The Olympus Mju 410 boasts a 4-megapixel resolution, 3X optical zoom lens, menu interface, and a brace of other features. Retailing at AU$599, you get a compact, attractive camera in a water-resistant case; 10 shooting modes; a long-lasting, rechargeable lithium-ion battery; and a cool remote-control device.
Aspiring sports photographers will snap to attention when they realise this ultracompact camera can grab as many as 11 full-resolution 4-megapixel shots in less than five seconds. However, the lack of an action-shooting mode or a manual shutter-speed control makes this easy-to-use snapshooter better suited for slower-moving sequences and everyday point-and-shoot photography.
Dubbed an all-weather camera by Olympus, the ultracompact Mju 410 fits comfortably into its niche. Small but solid at 9.9 x 5.6 x 3.3cm and 213g with battery and media installed, the 410 has a rounded brushed-metal body that's sealed tight with rubber gaskets to resist moisture in rain or snow. Even the back-mounted speaker and top-mounted microphone are dampproofed. If you want to totally immerse yourself in your photography, Olympus offers an optional underwater housing that will take you down to 40 meters.
Olympus keeps the camera body simple and uncluttered. The sliding cover on the front of the Mju 410 protects the lens and serves as a power switch. Slide it open, and the retractable lens extends. A four-button cursor array, zoom rocker switch, quick-view/playback control, and Menu/OK button join the 1.5-inch LCD and the speaker on the back panel. It's easy to keep the top shutter-release button and the zoom toggle under a forefinger and thumb, so you can snap away without removing the camera from your eye.
This Mju's control layout favours access to automated modes over convenient manual adjustments. Frequently used controls such as flash, macro, and self-timer settings are quickly accessible via cursor keys, and the top cursor pulls up a virtual mode dial of 10 automatic shooting modes. However, you have to go one layer into the menu system to use exposure compensation and two or three layers deep to change the metering mode or the white balance. In general, the menu structure doesn't seem very well thought out. There are four menu tabs, two of which have one item apiece and two of which have more items than can fit in a single-screen view. And whose idea was it to give a top-level spot in the virtual mode dial to Cuisine mode while burying continuous shooting in the menu system?
Snapshot photographers will appreciate the Olympus Mju 410's automated features, which include scene modes such as Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape, Self Portrait, Beach and Snow, Indoor, Landscape with Portrait, and Cuisine. There's also a plain old programmed automatic mode and a movie mode for capturing short 320x240 or 160x120 QuickTime video clips with sound. Six different picture-taking resolutions are available: 2,272x1,704, 2,048x1,535, 1,600x1,200, 1,280x960, 1,024x768, and 640x480. You get an adequately wide angle of 35mm (35mm-camera equivalent) with the 3X zoom lens, although its maximum focal length of 105mm (equivalent) doesn't let you zoom in very close.
There's a panorama mode for aligning up to 10 pictures that you can stitch together later with the included software. The 2-in-1 option combines a pair of images in a single frame. Both modes are handy and easy to use. A conventional self-timer provides a 10-second delay if you want to steady your camera or get into the shot yourself, but the best way to go is with the included remote control, which worked well up to about 15 feet from the camera.
Some of the Mju 410's best features are blemished by a lack of controls. For example, action photographers looking to use the quick-burst mode to capture fast-moving subjects will find no way to select a shutter speed or even a sports-oriented scene mode. Nor can you force a higher shutter speed by selecting a wide-open aperture, because manual aperture settings aren't possible either.
Although the Mju 410 has two macro modes and can focus down to 8.9cm at its Super Macro setting, you can't set the focus manually to, say, play around with depth-of-field effects. While snapshooters might love this camera's freedom from pesky controls, more advanced photographers will miss features such as manual white balance, selectable ISO settings, and non-JPEG file-format options. The only real image-parameter adjustment options beyond exposure compensation are a modest selection of white-balance presets and the ability to switch from matrix to spot metering. You can't attach filters or accessory lenses to the Mju 410 either.
On the other hand, the Mju 410 is both PictBridge and DPOF compatible, so you can directly print your shots with a PictBridge-compatible printer or format an order for printout by a third-party service.
The Olympus Mju 410 gave us a mixed performance. The time from start-up to first shot was a pokey 5.4 seconds, and shot-to-shot figures slowed from one picture every 2.5 seconds without flash to nearly 4.5 seconds between shots when the flash was activated. Shutter lag was not bad, at 0.75 second when shooting a bright, contrasty subject, but the sluggardly autofocus system bogged it down to an excruciating 1.9 seconds under low-contrast conditions.
Burst mode was more impressive. When you set the Mju 410 to capture in High Quality (HQ) mode, which gives you full 2,272x1,704 resolution but heavier compression than the Super High Quality (SHQ) mode, you can fire off as many as 11 shots in about 5 seconds. With SHQ mode, you get only three shots at about 2fps. A helpful green indicator bar next to the frame counter on the LCD shows you when the buffer is full and shrinks as the pictures are written to the memory card.
The 1.5-inch LCD was hampered by a little ghosting during camera or subject movement and was sometimes difficult to view under bright sunlight, but its brightness can be adjusted.
The Olympus Mju 410's image quality was good but not outstanding, although colours were rich and flesh tones realistic. The red-eye reduction feature worked well, but flash pictures were often overexposed. You can't select ISO settings manually on the Mju 410; light sensitivity is set automatically between ISO 64 and ISO 480. Noise was unobtrusive when we photographed in bright light, and the camera chose lower ISO settings, but it cropped up quite noticeably in the shots we took in dimmer light.
Olympus Mju 410 Digital
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