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Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 09/05/2008
Rating: Highly Recommended
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Introduction: Announced on the 22nd of January 2008, the Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW is Olympus' latest ultra compact "tough" digital camera - it's designed to withstand the elements, and is waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, crushproof, dustproof, scratchproof, and therefore also childproof! The camera features a 10 megapixel sensor, a wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens, a 2.7" screen that works in the sun, and a VGA video mode. The Olympus Mju 1030SW is available from around £215 which makes it great value for money. The camera is enclosed in an extremely tough metal body and is available in black, silver, or green. The camera measures approx. 93.2 x 61.4 x 21.3 mm (excluding protrusions), and weighs approx. 173g. excluding battery and memory card.

Olympus have this to say about the camera:

"Adventure is yours for the taking with the µ 1030 SW. Waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof and crushproof, this camera goes wherever you do. Yet despite its tough attributes, image quality isn’t compromised. Precision Olympus optics deliver true-to-life results. Integrated cutting-edge technologies provide intelligent solutions to ensure the flawless reproduction of subjects. And, with a choice of several colours, the µ 1030 SW further brightens the photo-taking experience."

You can find more information on their website.

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Canon Powershot SX100 IS)


The Olympus Mju 1030SW swims with the fishes. Larger version here. Another wet view.


Front view - camera off.


Front view - camera on, microphone, flash, LED illuminator, wide-angle lens.


Back - 2.7" screen, zoom control, mode dial, menu, play, disp/?/LED, Shadow adjust / delete button, 4-way controller, with middle OK/Function button..


Top: Power, shutter release.


Side - AV/USB connection under sealed cover, wrist strap loop.


Bottom - battery (3.7v, 925mAh) and XD memory card, sealed compartment, plastic tripod mount.

Size Comparison: Compared to a Pentax PC-550 35mm film camera - a medium/compact sized 35mm film camera.


Size comparison.


Size comparison.


Size compared to Canon IXUS 90 IS.

Specifications / Features:

  • 10.1 Megapixels CCD Sensor
  • 3.6x wide optical zoom (28-102mm*), 28mm wide-angle lens
  • 2.7" HyperCrystal II LCD, 230,000 pixels
  • 24 scene modes
  • Face Detection
  • Shadow Adjustment Technology
  • Digital Image Stabilisation
  • Auto ISO 80 - 1600, Manual ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
  • Dual format compatible (XD cards and Micro SD cards using adapter provided)
  • Crushproof up to 100kg
  • Waterproof to 10m
  • Shockproof up to 2.0m
  • Freezeproof upto -10 C
  • Scratchproof, Dust resistant body
  • Manometer (pressure meter)
  • VGA, 30fps movie mode, including underwater movie mode.
  • 2cm Macro mode

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Wrist Strap
  • Lithium Ion rechargeable battery LI-50B (925mAh, 3.7v)
  • Battery charger LI-50C
  • MicroSD to XD adapter (MASD-1 - pdf)
  • AV Cable
  • USB Cable
  • Olympus Master 2 Software CD ROM
  • Basic Printed Manual
  • Advanced Manual (CD)
  • 2 year Warranty Card

Slightly better than average box contents - a large memory card would be nice, as would a case. It's good to see a 2 year warranty, and providing a Micro SD adapter gives you better choice regarding memory cards, however a decent case, and a large memory card is recommended.

Battery usage: I'm not sure what the official figures are for battery life, but I was able to take around 170 shots before the batteries went flat, which is about average for an ultra compact.

Camera Operation and Options: The camera mode is selected using the top dial. This allows the choice of: Auto, Manual, Anti-shake, Scenes, Guide, Video, Favourites, Playback.

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

Photo mode Camera menus

Screen / LCD display in photo mode: (shown on the left) With 230,000 pixels the screen resolution is good. The screen has good colour, and has a live histogram. The screen is very clear and the text and menus are easy to read, and works well in bright sunlight. Optical Viewfinder: There is no optical viewfinder.

Function button gives you quick access to: ISO, White Balance, Continuous shooting, Exposure, Image size, Image compression.

Photo menu options: Picture quality / size, White balance, ISO, Continuous shooting, Fine zoom, Digital Zoom, Metering mode, AF mode (Face detect, iESP, Spot), Sound recording. Further options are selected using the buttons on the back of the camera such as: Exposure compensation, Macro (Off, normal, Super Macro, Super Macro with LED torch), Flash, Self-timer, Shadow adjustment (off, on), LED torch on/off.

Shooting Guide Scene modes

Shooting Guide: The shooting guide gives you guidance on how to take certain photos. It will advise which settings need changing, and will then change the settings for you. The guides available are: Shoot with effects preview*, Brightening subject, Shooting into backlight, Set particular lighting, Blurring background, Adjusting area in focus, Shooting subject in motion, Targeting with assistance, Close up photo, Super close up photo, Shooting at night, Reducing blur, Reducing red-eye, Adjusting image quality. * Shoot with effects preview options are: Zoom effects, Exposure effects, Colour effects, Metering, and Movie smoothness.

