Olympus Mju 760 digital camera review

The Mju 760 looks lovely (I tested the model with the blue facia, which looks great) and builds on the Mju 700-sereis lineage following on from the aforementioned 750. It has to be said the 760 improves over the already pretty 750 with an even more slender appearance but retaining the all-weather capabilities that can allow this model to be used in inclement weather. Gone is the 750’s 5x-optical zoom lens here replaced by a very nice 3x zoom lens, which retracts almost fully into the body sitting only slightly proud of the camera’s facia when the 760’s switched off.

The lens provides a 37-111mm (35mm equiv.) focal range, which is typical of this type of pocketable ultra-compact machine and okay for general snaps. The optics used includes six lenses in four groups with four aspherical glass elements to help reduce aberration and helps get that very compact optical design into the bargain.

The lens is sharp and although the maximum apertures available of F3.4 and F5.7 (at the wide and long end of the zooms respectively) are at best only modest, like the 750 before it, the 760 has built-in CCD-shift (optical) Image Stabilisation (IS or anti-shake) designed to help reduce the affects of camera shake. The camera can therefore be hand held at slower shutter speeds (around two stops of exposure by my reckoning) and still give you a sharp shot.

The CCD-shift IS is backed up by a digital sensitivity boosting system (BrightCapture technology, which also brightens the LCD in low light) that increases the ISO as needed; the combination of the two, optical CCD-shift and the ISO boost (incidentally Olympus call it a “Dual IS” system, but it is not really since the latter ISO boost just enables a faster shutter speed to be used at that ambient light and current exposure level) are designed to stop camera shake and subject motion blur.

To that end, the camera has an equivalent ISO range of ISO 80 through ISO 100, 200, 400 and 800 to ISO 1600. Sadly, like the 750 noise, while marginally better controlled here than on the 750 is still an issue of ISO 200. To compound the problems the processing used to help reduce the worst affects of the noise also strips fine detail the higher up the ISO scale you go. So while the snaps you take will look reasonably acceptable at all ISOs on a 6 x 4-inch print, go over the ISO 100 mark and any prints larger than this will start to show the noise problems: speckles of blue and red within the image. And detail is smoothed away too.

Therefore if it is large prints or crops you need I’d recommend sticking to ISO 80 and using a tripod if the light drops beyond a reasonable hand held exposure level – even with the CCD-shift ISO switched on.

In terms of handling, the ergonomics cannot be faulted. A large rear mode dial switches between the cameras main modes that include the playback mode, a 640 x 480 movies with sound mode and up to the maximum limit of the xD-Picture card storage in use. However, the frame rate used is a very jerky-looking and disappointing 15fps. There are 26-scene modes with the usual array of landscape portrait and night scene modes and an excellent “Guide” mode that provides help screens for snapping situations you may not know which setting to apply to the camera to get the best result.

Other controls sit nicely on the body, the on/off and CCD-shifty IS buttons joined by a shutter release that needs a deep press to get it to fire. My worry here is the risk of moving the camera at slow shutter speeds, as you need to press quite hard to fire the shutter.

The lens zoom controls on the back plate are small but fall under the thumb well enough to make them easy to use without straining the fingers while the four-way controller and it four orbiting buttons deal with the likes of flash, the excellent menu system, quick playback, the bright, 230,000-pixel “HyperCrystal” 2.5-inch screen’s brightness and macro-focusing settings.

A central “OK/FUNC” button selects chosen modes when in menus in the “OK” mode but while shooting, the “FUNC” side of things activates a set of image controls on the LCD that allows you to quickly set key setting such as ISO, metering more and the like without resorting to menus.

In general performance terms the 760 is average, with start-up at just under two seconds and the shot to shot timings of around two seconds without flash, around three and a half seconds with flash. Using the continuous mode’s standard setting, I shot five images in just over three seconds. Using the Hi Speed setting (the image size are reduced) I shot 24-frames in just under seven seconds. Finally, shutter lag is noticeable but actually very good for a camera of this ilk.

Metering (both spot and the ESP system available) is excellent the only problems encountered with strongly backlit subjects when switching to spot metering did the trick. Focus performance is good although the iESP focus set up, which looks for what it “thinks” is the main subject can be fooled by a cluttered frame. Spot AF, which locks to the centre of the frame, works just fine.

In terms of final image quality, I’ve already discussed the problems of noise and the noise processing removing detail but at the lower sensitivities – that is, below ISO 200! – the lens performance is not compromised. Detail is plentiful, colour is well rendered, and white balance is very good with only slight issues in the auto mode when indoors under mixed lighting where an odd orange cast is evident. One further niggle however is a big contrast loss when shooting backlit scenes.

Verdict

The combination of a very pretty and pocketable camera you can use in almost all weathers makes the Mju 760 a tempting treat. Its £200 price tag is attractive too and providing you don’t expect to make big prints from higher sensitivity shots, the Olympus Mju 760 is a great little compact.