Olympus µ[mju:] 400 Digital
(Also known as the Olympus Stylus 400 Digital)
Review Date: 6th October 2003
Ease of Use
Perhaps the most immediate and striking thing about the Olympus µ[mju:] 400 Digital camera is its shiny metal body. People who see this camera for the first time usually say something like "Wow" or "Oooh, look at that"; the µ[mju:] 400 Digital is definitely a head-turner and ideal for impressing your friends.
The metal body has a greater purpose, however, than simply being good to look at. According to Olympus, the µ[mju:] 400 Digital is the first digital camera in the world with a weather-proof metal body, so shooting can continue even after the rain has started. It didn't rain during my test period, and I didn't want to risk pouring water over the camera to test out how weatherproof it actually is. Even Olympus qualify their own statement by saying "weather-proof equivalent to the IEC standard publication 529 IPX4". I have no idea what that standard is or what it states, but it probably says somewhere that you shouldn't pour water over an Olympus µ[mju:] 400 Digital camera!
The µ[mju:] 400 Digital is the kind of camera that you can pick up and work out how to use within one hour, thanks to the uncluttered and logical design of both the camera body and its menu system.
The camera body is very well thought out, with only one or two quirks to spoil an otherwise impeccable performance. You will notice straight away that there is no traditional D-pad on the rear of the µ[mju:] 400 Digital. Instead there are four buttons that perform the same functions as a D-pad, allowing you to scroll through images and the menu system, but which also have their own specific functions as well. For example, the top button of the four allows you to select the exposure mode, whilst the bottom one turns the self-timer on and off. This ensures that a lot of the controls are available by pressing buttons rather than scrolling through menus, which makes using the camera quicker and more immediate.
This clever placement of so many controls on the exterior of the µ[mju:] 400 Digital means in turn that its menu system is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. As mentioned above, the four buttons that form the D-pad have their own particular purpose, whilst pressing the OK button accesses the rest of the menus. These include setting the image quality, white balance, exposure compensation and a sub-menu called the Mode Menu, which contains settings like the metering mode and formatting the memory card. So the less commonly used options are accessed through the menu system, whilst the more commonly used options are available via the press of a button.
As I've already mentioned, however, there are a couple of things that the Olympus designers could have improved. You can review the images that you have taken when the camera is turned off by pressing the Quick View button once; if you want to stop viewing the images, press the same button once again. When the camera is turned on, however, you have to quickly press the Quick View button twice in succession to review your images, and sometimes the camera fails to respond. This is especially annoying when you have cold hands, as the button is small and a bit fiddly. A minor quibble, perhaps, but I can't see any reason why one button press couldn't be used at all times.
There really isn't too much else wrong with the µ[mju:] 400 Digital. The zoom lens is perhaps a little noisy in operation (I wouldn't try any close-range candid street photography with this camera) and the optical viewfinder is too small to use effectively - I used the LCD screen to compose all the shots that I took. All in all the µ[mju:] 400 Digital is a very easy-to-use camera with a few minor handling quibbles.