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Olympus Mju Mini Digital - Digital Camera Review
Introduction: The Olympus Mju Mini Digital is a weatherproof ultra compact 4 megapixel digital camera with a 2x optical zoom lens (5.8 - 11.6mm equivalent to 35mm - 70mm on a 35mm camera), and a 1.8" High-Contrast Colour TFT screen. The camera is available in 6 colours. The camera comes with a 16mb XD memory card, and can be upgraded with an additional XD card. The camera takes a rechargable lithium ion battery. The camera also records unlimited 320x240 videos at 15fps with sound. The camera can be bought for 169 from amazon.co.uk in the UK, and $325 from amazon.com in the US (known as the Olympus Stylus Verve). The camera is very compact with a size and weight as follows: Dimensions: 95 x 56 x 28 mm. Weight: 115g (without batteries or recording media).

The camera offers good value for money for an ultra compact digital camera, currently one of the most stylish ultra compact digital cameras available. The camera was announced on the 3rd of September 2004.

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"Ultra-Compact, Vibrant Styling - A new super smooth streamlined aluminium body and all-weather* design makes the compact µ-mini DIGITAL a must-have! Available in 6 eye-catching colours, this 4 million pixel camera comes with 13 scene programs to make sure you get the best shot in all situations, whether it's a night out at a fireworks display or an unmissable sunset. Keep it with you always and enjoy it."

You can find out more about the Olympus Mju Mini Digital at Olympus' website, or you can have a look at my preview as well.

The Camera: It's very compact and made out of aluminium.


Front - Camera off. Built in lens-cover (Wow! - watch a movie of it in action in my preview) - Flash, microphone, self-timer lamp.


Front - Camera on, lens extended.


Back - the 1.8" High Contrast TFT screen, Quick view button, 4-way controller, OK/Menu button in the middle, zoom control, strap mount. Plus the speaker hole.


Top - on/off, shutter release, photo / video / playback rotating dial.


Bottom, under the camera is the tripod mount which is under the lens.


Left Side (from back) - Nothing on this side.


On this side is the battery compartment, memory slot, and AV / USB connection.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm automatic, this camera is a lot smaller than the Pentax.


There is no optical viewfinder.


Size comparison next to the Konica Minolta Dimage X31.


Size comparison

Specifications / Features:

  • Revolutionary new design
  • Exceptionally flat metal body with automatic barrier
  • Six body colour variations (Jewellery Silver, Pure White, Cosmic Black, Crystal Blue, Velvet Red and Copper Orange)
  • Weatherproof* metal body
  • 4.0 million pixels
  • 2x optical zoom (equiv. 35 - 70mm on 35mm camera) f3.5-4.9
  • 1.8 inch LCD (134,000 pixels) with 160° viewing angles
  • TruePic TURBO image processor
  • 13 scene programmes
  • Still image editing functions
  • Movie recording function with sound
  • PictBridge support

    * weather-proof equivalent to the IEC standard publication 529 IPX4

Full Specifications can be found on the Olympus site.

Box Contents:

  • Camera
  • Strap
  • 16MB xD-Picture Card
  • USB cable
  • A/V cable
  • Rechargeable battery
  • Battery charger
  • Software OLYMPUS Master 1.0

Average box contents - A case, and a larger memory card would have been nice. You also get a 2 year warranty! Which is excellent, it's the first time I've seen this on a digital camera, as it is normally only a 12month warranty!

Menu Options / Modes: The camera mode is selected using the rotating dial on the top of the camera - this switches between Photo, Video and Playback mode.

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

The options are: (top) Exposure compensation, (left) Image size/quality, (bottom) White balance (Auto, Sun, Cloud, Lightbulb, Flourescent), (right) Mode menu. Mode menu has 3 screens: Camera, Card and Setup. In the camera menu the options are: ESP, Drive, ISO, Digital zoom, AF mode, Microphone, Panorama, 2 in 1. The card option is: Format. The photo setup options are: All reset (on/off), Language, PW on setup, Colour (lets you change the menu colours), Speaker, Shutter sound, Rec view, Filename (default is reset!, change to auto so that all pictures have a unique name), Pixel mapping, LCD brightness, Date time, video out.

By pressing the up arrow on the 4-way controller on the back, you get access to the following scene modes: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape and Portrait, Night Scene, Cuisine, Beach and Snow, Self Portrait and Self Timer, Behind Glass, Self Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks.

Video mode: The video mode has the following options: Exposure compensation, Quality, White balance, and mode menu. Mode menu has the following options: Camera, Card and Setup. Camera options are: ESP, ISO and Digital zoom. Card option is Format. Setup options are almost identical to the photo setup options.

