Back in June I reviewed the Olympus mju 720 SW, a seven-megapixel compact camera designed for extreme durability - shockproof and waterproof to a depth of three metres. I had several reservations about it, not least its limited battery life, over-complicated control interface and disappointing picture quality, but I guess someone must have liked it because it won the prestigious EISA (European Imaging and Sound Association) award for the best pocket camera of 2006. I can only assume they didn’t look at many others.
In light of this accolade, in October Olympus launched an updated version, the mju 725 SW. It looks almost identical, with the same tough industrial-looking steel body, complete with exposed Allen bolt heads. These struck me as a bit of a cosmetic pretence the first time around, so in a spirit of inquiry I undid the three on the front panel just to make sure they were real bolts. In fact one of them was a fake, but the other two held the front inset panel in place. The camera comes in three colour schemes (the Titanium version you see here, plus Deep Blue and Cherry Red) with only this inset panel being of the different colour.
The similarity between the two models even extends to the retail price. The mju 720 SW is available online for around £220, while the best price for the new 725 SW is £223.
The only real difference between the 720 and its successor is an improvement to its already impressive durability. Where the 720 was waterproof to a depth of three metres, the 725 is waterproof to five metres, a whole extra 1/5th of an atmosphere of pressure, which I’m sure will make a huge difference.
In the official description of the mju 725 the shock-proofing is rated to “MIL Standard (MIL-STD 810F)” a complex and highly specific set of testing criteria published by the US military. I’ve had a look at the relevant section and apparently it means that the mju 725 SW can withstand momentary shocks of at least 1,000 G, about fifty times what the human body can withstand. It’s very impressive, and it’s certainly reassuring to know that the camera can survive the kind of impact that would turn its owner into jam, but I’m not sure it’s actually any better than the mju 720 in this respect.