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Olympus u[Mju:] / Stylus 740 - Digital Camera Review
Review Date: 06/12/06
Rating: Recommended
Author: Stephen Waller

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Introduction: Announced on the 23 August 2006, the Olympus µ [Mju:] 740 All-Weather (aka Stylus 740) is a new 7 megapixel digital camera with a 5x optical zoom lens, a 2.5" screen and an ultra compact metal body that is rain-proof! The 5x optical zoom lens is equiv. 36-180mm on a 35mm camera. The Olympus Mju 740 is available from around 200 this makes it good value for money for an ultra compact weatherproof 7 megapixel 5x optical zoom digital camera. The camera is enclosed in a sturdy wedge shaped metal body and is available in three colours: Moonlight Silver (shown here), Twilight Blue and Sunset Red (looks like Hot Pink in real life). The camera records videos at 15fps with a maximum resolution of 640x480. The body measures: 96 x 54 x 24.3 mm (without protruding parts), and weighs approx. 114g (without battery & xD-Picture Card). Nb. The Olympus Mju Stylus 740 is identical to the Olympus Mju Stylus 750 - apart from a few minor differences: The 750 has an anti-shake CCD sensor that helps avoid blur in images in low light or when using a lot of zoom. The 750 is also available in Black or Silver.

Olympus UK have this to say about the µ [mju:] 740:

"The gently tapered design of the µ [mju:] 740 makes it a pleasure to hold, but these good looks are not just skin deep. Inside this beauty is a 5x optical zoom lens (36-180mm equivalent on a 35mm camera). The ultra-compact weatherproof* metal bodied µ [mju:] 740 is sure to turn heads and the 23 different scene modes cover just about every common shooting situation. Available in a range of colours: Moonlight Silver, Twilight Blue and Sunset Red. * Weatherproof equivalent to the IEC standard publication 529 IPX4"

Olympus America have this to say about the Stylus 740:

"Incredibly thin. Powerful zoom. Irresistible. The Stylus 740 is the thinnest 5x optical zoom camera in its class, and it boasts all the quality features you expect from a Stylus. With an amazing 28x total zoom, Digital Image Stabilization (DIS) and Bright Capture Technology, you'll capture near-perfect images every time."

You can find more information at Olympus' website on the µ [mju:] 740 and the Stylus 740

The Camera: a visual tour: (Photos of the camera taken with the Fuji Finepix 2800Zoom)


Front - Camera on - Flash, Microphone.


Front - Camera off - the lens has a built in metal cover.


Back - 2.5" screen, zoom control, mode dial, Menu, 4-way controller, OK/Func middle button, Print button, Disp (info), Erase.


Top: Power button, shutter release. Right: Strap loop, USB / AV, DC in, under cover.


Bottom - Speaker, metal tripod mount, battery / XD memory compartment cover.


Bottom - battery / XD memory compartment.


Size comparison with AA Battery.


Size comparison with Canon SLR.


Size comparison with Audio cassette

Specifications / Features:

  • 7.1 Megapixels
  • 5x Optical Zoom (1:3.3-5.0)
  • 5.6x Digital Zoom
  • 2.5" / 6.4cm TFT screen - 215,000 pixels
  • 3cm Super macro mode
  • Shutter speed: 1/2sec - 1/2000sec, up to 4sec in Night Scene mode
  • 640 x 480,320 x 240, & 160 x 120 @ 15fps Movie recording with sound, digital anti-shake
  • ISO: Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600.
  • Bright Capture Technology for better low light photography – also available in movie mode with sound (320x240 pixels at 15fps)
  • Digital Image Stabilisation - (increases ISO setting to gain faster shutter speed)
  • 23 Scene modes
  • Weatherproof
  • 17mb Internal memory

Box Contents:

  • Digital Camera
  • Strap
  • CB-USB6 USB cable
  • Audio/video cable
  • Rechargeable battery LI-42B
  • Charger LI-40C
  • OLYMPUS Master 1.4. software
  • 3 Printed Manuals (English, French & Spanish - American market)*

*The camera reviewed here is the Stylus, and the µ [Mju:] European box contents may differ.

Average box contents - There is no memory card provided with the camera - instead there is only 17mb of memory built in. Some kind of case would have been nice.

