The compact Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital camera is an updated version of the popular Olympus µ[mju:] 400 Digital, which was the first ever product that I reviewed on PhotographyBLOG. Olympus have added a number of new features and improvements to this new model. The µ[mju:] 410 Digital gets a new TruePic Turbo image processor, sunshine LCD screen, wider ISO range, more scene program exposure modes, movie recording function with sound and PictBridge support, all for only about £40 more than its slightly older predecessor. So is the new Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital the ideal compact digital camera for you? Read my review to find out.
The Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital is the top-of-the-range camera in what Olympus call their "Stylish" category. It has a 4-megapixel CCD and a 3x optical zoom that is equivalent to a 35-105mm lens on a 35mm format camera. The lens has a respectable aperture range of f3.1 at the widest setting of 35mm and f5.2 at the longest setting of 105mm. The shutter speed range is 1/2 - 1/1000 sec, with the longest available shutter speed being 4 seconds in the Night Scene exposure mode.
The µ[mju:] 410 Digital uses the xD-Picture Card format, which is tiny and allows the camera to be physically small (99 (W) x 56 (H) 33.5 (D) mm to be precise) and weigh very little (159g without battery and memory card). The µ[mju:] 410 Digital has a weatherproof full-metal body, which means that the camera is not damaged by water spray from any direction.
This camera doesn't have conventional exposure modes like aperture-priority, shutter-speed priority or manual. Instead it offers a range of scene modes, starting with Programme AE (basically a full-auto mode), then Portrait, Night Scene, Landscape, Self Portrait, Beach and Snow, Cuisine, Indoor and Landscape with Portrait. The µ[mju:] 410 Digital also has a panoramic mode, 2 in 1 mode sepia mode, black & white mode and it allows you to record short movies with sound in the QuickTime Motion JPEG format. There are two movie modes: HQ (320 x 240 pixels): up to 20 sec. (15 frames/sec.) and HQ (160 x 120 pixels): up to 90 sec. (15 frames/sec.).
Surprisingly for a compact camera, the µ[mju:] 410 Digital has a spot metering mode (something that my Canon EOS 10D DSLR lacks!), or you can use the Digital ESP metering system which takes an average reading from the scene. ISO speeds range from 64 to 500 (this was 64-250 on the µ[mju:] 400 Digital), but unfortunately you can't actually choose the speed - instead the camera selects the most suitable setting for you. White Balance can be set automatically by the camera, or you can choose from sunlight, overcast, tungsten light and fluorescent light presets.
The focusing system used is TTL autofocus with contrast detection. The working range in Standard mode is 0.5m - infinity. There are also two different macro modes available - Macro mode alllows you to focus as close as 0.2m, and Super macro mode as close as 9cm. The built-in flash has a guide number of 7.8 and offers a range of different modes; Auto (automatic activation in low and backlight), Red-eye Reduction, Fill-in (forced activation) and Off (no flash).
Images are recorded as JPEGs in a range of different quality and size settings; there are no TIFF or RAW formats. To compose your images, you can either use the small optical viewfinder or the new 1.5 inch sunshine colour TFT LCD monitor which has 134,000 pixels. The µ[mju:] 410 Digital features Olympus' new TruePic Turbo technology, which delivers more image clarity, contrast and brilliant colour and also increases the camera's processing speed by up to 30%.
The µ[mju:] 410 Digital is powered by a proprietary rechargeable lithium-ion battery, which takes a couple of hours to fully charge. PictBridge support allows direct printing with compatible printers, and there is a USB 2.0 Full Speed Auto Connect interface to connect the camera to your computer.
Finally, the box kit includes a camera strap, 32 MB xD-Picture Card, USB cable, audio/video cable, one lithium-ion rechargeable battery (Li-10B), battery charger, remote controller RM-2, instruction manual and the CAMEDIA Master 4.2 software package. It's very nice to see the inclusion of the remote controller in the basic kit, but you will need to invest in a few more xD-Picture Cards to store your images on.
Easy of use
The Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital is virtually identical to its predecessor the µ[mju:] 400 Digital in terms of design, so most of the comments that I made in my review of the latter camera also apply to the former. The main difference externally is a change to the handgrip on the rear of the newer model, which is now round in shape, dimpled and is postioned just where your right thumb grips the camera. This has replaced the slightly raised area on the µ[mju:] 400 Digital which served as a handgrip. The newer version is slightly more comfortable than the old one.
