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My most serious reservations however concern the camera’s battery duration. It is powered by a relatively puny 740mAh lithium ion cell. On a full charge I was only able to take around 100 pictures over a three day period, mostly without the flash, before the battery ran out. For a product that is aimed mainly at travellers and holidaymakers this is a serious flaw.
The mju 720SW sports yet another new menu system, the third that I’ve seen from Olympus in as many years. Sadly like all the previous ones it still isn’t any good, and I found the camera to be slow and difficult to operate, despite its apparent simplicity. It has only a program or auto mode, movie mode and a selection of 24 scene modes, however these have a separate button and cannot be activated directly from the menu. Why not? Anyway many of them are superfluous. Do you really need a separate scene mode for shooting eBay auction shots, or one for photographing through glass? Is the Landscape mode significantly different from the Landscape & Portrait mode? How does Portrait mode differ from Self-portrait mode? If one mode does exactly the same as another, it will merely confuse the user to have more than necessary. The separate function menu only adds to the confusion, and the “anti-shake” function merely increases the ISO setting.
I also found image quality to be lower than I had expected, especially considering the excellent results I’ve had from previous mju series cameras. The lens is slower than on previous models, and is distinctly soft toward the edges of the frame, especially at the wide angle setting where there is also appreciable barrel distortion. Images look over-processed, and even in bright sunlight and at ISO 100 there is visible noise and colour speckling, although oddly high ISO performance is comparatively good.
Shooting in HQ (high quality) mode, there are visible compression artefacts, not surprising considering that the recorded files are only 1.5MB in size - very small for a 7MP image. All in all, a big disappointment.
Despite its tough-guy credentials and the excellent reputation of its predecessors, the mju 720SW is a rather disappointing camera. Limited battery life, poor image quality and a confusing control system spoil what could have been the perfect travel and adventure camera.
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