The Olympus Mju 1200 looks very advanced with its beautiful, shiny, black front and light up buttons on the back. But are appearances deceiving?
Olympus Mju 1200 Specification
- Sensor: CCD - 12Mp
- Image Size: 4000 x 3000 pixels
- Lens: 35-105mm f/7.4-22 (3x zoom)
- Focus: TTL Auto - 10cm Macro
- Exposure: Program AE/ 20 Scene
- Metering: ESP/Spot
- Monitor: 2.7in TFT LCD
- Other Features: PictBridge Support
- Movie Mode: Yes (with sound)
- Storage: 47Mb Internal, xD Card
- Batteries: Lithium-Ion
- AC Adaptor: Optional
- Video Output: Yes
- Size/Weight: 98 x56x23mm - 125g
- Transfer: USB
£235 will give you 12Mp, 3x optical zoom, weatherproofing and a beautiful design. Comparably, the Canon IXUS 960 IS is £40 more, has 12Mp, larger 4x optical zoom, a smaller screen and is also very good looking. The Sony DSC W200 at £225 also gives 12Mp and 3x optical zoom, but has a smaller screen and doesn't look as nice.
Olympus Mju 1200 Modes and features
Looking at the front of the camera, I cannot help but admire the sleek lines and shiny black exterior of the front casing. It contrasts beautifully with the chrome of the lens and trim. I am coy to pick it up as I don't want to put my fingerprints all over the glossy covering.
The top of the camera has only two buttons which are for Power and the Shutter release. A curvy chrome strip separates the front from the grey steel effect casing on the back.
The 2.7in LCD screen sits flush with the back of the camera and a small rocker operates the zoom in the top right corner. Below that is the Mode dial For Recording, Playback, Shake reduction, Scenes, Guide and Video mode. A Custom mode is also available which is signified by the Green star.
Below the dial are five buttons and the navigation pad. The two top buttons are for access to the Menu and a quick Playback access, whilst the bottom two are for changing how the screen looks and a new Shadow adjustment feature. The fifth button is located in the centre of all the others. It gives access to the Functions and also confirms any changes made in Menus.
The Function button brings up five options. The first one is a decision on whether you wish to have the camera in Program or Auto. Both modes are the same but Program will give you more access to other features in the Menus. A good illustration of this is that if Auto is chosen, the rest of the tabs in the Function menu blank out.
That is because they are options for changing the White balance, ISO ratings, Drive and Metering. Bear in mind that Auto makes the camera think you don't want to do anything except zoom and shoot and therefore cuts access to other options in that Menu.
The Menu is the usual higgledy piggledy system that Olympus are favouring at the moment. It opens up like a desktop on a computer with large icons showing you where to go for different things. The menu opens up on the Camera menu icon and Reset, Image quality, Set-up, Silent mode, Scene mode and Panoramic menu are also available. The Scene menu will only work when in Scene mode and the Panorama mode will only work if an Olympus xD card is being used as they are the only ones that support the Panoramic stitching software.
Exiting the Menu is an interesting affair. The camera will not allow you to exit out of the Menu unless you have done it properly by pressing the Menu button to back out of the options one by one. Other manufacturers will allow you to press the shutter release button to exit and the Olympus will preview the screen by pressing the shutter release, but once it's released, you will go back into the Menu. I can see a small benefit of the Olympus not doing this. If you are trying the manual white balance, the preview will be useful then you won't have to navigate back through the Menus if you don't like the results.
The reasoning behind the apparently odd way of doing things in the Scene mode is because when it is chosen on the dial, the menu automatically pops up. Once the selection has been made, the menu disappears and there is no way of recalling it unless you go out of Scene mode and back in again. The Scene menu allows you to re-enter easily. I mentioned this feature in the Performance section of the Olympus FE-290 review in October and still believe that it should be accessible regardless of the mode you may be in.
There are a few features I noticed on the Mju 1200 which interest me. One of these is the Shadow adjustment which is accessible from the button on the back of the camera in the bottom right corner. This feature makes easier photography when the subject is in a darker area. The other is the fine zoom which gives an extra boost and is in some way different to the Digital zoom, although that difference has been stepped around in the manual, but Olympus say "The digital zoom is keeping the file size by complementing the data. On the other hand, "fine zoom" is clipping out of the center of CCD and using pixel data 1:1, so that the image must be better than digital zoom, although the file size becomes smaller."
