Olympus MJU 820

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Olympus MJU 820
  • Olympus MJU 820
  • Olympus MJU 820
  • Olympus MJU 820

Pros

  • Beautiful design, splash proof, fast burst mode, cool panorama feature

Cons

  • Soft pictures, white balance presets aren't entirely accurate, slow shot-to-shot time

Bottom Line

Olympus's MJU 820 doesn't capture brilliant pictures, but its combination of a stylish and sturdy design along with some nifty features and funky guide mode make it a reasonable happy-snap camera for novice users.

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Olympus's 8-megapixel MJU 820 is the next iteration in their extremely popular MJU series. Picking up where previous units left off, this model sports an extremely sturdy and stylish design and a nice set of features, making it an ideal for the fashion conscious and slightly more rugged users alike. It does, however, suffer from some image quality issues that may deter more avid photographers.

During our tests we found several issues with the images, which weren't quite up to the standard of competing models from Canon and Sony. Most obvious was a slight softness that was evident when viewing at medium and large magnifications. It wasn't horrible, but those looking to make sizeable enlargements will probably want to steer clear of the MJU 820.

The softness was most notable towards the corners of the frame where clarity dropped off sharply. Furthermore, there was prominent haloing in areas of high contrast, highlighting some chromatic aberration issues.

Colour response was fairly good, with nice balance and a soft, natural look which some may prefer to the more strongly saturated tones of many consumer cameras. That said, the white balance presets were occasionally a little off, particularly indoors using the incandescent setting.

Image noise was generally kept under control, with ISO 100 and 200 producing fairly clean shots. At ISO 400 there was some detail loss as the noise began to ramp up and by ISO 800 our shots were covered in a light speckling that really made them unusable for anything but e-mail shots or very small prints.

Speed was also a concern at times. There was a very hefty 3.5 seconds between shots when using the single snap mode, which is far too slow for our tastes. Fortunately the seven-frame per second burst mode goes some way to rectifying this. It is very speedy, but do keep in mind that it only takes pictures at 2048x1536 rather than the full 8-megapixel resolution (3264x2448), so it isn't a full solution. Meanwhile in our other tests, the MJU 820 exhibited 0.09 seconds of shutter lag and 2.8 seconds start up time, both of which are a tad sluggish but well within expected ranges.

Where the MJU 820 really shines is its design. Shifting from a gloss black face to a matte black back plate and bearing Olympus's trademark wedge shaped design; the MJU 820 is one of the best looking compact cameras we've seen. Everything about it oozes style and the shape means it easily slips in and out of a pocket or bag. Furthermore, it carries the same splash proof chassis as previous MJU models, ensuring it's perfect for those long summer days at the beach.

The feature set is basically standard fare for an Olympus compact. There is digital image stabilisation but sadly no optical version, and face detect makes a welcome return. You can adjust sensitivity up to ISO 3200 and there are a number of white balance presets but no custom option. Olympus's guide mode is back once again, and is an excellent tool for novices to experiment a little more with their shots.

One new feature that is noteworthy is the improved panorama mode, which uses an innovative system of lining up the dots to stitch picture together. It is extremely simple and proved very effective in our tests.

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