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Olympus Mju Digital 800 Stylus 800 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 25/09/05
Rating: Recommended
Buy now: £245 | $359
Read reviews on: Olympus MJU DIGITAL 800


Introduction: The Olympus Mju Digital 800 / Stylus 800 (available in white/silver and dark blue) features an Olympus 3x optical zoom lens, an 8 megapixel sensor, a large "HyperCrystal" 2.5" screen, and a weatherproof body. The Olympus also features an "anti-shake" / image stabilisation mode, also called "BrightCapture Technology" - this uses ISO800, ISO1600 and above (upto ISO2500) at 3 megapixels to ensure blur free photos. The camera is available from around £245 | $359, making the Mju 800 good value for money. The camera's 3x optical zoom lens is equivalent to 38 – 114mm on a 35mm camera. The camera is enclosed in a silvery / white aluminium and dark grey plastic body. It records unlimited 640 x 480 / 15fps videos with sound. The camera's very compact (it will easily fit into trouser pockets), takes a rechargable lithium-ion battery and measures: 103x 57.5 x 33mm (without protruding parts), and weighs 181.5g (without batteries and memory card)

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"The new µ[mju:] DIGITAL 800 is especially for those wanting the ultimate in stylish, high-performance digital photography. Encased in a glossy, weatherproof* body, this model ensures you’ll get great results in any kind of weather. It also has the entire spectrum of light situations covered. The all-new BrightCapture Technology provides trouble-free night-time or low-light shooting, while the HyperCrystal LCD technology assures wide viewing angles and clear viewing of pictures even under bright sunlight. Add its 8.0 million pixel resolution, bright 3x optical zoom, and macro and super macro shooting capabilities into the equation, and you’ve got the formula for brilliant, high-definition images every time." * Weatherproof equivalent to the IEC standard publication 529 IPX4

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: It's compact and made out of silvery/white metal and dark plastic.
(Photos of the camera taken with the Konica Minolta Dynax / Maxxum 5D with KM AF DT Zoom 18-70)


Front - Camera off.


Front - Camera on, flash, led, infra-red reciever (for optional remote control), microphone.


Back - quick view, guide, display, self-timer / delete buttons, the 2.5" TFT screen, zoom control, mode dial, 4-way controller with OK/Menu button in center.


Top - on/off, shutter release.


Bottom, under the camera there is a plastic tripod mount, speaker and memory compartment (it's opened using a small lever so that it doesn't accidentally open, and it's got a rubber seal to keep water out).


Left Side (from back).


Battery compartment, DC in, USB/AV out - rubber sealed compartment.


Olympus Mju 800 3x optical zoom lens (with real aperture blades) (photo taken with the FZ3)

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size comparison next to the 8 megapixel Konica Minolta Dimage X1.

Specifications / Features:

  • 8.0 Million pixels
  • Weatherproof metal body with glossy surface in silver and dark blue
  • Bright 3x optical zoom
  • 2.5" / 6.4cm HyperCrystal LCD
  • BrightCapture Technology for best performance in extremely low light
  • Movie function with sound (in VGA quality)
  • Guide Functions for easy operation
  • 19 scene programmes plus Programme auto, Aperture priority and Shutter priority
  • Macro and super macro shooting (from as close as 3cm in super macro mode)
  • AUTO / Manual ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 (+ higher in Anti-Shake mode)

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap,
  • USB cable,
  • audio/video cable,
  • rechargeable battery,
  • charger,
  • OLYMPUS Master,
  • 2 Year warranty
  • 32mb built in memory

Decent box contents, although with the camera's 32mb of memory, you will need to buy a larger memory card.

Battery usage: Up to 300 pictures with the supplied battery. Battery life seemed decent for an ultra-compact, and the figure for the included battery is above average for a compact digital camera. As a comparison, the Fujifilm F10 which is known to have a very good battery life, will take 500 pictures, or 300 pictures when on high-speed mode.

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the dial on the back of the camera.

Photo mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right below:

Photo mode Photo Menu

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) The screen resolution with 215,000 pixels is very clear, it updates quickly and smoothly and the colours appear accurate. The screen is very clear and the text and menus are easy to read. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Photo menu options: pressing the menu button gives you quick access to: Exposure compensation, Image Quality, and White balance, with a further option allowing you to enter the mode menu. The photo menu options are: ESP, Drive, ISO (Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), Digital Zoom, AF Mode (spot or ESP), Microphone, Panorama (with Olympus XD cards only!), 2 in 1.

