Olympus Mju Digital 800
(Olympus Stylus 800 in the USA)
Review Date: October 10th 2005
Ease of Use
The Olympus Mju Digital 800 is a very stylish and eye-catching camera that thankfully doesn't concentrate solely on good looks at the expense of ease of use and functionality. The plastic, splash-proof body is fairly compact, although you will be aware of the camera if you carry it in a trouser pocket. Despite the body being made from plastic, the Olympus Mju Digital 800 isn't the lightest camera around at 180g without the battery fitted. The rear is dominated by the large 2.5 inch LCD screen, and on the front is a snazzy sliding lens cover that retracts and allows the lens to extend when the camera is turned on. If the appearance of your digital camera is important to you, then you won't be disappointed with the Olympus Mju Digital 800. I did find that the large LCD screen is susceptible to fingerprints and scratches, so it's probably best to buy a suitable case to protect it.
The Olympus Mju Digital 800 is quite comfortable to hold. Your right thumb naturally rests on the Exposure Mode dial, which thankfully requires quite a positive movement to turn it, so there's no danger of accidentally setting the wrong mode. The Zoom button is easy to operate and the camera feels well-balanced in your hands. One design element that I disliked was the arrow pad, which feels very spongy and unresponsive. The only other handling point to note is making sure that your left hand doesn't get in the way of the lens when it extends and retracts.
|Quick View / Guide / Disp / Timer/Delete Buttons||Zoom/Magnify Lever|
There are 4 buttons in a recessed area to the left of the LCD screen on the rear of the Olympus Mju Digital 800 which provide easy access to functions such as Quick View and the various timer options. You can also open what Olympus term the Guide from here - this is basically 15 handy tips for common photographic situations, a useful feature for beginners, but a waste of a button for more experienced users. You can also directly access the various flash and macro options by clicking the up and down arrows respectively on the arrow pad. Unfortunately, Olympus have chosen to bury some commonly used features, such as ISO speed and Exposure Compensation, in the menu system. I would have preferred to see dedicated buttons for these options. All 10 external controls are clearly labeled using industry-standard symbols and terminology. Overall the camera body feels well-designed and not too cluttered, despite the presence of that large LCD screen. Obviously this is helped by the omission of an optical viewfinder, something which you should take into consideration if you are interested in the Olympus Mju Digital 800.
If you have never used a digital camera before, or you're upgrading from a more basic model, reading the comprehensive and easy-to-follow manual before you start is a good idea, although unfortunately Olympus have chosen to cut costs and only provide it as a PDF on a CD. For more experienced users, a quick look through the PDF manual for the few functions that are not so self-explanatory (like the Image Blur function) is all that's needed.
The menu system on the Olympus Mju Digital 800 is very similar to all the other Olympus cameras that I have reviewed, so you will feel right at home if you have used an Olympus digicam before. Pressing the OK button in the middle of the arrow pad accesses the main menu options. These include setting the image quality, white balance, exposure compensation and a sub-menu called the Mode Menu, which has 3 sub-menus that contain settings like the metering mode and formatting the memory card. Due to the large and bright LCD screen, the various options are easy to access and use, especially as only 5 are shown onscreen at one time. There are a couple of features buried in the menu system that I would have liked to be accessible via an external button, namely ISO speed and exposure compensation. Having to open the menu system every time you want to change these frequently-used settings slows down the operation of the camera.
|Arrow Pad / Flash / Macro / OK/Menu Buttons||Exposure Mode Dial|
The Olympus Mju Digital 800 offers almost full photographic control in the form of aperture and shutter priority exposure modes (only a full manual option is missing). This means that once you have progressed beyond the full Auto mode and the 19 different scene modes, this camera will still have something to offer you. Changing aperture or shutter speed is a little more cumbersome than on some digital cameras, as you have to press left and right on the arrow pad, which then displays a horizontal bar on the LCD screen, with left being Slow / Open and right being Fast / Close. It's a simple enough system to use and certainly friendly to novice users, it's just slower to operate than the commonly found dial that usually operates these functions.
There are a couple of innovative features on the Olympus Mju Digital 800 that aim to make life easier for you. The camera has an Image Blur Reduction feature, which is found on the main exposure dial. Note that this isn't an image stabilizer function. Instead, when the option is selected, the camera chooses a very fast ISO speed in order to then set a faster shutter speed, and successfully capture the fast action or deal with low-light conditions. Unfortunately the faster ISO speeds affect the image quality so much (in a negative way - see next page) that it is hardly worth using this feature. Also, the image size is automatically reduced to attempt to offset the effects of the much noisier images. Meanwhile, Brightcapture technology is a fancy way of saying that the LCD screen automatically gets brighter in low-light conditions. The LCD screen is indeed easy to read in almost completely dark conditions, but I'm not sure it warrants a completely new marketing term.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
So the Olympus Mju Digital 800 is fairly comfortable to hold, easy enough to operate and has a simple to use menu system, but what is it like to actually take a photo? The start-up time from turning the camera on to being ready to take a photo is very quick at 1 second, although it takes about 1 1/2 seconds to zoom from the widest focal length to the longest, and back again, disappointing given that it only has 3x magnification. Focusing is very quick in good light and the camera happily achieves focus indoors or in low-light situations despite the lack of a focus assist lamp. The visibility and refresh rate of the 2.5 inch LCD screen are perfectly acceptable. It takes about 1.5 seconds to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is no LCD blackout between each image. In the normal continuous shooting mode the camera takes 3 photos at 1.4 frames per second at SHQ quality, not exactly lightning fast. This can be greatly improved by selecting the High speed mode, which allows 16 shots to be taken at 3.7 frames per second, but unfortunately this only works at 2048 x 1536 resolution. All in all the Olympus Mju Digital 800 is above average in terms of operational speed.
Once you have captured a photo, the Olympus Mju Digital 800 has an extensive range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view thumbnails, zoom in and out up to 8x magnification, view slideshows, add an audio clip to each image, delete, protect, resize and rotate an image. A menu option called Red-Eye Fix promises to do exactly what it says, although I found that it didn't actually remove the limited red-eye that occurred in my flash test shots. The Album feature is a great way to show off your photos to friends and family. You can create up to 12 albums on an xD-Picture card with each one containing a maximum of 200 photos. There is a dedicated Album option on the Exposure Mode dial which makes it easy to view them. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the aperture, shutter speed and ISO rating, and there is a small histogram available during both shooting and playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure.
On the whole the Olympus Mju Digital 800 is a stylish and easy to use digital camera, with a well-designed exterior and menu system, excellent playback options and a few innovative features, some of which are more useful than others.
PhotographyBLOG is a member of the DIWA organisation. Our test results for the Olympus Mju Digital 800 have been submitted to DIWA for comparison with test results for different samples of the same camera model supplied by other DIWA member sites.