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Olympus Mju 790 SW Digital Camera Review

Olympus Mju 790 SW Digital Camera Review - "They don't make them like they used to", Matt Grayson's dad used to say. Showing him the Olympus Mju 790 SW with waterproofing to 3m and Shockproofing from 1.5m soon shut him up.

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Olympus Mju 790 SW in Compact Cameras

A slim, stylish digital compact is on offer in the form of the Olympus Mju 790 SW. It comes fitted with 7.1Mp, 3x optical zoom, waterproofing and shockproofing. Is there no end to the generosity of Olympus?

Olympus mju 790 SW Olympus Mju 790 SW Specifications

  • Effective pixels: 7.1 Mp
  • Optical zoom: 3x, 38-114 mm
  • Monitor size: 2.5in
  • LCD type: HyperCrystal LCD
  • Method TTL: iESP auto focus with contrast detection
  • Face Detection AF: Yes
  • Spot focusing: Yes
  • Standard mode: 50cm (wide & tele)
  • Macro mode: 20cm (wide)/30cm (tele)
  • Super Macro mode Closest focusing distance: 7cm
  • Metering: ESP, Spot
  • Memory: 14.7Mb internal, xD picture card
  • Dimensions: 93.6x60.9x21.3mm
  • Weight: 136g

Priced at just under £200, close competitors are the Canon Ixus 75 at £169 with 7.1Mp, 3x optical zoom and a few other added benefits like a 3in screen, more metering options and closer macro capability. Alternatively, the Nikon S510 at £199 offers 8.1Mp, 3x optical zoom and a larger internal memory of 52Mb. Other benefits include Face priority and optical image stabiliser. Neither cameras compare in build quality or are waterproof.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Modes and features
Upon first inspection, the Olympus Mju 790 SW looks nice, clean, has stylish lines, a large screen, internal parts and good features. Closer inspection shows that it keeps up with its first impression and is a very capable little camera. The cover of the lens is a slider and is so quiet, it can hardly be heard. The power button to activate the camera is situated on the top next to the shutter release button and these are the only buttons on the top of the camera.

The rear of the camera has the 2.5in screen shunted over to the left so all the functions and buttons are together. Personally, I prefer to see a little balance and have some buttons on either side of the camera, but it doesn't impair the cameras performance in any way.

The zoom is a small rocker at the top right of the camera and situated below is the mode dial. A working light is used as a marker for the dial setting. Options available on the dial are Auto, Camera shake, Scene mode, Guide, Video mode, Favourites and Playback.

The Scene modes included are Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with Portrait, Night scene, Night and portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self portrait, Available light which uses no flash so will boost Olympus Mju 790 SW the ISO, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & select 1 which uses a continuous shooting mode and only the pictures you want to keep will be stored and 2 which does the same as 1 but uses a continuous focusing for constantly moving subjects, Beach and Snow, Underwater snapshot, Underwater wide 1 for shooting still subjects underwater and 2 for shooting moving objects and Underwater macro for taking a picture right into that Great White's mouth as it attacks your cage.

The Guide button is for helping if you want to do something other than what the Scene modes can offer. If you want to blur the background in a picture, but cannot work out how to do it, go to the Guide, choose the correct option and the camera will take control of the situation.

In Auto, the Menu will give five options which are the Image quality, Camera menu which goes more in-depth giving access to the White balance, ISO, single or continuous shooting, Fine zoom, Digital zoom, metering modes, AF modes and voice recorder. The Panorama mode will be deselected until a Panorama capable xD card is inserted. Other options on the Menu are Scene modes, Set up which has access to Formatting your card, language selection, PW on set up, Menu themes, Changing the volumes of the Beep, Focus and Shutter, Record view, File name change between reset or continuous, Pixel mapping, Screen brightness, Date & time, Dual time, Alarm clock, Video out choices are PAL or NTSC, Power save and the LED illumination can be adjusted on or off. Finally, the last option in the menu is Silent mode.

Olympus Mju 790 SW The OK button is used for setting options and also acts as a quick access menu which lets changes be made to Auto or Program, White balance settings, ISO ratings, Drive and Metering. The Display button to the bottom left of the navigation pad scrolls through the Rule of Thirds grid, Histogram, Basic info on screen or no details on screen. The bottom right button allows the camera to use the Shadow adjustment setting and this can be toggled on or off here. The Shadow adjustment button also doubles as the Delete button for Playback options and the Playback button is at the top right of the navigation pad.

The Navigation pad also doubles up as Exposure compensation, Macro features, Flash modes and Self timer options.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Build quality
Despite its small size, the Mju 790 SW is a camera to be reckoned with. The outer casing is made of metal which is a surprise as it feels plastic and their are no external moving parts. Indeed, the only thing that can be seen to move is the lens cover as it slides open. The screen sits flush with the back and the camera would be super smooth if it wasn't for the buttons making it all knobbly.