Battery usage: Battery life seemed average, I managed to take around 170+ photos before "battery empty" appeared on screen. Battery life is rated at 180 shots with the LI-42B rechargeable battery provided. Ways to get better battery life are by not using flash, using lower resolution pictures, turning the post snap screen view off. Purchasing a second battery would make a lot of sense if using the camera intensively, as a recharge takes about 3 1/2 hours.

Camera Operation and Options: To turn the camera on, the power button is pressed and is ready for taking photos when the light stops flashing (about 1.5 seconds). The mode dial rotates through Playback, Program, Anti-shake, Scene, Guide and Video. The Menu button reveals options dependant on the mode selected. The +/- allows adjustment of Exposure Value. The Print button can be used when connected to a Pictbridge compatible printer, or when in a shooting mode, to toggle to Playback. The Macro button toggles through the macro modes, to previous image in playback, or pan left in Zoom playback. The Function/ OK button gives quick access to Photo mode, White Balance, ISO, Drive, and Metering settings. The Flash modes are auto, anti-red eye reduction, forced, (night portrait with Scene only). The Disp button, will toggle through information about the image on screen, or give details of a function selected, which can be quite useful. Self-timer has only one setting of about 10 seconds. Delete button used in playback to delete one picture at a time.

Modes: The camera mode is selected using the dial on the back of the camera. This rotates through Playback, Program, Anti-shake, Scene, Guide and Video.

Video shoot Macro . Macro button.
Video Playback screen. Video playback Menu options.

Video Mode: video with sound, zoom can be pre-set, but is not adjustable while filming. If enabled in Setup, the Print button toggles to playback without having to turn the Mode dial. This feature is available in all shooting modes.

Shooting Guide mode. 'Brightening subject' suggestions.
Shooting Guide mode. Scene Mode

Guide Mode: A useful alternative to Scene, and very helpful in improving problem shots.

Scene Mode: Portrait, Landscape, Landscape and Portrait, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available light, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction (shown above), Shoot and Select 1, Shoot and Select 2, Beach and Snow, Under water wide 1, Under water wide 2, Under water macro (these last three require the underwater housing).

A quick note on shoot and select 1 and 2 - this takes numerous photos in quick succession (2 re-focuses between shots), you then choose the ones you want to delete by putting a tick next to them! Originally I thought I had to put a tick next to the one's I wanted to keep only to see them get deleted! Surely a big red cross should be put on the ones you don't want, and big green ticks on the ones you want to keep!

Anti shake Mode: This defaults to the highest ISO, to facilitate fast shutter speeds. Suitable for low light or fast moving subjects. The manual functions are reduced to setting White balance, multiple shots (Drive), and metering zone.

Program Mode: This mode enables the most control through the Function button or Menu - Camera Menu, ie. Photo mode (Program or Auto), White Balance (Auto, Sun, Cloud, Lightbulb, Fluorescent 1,2,3), ISO (Auto, 80 - 1600), Drive (Single, Continuous, Continuous High Speed - at 3mp), Metering (ESP, Spot).

Menu options Camera menu

Photo menu: The Menu button brings up the screen on the left with the options: Image quality, Reset, Camera menu, Setup, Scene modes, Silent mode. (all options available only when dial set to Scene)

Camera Menu options: White Balance, ISO, Drive, ESP / Metering, Digital Zoom, AF mode, Microphone, Panorama (only available with Olympus XD cards!).

Function Menu Setup Menu

Function Menu: The Function button gives quick access to photo controls: Photo mode (Program or Auto), White Balance (Auto, Sun, Cloud, Lightbulb, Fluorescent 1,2,3), ISO (Auto, 80 - 1600), Drive (Single, Continuous, Continuous High Speed - at 3mp), Metering (ESP, Spot). Drive is similar to 'Shoot & select' from the Scene mode, but without the select.

Setup Menu options: Format, Backup, Language, Quick View (when enabled in Setup, the print view button toggles to Display), Power on setup, Startup image settings, Menu Colour, Beep sound, Beep volume, Shutter sound, Audio volume, Record view (turn this off to speed the camera up in photo mode), File name, Pixel mapping, LCD brightness, Date / Time, Dual time, Alarm Clock, Video out, Power save (turns screen off after 10 seconds of inactivity).

Screen / LCD display in playback mode: (shown above) The screen resolution with 215,000 pixels is good. The screen is clear and the text and menus are easy to read. There is a histogram available in photo mode.

