Although we demonstrated last month how well today's technology handles rough treatment, getting your digicam wet isn't smart. Unless, of course, it's specifically designed to be splashproof, like Olympus' µ Digital 800. Conventionally known as the Mju Digital 800, it has a fairly standard appearance, but has rubber gaskets, seals and linings to protect it from rain, sand, dirt or snow (but not immersion). This makes it ideal for holidays, particularly as it provides an 8.3Mp image sensor (8Mp effective) for shots up to 3264x2488 pixels, a 3x optical zoom, and a robust, compact chassis.
It's clearly a consumer camera, and features a built-in user guide and clear on-screen descriptions of many of the camera settings - including the 19 capture presets. The 2.5in HyperCrystal LCD viewfinder is crisp, offering wide viewing angles and high contrast levels that make it more usable in strong daylight - which is good, as there's no optical viewfinder. The more confident photographer will be happy to see both aperture- and shutter-priority modes alongside ISO settings and a 3cm macro mode, but disappointed by the absence of manual focus.
Olympus has tried to overcome common shooting mistakes with features like Bright Capture, which increases sensitivity in poor lighting (equivalent to ISO 1600), allowing you to capture darker scenes without having to resort to flash. This feature also reduces camera blur in high-speed motion by allowing faster shutter speeds. There's also a separate "blur reduction" mode that cuts camera shake - though this digital image stabiliser function drops the maximum resolution down to 2048x1536 pixels.
The Mju Digital 800 proved to be a very responsive camera. It can take under two seconds to get from power on to shot taken (not including flash), and shutter lag is barely noticeable. The high-quality burst mode takes four shots a second (again, at a resolution of 2048x1536), and the best movie mode provides 640x480-pixel frames at 15fps (with audio). Image quality is very good, avoiding the unnaturally vivid colours and over-sharpening of some of its rivals, and demonstrating only marginal colour fringing in our tests.
Irritatingly, Olympus doesn't include an xD-Picture card in the price, so you'll initially be dependent upon the camera's internal 19MB for storage - which is only good for five shots at the highest setting.
Verdict Advanced photographers will want more, but holiday makers and outdoor types will find this the perfect companion for point-and-shoot stills, regardless of the weather.
Olympus µ Digital 800
Phone: 1300 659 678
Specs: 8.3Mp 1/1.8in CCD; 3264x2448 max. resolution; 3x optical zoom; F2.8-4.9, 38-114mm lens; 19MB internal RAM; xD-Picture card slot (no card provided); 2.5in LCD viewfinder; 3cm-infinity focal range; 64-1600 ISO settings; 4s-1/2000s shutter speed; internal flash; 1230mAh Li-Ion battery; USB; Exif II/PictBridge support; 181g; 103x58x33mm.