The other major change on the Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital is the new sunshine LCD screen. I didn't actually find the original LCD screen on the µ[mju:] 400 Digital difficult to use, and without looking at the 2 models side by side it's impossible to say if the new screen is markedly better. Let's just say that I had no problems with viewing either LCD screen in bright sunlight.
Internally Olympus have added a new TruePic Turbo image processor to the µ[mju:] 410 Digital, which is supposed to deliver more image clarity, contrast and brilliant colour and also increase the camera's processing speed by up to 30%. More about image quality later - the new µ[mju:] 410 Digital does feel a little faster in general use, although not enough to make you go "Wow!".
Perhaps the most immediate and striking thing about the Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital camera is its shiny metal body. People who see this camera for the first time usually say something like "Oooh, look at that"; the µ[mju:] 410 Digital is definitely a head-turner and ideal for impressing your friends, although it has lost the gold finish on the lens cover of the µ[mju:] 400 Digital.
The metal body has a greater purpose, however, than simply being good to look at. According to Olympus, the µ[mju:] 410 Digital has a weather-proof metal body, so shooting can continue even after the rain has started. It didn't rain during my test period, and I didn't want to risk pouring water over the camera to test out how weatherproof it actually is. Even Olympus qualify their own statement by saying "weather-proof equivalent to the IEC standard publication 529 IPX4". I have no idea what that standard is or what it states, but it probably says somewhere that you shouldn't pour water over an Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital camera!
The µ[mju:] 410 Digital is the kind of camera that you can pick up and work out how to use within an hour or so, thanks to the uncluttered and logical design of both the camera body and its menu system.
The camera body is very well thought out. You will notice straight away that there is no traditional D-pad on the rear of the µ[mju:] 400 Digital. Instead there are four buttons that perform the same functions as a D-pad, allowing you to scroll through images and the menu system, but which also have their own specific functions as well. For example, the top button of the four allows you to select the exposure mode, whilst the bottom one turns the self-timer on and off. This ensures that a lot of the controls are available by pressing buttons rather than scrolling through menus, which makes using the camera quicker and more immediate.
This clever placement of so many controls on the exterior of the µ[mju:] 400 Digital means in turn that its menu system is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. As mentioned above, the four buttons that form the D-pad have their own particular purpose, whilst pressing the OK button accesses the rest of the menus. These include setting the image quality, white balance, exposure compensation and a sub-menu called the Mode Menu, which contains settings like the metering mode and formatting the memory card. So the less commonly used options are accessed through the menu system, whilst the more commonly used options are available via the press of a button.
The µ[mju:] 410 Digital fixes most of the minor handling quibbles found on its predecessor. The zoom lens is still a little noisy in operation (I wouldn't try any close-range candid street photography with this camera) and the optical viewfinder is still too small to use effectively - I used the LCD screen to compose all the shots that I took. The new LCD screen, TruePic Turbo image processor and handgrip, plus the other handling improvements, all add up to a very well-built, easy to use and pocketable digital camera.
The Olympus µ[mju:] 410 Digital delivers punchy, well-saturated images straight out of the camera. ISO 64 produces photos with very little noise, whilst photos taken at the higher ISOs are noticeably noisier but still acceptable. The images could benefit from a little more in-camera sharpening, but unfortunately this can't be changed, so it will have to be done on your computer using Photoshop or an equivalent software package. Chromatic aberrations are virtuall non-existent and when they do appear they are better controlled than on many other digital cameras. Overall I was very impressed with the images that the camera delivered during the review period.
The µ[mju:] 410 Digital is as easy-to-use, good looking and delivers similar image quality as its predecessor the µ[mju:] 400 Digital. It gets 1/2 star more because of the improvements that Olympus have made, but it doesn't quite earn the maximum rating simply because it still doesn't offer enough photographic control. The µ[mju:] 410 Digital is very much a point and shoot kind of camera - you can't choose the aperture or shutter speed, you can't manually set the ISO speed and you can't select how much sharpening or saturation you want to apply to your images. Instead the camera chooses the most appropriate settings for you. This will be ideal for people who just want to turn the camera on, press the shutter button and get a decent picture. The µ[mju:] 410 Digital certainly fulfills this requirement, and I think it would be perfect as a small, portable, hard-wearing camera that you could carry round with you at all times.