. Finally ISO1600 displays lots of noise, and a fairly significant loss of detail, but it is there if you need it as a last resort. Verdict
The well-thought-out design of the Olympus Mju 700, makes it a very easy camera to use. All of the controls are within easy reach of your thumb and the wedge-shaped body feels more secure to hold than other ultra-compact digital cameras I have used.
The quality of images produced is good, although I would have liked the SHQ mode to have used less compression to reduce the appearance of Jpeg artefacts in the images. The well-controlled noise levels up to ISO800 make this a very flexible camera for shooting in all sorts of conditions.
In summary the positive points of the Olympus Mju 700 are:
Wedge shaped body feels secure to hold.
The control layout is well designed.
Good control of noise up to ISO800.
Scene modes are easy enough for a novice to use.
The negative points:
Poor macro ability.
Screen is difficult to see in bright light.
Discuss this review and other digital cameras here