Review mode Review Menu

Review / Playback mode: Scrolling through the photos is a bit sluggish / slow. The zoom is very quick. There were numerous different playback views: Calendar view by date, Normal, thumbs - showing 4, 9, 16, or 25 thumbnails. There was limited additional information available about the photos, for example, the camera doesn't display shutter or aperture speeds in playback or photo mode. There is also a histogram available in playback mode.

Review Menu: you have the choice of Slideshow, Edit, Print order, Calendar, Playback menu, Setup, Album, Erase and Silent mode.

Playback menu Edit menu

Playback Menu options: (left) Protect, Rotate, Audio, Album entry.

Edit menu options: (right) Resize, Redeye fix, Black and White, Sepia, Frame, Label (Title), Calendar, Brightness, Saturation. Frame is quite interesting, enabling the insertion of your image into one of twelve or so picture frames. You can re-size, rotate and move the image until satisfied for printing.

Optical / Electronic Viewfinder: There is none.

Picture Size / Quality: The camera takes the following size pictures:

Mode
Image Size
Number Stored with sound
Number Stored without sound
SHQ
3,072 x 2,304
5
5

HQ

10
10
SQ1
2,560 x 1,920 (5mp)
14
14
2,304 x 1,728 (4mp)
17
17
2,048 x 1,536 (3mp)
21
22
SQ2
1,600 x 1,200 (2mp)
26
27
1,280 x 960 (1.3mp)
39
42
1024 x 768 (1mp)
58
65
640 x 480 (VGA)
88
105

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, although it would have been nice to have the option of different aspect ratios.

A large memory card is relatively cheap, and highly recommended, I would recommend at a bare minimum a 256mb, and preferably a 512mb, 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 by a computer. Listed below are links to memory cards that will work with the Olympus Mju 740 / Stylus 740 (bear in mind that Panorama is only available with Olympus cards):

Find the latest prices for XD memory cards at Amazon.co.uk: 256mb: 11.37, 512mb: 11.97, 1gb (1000mb): 17.99, 2gb (2000mb): 39.11
Need more help deciding what size memory card to buy? Click here to read my article called "What Size Memory Card Should I Buy?"

Additional Resources: You'll need plenty of printer ink to print pictures from this cool camera, so get on the Internet first - before you go to your local store - to find the best prices on ink cartridges, ink refills and toner cartridges.

Speed: The camera is fairly quick to switch on and take photos, being ready in just under two seconds. Focusing seemed fairly quick (under 1 second in low light). The playback mode is a bit sluggish with large files, taking a little less than one second before displaying when going between photos (this does depend on image size) - however the zoom is very quick. The camera shutter response seemed very quick when pre-focused, with a time of around 0.1 seconds. Shot to shot time was average, with a delay of around 2 seconds without flash. The flash recharge time was quite quick taking roughly half a second longer than without flash. The cameras menus seemed quick. On the High Speed continuous shooting mode (at 3mp), shot time is very quick, at roughly 3fps. On the normal continuous shooting mode, at the full 7mp resolution, shot time was slower at around 1.1fps, and with flash around 0.8fps.

Ease of use: The camera is easy to use, and works just like a point and shoot as soon as it's switched on, whether you are in the Auto / Program mode or the Digital Anti-shake mode. The Anti-shake mode makes it especially easy to get blur free photos, just so long as you don't mind the camera using a higher ISO setting. If your photos aren't turning out as you would like, try the built in Guide feature which will change settings to improve your pictures. The controls on the back of the camera are quite straightforward - the menus are responsive and easy to read and navigate. Overall, the camera was easy to use, with the Scene and Guide modes especially useful. The only part that was slightly confusing was that most of the options accessible directly through Function/OK, are duplicated and accessible through Menu - Camera Menu. Useful though the anti-shake feature is, taking photos in very low light, or full telephoto will require camera support or the results will be blurry.

Ergonomics and Buttons: (Feel, placement, labels, etc.) The buttons are fairly easy to use, and they are in a good position. The buttons feel okay, although some may find them small, especially the power button. The shutter release is good.  I thought the camera felt quite good ergonomically, although there is no handgrip on the front of the camera. The camera feels like a very solid, robust and well built camera, the metal feels solid and is very reassuring, even the screen seems well protected. The only flat surface on the camera is the base, which may not be enough when trying to stabilise the camera for longer exposures or extreme telephoto.

Image Quality: Here are some real world sample photos taken in various settings, such as Inside, Noise, Outside, Zoom, 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 740 Sample Photo Gallery!

