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Olympus Mju 840 Digital Camera Review

Olympus Mju 840 Digital Camera Review - Matt Grayson takes a look at the pink version of the Olympus Mju 840 digital compact. A camera full of features including a shiny screen on the back for checking his lippy.

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Olympus Mju 840 in Compact Cameras

Red blooded males need not be too worried, the Olympus Mju 840 also comes in less feminine colours.

Olympus Mju 840 Olympus Mju 840: Specification

  • Optical zoom: 5x
  • Resolution: 8Mp
  • Colour: Variable
  • Focal length: 36-180mm
  • Aperture: f/3.3-5.0
  • Screen size: 2.7in
  • Card format: xD
  • Battery: Lithium-Ion
  • Weight: 130g
  • Size: 96.4x56.5x24mm
  • Sensor size: 2.7in
  • Minimum focus distance: 3cm
  • Speed: ISO64-1600

The Canon IXUS 950IS is the same price and offers 8Mp, Image Stabiliser and a 4x optical zoom. Like the Mju, it comes from the manufacturer's finer range of compacts.

Alternatively, the slim Sony T200 also has 8Mp and a 5x zoom but is slightly older, so costs £25 less.

Olympus Mju 840: Modes and features
I was always under the impression that releasing a new camera meant upgrading features and possibly even putting new ones on it. Despite the garish colour, there doesn't appear to be any differences at all between the Mju 840 and the Mju 830. It looks like we'll have to delve a little deeper to see what has been updated, but first we'll take a brief look around the body.

Olympus Mju 840 The metal shell houses the 5x optical zoom lens and slim flash on the front with only the power button and shutter release on the top.

Moving down to the back of the camera and the 2.7in screen sits comfortably to the left with all the function buttons set down the right for easy operability with either fingers or thumbs. The zoom is a small rocker in the top right with the mode dial sat directly below but it hangs slightly over the edge for easier use with one digit. The menu and playback buttons are sat in between the mode dial and the navigation pad which has the function button in the centre.

As usual, the navigation pad doubles up giving access to flash, exposure compensation, macro and self-timer. In the centre, the function button opens up a small menu on the screen of the camera which offers different options dependant on the mode you're in on the dial. At its full access mode, the function menu will bring up white balance, ISO, continuous shooting, metering, resolution and quality. The continuous shooting has two options of sequential and hi-speed with the hi-speed offering a faster frames per second (fps) but at the expense of resolution as it drops to 3Mp.

Switching the camera on displays the market this camera is intended for (in case the colour didn't convince you) as a cool blue light rings the button to show it's working. The bright screen bursts Olympus Mju 840 into action a second later showing a small centre square for composition, the battery level, the shooting and flash modes selected, resolution, and amount of pictures left available on the card. When the image stabiliser, mute or features such as macro are activated, an icon will display on the screen to remind you.

The main menu has the usual Olympus organisation of thumbnail style icons arranged in rows of three with the the exception of the resolution which sits in the centre of the top row on its own. Certain options will be blanked out if you're not allowed to access them such as the panorama mode if you don't have an Olympus xD picture card and the scene mode if the dial isn't set to scene.

The Olympus Mju 840 also offers a shadow adjustment feature which is similar to the Nikon D-Lighting and is designed to fill in shadow detail making the exposure more balanced.

So what's different on this camera? I had to analyse the specifications of both cameras on the Olympus website to find out and the main differences that can be seen are a better low speed rating of ISO64 from ISO80, the two Continuous Shooting modes have been improved too. The Hi-speed mode that cuts the resolution down now runs at 6.9fps for ten frames and on the regular speed it manages 1fps for six frames.

They've removed the lowest quality film version which records at 160x120 at 15fps on the Mju 830. This is a pretty shoddy mode and Olympus have done themselves a favour, so don't get too upset by it. A 16:9 image size has been added for widescreen still images which records at a picture size of 1920x1080.

Interestingly, they've reduced the size of the camera by a few millimetres, but have increased the weight by five grams.

Olympus Mju 840: Build and handling
Olympus Mju 840 As part of the Mju range, the 840 has the luxury of being made out of metal with a great quality lens and weatherproofing. Or is it? Looking around the camera, there's no indication of weatherproofing being used on the camera. Ususally, the camera will have rubber seals in the battery bay and USB port cover. The word "weatherproof" always adorns the camera somewhere and it's not present on this camera. EPHOTOzine spoke to Jerome Demare, PR executive for Olympus UK and he confirmed: "None of our new range of Olympus Mju's have weatherproofing. Water and weatherproofing is reserved for the Tough range of cameras."

So that spells the end of 11 years of history from when the Olympus Mju II was released back in 1997.

It's always a shame to see a plastic tripod bush on a camera whether it's a compact or not and sadly this is the case on the Mju 840. However, the plastic battery door is reinforced with a metal plate which helps stop bending and flexibility.

Olympus Mju 840: Flash options
Olympus Mju 840 On the Olympus Mju 840, the flash options are accessed by pressing the flash button on the navigation pad. This will bring up four options of Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Flash On and Flash Off.

