Olympus Mju 7040 Review
Announced at CES 2010, the Olympus mju 7040 (called the Olympus Stylus 7040 in North America) is a 14-megapixel digital compact camera with a 7x zoom lens, image stabilisation, 720p HD movie recording, in-camera manual, 2GB of internal memory and SD / SDHC card support. Also on board is an iAuto mode that detects the five most commonly used scenes and adjusts settings automatically. A 3 inch rear LCD screen, Advanced Face Detection, AF Tracking, in-camera panorama stitching, Shadow Adjustment Technology and a range of "Magic Filters" round off the features list. Available in Copper Blue, Dusty Pink and Titanium Silver, the Olympus mju 7040 sells for £189.99 / $249.99 in the UK / US respectively.
Ease of Use
The Olympus mju 7040 is a surprisingly compact and lightweight camera considering the respectable 28-196mm equivalent zoom lens it sports. With the lens retracted into the body, the mju 7040 easily fits into a shirt pocket. The outer shell is made of plastic and feels so, but this is not uncommon in this price range. A few parts appear to be metal, while the lens obviously has glass elements. Speaking of the latter, it has an aperture of f/3 at the wide end and f/5.9 at maximum telephoto, and there appears to be no iris diaphragm built in for stopping the lens down. This is probably one of the reasons why the Olympus mju 7040 does not offer a manual exposure mode.
The front plate sports a polished, clean, and altogether pretty attractive look, with the Olympus logo and the Greek letter m ? lowercase mju - occupying the left half along with the slimline flash unit and tiny AF assist lamp. The right-hand side of the front plate is dominated by the lens which, as stated above, retracts fully into the body when not in use. Above the lens and to the right of the optical axis is a barely noticeable pinprick indicating an on-board microphone. The top panel offers even less in the way of controls, featuring only a small on/off button with a LED power indicator sitting right next to it, and an elongated shutter release.
While the Olympus mju 7040 can be considered a successor to last year's mju 7010, you wouldn't tell that based on the appearance of the rear panel, which has undergone a total design overhaul. The most subtle change is that the TFT monitor has increased in size from 2.7" to 3.0" diagonally. The layout of the controls to the right of the screen is completely new. Only the zoom buttons remain where they were on the mju 7010, but even they have changed from a paddle-shaped rocker switch to two separate buttons. Below them is an all-new movie record button that allows you to start recording a video clip without having to enter a dedicated movie shooting mode beforehand. Further down we find a slim Playback button that can be configured to act as a secondary Power button too - a good idea as you sometimes only want to turn on the camera to review your shots rather than to take new ones, in which case you do not need the lens to extend (and make noise doing so). A half-press of the shutter release takes you (back) to Record mode when you need it. A four-way pad with a centred OK button and an all-new control wheel, plus a Menu and a Camera Guide button round off the controls inventory.
The control wheel encircling the navigation pad may be new on a mju, but it's not a complete novelty in the camera world. We have seen a fairly good (if not perfect) implementation of it on the Canon Digital IXUS 980 IS of 2008; but on the Olympus mju 7040 it feels redundant and quite pointless, as it does exactly the same thing as the Left/Right buttons in the main shooting menu and the Up/Down buttons in the setup menu and the on-board user's manual.
Speaking of the Up/Down buttons, there are different functions mapped unto them, which are only accessible when the camera is in Record or Playback mode (i.e. not when it is displaying the Setup menu or the in-camera manual). The Up button cycles through the available information displays in Record as well as Playback mode. These include no info, restricted info and full info. In Record mode, the latter means all shooting menu icons plus a shooting grid and a very useful live histogram, whereas in Playback mode it comprises a thumbnail image, a luminance histogram and detailed shooting data. The Down button gives you quick access to the main shooting menu in Record mode, while it acts as an erase button in Playback.
The oft-mentioned main shooting menu offers up a set of user adjustable shooting variables, including the shooting mode - P, iAuto, Scene, Magic, Panorama and Beauty - and a range of other settings. These are limited to the flash mode and the self-timer in iAuto mode, while the full set - available in P mode - includes the macro mode, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity and drive mode as well. The other shooting modes offer varying degrees of user control that fall between these two extremes.
The last icon is invariably a >> sign, which takes you to the setup menu. It is here that you can adjust the file quality settings, the autofocus mode, the metering mode, the Shadow Adjustment feature - which lifts the shadows in a photo taken in contrasty light -, the image stabiliser, the video settings and a number of less frequently accessed items. The setup menu is always accessible, regardless of which shooting mode you are in, but you sometimes get a "Conflicting Settings" message if you want to change something, without the camera bothering to elaborate on what settings it thinks are in conflict and why.