Inside:

New Baby (ISO100,F3.3,1/30) Group photo (ISO800,F4.4,1/250)

Inside: The camera has good colour. Red-eye was unpredictable, with some straight on face shots without any, yet the above having some. The red-eye removal post-process was quite successful. It has a decent flash, and copes very well with group photos lighting up a large groups of people. The camera did a good job at focusing most of the time even in low-light.

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, and manual ISO settings (ISO: 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, and 1600) - below you'll find the noise test image, plus actual pixel crops from the image taken at different ISO settings, compared with the 6 megapixel, 12x optical zoom lens Panasonic Lumix FZ7.

Panasonic Lumix FZ7 Olympus Mju 740 Flash On Olympus Mju 740 Tungsten WB

ISO Noise Test Photo - Panasonic Lumix FZ7 on the left, Olympus Mju 740 on the right. The colour difference is due to Auto / Tungsten White balance vs flash.

Panasonic Lumix FZ7 Olympus Mju 740 Flash On Olympus Mju 740 Tungsten WB
ISO80 - Actual Pixels ISO80 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO80 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/2 Sec
ISO100 - Actual Pixels ISO100 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO100 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/2 Sec
ISO200 - Actual Pixels ISO200 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO200 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/2 Sec
ISO400 - Actual Pixels ISO400 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO400 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/2 Sec
ISO800 - Actual Pixels ISO800 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO800 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/4 Sec
ISO1600 - Actual Pixels ISO1600 - Actual Pixels F7.1-1/60 Sec ISO1600 - Actual Pixels F4.2-1/8 Sec

I have included Flash as well as Tungsten, as the camera did not want to increase exposure above F4.2 with 1/2 second. The settings are available (up to 4 second / F3.3 in night scene mode) however not manually (see aperture & shutter settings on inside shots). Noise is much higher on the FZ7 than on the Olympus Mju 740 up to ISO400, where noise levels appear quite similar, the FZ7's noise is much more blotchy - whereas the 740's noise seems much more fine grained and consistent.Personally I would say that ISO80 - ISO100 is useable on the FZ7, whereas ISO64 - ISO200 is useable on the 740, with ISO200 on the FZ7 being borderline / unacceptable, and ISO400 and above on the 740 being borderline / unacceptable. The ISO800 and ISO1600 mode on the FZ7 loses much more detail than the 740. The 740 has an additional high ISO mode (of up to ISO2500) at 3 megapixels, this may be useful for small prints, however detail is quite low.

A note about ISO noise testing: As you can see in this comparison, noise is much more noticable in low light situations, or in shadows, and using the flash noise is less noticable - so testing a camera's ISO performance outdoors on a bright sunny day is always going to show less noise than you will see indoors, and isn't always a true reflection of a camera's ISO performance.

Outside:

Nelson Shops (ISO80,F5,1/200) Back Alley (ISO80,F5,1/160)

Outside, the camera has pleasant colour, with good saturation and contrast. There was good detail although some images seemed a little soft. Noise seemed low for ISO100 photos. Exposure seemed good with detail visible in the light, and darker areas. The above images were taken using the Landscape scene mode.

Zoom: The Olympus 5x optical zoom lens provides a good range. The camera also features a 5.6x digital zoom. Digital zoom simply degrades image quality and better results can often be obtained using software. I've included examples to show what is possible.

Wide-angle (ISO80,F5,1/200) 5x optical (ISO80,F5,1/400) Digital and optical zoom (ISO80,F5,1/400)

Exposure / Metering on the photos of the clock tower seem good, areas in the shade a bit too dark, and the bright areas of the photo exposed well. Purple fringing was also very low in these photos, though there is a suggestion of vignetting. There are around 12 steps between wide angle and full optical zoom and then a further 12 or more to reach full digital zoom which gives good control over how you frame your subject.

Lens noise: The lens and shutter noise are fairly quiet and almost un-noticeable.

Macro Modes:

Normal Macro (ISO 80, F3.3, 1/5) Actual Pixels
Super Macro (ISO80, F3.3, 1/2) Actual Pixels

The macro mode allows you to be 8-9 cm away from the subject at wide angle. To focus, it needs to find vertical contrasts and seems to struggle when at its limits. The super macro mode focuses to 3-4 cm from the subject - this allows you to get good, close-up, detailed photos. Unfortunately there is no custom white balance - auto white balance did a fairly good job here, but in different lighting conditions results may not be as good.

