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Olympus Mju 725SW Digital Camera Review

Olympus Mju 725SW Digital Camera Review - 

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Category : Compact Cameras
Product : Olympus Mju 725SW
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Life can be tough, especially for digital cameras, and precision instruments such as these are not commonly built to withstand the abuse they can sometimes be subjected to. Olympus' solution is the Mju 725SW, built to withstand being dropped from a height of up to one and a half metres, this camera is not only tough, but also waterproof to a depth of five metres. In this review Gary Wolstenholme searches for a chink in this warrior's armor.

Olympus Mju 725SWSpecifications
  • 7.1 megapixels
  • 19 MB internal memory. Removable xD-Picture Card.
  • 3x optical zoom equivalent to 38mm-114mm in 35mm format
  • 2.5” LCD monitor with 115,000 pixels
  • 7cm Super macro mode
  • 25 scene programs
  • Shutter speed range - 1/2s-1/1000s (up to 4sec. in night mode)
  • Sensitivity range - ISO 80 - 1600
  • Waterproof up to a water pressure equivalent to 5m depth
  • Shock-proof from heights of up to 1.5m

Build and handling
The all-metal construction of the Mju 725SW feels sturdy. Olympus claim that the camera will survive drops of up to 1.5 metres, which is reassuring as most other compacts make no claims about their toughness. The front metal panel is held in place by three hexagonal screws, which further enhances the rigid feel, and also provides extra grip when holding the camera.

Display screen
As seems to be standard on recent digital compact cameras, the Mju 725SW sports a large 2.5inch screen for composing and reviewing images. The screen is bright and clear and refreshes quickly, although the hard transparent cover is shiny, which makes the screen difficult to see in direct sunlight.
Hoods and other solutions that shade the screen are available from the ePHOTOzine shop if this is a problem for you.

Autofocus
A choice of two autofocus modes are available through the camera's menu - iESP and Spot. The iESP mode automatically selects an off-centre focusing point depending on your subject. The Spot focusing mode is fixed to one point in the centre, allowing you to focus and recompose for off-centre subjects. The autofocus on the Mju 725SW isn't the fastest I have used, but it certainly isn't slow.

Battery
A compact lithium-ion is supplied with the Mju 725SW, providing enough power for around 300 shots during the review.

Memory card
The Mju 725SW takes an xD memory card, which fits into a slot beside the battery. The following are write speeds for different Jpeg quality settings when using an Olympus 'H' 256MB memory card.

Quality setting Time taken to write to card
7.1 megapixel Jpeg Fine 2.6secs
7.1 megapixel Jpeg Normal 1.8secs

I also timed the delay between shots with this camera in the single shot mode.

Quality setting Shot-to-shot delay
7.1 megapixel Jpeg Fine 2.86secs
7.1 megapixel Jpeg Normal 1.74secs


Write and shot-to-shot delay times are fairly typical of a camera of this specification. The buffer does a good job of soaking up the information collected by the 7.1 megapixel sensor.

Menu and controls
The controls are well-placed to allow for easy one-handed operation of the camera, with the shutter release and zoom control falling directly under finger and thumb.

Settings can be changed either through the camera's menu system, which is well-designed and easy to navigate, although some common functions, such as exposure compensation are buried a little too deep for my liking. To remedy this, pressing the 'OK' button brings up a smaller selection of options for quicker access.

No manual or creative exposure modes are supplied for more advanced users, which I missed

Zoom lens
The 3x zoom lens covers the equivalent of a 38mm wide-angle to a 114mm telephoto lens. A slightly wider angle than 38mm is often preferable, as I found myself having to step backwards to get large buildings and groups of people in the frame.

Macro mode


The super-macro mode allows you to get within 7cm of your subject. The camera automatically zooms to the ideal level for maximum magnification and the flash is disabled.

A 100% crop of the the shot to the left which shows the level of detail captured.

Underwater shooting
The Mju 725SW is waterproof to an equivalent water pressure of five metres depth. Although this may not be deep enough for serious watersports or diving, it provides piece of mind for those who may use the camera in damp conditions, or near water. It's also great for experimenting with, although I found the autofocus struggled to find its target in all but the clearest water.

Left - This image was taken with the lens level with the surface of the water, which would not be possible without the waterproofing.

Above - A two pence coin I found in the same fountain. This image was taken with the camera completely submerged

Image quality
There are two different image quality levels on this camera - HQ and SHQ. All images in this review were taken on SHQ and at maximum resolution so that I could see what the camera is capable of producing using the typical settings.







Above left - The Mju 725SW produces rich, saturated images.

Above - The auto white-balance performs well, leaving daylight images with a pleasing warmth.

Left - This difficult scene has been exposed well with plenty of detail in both shadows and highlights.

Below - Skintones are are well reproduced.




Detail

This busy scene was taken using a tripod to determine the level of detail this camera can produce.

A 100% crop of the image shows that this camera is capable of reproducing a fair amount of detail.

Compared to...

Canon Powershot A700 at ISO100


Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 at ISO100


The Mju 725SW captures an impressive amount of detail, and is only just bettered by the Canon A700. The Mju 725SW compares favourably to the 10 megapixel Casio Exilim EX-Z1000, producing a sharper image, even though it has fewer pixels.

Noise
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 green square is.


ISO80

ISO100

ISO200

ISO400

ISO800

ISO1600

Compared to...

Olympus Mju 725SW at ISO400

Casio Exilim EX-Z1000 at ISO400

Canon Powershot A700 at ISO400

The Mju 725SW produces a respectable set of images at most ISO sensitivities, only really becoming unbearable at ISO1600 where large patches of chroma noise dominate images. When shots taken at ISO400 are compared to other competing cameras, especially the Casio Exilim EX-Z1000, which displays very prominent noise at ISO400. Noise levels are similar to the Canon Powershot A700, although the noise pattern is smoother, probably due to more aggressive noise reduction.

Verdict
Equally at home on the beach or by the swimming pool, the Mju 725SW combines rugged build and excellent image quality with the interesting addition of dust and water-proofing. This makes it a great choice for those who pursue outdoor activities such as watersports or for those who just live life to the full.

Although focusing can be difficult underwater and no manual exposure options have been provided for greater control, these are only minor chinks to the Mju 725SW's extra-tough tough armor.

Those looking for a simple to use high quality compact that can take life's knocks, will not be disappointed with the Olympus Mju 725SW.

In summary the positive points of the Olympus Mju 725SW are:
Rugged build.
Waterproof to 5m.
Good design of controls and menu system.
Image quality.

The negative points:
Noise at ISO1600.
Lack of creative controls.

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