Olympus Stylus 700 (mju 700 Digital) review
This is defniitely a camera which places style over substance. The body looks good and feels great in the hands - perfectly sized for slipping into shirt pockets and light enough that you almost forget it's there. The LCD screen is bright and of sufficient resolution to be useful, although bright light makes it difficult to see. Controls are small but not too fiddly, menu system is (mainly) sensible and clear, and there are lots of "scene" modes for specific subjects & environments.
However, even at the highest resolution/quality setting, the image quality is disappointing. Things look fine on the LCD screen, but larger views reveal an overall soft focus which doesn't respond too well to sharpening in software. Noise isn't too bad at the lowest ISO ratings, but by far my largest gripe is the terrible JPEG compression noise even at high resolution (least compression) - colour bleeding, granularity, general loss of detail etc. At the time of writing there are no Mju 700 images in the DPREVIEW gallery, but if you look at the Stylus 800 images there, you'll see the same problems as found in the Mju700. There are many other cameras in this bracket which produce far superior results (e.g. the Sony P200 - images available in the Gallery section). Also, the images seemed "flat" - colours not as vibrant as they should be.
Another issue which buyers should consider is that the lens is relatively slow - f3.4-5.7, compared to many cameras in this class which start at f2.8. The slower shutter speeds which result do not help image sharpness, and the camera's desire to fire the flash in most cases when the lens was used to zoom in, is an irritation and will not help battery life. The "image stabilizer" simply increases the ISO rating (and thus increases the noise) to reduce the exposure time and hence reduce the problem of camera shake - but image quality is seriously compromised, so that in most cases I believe this "stabilization" is of little use.
Overall I regard the slower-than-average optics as a side issue which I could live with. More serious is the compression noise problem. It's such a shame that what should be a terrific go-anywhere camera is blighted by something which could be fixed by a firmware revision - particularly since Olympus have seen fit to fill the existing firmware with what I regard as irrelevant gimmiks like photo-frame overlays, wall calendar generators and banner printing over the shots in-camera - all things which can be achieved by even the simplest of software packages after the images are downloaded. What matters is the basic processing of the images in the milliseconds after the button is pressed. If they got rid of the irrelevant toys and simply added a "raw" file mode, this would be a great little camera. As it is, the Mju 700 (and the Mju 810) is one to miss.
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