Probably the most ingenious is the Help button. Doubled up into the Display button at the bottom of the camera, the Help button will explain what any function does by holding down the button whilst at that mode. This is very useful when starting out and doesn't just randomly pop up either.
Olympus Mju 1200 Build and handling
The design of the camera has been thought out very well. The shape is reminiscent of the original Mju compacts from the archaic age of film and the black front backs it up. Only a 3x optical zoom has been fitted to this model and Olympus say the reason behind it is "Olympus set the best combination between 12M pixel CCD and zoom lens".
Most notably, the Mju1200 has carried on the tradition of the range and is weatherproof. This means it is resistant to light rain or snow, but can't cope for long and won't manage to go underwater. The casing is metal and coated with glossy coverings to give a futuristic look.
I like the way the buttons light up with the soft green lights but I don't like the Mode dial as it is a little stiff to operate. Some of the buttons can only be pressed with a nail which is also annoying.
The screen is a slightly wider size and benefits from Olympus' Hypercrystal technology to make the screen brighter and easier to see.
Olympus Mju 1200 Flash options
The usual suspects of Auto, Red-eye, Flash on and Flash off for all your basic flash needs so don't expect to be bouncing it off of walls and even a basic flash compensation isn't present.
Olympus Mju 1200 Performance
The ten second test in burst mode shows the camera can take up to 25 images in ten seconds, however needs an additional five seconds to download the final few images. Interestingly, the continuous shooting mode knocks down the resolution to get the hi-speed shooting. There is no other option for continuous shooting.
The Shutter lag on the camera is approximately 0.13 seconds according to our test and Olympus don't have the data available at the moment.
The portrait test shows Program mode cooling the tones off to a more realistic colouring in natural light. The Portrait mode used Flash to balance the skin out and has warmed the image up as well.
The results from our colour testchart show a vivid image with a deep Blue and bright Red. the skin tone has Red leaking into it, making it too pink. The earthy colour are nicely balanced, but the Black could be Blacker.
Blue is boosted as are the other primary colours. Red can be seen creeping into the skin tone which isn't good. White could be whiter and Black could be blacker.
| The Macro has a close up of 10cm which is nothing special for a camera of this calibre.|
Olympus Mju 1200 Noise test
ISO64 gives a lovely result which is predictable, but unfortunately will hardly ever get used unless you are a tripod advocate. Slight changes start to be made at ISO200 which is only visible when viewed at full size and this is a minimal increase of noise in the low key areas. Noise starts to distinctly sharpen at ISO400, but the camera is still retaining a good result.
ISO800 sees purple blobs appear in dark areas and a definite softness has started to appeasr which is the camera counter attack to showing noise. Either way, the image is going to lose quality, so it thinks that it may as well soften the picture. ISO1600 starts to see the detail in the petals start to peter out and by ISO3200, the detail has disappeared.
Finally, the Mju 1200 offers a maximum ISO of 6400 and the image at this rating is actually very good for such a high level of sensitivity.
The ISO64 test.
| The ISO100 test.|
The ISO200 test.
The ISO400 test.
The ISO800 test.
The ISO3200 test.
The ISO6400 test.
Olympus Mju 1200 Verdict
At the beginning of this review, I asked if appearances will be deceiving with this camera and I am afraid they are. Producing such a stunning camera should be a good reason to put some experimental features in and make it even more alluring, but the features are the same as any other Olympus Mju.
They could have changed the Menu to look more modern, but it is the same. The screen could have been touch sensitive or Olympus could have put some other novelty features on that are completely useless, but would add to the attraction of the camera from a purely cosmetic angle.
This camera will appeal to those who get a camera for looks. Technologically, it's the same as older or cheaper models.
Olympus Mju 1200 Plus points
Help button to guide new users when needed
Good ISO results
Olympus Mju 1200 Minus points
No inspiring features
Won't exit the Menu unless done in the right order takes getting used to
The Olympus Mju 1200 costs about £235 and is available from your friendly neighbourhood ePHOTOzine shop here.