Shooting Guide Changing the Aperture

Shooting Guide: (above, left) The shooting guide has 15 subjects aimed to help and guide you - the first 10 subjects are: Brighting subject, Shooting into backlight, Adjusting colouration, Blurring background, Adjusting area in focus, Shooting subject in motion, Targeting with assistance, Shooting close subject, Shooting at night, Reducing blur, with the next 5 guides on choosing an appropriate image size / quality. Just to give an example of what these guides are like, the Reducing blur guide has 3 further options / guides on how to reduce blur, they are: Anti-shake mode, Shutter speed, and ISO. When an option is selected it explains how to use the mode to enable a blur free image.

Shutter mode: 4 seconds - 1/1000 second available. Aperture mode: (above, right) Wide: F2.8, F3.2, F3.5, F4.0, F4.5, F5.0, F5.6, F6.3, F7.1, F8.0 available. With the lens fully zoomed (telephoto), the following apertures are available: F5.0, F5.6, F6.3, F7.1, and F8.0. With the real aperture blades (shown further above) you can see the aperture changing when you change these settings.

Scenes Setup menu

Scene modes available (Above left): Landscape, Landscape and portrait, Portrait, Indoor, Sport, Beach and Snow, Behind glass, Self portrait and self timer, Self portrait, Sunset, Available light portrait, Night scene, Night and portrait, Fireworks, Candle, Cuisine, Documents, Shoot and Select 1 + 2.

Setup menu options: All reset, Language, Power on setup (screen / sound options), Colour (menu colours), Volume, Shutter sound, Record view, File name, Pixel mapping, LCD brightness, Date/time, Dual time setup, Alarm clock, Video out.

Playback (Review) mode/menu: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown on the right, below:

Playback mode (extra information) Playback Menu

Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is very quick and it allows you to zoom up to 8x. Playback mode displays limited photo information by default but extra information (As shown above) can be seen by pressing the display button.

Playback menu options: Pressing the menu button will bring up a quick menu allowing you to view a slideshow (with background music either on or off), add the photo to the album (in here you can select the photos individually or by using a calendar view), lock the photo or access the full menu. The full menu options are: Rotate, Print, add audio, redeye fix (although this is a bit hit and miss as to whether it will successfully remove red-eye), black and white, sepia, resize.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of images will fit on the 32mb memory provided with the camera:

Size / Quality: Number of Photos Stored
SHQ HQ / SQ1 / SQ2
8mp (3264x2448) SHQ/HQ 4 9
5mp (2560x1920) SQ1 15
4mp (2272x1704) SQ1 19
3mp (2048x1536) SQ1 24
2mp (1600x1200) SQ2 29
1.3mp (1280x960) SQ2 46
1mp (1024x768) SQ2 70
VGA (640x480) SQ2 114
Video 640x480 15fps 15 seconds

You can fit a small number of images on the built in memory - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower image sizes / higher compression options in order to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes, and a good choice regarding image compression.

A larger memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb memory card, and preferably a 512mb memory card, or larger, especially considering the relatively low prices - the larger the memory card, the more photos you will be able to take. If you are likely to go on holiday then the largest memory card you can afford would definitely be worth investing in, as you don't always know when you will next be at a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Olympus Mju Digital 800 / Stylus 800:

Find the latest prices for SD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: £17.98, 512mb: £34.95, 1gb (1000mb): £57.98.
Need more help deciding what memory card to buy? Have a look at our guide to digital camera memory cards or our article what size memory card should I buy?

Speed: The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos - focusing seemed very quick even in low-light. The screen updates are quick and smooth (even in low-light). The playback mode is also very quick. Playback mode allows you to zoom as close as 8x. The camera shutter response seemed quick when pre-focused - and shot to shot time was also quick. The flash recharge time also seemed quick. The cameras menu's seemed quick. Continuous shooting mode is very quick even with flash shooting about 4 shots in 5 seconds, and without flash shooting about 7 shots in 5 seconds. There's a high speed continuous shooting mode at 3mp shooting about 17 photos in 5 seconds without flash - that works out at about 3.4fps (4fps upto 10 shots according to Olympus specifications).

