Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Olympus MJU 780
- Image Stabilisation, Brilliant design
- Slow burst mode, No manual white balance, Slow shutter speed
A brilliantly designed unit, the MJU 780 will please a variety of consumers with its optical image stabilisation, 5x optical zoom and high ISO sensitivities. Its pictures aren't the best on the market but they are more than adequate for most uses.
Price$ 399.00 (AUD)
Olympus' compact cameras have always impressed us with their sleek, angular design, and the MJU 780 is no exception. It is one of the best looking compact cameras on the market, with a slim and sturdy metal build that is sure to please feature hungry and fashion conscious users alike. It also captures some good quality snaps and its reasonably comprehensive list of features include image stabilisation and a 5x zoom, which makes it an attractive all around proposition.
The brilliant thing about this camera is the design. We love the aesthetics of the entire MJU range, with their sleek, wedge shaped metal bodies that slide easily into your pocket. Just like other models in the range, the MJU 780 is weatherproof, meaning it can happily operate in light rain or at a place like the pool or beach. Although it isn't listed as being shock proof too (unlike Olympus' Tough series of cameras), the rock solid metal body feels like it can take a fair share of knocks, and is definitely a big selling point of this unit as it really feels like you're getting a quality product. It comes with a brushed silver front and, in stark contrast, a gun-metal back which looks exceptional.
The controls are laid out in a slightly different manner than on previous Olympus units, but this is in no way a negative thing. They look and feel sensational. A large, square directional pad with silver buttons above and below do the majority of the work, with the function wheel perched on the top right corner for speedy switching between modes. The controls also light up when pushed, which helps when shooting in low light situations.
Of course the best design in the world can't save a camera if it takes poor quality pictures, but fortunately the MJU 780 does alright in this regard. It didn't capture the best images we've seen, but it should satisfy the average user looking for some holiday and party snaps with friends and family. As usual we ran our Imatest software as well as taking a number of test pictures to analyse the camera.
Its 7.1 megapixel sensor performed decently in our sharpness test, scoring 1417, which is a little lower than some competing models, but still well within the expected range. Our test shots showed a little fringing but in general they were quite crisp and clean, and will be suitable for small and medium sized prints.
It performed well in our chromatic aberration test, achieving a result of 0.71%, which is a strong score. There was minimal haloing in our test shots (uncommon in compact cameras) however we did notice some obvious blurring towards the edges of the pictures. This was exacerbated by some obvious barrel distortion, which, while not being extremely bad, was definitely noticeable in our chart pictures.
Meanwhile in our noise test, the MJU 780 performed as expected, with a score of 0.71%. As with the sharpness score, this is a little higher than some of the competition, but is well within acceptable boundaries. The noise scaled moderately as we increased the sensitivity, with shots up to ISO 400 being usable at small magnifications. Above that the noise becomes much more prominent, taking form as a colourful haze that covers the picture. We wouldn't recommend using ISO 800 or above unless the circumstances really require it.
Colour reproduction was solid and everything looked pretty much as anticipated. The camera produced rich, full colours, as is standard with compact cameras these days. Reds were a little over saturated, but not too badly, and in general we found our shots to be a little brighter and more vivid than those produced by some other models.
In our speed tests, the unit achieved moderate results. Its shutter lag is a little sluggish, at .12 seconds, however its 1.6 second shot-to-shot time is more impressive, and the 1.8 second power up time is nothing to sneeze at either.
The standard array of compact camera functions are here, including white balance presets (but no manual mode), ISO sensitivities up to 1600 (and more if you use the night mode scene modes) and a few meagre focus and metering options. As with some previous Olympus models, the burst mode is a little disappointing, capturing 1.2 frames per second. There is a speedier version, but it drops the resolution of the pictures quite a bit, meaning it is somewhat limited in usefulness.
To go with the illuminated buttons mentioned earlier, Olympus pitch their 'Bright Capture' technology, which helps capture brighter pictures in low light situations. In general we found this to be moderately effective, although it does increase the ISO sensitivity, so noisy pictures become almost unavoidable.
Also on this model, complementing the high sensitivities on offer, is optical image stabilisation. This is a great tool, particularly when combined with the MJU 780's 5x optical zoom, as it helps keep shots clean and crisp, even at high zoom magnifications. We found it worked very well and should prove useful for those who find their shots regularly interrupted by hand shake.
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