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The mju 1040 is an incredibly simple camera. Even by comparison to Olympus' budget FE series its specification and list of features is pared down to the bone. Not surprisingly it has no manual exposure options, but even its automatic features are very limited. It has only eight scene mode programs, only two metering modes (multi-zone or spot), and the drive mode is limited to either single shot or a 14fps high-speed mode that is limited to 3MP. Even the self-timer is very basic, with only a 10-second delay. There are no colour options, no adjustable contrast or sharpness, and the playback menu offers only picture rotation and audio captioning.
Despite this extreme simplicity, Olympus has still managed to make the menu system unnecessarily complicated. As usual it has a page of icons for eight different sub-menus, despite the fact that the main camera menu itself has only eight options over one and a half pages. It has separate menus for image quality, panorama mode, silent mode and basic set-up, which could all be incorporated into one simple four-page menu, saving a lot of superfluous button-pushing.
One useful menu feature is the Guide mode, which offers help with unusual shooting situations, such as shooting into backlighting or taking close-ups, however once you enter Guide mode there's no way to cancel out of it without selecting one of the tutorial modes, and then going back into the menu to turn it off, which seems to be a bit of an oversight. There also seem to be some features which can only be accessed via the guide mode, such as a Shadow Adjustment mode, which appears to boost shadow detail in high-contrast shots.
The built-in flash is rather underpowered. The manual claims a maximum range of over four metres, but this is only possible at 800 ISO. At 50 ISO the useful range was more like two metres, and even with the ISO set to auto it had problems lighting a normal sized room, although at least the coverage was consistent.
The video mode is adequate, with 640 x 480 pixel resolution at 30fps, with the only duration limit being the capacity of the memory card. Compared to the HD video modes available on some recent compacts it may look a bit lacklustre, especially since the zoom cannot be used while filming, but it works well and produces decent quality results.
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