Playback mode: The menu button brings up the menu screen as shown below:

In playback mode the options are: (top) Slideshow, (left) Info (changes the amount of information shown on screen), (bottom) Erase, (right) Mode menu. Mode menu has 4 screens: Play, Edit, Card, Setup. Play menu options are: Protect, Rotate, Print, Microphone. Edit options are: Soft focus, Fisheye, Black and White, Sepia, Resize (these are all applied to the photos after they have been taken). Card options are: All erase, and Format. The playback setup options are: All reset (on/off), Language, PW on setup, Screen setup, Colour (lets you change the menu colours), Volume, Speaker, LCD brightness, Date/Time, Video out, Thumbnails (number displayed in playback mode).

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures / and the following number of images will fit on the 16mb memory card: (an extra memory card is recommended)

Size: Number of Photos Stored / Quality / (Average file size)
SHQ
(Super High Quality)
HQ
(High Quality)
SQ1
(Standard Quality 1)
SQ2
(Standard Quality 2)
4mp (2272 x 1704) 5 (2.5mb) 17 (900kb) n/a n/a
3mp SQ1 (2048 x 1536) n/a n/a 22 (700kb) n/a
2mp SQ2 (1600 x 1200) n/a n/a n/a 28 (550kb)
1mp SQ2 (1280 x 960) n/a n/a n/a 43 (380kb)
1mp SQ2 (1024 x 768) n/a n/a n/a 60 (250kb)
VGA SQ2 (640 x 480) n/a n/a n/a 95 (150kb)
Movie 320x240/15fps

You can't fit very many images on the provided 16mb memory card - a larger memory card is definitely recommended, unless you want to use the lower megapixel settings and higher compression levels. There is a good choice of image size and compression levels available, although no RAW or TIFF mode. If you just wanted to make 6x4 prints, or share your photos with people over the internet then the 2mp setting would be fine.

Speed, ease of use: The camera is easy to use, very quick to switch on and quick to take photos, the controls on the back of the camera are easy to use. The screen updates are quick and smooth. The camera speed in use seems quick when taking a photo, and shot to shot time is quite good, even when using flash. The camera is very compact, and very easily fits into pockets. The menus are easy to pick up and use, and the modes are easy to access (due to there only being photo/video/playback), the menus seem very quick. The continuous shooting mode is quick as well.

Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The buttons are easy to use when you get used to them, and they are in a good position, because the camera is so small it may take some time to get used to the design. There seems to be the right amount of buttons - although the zoom control is very small. The swivel mode control is very easy to use, and very stylish. The buttons feel good, they are also labelled very well. The quick view button is very nice, something which all new Olympus cameras should now have.

The buttons on the back of the camera quickly give you access to: Quick View, Wide/Telephoto zoom, Scene, Macro, Flash, Self-timer, and the Menu.

Battery usage: Battery life seems acceptable considering the size of the battery (tiny!), but due to the size of the battery a backup battery is recommended; alternatively you will have to take the charger with you everywhere you go.

LCD Display (Photo mode / Playback mode):


LCD display in photo mode: Battery life, Mode, Focusing lock (appears top left), Drive mode, Image size (bottom middle) and compression level ("HQ"), pictures remaining (bottom right).

LCD display in photo mode: The screen is very clear, and updates smoothly - the colours appear very accurate. The screen shows how many remaining photos you can take with the available memory, as well as current mode etc, although unfortunately the camera does not show aperture / shutter speed and there is no live histogram. The LCD is also very good viewed from different angles.

Playback mode: The camera can display the full information as shown above, or alternatively a quick summary of the information; this is displayed for about a second or two then dissapears so that you can see the full picture. Scrolling through the photos is very quick. The zoom can be used up to 4x. The playback zoom is very quick. Playback menu options are discussed above.

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. Full size (and medium size) versions of these photos, plus more photos are available in the new gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower 2 people Group photo

Inside: The camera has quite a powerful flash, and copes well with group photos. Red eye was noticable on some photos of people. Good colours and details. Some of the images are slightly soft - but this isn't a major issue on this camera. The camera did really really well focusing in dark conditions, even though the camera doesn't have an Auto-Focus assist lamp.

Noise: Noise generally is 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.

The camera has an Automatic mode for ISO levels, and a choice of 4 ISO modes: ISO64, ISO100, ISO200, ISO400. When set to Auto mode, there are additional ISO modes that the camera automatically uses. The camera does a good job of using the lower ISO levels even when using the flash inside.


Noise Test picture (flash on)

ISO64 - 100% ISO100 - 100%

ISO200 - 100% ISO400 - 100%

Noise levels at ISO64, and ISO100 are low - which means you get smooth images. ISO200 can be quite noisy, and ISO400 is where noise starts to become a real problem.

Outside:

Neil and Barry Unisys Building Blue flats

Outside the camera has very good colour, they are accurate, well saturated colours with low noise, I didn't notice jpeg artifacts in the images. This is where I would normally complain about image softness, but images seem quite sharp (not too sharp, and not too soft).

Zoom: This camera has a 2x Optical zoom 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 simply to show what these features do.