The main two features of the 790 SW are the shock proofing which uses shock absorbing technology to withstand dropping from up to 1.5m. This is a typical arm height, so using it everyday the camera is safe from the most buttery of fingers. The 790 SW is also waterproof to depths of 3m, so don't expect to go exploring the Mariana trench just yet but this is a marked improvement on the trademark weatherproofing that the Mju is famous for. This feature also ties in nicely with the Underwater options on the Scene selection as the description has also been amended to include the waterproof feature.

The screen is not the best I have seen as it succumbs to a degree of motion blur and suffers from the purple banding with overexposure from windows but otherwise is bright and sharp. The USB port is hidden away on the side of the camera with its own cover and rubber seals to protect it underwater as is the battery cover which also houses the xD picture card slot.

The external speaker and microphone appear to be just holes puncturing the skin of the camera with no shielding against the invading water but this is obviously all internal. At least, I hope it is.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Olympus Mju 790 SW Flash options
As stated previously, the Flash options are accessed by the navigation button assigned. Only four options are available which are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Flash on and Flash off. The distances are 0.2 - 3.8m at wide angle and 0.3 - 2.6m at telephoto. These capabilities are just about acceptable and only the top end of the telephoto is any better than the budget models.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Performance
The Olympus Mju 790 SW has two separate continuous modes which are Continuous and Hi continuous. Continuous shooting can manage five shots in 10 seconds and doesn't hold any images in the buffer opting to download direct to the memory card. Hi continuous manages 18 shots in 10 seconds or more appropriately, 8 seconds before the buffer has to download. The quality rating has been reduced automatically to SQ1 for the Hi continuous shooting mode.

The colour chart image gives the usual results from a compact. Boosted primaries and balanced skin tone. The other colours are well exposed , but the image retains the paleness that the lock image suffers from.

The portrait image was nicely balanced in exposure, but tries to warm up the image by adding yellow which is evident in the skin and on the wall and whilst yellow is a warm colour, it doesn't work as well as it should. The image has also been softened slightly in camera.

The macro facility is not very good at 20cm, however, a Super macro has been installed to get even closer at 7cm, but even then, it doesn't even match the performance of other models on the standard macro.

I also took a shot in water to demonstrate the underwater facility and the image has come out quite well balanced. The setting on the scene mode was Underwater wide 1.

Olympus Mju 790 SW colourchart
The colour chart gives the usual results, primaries are boosted and skin tones are well balanced.

Olympus Mju 790 SW underwater shot
The 790 SW is waterproof to 3m. 3in is enough proof for me.

Olympus Mju 790 SW
The portrait mode gives a yellow cast all over to try and warm the image.

Olympus Mju 790 SW
Program mode cools the image in comparison to portrait mode.

Olumpus Mju 790SW Super macro
The super macro feature only gets 7cm. Hardly a performance to attain the credit of "super".

Olympus Mju 790 SW
The regular macro mode is not very good at 20cm but produces a good result on the exposure and colour balance.

Olympus Mju 790 SW lock image
No fringing on the building, the image is a little pale but exposure is balanced.


Olympus Mju 790 SW Noise test
Expectedly, the ISO80 test shot gives good results with excellent detail in the petals, smooth lines on the card and no noise. ISO100 displays a slight increase in colour on the petals and the black has a little colour added to it, but no degradation of the image quality is apparent.

Noise is starting to show in the lowest of low key areas at ISO200 and after the brief boost of colour, the petals have gone a little paler whilst ISO400 starts to show noise more freely with that paleness backing out and the colour returning.

Noise is overly apparent in all areas of the ISO800 test shot and the lines of the grey card are starting to degrade and ISO1600 looks like a multi coloured snow storm has hit. Patches of red are clearly shown on the black of the grey card sample and the detail of the petals is starting to get lost in the chaos.

The ISO80 test
The ISO80 test.

The ISO100 test
The ISO100 test.

The ISO200 test
The ISO200 test.

The ISO400 test
The ISO400 test.

The ISO800 test
The ISO800 test.

The ISO1600 test
The ISO1600 test.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Verdict
Whilst not offering a great deal in features compared to other cameras in its price bracket, the Olympus Mju 790 SW does offer the waterproofing and shockproofing. These features alone are worth getting it for as the waterproofing offers some great new adventures by opening the scope of where you can go with it. Got a pedalo off the coast of Spain with a shoal of fish swimming just under? Stick the camera in and shoot because it doesn't matter as long as you don't drop it. If you drop it on the ground, it doesn't matter. Making the camera this versatile is a great step forward for Olympus and if you are in the field for a small compact in the price range, this is a serious contender.

Olympus Mju 790 SW Plus points:
Shockproof to 1.5m
Waterproof to 3m
Easy to use

Olympus Mju 790 SW Minus points:
Screen is not good quality
Pitiful macro
Basic features are not as good as like for like models





The Olympus Mju 790 SW costs around £200.

Check here for other great Olympus products.


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Is the 790 freezeproof?

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Yes it will work up to -10c, that's if you are silly enough to want to go out and take photos when it's that cold. (unless you are an Eskimo becks!)

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