Overall, I have found the menu system of the Olympus mju 7040 more straightforward to use than that of the earlier models in the mju / Stylus series, but a bit slow for my taste. Accessing the setup menu is a notably sluggish affair, as is toggling between Record and Playback. And I really missed a one-button shortcut to exposure compensation - it takes way too many button presses and too much time to get to this important function. In this respect, the previous model's otherwise less attractive user interface worked better.
Some of the mju 7040's features are worth expanding upon. These include the four Magic Filters - Pop Art, Pinhole, Fish-eye and Drawing -, the Beauty and the Panorama modes, as well as the video mode. Olympus' Magic Filters made their début on the E-30 digital SLR camera of 2008 under the name "Art Filters". That's what Olympus still calls them when they appear in a DSLR or Micro Four Thirds camera, but ever since the introduction of the mju Tough 6010, they have been calling them Magic Filters on their compacts. The Olympus mju 7040 has essentially the same Magic Filters as its predecessor the mju 7010, and they work the same way they did on that model. To wit, the Pop Art filter boosts saturation and contrast, the Pinhole filter alters the colours and adds a very obvious vignetting effect, the Fish-eye filter causes straight lines to bend outwards as if the picture was shot with a fish-eye lens (it does not recreate the ultra-wide angle of view though), while Drawing does exactly what it says on the tin and converts your photos into black-and white drawings.
The Beauty mode, first seen in last year's Olympus mju Tough 8000, is an on-board solution to touch up portraits. In this mode, you take a picture of a person, then the camera identifies the face and tries to remove blemishes and other minor imperfections, giving the skin a smooth look in the process. The resulting image is then saved alongside the original. Alas, the whole hocus-pocus takes way too long, and renders your camera useless until it's over.
The mju 7040's Panorama mode is more interesting, at least on paper. There are three options on offer, including Auto, Manual and PC. In Auto mode, you only have to press the shutter release once. After that, all you need to do is move the camera to the next position, so that the target marks and pointers overlap, and the camera automatically releases the shutter for you. Three frames can be taken this way, which are then combined into a single panoramic image automatically in camera. The problem with this mode is that it's almost impossible to stop moving the camera exactly when the target marks and pointers overlap, which ultimately results in image blur and poor-quality stitching. In Manual mode, you can also take three frames with the help of an on-screen guide, but you have to release the shutter manually. After that, the camera stitches the frames as above. Finally, in PC mode, you can take up to 10 photos, which can be stitched using the supplied [ib] software after being downloaded to the computer.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
One feature offered by the Olympus mju 7040 that wasn't present in its predecessor is the ability to shoot 720p high-definition movies. As mentioned earlier, you can begin filming at any time by pressing the dedicated movie record button on the back of the camera. The video settings can be adjusted beforehand via the setup menu. The options are limited to resolution (720p, VGA or QVGA) and quality (Fine or Normal). You can also tell the camera whether or not to record sound along with the footage, and whether or not to provide image stabilisation. If you opt to turn off the sound recording, you can use the optical zoom while filming, and the camera will refocus on the fly as needed (though not terribly quickly, might I add). If you want video with sound, you need to give up the ability to zoom while recording a movie, and focus will also be fixed at the beginning of the clip. Videos are compressed using the H.264 codec and stored in MPEG-4 format. Our experience with video has been that sometimes a few odd frames would get a totally different exposure than the rest within the same clip - we are not sure what caused this, but it was a bit annoying. The Olympus mju 7040 has an HDMI port that allows users to play back their movies on an HDTV.
A big novelty on the mju 7040 - and all Olympus models in the Class of 2010 - is the presence of an SD card slot. While Olympus offered SD card support for its Micro Four Thirds cameras from day one, it had hitherto stuck with xD-Picture cards in its compacts. It appears that xD is officially dead now, though owners of older Olympus compacts wishing to trade up can probably use their existing xD-Picture cards via an adapter. New owners have the choice of getting an optional SD or SDHC card - strangely enough, SDXC memory cards are not supported - or rely on the mju 7040's generous 2GB built-in memory. Just remember that while 2GB is plenty for stills, it may prove inadequate if you plan on shooting a lot of high-definition video.