Ease of use: The camera is very easy to use, although the camera does have a lot of options. The controls on the back of the camera are very easy to use - the menus are responsive and very easy to read and navigate. The camera is compact and and fits very easily into trouser pockets (although might stuggle to fit into a tight pair of jeans). The menus are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are easy to access, quick and simple - there's a basic mode and scene modes for simple point and shoot operation, as well as a built in camera guide to help take better photos. The anti-shake mode helps take blur free photos by increasing the ISO speed - however this does tend to limit the print size.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. There seems to be the right amount of buttons. The buttons feel okay, the shutter release is quite decent. The buttons are labelled fairly well (although in some light, the labels on the left were difficult to read). I thought the camera felt quite good ergonomically, although the 4-way controller may be too small for some. There isn't much in the way of a hand grip - but the camera can be held with two hands quite easily to get a steader shot. The zoom control seemed decent. It does feel nice, and feels like a solidly built camera - the weather proofing should mean the cameras capable of working in situations you wouldn't normally like risk taking a camera.

Image Quality: Here are some sample photos/video(s) taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, Macro, Movie to demonstrate the quality of pictures taken and also show different features of the camera. Larger versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the Olympus Mju Digital 800 / Stylus 800 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower Group photo

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo. It has a decent flash, and copes well with group photos. The camera did a good job at focusing even in low-light. Red-eye was quite noticable, but can be removed with the built in red-eye removal feature, although this isn't always successful. Noise seemed quite well controlled, as long as you don't use the Anti-shake mode.

Noise / Anti-shake effectiveness: Noise is generally a bad thing - it removes detail, and gives a grainy effect over the image. With digital cameras noise can be a real problem as digital camera noise is often made out of blue, red or green dots. As the ISO setting increases, pictures tend to have more noise. Noise is most noticeable in dark areas of photos. The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and manual ISO settings (ISO64, 100, 200, 400, and 800 and 1600 available at 3 megapixels) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings. In the gallery you can also view a photo taken on the "Anti-shake" mode where ISO is automatically set and goes upto ISO2500.


Noise test photo - flash on / off for ISO800 and ISO1600 photos

ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels

Noise levels are the lowest at ISO64, although some is still visible. At ISO100/200 noise becomes more noticable but is still acceptable, at ISO400 - noise is much more visible. The camera seems to be applying noise reduction to all photos and then sharpening the photos - noise and sharpening artifacts seem most noticable around colour edges (for example where the red meets the white in these pictures). At ISO800 and ISO1600 and above noise is much more noticable and images have much less detail and appear pixellated - although these photos may make suitable 6x4" prints.

Outside:

Shops Super Lamb Banana

Outside, the camera had very good colour, with good contrast and saturation. There was good detail, images seemed sharp. Noise seemed fairly well controlled, although it was noticable. I did notice some jpeg artefacts, namely what appeared to be due to over-sharpening, but nothing too major.

Zoom: This camera has a 3x optical zoom lens and a built in 4x digital zoom - in the case of this camera the digital zoom basically takes a smaller area of the photo and enlarges it using software blurring the image so that it is not pixellated. Generally it's best to avoid using digital zoom as it degrades the quality of the image and, often, better results can be obtained by using a photo package such as Adobe Photoshop. I've included examples below to show what the 3x optical zoom and 4x digital zoom is capable of.

Wide-angle 3x Optical zoom 3x Optical + 4x digital zoom

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seems quite good, leaving the main subject (the clock tower) correctly exposed. There does appear to be some purple fringing, and slight burnt out highlights (the white clouds), but considering the subject and lighting (dark street), the results are quite good. The digital zoom at full size looks quite bad (photos taken with digital zoom normally do) so it's best to avoid using digital zoom.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens is fairly quiet. The lens is quick at going from wide to telephoto - there are about 15 steps between wide and telephoto! This gives you good control on how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: I noticed some purple fringing in the photos I took (mainly in the clock tower photos), nothing to worry about though. I didn't notice any vignetting in any of the photos.

