Olympus MJU 500

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Olympus MJU 500
  • Olympus MJU 500
  • Olympus MJU 500
  • Olympus MJU 500

Pros

  • New user friendly

Cons

  • Blocky design, poor menu system

Bottom Line

A fairly poor choice in this price point, especially compared to Olympus' other offerings. Only recommended for new users

Would you buy this?

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Olympus' MJU Digital 500 is a disappointing offering in the 5 megapixel digital camera category. We have come to expect great things from them, with cameras such as the MJU 800 performing exceptionally well for their price. The MJU 500 looks as though it was intended as a less powerful version of the 800, but falls down in a few key areas that make it a much less attractive purchase.

The first of these is design. The camera looks fairly blocky, with a build that looks like a modernised film camera rather than a stylish digital device. It is largely constructed of silver plastic, which feels solid enough, but the mounting of the controls is quite poor. The buttons felt loose and unresponsive and the function wheel had a very grainy feeling when manipulated.

This lead to a worse problem; trying to navigate the menu. We like the Olympus menu system. It is easy to understand and clearly set out, but the directional pad on this model is very awkward. In the space of thirty seconds, just while checking what functions the menu had to offer, we wound up at the wrong option no less than five times. It took us multiple tries to get anywhere and quickly became very frustrating.

Thankfully the camera is clearly designed as an entry level model and thus there are not many options that need to be tweaked regularly. The MJU 500 gives just the very basics in terms of exposure, ISO sensitivity and whitebalance manipulation. There is no sign of any more complicated options such as aperture or shutter priority modes. It does however grant twenty scene modes, which contain two continuous shooting modes for capturing multiple shots of moving targets. The range of scene modes is very impressive, and the explanations that accompany them clearly highlight what each one does (the Landscape mode for example has "vivid reproduction of blues and greens"). On a camera aimed at new users it is great to see more companies take the sort of approach Kodak has taken and incorporate self explanatory menus.

The MJU 500 produced quite reasonable images that sit somewhere in the middle of the pack. Colour is definitely its strong suit, with rich greens and blues that are at a good level of saturation, although there is a small yellowish tinge in lighter areas. Sharpness was good around the edges, but the camera seems to have trouble handling high detail, with areas such as foliage loosing a lot of definition in the centre.

Response time was slightly below average. Shutter speed was almost instant, but the lag after taking pictures was a little over three seconds in bright light, and a little under three seconds in low light, which is slightly above the average of about two seconds. Still quick enough for most average users.

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