The Olympus mju 7040 is powered by a proprietary Li-ion battery that shares its compartment with the memory card. You can charge the battery in the supplied mains charger, but you can also charge it in camera, via USB. This also means you can charge it on the road too, provided your car stereo has a USB port (do consult the manual and your local Olympus service centre before you try though - it might void your warranty).
This concludes our evaluation of the Olympus mju 7040's ergonomics, handling and feature set. Let us now move on to the image quality assessment!
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6Mb.
During the test, the Olympus mju 7040 produced images of mixed quality. At most focal lengths and subject distances the lens can really only keep up with the sensor's increased resolution in the central area of the frame - as you move toward the edges, the lens' resolving power becomes increasingly inadequate for the tiny, pixel-packed sensor. The jump to 14 megapixels took its toll on the signal-to-noise ratio as well, with noise now creeping in even at the lowest sensitivity settings. As for the apparent dynamic range, the manufacturer's Shadow Adjustment Technology sometimes works wonders; but at other times, it produces absolutely weird, unrealistic colours and invariably makes shadow noise more apparent in your pictures. The night shot came out okay-ish, but the camera is very reluctant to use truly slow shutter speeds, which is why it is not the ideal tool for night photography.
In P mode you can set the ISO speed yourself, while in the other shooting modes, the camera picks the right sensitivity setting at its own discretion. Like its predecessor, the Olympus mju 7040 shows a degree of self-restraint by stopping at ISO 1600 (some earlier Olympus compacts offered speeds of up to ISO 10,000) - unfortunately, it's still too much for the tiny, pixel-packed sensor to handle. For the most part, ISO 200 is OK and ISO 400 is usable, but sometimes you can easily see noise at the lowest settings too. Check out the darker regions of the sunset shot on the Sample Images page for evidence. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 7040's lens offers a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.
The Olympus mju 7040 shoots JPEG only, and the available file quality settings are Fine and Normal. We have included a couple of 100% crops for you to see what the quality is like.
14M Fine (5.55Mb) (100% Crop)
14M Normal (2.97Mb) (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. Unfortunately you can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 7040 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example 2 (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 7040 has both a Macro and a Supermacro mode, albeit the zoom can only be used in the former. The shot below demonstrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case, a CompactFlash card. We have included a 100% crop from the centre of the frame to show you what the sharpness is like. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Olympus Mju 7040 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off. These shots of a white ceiling were taken at a subject distance of 1.5m. The lens exhibits some vignetting even when the flash is turned off, and you can see evidence of this in some of our real-world sample photos too. Use of the flash makes this worse, at least at the wide end of the zoom, where its coverage is not enough to evenly illuminate the frame.
Off - Wide Angle (28mm)
Fill-in - Wide Angle (28mm)
Off - Telephoto (102mm)
Fill-in - Telephoto (102mm)
The available flash settings include Auto, Fill-In, Redeye Reduction and Off. Redeye is a problem that the Redeye Reduction setting is able to reduce, as you can see here. Of more concern is the autofocus performance, which is quite poor in low light - the examples below are a testament to this too.
|Fill-in (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 7040 is not particularly well suited to night photography. The slowest shutter speed I have been able to trick the camera into is just ¼ of a second in P mode, which is why I took the night shot below in the Night Scene mode, in which the 7040 chose a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds at ISO 100.
Shadow Adjustment Technology or SAT is Olympus' solution to lifting the shadows in a contrasty scene, without blowing out the highlights. In some cases, like in the example below, it worked really well, with the only problem being the more prominent appearance of shadow noise. In other cases, it unfortunately produced weird unnatural colours, which means you will really want to use this feature with caution.
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus Mju 7040 camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
I really wanted to like the Olympus mju 7040. After all, it's a lightweight, absolutely pocketable little snapper that packs a highly versatile 28-196mm equivalent zoom lens and image stabilisation - what's not to like? Well, just a couple of things, really. While for the most part, the revamped user interface works well, menu navigation still feels too slow at times, and certain important functions like exposure compensation take too many button presses and too much time to access and set. Also, the new - for a mju anyway - rear control wheel doesn't really add much to the usability of the camera, as it does the same thing as the navigation buttons - we feel there is a missed opportunity here.
