The Olympus µ 7000 (also known as the mju 7000) is a slightly boxier compact camera than you’d expect from the range. Previously opting for tapering, curvy designs in the new mju series, Olympus seems to have gone back to basics here in terms of design: focusing closer on operation than curvaceous looks. This doesn’t mean in any way that the Olympus µ 7000 is an ugly model, though. Far from it.
Available in three different colours – ‘Starry Silver’, ‘Midnight Black’ and ‘Ocean Blue’ – the rear of the camera sports a generously large, glossy black LCD monitor measuring 3-inches as well as unusual clear block buttons and a shooting mode dial.
The LCD screen pretty much fills most of the rear of the camera body, leaving the buttons sitting to the far right, just underneath your thumb. At first glance it looks like the controls are a little squashed, but the nature of the clear block buttons means that it’s easy enough to adjust settings with the flat of your thumb rather than poke around with the tip, so this is no problem.
A lot of thought and attention has gone into the camera’s menu set-up. Looking very much like the sort of menu you’d see on a Nokia mobile phone, it’s easy to view your options and jump to the correct sub-menu.
The control dial that sits just underneath the 7x optical zoom control buttons gives you the chance to quickly choose between basic or more advanced Auto Mode, Video, Playback, Scene and Beauty. Some of the options, including Beauty (a capture mode designed to smooth skin) have an intro animation before they kick-start into action and process the shot. While this adds an element of fun to the operation of the camera, if you’re in a hurry it can be a little annoying.
Modes such as Playback present your image preview with an animated slideshow effect, and if you go to delete an image you’re shown an animation of your shot falling into a trash can. This could equally be regarded as being a little gimmicky, but, in respect to the ‘delete’ option, it’s actually a great way of making the user sit up and take notice: perfect for restricting the danger of accidentally wiping a shot.
When it comes to scene modes, the Olympus mju-7000 offers all the usual choices; these include Self-Portrait, Landscape and Indoor. It also boasts a Smile Shot function (a popular shooting mode that seems to be popping up on an awful lot of new compact cameras including our recently reviewed Pentax P70). Once the camera detects smiling faces it automatically fires the shutter button.
Unfortunately, as the responses were a little slow we found that some group portrait shots taken indoors weren’t that successful. Multiple flashes tricked our subjects into thinking the photo had been taken, when in fact the camera was simple firing pre-shutter flashes. This meant that by the time the shot was actually captured some faces looked more bemused than beaming.
The directional control pad features an Exposure Compensation setting that allows you to easily adjust the brightness of your shots. Instead of simply providing you with a +/- figure, small thumbnails appear on the LCD monitor showing you the effect that a change in Exposure Compensation will have. This sounds great and it’s a nice gesture, but in reality unless you are very observant you won’t notice much difference in choice.
Just below this you will find the options for adjusting your flash, self-timer and macro settings. As well as a standard Macro mode the Olympus µ 7000 also has a Super Macro mode which allows close focussing up to 6.6mm. The quality of the Super Macro mode is impressive and the camera had no problems finding focus points quickly and effectively.
Generally, picture quality on the Olympus µ 7000 is good, although in Auto mode most of the shots did seem a little lifeless and dreary and needed a bit of a tweak in Photoshop to give them more contrast. There’s no denying that it manages to pick up lots of detail, but it’s worth taking the time to experiment with camera settings. Although the µ 7000 has a good ISO range (Auto, High ISO Auto, ISO 64-1600), on basic Auto settings the camera did seem to overcompensate a little. Unfortunately, this model doesn’t cope well with noise levels on the higher ISO settings.
On the upside, however, is the standard of portraits taken in Beauty mode. Without over-softening, the µ 7000 manages to smooth out blemishes and avoid losing too much detail.
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