Video mode: The camera features a 640x480 (VGA) video mode at 15fps with sound - this features digital anti-shake. This is fairly average and produces reasonable results - the majority of other cameras available now feature a VGA video mode at 30fps.

Conclusion

Image Quality: Image quality was generally good, with good colour, contrast, and detail, although images were slightly soft straight from the camera and could benefit from sharpening. Saturation was slightly lower than I would have liked to see (this can be increased by using some of the scene modes, or Edit in playback mode), as a comparison the Olympus SP-320 had higher saturation on its default settings. Images had generally low noise at most ISO settings up to ISO200. Purple fringing was low in most photos, but can be seen in some extreme test cases near the corner of the wide-angle shots when examined closely. Red-eye was visible in some photos using flash, though this can be fixed using the built in red-eye reduction in playback mode. The camera did a good job focusing the majority of the time - and indoor group photos were surprisingly well lit despite the cameras compact size and compact flash. I did not notice barrel or pincushion distortion. There was a suggestion of vignetting and some corner softness. There is a very good range of image sizes, and a good choice of compression options, although the camera lacks choice regarding aspect ratio. Auto white balance, metering, and exposure seemed to be good to very good. The lack of custom white balance may deter some people, especially those interested in taking macro photos. (7/10)

Everything else (the camera as a whole): The cameras most appealing features are it's ultra compact weather proof body, 5x optical zoom lens, and unusual shape making it very pocketable. It is stylish with a solid body and also available in three colours. The camera has a good 2.5" screen that is usable in fairly bright sunlight, due to the bright image technology. The camera feels very well built, and is comfortable to hold. It is easy to use, the menu system is easy to use and there is a good layout of buttons and controls, with numerous scene modes, guide feature and a digital anti-shake mode to help get better results. The camera speed is good, with a good switch on time, quick focusing time, excellent shutter response, good flash recharge time. It has a slightly sluggish / slow playback mode, though quick menus, reasonable continuous shooting at full resolution, and a very fast high speed shooting mode at 3mp. Battery life is average. The cameras video mode features digital anti-shake, but the frame rate is fairly poor compared to other digital cameras. (8/10)

Value for Money: The Olympus Mju / Stylus 740 at around 200, is good value for money for an ultra compact 7 megapixel digital camera with 5X Optical Zoom and weather proofing - it is probably the only ultra-compact digital camera with as much optical zoom. There is very little to compare this digital camera with, the most similar being the Ricoh Caplio R5, (wide angle 7.1x optical zoom lens) although it lacks weather proofing. (8/10) See more digital camera reviews sorted by megapixels here.

Summary: The Olympus Stylus / Mju 740 has a lot going for it, particularly the 5x optical zoom lens and ultra compact weather proof body. The camera would be especially suited to someone who wants to take their camera with them in all weathers. The solid build of this camera is likely to make it last well, and makes it good value for money. Image quality was generally good, although slightly under-saturated for some people's tastes, and images can be slightly soft. Noise was quite well controlled although worse indoors. The camera is very easy to use and there are a lot of features built in to help get better results, such as the digital image stabilisation and numerous scene modes. The Olympus Mju / Stylus 750 adds an anti-shake CCD sensor to the 740, and is roughly the same price, you get a choice of additional colours (Black and Silver), whether you need additional image stabilisation is up to you, but it may well be worth investing in, alternatively you have a greater choice of colours if you stick to the 740. The 740 would make an ideal all weather camera for the style conscious although if image quality is a high priority, then you may want to look elsewhere.

Olympus Mju / Stylus 740 Rating: Above Average (7.6/10)
Available for £199 or Check the latest prices below!

What I like:

  • 5x Optical zoom lens
  • Weather proof
  • Very compact
  • Very Stylish
  • Guide Mode
  • In camera editing (red-eye removal, contrast, saturation etc)
  • Digital Image Stabilisation mode (ISO up to 1600 at full resolution)
  • Very good exposure / metering
  • Good colour
  • Good Macro modes
  • 23 Scene modes

What I don't like:

  • Doesn't feature custom white balance
  • Panoramic mode only available with Olympus XD cards!
  • Lacks picture options of other Olympus cameras, i.e. Saturation, Contrast, Sharpness - instead you'll need to use one of the Scene modes, or Edit in playback mode (though no Sharpness).

Additional Test Images are viewable in the Olympus Mju / Stylus 740 Sample Photo Gallery.

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