These niggles aside, the Olympus mju 7040 works quite well in the field, as long as you don't want to shoot moving targets in low light, a task almost no digital compact camera is suited to anyway. The real issues present themselves when you get home and download the images to your computer. Upon looking at the images on a big screen, you can't help but notice that at most focal lengths and subject distances the lens can really only keep up with the sensor's increased resolution in the central area of the frame - as you move toward the edges, the lens' resolving power becomes increasingly inadequate for the tiny, pixel-packed sensor. The jump to 14 megapixels took its toll on the signal-to-noise ratio as well, with noise now creeping in even at the lowest sensitivity settings. As for the apparent dynamic range, the manufacturer's Shadow Adjustment Technology sometimes works wonders; but at other times, it produces absolutely weird, unrealistic colours and invariably makes shadow noise more apparent in your pictures.
Obviously, those trading up from a camera phone or a run-of-the-mill 3x or 4x zoom compact will still admire the extra opportunities the Olympus mju 7040 presents them with, while managing to remain small and light (hence the 'Above Average' rating). Those who do not mind a little extra heft might be better served by the camera's bigger brother the Olympus mju 9010, which we also have in for testing; so watch this space for an upcoming review.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3.5|
Reviews of the Olympus Mju 7040 from around the web.
The Olympus mju-7040 is a smart and versatile compact camera with a very good zoom range for its size. Its 2GB of internal storage and in-built software make it handy as a portable photo and movie browser too. The step up to 14 megapixels, from its predecessor's 12 megapixels, does nothing for the picture quality, though.
Read the full review »
|Effective pixels||14 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Full resolution||14.5 Megapixels|
|Type||1/2.33 '' CCD sensor|
|Optical zoom||7 x (WIDE)|
|Focal length||5.0 - 35.0 mm|
|Focal length (equiv. 35mm)||28 - 196 mm|
|Maximum aperture||3.0 - 5.9|
|Structure||8 lenses / 7 groups|
|Aspherical glass elements||6|
|Enlargement factor||5 x / 35 x combined with optical zoom|
|Monitor size||7.6 cm / 3.0 ''|
|LCD type||HyperCrystal II LCD|
|Brightness adjustment||+/- 2 levels|
|Method||TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection|
|Modes||iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking|
|Standard mode||0.7m - ∞ (wide) / 0.7m - ∞ (tele)|
|Makro mode||0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.6m - ∞ (tele)|
|Super Macro mode||Closest focusing distance: 2 cm|
|Histogram in shooting mode||Yes|
|Modes||ESP light metering, Spot metering|
|Modes||i-Auto, Programme automatic, Scene Modes, Magic Filter, Panorama, Beauty, Movie|
|Shutter speed||1/4 - 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Night scene)|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps|
|Enhancement function||Mechanical Image Stabilizer
Shadow Adjustment Technology
Advanced Face Detection Technology
|Number of scene modes||14|
|Modes||Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet|
|Auto||AUTO / High AUTO|
|Manual||ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|AUTO WB system||Yes|
|Preset values||Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3|
|Modes||AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off|
|Working range (wide)||0.1 - 5.7 m (ISO 1250)|
|Working range (tele)||0.6 - 2.9 m (ISO 1250)|
|Sequential shooting mode (high speed)||14 fps (in 3MP mode)|
|Sequential shooting mode||0.7 fps / 2 frames (Full Image Size)|
|Black & White||Yes|
|Attach a calendar||Yes|
|Correction of saturation||Yes|
|Modes||Single, Index, Zoom, Slide show, Collection, Event, Collage|
|Index||4x3 / 6x5 frames|
|Zoom||1.1 - 10 x|
|Image protect mode||Yes|
|Histogram in playback mode||Yes|
|Frame by frame||Yes|
|Still Image Recording|
|Movie Recording System|
|Image Stabilisation Mode||Digital Image Stabilisation|
|Movie quality||720P Recording time: 29min.
VGA Recording time: no limit
QVGA Recording time: no limit
Note: maximum file size 4GB
|Sound Recording System|
|Sound recording||Yes , format: AAC|
|Image footage||4 s|
|Removable Media||SD / SDHC|
|Internal memory||2 GB|
|14M||4288 x 3216|
|8M||3264 x 2448|
|5M||2560 x 1920|
|3M||2048 x 1536|
|2M||1600 x 1200|
|1M||1280 x 960|
|VGA||640 x 480|
|16:9||4288 x 2416
1920 x 1080
|Menu languages in camera||39|
|Perfect Shot Preview||Yes|
|Self timer||2 / 12 s|
|Battery||LI-42B Lithium-Ion Battery|
|DC input||Yes (CB-MA3 required)|
|Combined A/V & USB output||Yes|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||94.5 x 55.5 x 25.9 mm|
|Weight||144 g (including battery and memory card)|