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Olympus mju 780
Having been fairly impressed by the entry-level Olympus FE-250 last week, today I'm taking a look at a mid-level camera from the company's premium compact range, in the shape of the mju 780 (known as the Stylus 780 in the US). Launched in March this year at the same time as the E-410 and E-510 DSLRs, the mju 780 is a 7.1-megapixel pocket compact with a 5x zoom lens, 2.5-in monitor and mechanical image stabilisation. Like all the cameras in the Olympus mju range it has a degree of water-resistance; in this case it is described as "weatherproof", in other words it's ok to use it in the rain, but you can't take it swimming. Or rather, you can take it swimming, but don't expect it to work afterwards.
It's a sturdily built camera, with a strong all-steel body that looks like it could survive a few knocks. Despite this it is relatively slim and lightweight, measuring 99.6 x 55.1 x 24 mm and weighing 125g minus battery and card. That's a pretty impressive specification, especially considering the current retail price of under £170. Compared to other premium compacts it looks like a bargain. The Canon IXUS 75 is around £160, but it only has a 3x zoom and isn't weatherproof. The same can be said of the Nikon CoolPIx S500, which costs around £150. The lovely Canon IXUS 850 IS has a 3.8x wide-zoom, but it too isn't weatherproof and costs £235. The Casio EX-V7 is about £160, and has a 7x zoom lens, but it's not weatherproof either. In fact the only other choices for weatherproof cameras are either other models from the mju range, the indestructible but expensive Ricoh Caplio 500G Wide (£340) or the Pentax Optio W30 (£160), although both of these camera only have a 3x zoom lens.
In spite of its tank-like construction, the mju 780 is a particularly sleek and stylish camera. The body has a curved wedge-like shape, thicker on the right where the controls are. The camera is available in either black or in the smooth brushed-steel finish of my review sample, which resists finger-marks and scratches and will stay looking good for a long time.