Scenes: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self portrait, Available light, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Behind glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot and select 1, Shoot and select 2, Beach and snow, Pre-capture movie, Underwater snapshot, Underwater wide 1 (ideal for landscape), Underwater wide 2 (ideal for underwater action scenes), Underwater macro.

Setup menu Playback Views

Setup menu options: Format, Backup, Language, PW on Setup (Image), Menu colour, Sound settings, Record view (on, off), File name (Reset, Auto), Pixel Mapping, LCD brightness, Date / time, Dual time, Alarm clock, Video out, Power save, LED illuminator, Manometer, m/ft.

Playback mode: The zoom is quick, and scrolling through the photos is quick. The following playback views are available: Normal, Normal plus additional information, Thumbnail plus Histogram and additional information, 4, 9, 16, 25 thumbnail view, Calendar view.

Playback menus: The menu button brings up the menu screens as shown below:

Playback menus Edit menus / Colour edit

Playback menu options: Slideshow, Edit (resize, crop, colour edit, frame, label, calendar), Print order, Perfect fix (all, shadow adjust, redeye fix), Playback menu (lock, rotate, audio record), Setup (details above), Add favourite, Erase, Silent mode.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures, and the following number of pictures will fit onto the 16mb of provided memory,

Size
Number of Photos Stored / Quality
Fine
Normal
10mp (3648 x 2736)
3
5
Wide 16:9 (1920 x 1080)
14
28
5mp (2560 x 1920)
6
12
3mp (2048x1536)
9
19
2mp (1600x1200)
15
30
1mp (1280 x 960)
24
47
VGA (640 x 480)
89
163

As shown in the table above, higher quality images take a large amount of memory, so a high capacity memory card is definitely recommended, unless you're prepared to sacrifice image size or use higher compression options to fit more pictures in memory. There is a very good choice of image sizes and compression options.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended. If you intend to take Fine JPEG images I would recommend, at a bare minimum, a 1gb memory card and preferably a 2gb memory card, or larger. 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. You can use XD or MicroSD cards (with the provided adapter). Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW:

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £7, 2gb (2000mb): £8.
Find the latest prices for MicroSD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 1gb (1000mb): £2, 2gb (2000mb): £4, 4gb** (4000mb Micro SDHC): £11
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?
Nb: you will need an Olympus XD card for panoramic shots! ** Firmware update needed for movie recording on 4gb MicroSDHC cards.

Speed: The camera is very quick to switch on and take photos, from off, to taking a photo in 1.2 seconds. Focusing seemed quick, except in very low light - this takes a little longer to focus depending on the subject. The playback mode is very quick. The camera shutter response seemed instant when pre-focused responding in 0.1 seconds or less - and shot to shot time was fairly quick, with a delay of around 1.8 seconds between shots without flash (with review off). The flash recharge time was slow allowing a shot to be taken every 4 - 5 seconds. Using continuous shooting mode with flash the preformance is better with a delay of 2 seconds between shots. The cameras menus seemed quick. Continuous shooting is average offering 0.7 fps for 7 frames at the highest resolution. A high speed 5.2fps shooting mode is available at 3mp for 11 shots.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, especially in the AUTO mode and has a number of scene modes that helps get good shots. The built in guide is especially helpful, as it guides you through the steps needed to change settings and options, and previews the results on screen as you choose the options. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straightforward, and it's easy to switch modes using the clear mode dial. The menus are responsive and are also easy to use, and the options are big enough and easy enough to see clearly. The modes are fairly easy to access, mainly thanks to the large screen, and a lot of the options can be accessed using the buttons on the back. It's also easy to see when photos are in focus.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc) The layout of the buttons and controls are good, with the most commonly used options reachable with your right hand. The zoom control and shutter release is good. The mode dial is positioned well making it easy to switch modes with your thumb, and the function button gives quick access to your favourite settings. I thought the camera felt good for a compact camera, although there is very little in the way of a hand grip at the front of the camera (just a slightly raised bar). The camera feels like a very solid, weighty, robust and well built camera (as you would expect considering the camera's ability to survive the elements!). The camera is easy to hold despite the small size, fits easily into pockets, and looks good, with a premium styled body available in a number of colours (Platinum Silver, Midnight Black and British Green!). The buttons can sometimes seem a little bit small, and the labelling could be clearer.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Outside, Macro, 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 Stylus 1030SW Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

Heather and Flower (ISO100) Flash photo (ISO100)

Inside: The camera has good colour - It took a good "Heather and Flower" photo - there is almost no red-eye in the photo. It has a good flash, and copes well with group photos, although there is often some red-eye in group photos. On AUTO ISO, the ISO setting was kept low, however noise was occassionally noticable, and better results may be possible by using the lowest ISO setting, especially if the subject is close to the camera. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time in low-light, although struggled in very dark situations. There is an LED illuminator that can be used to help focus, however, this needs to be switched on manually.