Macro: To use this camera in macro mode, you switch to macro mode or super macro mode - the super macro mode fixes the lens at wide-angle. You can use the flash in macro mode. The camera can be roughly as close as 3cm away from the subject from the front of the lens.

Macro Watch Actual Pixels

The macro mode is very good - the camera lets you get very close to the subject - in the gallery you can see some better macro photos, plus a photo of my laptop screen showing a section of this review with the red, green and blue points clearly visible. Colour and detail is good to very good. The lack of custom white balance meant the colour in this photo wasn't as good as it could have been.

Movie: 640 x 480, 320 x 240, 15fps unlimited length videos with sound can be recorded. The movie is recorded as an .MOV file. The quality of the movie(s) is quite good, colour is good, the camera also does a good job in low-light. The frame rate is poor compared to other cameras offering 30fps.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is good, the images have very good colour, saturation, contrast and detail - however noise can be quite high, and images appear overly sharpened. Images tend to come out of the camera looking good, however blown highlights occured in the clock tower photos. The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time, even in low light. I did not notice vignetting in photos. There is a very good range of image sizes and a good choice of compression options. The macro mode is very good, allowing you to be as close as 3cm away from the subject, this provides good detail, only let down by lack of custom white balance. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be good. Red-eye was noticable - and unfortunately the built in red-eye reduction wasn't always successful. The movie mode average with a low frame rate by todays standards.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera is compact and is designed well - the camera feels well built. The camera is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls. The camera is aimed at all users, from beginners to the more advanced, and with the built in scene modes, shooting guide, etc it should be easy for all users to take good quality photos. The camera speed is good to very good, with a good switch on time, good focusing time, good shutter response, quick flash recharge time, quick shot to shot time, a very quick continuous shooting mode, quick playback mode, and quick menus. The camera's all weather body should allow the camera to be used in places where you wouldn't normally want to risk expensive camera equipement.

Alternative digital cameras: If you want to use high ISO speeds for low-light photography then have a look at the Fujifilm FinePix F10, with excellent photos up to ISO1600 at 6 megapixels. For more creative control, and a wide angle lens, have a look at the 8 megapixel Ricoh Caplio GX8. For an ultra-compact, ultra-slim 8 megapixel digital with real anti-shake / image stabilisation, have a look at the Konica Minolta Dimage X1. See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The 8 megapixel Olympus Mju Digital 800 is a very good all round digital camera, it's large clear 2.5" screen, compact all-weather body and high resolution will appeal to many. The easy to use camera is capable of very good results. The camera gives you a lot of options, scene modes, aperture / shutter priority, etc, and would be suited to all levels. The "Anti-Shake" mode is good, but the quality of picture limits the print size. The super macro mode is very good. The camera is good value for money for a weatherproof compact 8 megapixel camera at around £245 | $359 . I would quite happily recommend this camera to someone looking for a compact, weatherproof, high resolution digital camera, with speedy operation, a clear high resolution screen, manual controls, and excellent low-light performance in both focusing and screen visibility. Have a look at the sample photos and see what you think of them. I can imagine a lot of people being happy with this camera thanks to Olympus addressing some of the major problems with digital cameras such as slow focusing time / shutter response, poor low-light performance, and poor screen visibility.

If the Olympus Mju Digital 800 / Stylus 800 appeals to you, but you don't think you'll need 8 megapixels, then have a look at the Olympus Mju Digital 600 / Stylus 600 - it has all the features as the 800, but has a 6 megapixel sensor instead, and cost less at: £199 | $299 - the Mju 600 / Stylus 600 should be available in October.

Olympus Mju Digital 800 / Stylus 800 Rating: Recommended
Buy now: £245 | $359

What I like:

  • Good image quality - very good colour
  • Stylish All-weather metal/plastic body
  • Fast focusing, even in low-light! (and generally fast operation)
  • Very fast continuous shooting modes
  • Very clear / quick 2.5" screen - auto brightens in low-light
  • Aperture / Shutter modes
  • Built in Guide
  • Very good super macro mode

What I don't like:

  • No custom white balance
  • ISO800/1600 and Anti-shake mode only available at 3 megapixel resolution - blurry / noisy results only suited to small prints
  • Panoramic mode only available with Olympus XD cards!
  • Images overly sharpened
  • Plastic tripod mount

Remember to have a look at the test photos in the new gallery.