If you’re after a compact digital camera that’s sleek and sophisticated-looking then you’d probably be quite pleased taking the Olympus μ840 (mju 840) out of its box. Sporting an ergonomic design, the camera body is anything but a boxy and characterless gadget.
In fact the shape can kind of mess with your head. The rear of the camera is a traditional rectangular shape in which sits a nicely sized 2.7-inch HyperCrystal TFT monitor. However, look at it from the top and the body tapers quite dramatically, meaning that it’s thicker underneath the right hand than it is under the left hand, almost like a fin.
Cased in brushed metal the μ840 definitely looks smart, with nice touches like a blue LED that circles the power button and accented elements to give it a bit more sparkle. There are four different colour scheme options available including silver, black, blue and pink depending on your preference.
The camera is lightweight at a mere 130g (excluding battery and card). Unfortunately, this means that it does feel a little delicate (especially the loose-feeling control buttons) and we’re not convinced that it would cope well with any unsightly accidents; like being dropped, for example.
Power up on the mju 840 is pretty quick and it’s ready to shoot within a matter of seconds. A small dial that sits underneath the 6.4mm-32mm zoom control and peeks out slightly to the right of the camera body acts as the main shooting control.
From here you can set whether the camera will capture in auto mode or Program Mode and you can also access 20 different scene modes. There are the usual bunch of automatic scene modes for you to choose from as well as the more original ‘Behind Glass’, ‘Auction’ (for pre-sized shots that are fit for immediate upload to the likes of eBay) and ‘Cuisine’ (if you want a vivid record of a particularly aesthetic dish!). Choosing the different scene modes is quick thanks to easy-to-navigate menus with clear and obvious illustrations, and the function buttons are responsive and can be controlled easy enough with the thumb.
One of the biggest perks for the Olympus μ840 is that it can capture Super Macro shots as well as standard Macro images. This means that it’s possible to shoot a subject whilst the lens is a mere 3 centimetres away. The camera doesn’t have any problems with auto focusing at this distance and, thanks to an aperture range of f3.3 to f5.0, it gives all Super Macro shots a creative depth of field effect.
As well as the automated scene modes, if you want some extra help with your photography you can make use of the ‘Shooting Guide’. With this you can follow the different text menu options to achieve results like “shooting with an effects preview” or “shooting a subject” in motion and it will automatically adjust all of the settings appropriately so you can achieve decent results.
Swivel the Mode Dial round and you can capture AVI Motion JPEG movies, or alternatively you can quickly view any shot that you have tagged as a ‘favourite’, separate from the rest of your playback images.
Connectivity-wise the Olympus μ840′s port lets you plug the camera directly into your TV to view your shots in instant playback mode. Alternatively you can connect your camera to any PictBridge compatible printer and print images without the need for a computer.
Picture quality is generally good, although images can look a little noisy. In auto mode the images tend to be a little underexposed but they’re sharp and detailed.
The Olympus μ840 comes complete with its own image managing software in the form of Olympus Master 2. With this you can sort your images, carry out basic editing tools like red-eye reduction or find and install firmware and software upgrades for your kit. However, with the likes of Picasa and Photoshop Express these are now tasks that are easy enough to perform without the need to install another piece of software.
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