ISO Noise Test: Noise: 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 (ranging from ISO 80 - ISO1600), and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600), with ISO2500 available in some of the scene modes, auch as "Available Light".

Below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops, viewable at 100%, from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 10 megapixel Ricoh R8, and 10 megapixel Canon Digital IXUS 90 IS.

Ricoh R8 (10mp) Canon IXUS 90 (10mp) Olympus Mju 1030SW (10mp)

ISO Noise Test Photos - Flash is off. Ricoh R8 on the left, Canon Digital IXUS 90 IS in the middle, Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW on the right. Any tonal difference is due to white balance or lighting / metering differences.

Ricoh R8 (10mp) Canon IXUS 90 (10mp) Olympus Mju 1030SW (10mp)
ISO64 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels
 
ISO3200 - NA ISO3200 - Actual Pixels (2mp) ISO2500 - Actual Pixels (3mp)

Noise results: The Canon and Olympus cameras have relatively low noise upto ISO200 / 400 with the Olympus having slightly less noise, but also slightly less detail, and smoother images overall. The Canon and Olympus offer almost usable ISO800 results, and all cameras struggle at ISO1600, with the Olympus offering the best ISO1600 results. Both the Canon and Olympus offer addidional ISO range, albeit at lower resolution, with the Canon's results being quite acceptable for small 2mp pictures, and the Olympus' results being overly soft, but still potentially useful. Noise results from the Canon and Olympus are quite good considering the camera's both have 10 megapixel sensors, and overall aren't particularly worrying. The Ricoh shows the most noise at all ISO settings, with especially poor results at ISO1600, this is quite dissappointing as even ISO100 shots outside seem to suffer from noticable noise - and whilst it's not possible to alter the noise settings - it could be possible to get better results by setting the camera's sharpening setting to soft.

Image Stabilisation: The Canon and Ricoh both offer built in optical (Canon) / CCD-shift (Ricoh) image stabilisation so for blur free photos you can still use the lower ISO settings to try and avoid image blur. The Olympus lacks built in image stabilisation, so to avoid image blur you will need to increase the ISO Setting, or use the digital image stabilisation mode, which automatically increases the ISO setting for you.

Shadow Adjustment Technology: "Shadow Adjustment Technology all but eradicates the problem of shadowy images." This feature brightens darker / shadow areas on an image to give an improved dynamic range, so that images are exposed correctly even when there is a wide range of brightness levels. Examples showing this switched off and on can be seen below.

Shadow Adjustment Off Shadow Adjustment On

Actual Pixels Actual Pixels

As you can see - with this switched on, the second image is brighter, with darker object being noticably brighter and has made the drinks brighter. This can be switched on before you take the photo, or alternatively you can use this feature in playback mode to brighten dark images.

Outside:

Liverpool shops (ISO80) Bold Street Church (ISO80)

Outside: The camera has quite rich, saturated colours. There was good detail, and the camera took a number of very pleasing images outside, with good contrast, with very little or no chromatic aberations and purple fringing. In general 'normal' quality jpeg artefacts are not easily seen, however areas with strong contrasts benefit from use of the highest quality setting. My only complaint is that images are slightly soft, and could do with sharpening.

Zoom: This lens provides a wide angle 3.6x optical zoom starting at 28mm equivalent which is great for 'normal' everyday photography, zooming to 102mm allowing photos of distant objects. I've included examples below to show what the zoom is capable of. An example of digital zoom can be seen below, digital zoom basically takes a crop of the centre of the frame and enlarges the image, degrading image quality, and is therefore best avoided.

Wide-angle 3x Optical Zoom Full Optical and Digital zoom

Exposure: The photos of the clock tower are exposed well with detail in the dark areas as well as the lighter areas - exposure in other photos was generally very good. Vignetting was not noticed in these photos. It can be useful to under expose images with bright backgrounds (eg; sky) with use of exposure compensation.

Lens noise and zoom: The lens makes very little noise, and gives you roughly 9 steps between wide and telephoto - this gives good controls over how you frame your subject.

Other Image Quality issues: Purple fringing / Chromatic aberration was very rarely seen, and when it was seen, levels of purple fringing were very low.