Wide-angle 2x Optical zoom Full 2x Optical + 4x Digital

The digital zoom shows you on screen how much magnification you are using with a yellow bar. It is quite quick. When using the optical zoom, it's quite quiet, and fairly quick, it has about 14 steps between wide and telephoto. The amount of optical zoom isn't displayed on screen numerically, the amount is simply displayed with a bar. The digital zoom can be switched on and off.

Other Image Quality issues: Chromatic Aberrations / Purple Fringing was not noticable in photos.

Macro: When this camera is in macro mode, the lens starts at full wide angle, and you can zoom in - you can also use the flash. The camera also has a super macro mode - whereby the lens is zoomed in fully and you can't use the flash, this allows you to get even closer to the subject than simply using normal macro mode and zooming in. This camera can focus down to roughly 10cm from the subject in macro mode, and roughly 6/7cm in super macro mode.

Macro - Timex Watch Actual Pixels (100%)
Macro - Printed Text Actual Pixels (100%)

The macro mode is very good. The camera does a good job of toning down the flash. Colour and detail is very good.

Movie: 320x240 / 160x120 - 15fps with sound - you can use the digital zoom whilst recording a video; you can also zoom in using the optical / digital zoom before you start recording. The movie is recorded as a .MOV file. Length is limited only by the size of the memory card.


Alan Partridge "Back of the Net" - Download 320x240/15fps movie
Click here. (right click, save target as, 2.13mb MOV) (saved as Zip file)

The quality of the movie(s) is good - 320 x 240/15fps is fairly average and VGA resolution at 30fps would be ideal.

Conclusion

Image: When outside image quality is good - the images have accurate and pleasing colour, and good detail although images could do with a slight sharpen, unfortunately there is no option to increase sharpness in camera. Images have low noise. There is some purple fringing, but it doesn't appear to be a major problem. Image compression doesn't seem to cause jpeg artifacts, and there is a good range of image sizes and compression options. The macro mode is very good. The flash didn't cause problems when the subject was close. Auto white balance and metering seemed to be very good. The movie mode is good although VGA would be nice. When inside, the camera does an EXCELLENT job of focusing, even when used in low-light, and the small flash is surprisingly powerful.

Everything else (the camera as a whole): I absolutely love this camera, the design is awesome, the size is awesome, the camera is very compact, stylish and pocketable. People's reaction is always "Wow!" (especially with women). The large 1.8" screen updates very smoothly and is extremely clear and visible from all angles. The camera is easy to use, the menu systems being easy to use. The 2x optical zoom is good. Camera handling, and button layout are good. The camera speed is very good in use and has a quick zoom, shot to shot time is also quick, and the camera has an especially quick switch on time. The camera is also 'weather-proof' which should mean it's more likely to survive day to day life than other cameras. My only complaints are that it takes XD cards (expensive), and there is no custom white balance. The start-up sound the camera makes is also very cool.

Alternative ultra compact digital cameras: Canon IXUS i (£172), IXUS 30/40 (£230), IXUS IIs (£172), Nikon Coolpix 3200 (125), Konica Minolta X31 (£117 - read my review), Konica Minolta Dimage XG (160), Konica Minolta Dimage X50 (£236), Sony Cybershot DSC-U40 (£99), L1 (£196), T1 (£299), T3 (£313), Casio Exilim EX-Z30 (£192), EX-Z40 (£215), Panasonic Lumix FX2, FX7 (£289 - read my review), Pentax Optio S4i, S5i (£256). Check amazon.co.uk / kelkoo.co.uk or amazon.com for the latest prices.

Summary: The Olympus Mju Mini Digital / Olympus Stylus Verve is an ultra compact weatherproof 4mp, 2x optical zoom digital camera with a great 1.8" colour screen. If you want an ultra compact, extremely cool and stylish, weatherproof digital camera, with a quick response time and want high quality photos outside, inside, or for macro photos, then this camera is excellent. The camera can also record unlimited videos with sound. For around 169 (UK) $325 (US) from Amazon this camera offers very good value for money. The camera is available in 6 different colours, so you get to have the camera in a colour that suits you. I love this camera and HIGHLY recommend it - I expect it will be VERY popular, and would make a brilliant Christmas present.

If you would like to save £50, and don't mind a slightly larger camera, then take a look at the Olympus C-470, which has a 3x optical zoom - available for £149 from amazon.co.uk.

What I like:

  • Great details, rich saturated colours
  • Really really small
  • Looks gorgeous - people's reaction is usually WOW!
  • Great 1.8" screen
  • 2 year warranty
  • Focuses well in dark conditions!
  • Available in 6 colours
  • Weatherproof
  • Quick switch on time / response time / shot to shot time
  • Lots of scene modes

What I don't like:

  • XD memory costs twice as much as SD, or compact flash etc.
  • No Custom white balance

Remember to have a look at the full size (and medium size) versions of these photos in the new gallery, or have a look at some more informal photos in the other gallery!
For more information - why not look at my preview.