While the coverage of the Mju 840 is greater than the Mju 830 with a top range of 4.4m the online specification sets that at ISO800. The Mju 830 specification indicates that the performance of 3.6m is set at Auto ISO, which could be lower so it's not really a fair comparison.

However, the distance range for the Mju 840 is 0.2-4.4m at wide angle and 0.6-3.1m at telephoto.

Olympus Mju 840: Performance
Start up time is still fast at around a second and the sequential drive of the camera took 10 shots in ten seconds just like Olympus said it would with the exception it didn't stop after 6 frames.

The High Speed shooting mode knocks the resolution down to 3Mp but can then manage a burst of 11 shots at 6.9fps before the camera has to download. I managed to get three rounds out and a few others in ten seconds totalling 37 images altogether.

The shutter lag test resulted in an average of 0.12sec which isn't the fastest I've seen. Surprising results from a camera with a fast start-up time and Hi-Speed shooting.

The Olympus is fitted with a Trupic Turbo III processor for fast, colourful and dedicated downloads. It's boosted the primary colours giving priority to blue and green for use in landscapes. The mono tones are nicely balanced but the skin tone looks a little off. Surprisingly, when compared to the portrait shot it seems to soften the skin tone down.

The Olympus Mju 840 has a close focusing distance of 3cm which is better than the usual result that you would get on a digital compact. The camera focuses on the centre of the image but even recomposing coupled with the slow progress of the snail couldn't help it focus on the eyes.

Olympus Mju 840
The colour chart image.
Olympus Mju 840
The macro image.
Olympus Mju 840
The portrait image.
Olympus Mju 840
The portrait image with flash.

Portrait mode goes for a soft and warm finish which loses some detail, especially in the shadow areas. Because of this the strong shadows on the right of the face are slightly under exposed, but it's not necessarily a bad thing as it adds an element of texture.

The Olympus Mju 840 does have a shadow adjustment button which is on the bottom left of the camera doubling up as the delete button. This feature finds shadow areas and increases detail in them without ruining the overall image.

Using the fill-in flash has boosted the darker areas and added some nice catchlights to the eyes. The background is cleaner and only a small, light shadow is seen on the surface.

The flash has worked well here, giving more light to the dark areas without blowing out the highlights on the tip of the nose, for example.

More detail is also visible in the hair which can sometimes be a problem with dark hair.

The Olympus Mju 840 has a 5x optical zoom which is great news if you're slightly too far away as it means you don't have to walk anywhere. In 35mm terms, the lens is a 36-180mm which isn't the widest but does then mean that the telephoto will bring subjects in just over 2.5x closer than what you can see them with your eye.

Olympus Mju 840
The wide angle shot.
Olympus Mju 840
The telephoto image.

Olympus Mju 840
The landscape image.

Unfortunately, it was a miserable day for the landscape pictures, so no detail is present in the sky as the clouds that loomed over were just a simple blanket of boredom. The lack of sunlight has reduced contrast to a minimum, but zooming in on the white writing on the wall of the lock, a miniscule amount of purple and green is visible around the edges of the lettering.

Interestingly the landscape mode has chosen an aperture of f/5 and this has subsequently sent the background out of focus. This seems to be a more regular occurence in compacts and I don't understand the point of adding a landscape mode if landscapes aren't being shot properly.

Olympus Mju 840: Noise test
If I was to be cruel, I would have slated the camera for noise appearing at ISO200 but it's such a miniscule presence and only really visible at full enlargement so I would be a little unfair to do it.

Remaining at full size and the ISO400 image has definite noise that can't be ignored. The detail on the flower petals is starting to break down and the speckles can be seen at normal size. ISO800 and ISO1600 only serve to increase the problem with more detail being lost in the flower and more prominent blotches of colour showing in the grey area.

Olympus Mju 840
The ISO64 test.
Olympus Mju 840
The ISO100 test.
Olympus Mju 840
The ISO200 test.
Olympus Mju 840
The ISO400 test.
Olympus Mju 840
The ISO800 test.
Olympus Mju 840
The ISO1600 test.

Olympus Mju 840: Verdict
Ranges of cameras generally differ from one another in significant ways so that they appeal to a wider audience. Where one camera may have a great lens and metal body, another may have a standard lens and large zoom. This range of Mju are so similar it's hard to determine whether they're additions or replacements.

There's no such thing as a perfect camera and there never will be because everyone wants something different but those differences are ususally noticeable. Extending the ISO tolerance from ISO80 to ISO64 and increasing the fps aren't good enough differences to warrant releasing a new model.

That aside, if the functions this camera has impressed you, then take a good look at it. It's good looking, well built and performs well in all areas, I just don't like the exclusion of weatherproofing.

Olympus Mju 840: Plus points
Good build
Great macro capability
Fast start up time

Olympus Mju 840: Minus points
Loss of weatherproofing
Inappropriate landscape aperture
Lack of differences between cameras in range





The Olympus Mju 840 costs around £137 and is available from your friendly ePHOTOzine shop here.


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