Macro Lens Performance:

Timex Watch Macro Actual Pixels (ISO200)

The camera can take maco photos where the subject is only 2cm away from the lens in Super Macro mode! Colour and detail is very good, and there appears to be low noise at ISO100 and below, however some is visible in this ISO200 shot. Unfortunately the camera does not have custom / manual white balance, so you will need to choose from one of the preset WB modes if AUTO WB doesn't do a very good job. The camera has a normal macro mode, and a super macro mode that is zoomed in slightly. More examples can be seen in the gallery.

Video mode: The camera features a good video mode - it records VGA videos at 30fps with sound as AVI files. The camera was limited to recording VGA videos for only 10 seconds, but the camera will now record unlimited videos after you have updated the firmware. Compared to other digital cameras the Olympus can't fit very long videos on the memory card (512mb will fit 4 minutes and 40 seconds of VGA 30fps video), as it doesn't use very high compression, such as MPEG4. The video mode doesn't let you use the optical zoom whilst recording.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality is very good - and appears to be a definite improvement over the Olympus 770SW - with excellent colour, and high levels of saturation, contrast and detail. Noise levels were low compared to other 10 megapixel compact cameras, and purple fringing was very low. There was some red eye in group photos. The camera did a good job focusing most of the time, even indoors, although occassionally struggled in very low light - focusing can be assisted by switching on the LED illuminator. There was no noticable vignetting (darkened corners), nor did I notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There is a very good range of image sizes, aspect ratio, and a good choice of compression options. Auto white balance, metering and exposure seemed to be very good, however it's a shame there is no manual white balance as this would help with photography in artificial lighting. Images were slightly soft, and could benefit from sharpening. (8.5/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The camera features a very robust, compact metal body, that is crushproof, waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof, scratchproof, and dust resistant! It also features things you may not need such a Manometer, and an LED illuminator (light), which can be used with the 2cm super macro mode. The camera is available in black, silver or green and is compact and stylish. The camera has a very good 2.7" screen that works well even in the sun. The camera feels very well built, and is fairly comfortable to hold. The camera is easy to use, thanks to numerous scene modes, built in guide, and built in help system, and provides quick access to the most commonly used options. The layout of buttons and controls is very good.The camera speed is good, with a very good switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, quick playback mode, quick menus, although continuous shooting could be quicker and flash recharge time is slightly sluggish unless you use the continuous mode which speeds it up. The camera has a wide range of features that should suit every person, such as face detection focus, shadow adjustment, numerous scene modes, good video mode, excellent macro mode, a wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens, etc. It's also good to see Olympus are supporting MicroSD memory cards with the provided XD adapter. The only thing I'd say this camera was missing, is true optical image stabilisation, and custom white balance. (9/10)

Value for Money: The wide angle Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW from around £215, is great value for money, priced competitively with other ultra compact 10 megapixel digital cameras, such as the Canon Digital IXUS 90 IS, however, the Olympus 1030SW features a huge list of additional features, including the additional protection, meaning the Olympus should survive any accidents. The Olympus is also almost completely unique in it's array of freezeproof, dustproof, waterproof, crushproof, scratchproof features. (9/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: If you want a rugged digital camera then this is it - it's probably the toughest digital camera currently available. If you have children who want to play with all your toys, but you don't want to worry about them breaking them, then this camera is perfect. In fact, if you just want an ultra compact digital camera then this would also be a very good choice... especially as it's priced on par with other ultra compact cameras.

The camera produces very good images that are colourful, pleasing, richly saturated with good exposure, and noise is generally low. You also have the option to use the Shadow Adjustment feature to bring out extra detail in the shadows. This camera should survive wherever you take it, and has a screen that works in any situation, including bright sunlight. The camera is quick to use, and easy to use. Given the excellent value for money this camera provides, and the almost endless features, I'd highly recommend this camera!

Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW Rating: Highly Recommended (8.8/10)
Available for £215 - or Get the best price below!

What I like:

  • Very good image quality
  • Good wide angle 3.6x optical zoom lens
  • Excellent 2.7" screen - works well in bright sunlight
  • Very robust compact metal body
  • Crushproof, Waterproof, Shockproof, Freezeproof, Scratchproof, Dust resistant body
  • Excellent macro mode
  • Good value for money
  • Quick performance - very quick switch on time
  • Built in shooting guide - with effects preview
  • Built in help system - simply press the ? button for an explanation
  • Supports XD and MicroSD cards (with provided adapter)
  • LED illuminator for low light macro, focus, light when camera is off etc
  • Shadow adjustment technology, Face detection focus
  • Low purple fringing

What I don't like:

  • Lacks orientation sensor
  • Lacks manual / custom white balance
  • Real optical image stabilisation would be nice (and useful in videos)
  • Slow flash recharge time (unless you're using the continuous shooting mode)
  • Red-eye in group photos

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Olympus Mju Stylus 1030SW Sample Photo Gallery.
Firmware update available here: Olympus UK.

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