As the previous champion of our digital camera category, the Olympus MJU 800 commands a lot of respect around the office. It offered the complete package; a stack of features, brilliant pictures, weatherproof casing and a slim design. Thus it was with excitement and a little trepidation that we fired up its successor, the MJU 810 and took it for a test run. At first glance everything seemed to be in order and we were getting the 4 star stamp ready for some more action, but closer inspection revealed some disturbing flaws that really pushed this model down a few notches.
- Weatherproof, Nice design
- Image quality lacking, No manual features
A little disappointing, the MJU 810 doesn't quite live up to its predecessor's name offering a solid if not awe inspiring compact model with poorer than expected image quality.
Price$ 599.00 (AUD)
The most painful of these was image quality. We have come to expect big things from Olympus, and were looking forward to getting our hands on this model. However when we did we were greeted with mediocre results in most of our tests,leaving the MJU 810 flailing in the middle of the pack. Colour was the biggest let down, with Imatest producing a score of 12.1; way above the 6-8 we were expecting. It struggled with most shades of red, underexposing them quite a bit. More surprisingly, however, was that most shades of blue were overexposed, which amounted to darker than natural colours. Whilst our test shots weren't grossly inaccurate, close scrutiny clearly showed there was room for improvement. That said, colour is an area where a little inaccuracy can actually make the shots more appealing and thus it isn't always a make or break element of your shots.
Combine it with high levels of Chromatic Aberration as well as unacceptable noise levels however and things begin to look even less rosy. We haven't had a model that exhibited a Chromatic Aberration score over .1% for quite a while but the MJU 810 netted a rather hefty 0.125%. Whilst not in the lowest bracket (reserved for monstrosities that score higher than .15%) this is at a high enough level to be noticeable in medium to large prints. Chromatic aberration typically shows itself as colour fringing around the edges of pictures, and even in extremely sharp photographs it can lead to blurred edges and an overall lack of crispness.
Image noise was similarly problematic. Scoring 1.14% in Imatest, it was clearly visible across a number of our test shots. We swear we didn't take the shot with confetti sprinkled on the chart but the pictures would tell a different story. This came as a big surprise to us, as Olympus tends to perform very well in this area.
The camera's saving grace was its brilliantly sharp shots. Netting over 1500 in Imatest, with very minimal undersharpening (enough to be negligible) the MJU 810 takes photographs that rival some SLRs in clarity. Whilst the Chromatic aberration does dampen this somewhat, the fact remains that in the right conditions you'll get some fantastic shots. Just keep in mind the other problems because they'll definitely take their toll in the long run.
Functionality and Performance
Our other disappointment with this model was the lack of advanced features. You'll notice the MJU 810 is sitting in our compact category, rather than advanced which is due to a lack of functionality. The MJU 800 had a robust set of options with aperture and shutter priority which handed more control to the user. Its successor merely has the basics, a video mode, along with "simple" and "program" modes, which gives white balance and ISO control but nothing more advanced. What we loved about the MJU 800 was that it catered for all classes of photographers, from the new user to the budding amateur. The MJU 810 on the other hand is definitely skewed towards the lower segment of the market.
One integral part of the MJU 800's functionality was the "guide" mode, which offered simple explanations for more complicated settings. If someone wanted to lighten their shots, they merely selected that in the menu system and the camera adjusted automatically. Thankfully this menu has returned with the MJU 810, and is every bit as useful as on its predecessor, so at least new photographers are well taken care of.
We were extremely pleased with this model's burst shooting mode. Firing up to three shots a second for four seconds, the MJU 810 is really an excellent choice for fast paced photography. Combine that with a shutter speed of .8 of a second and you've really got a winner on your hands. Unfortunately the shot to shot time leaves a little to be desired, with the camera pausing for roughly two seconds between snaps. Startup time was more manageable at just over a second.
Battery life was a bit of a disappointment. We snapped off just over 150 shots before the batteries died, not even enough to conclude our testing. The fact that it operates off a lithium ion battery works in its favour, but the low capacity is definitely a problem.
Olympus has taken an interesting angle with their new MJU range, crafting most of the models in a wedge shaped design. The left hand side, which houses the lens, is roughly one and a half centimeters, but this thickens to over two centimeters at the other end. It has the effect of making the camera feel slimmer than it actually is, and saves a little space, but really has no major impact. The MJU 810 is comfortable to hold, and thanks to the metal chassis, has enough weight behind it to take steady shots without being too heavy.
It is important to note the other special feature of the MJU range is their weatherproof design. Whilst this may be open to interpretation, essentially it means you can use the camera in light rain, windy or just general outdoors conditions. The MJU 810 isn't the rugged tank of a camera that some of the advanced models claim to be, but it is definitely sturdier than your average compact and we would have no qualms taking it camping or on a hiking trip. Unfortunately Olympus has decided to go with the flow with regards to colour scheme, and thus this model comes in what has become stock "camera silver". Still, it doesn't look half bad and the lack of advanced features means the controls have a minimalist style that keeps the whole thing looking simple. You definitely won't be embarrassed to have this out in public.
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