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When I reviewed the Olympus mju Digital 500 back in March, I was very impressed with it. Design, specification, build quality, performance and picture quality were all of the highest standard, in fact I had to resort to nitpicking about the battery hatch in order to find any fault whatsoever. Now six months later we have the new £256.59 mju 800, which is one of the five new 8 megapixel compacts that are currently available, the others being the Nikon CoolPix P1, the Canon Powershot S80, the Konic Minolta Dimage X1 and the Ricoh Caplio GX8.
The mju 800 is a broadly similar model to the 500 with a weatherproof case, a high quality lens and a 2.5in LCD monitor, but now with the added benefit of a huge CCD and a couple of interesting new features. And they’ve fixed that battery hatch, too.
The Olympus mju Digital range is sold as the Stylus range in the USA. Having heard a guy from Texas trying to pronounce “mju” (majoo, seriously), I can see why this would be a good idea. Despite these linguistic difficulties, the mju/Stylus range has been extremely successful, thanks to its winning formula of simplicity, superb picture quality and robust weatherproof design. Previous models including the 500 have become firm favourites with world travelers and extreme sports fans, as well as more traditional holidaymakers.
The 800 continues in this well-proven vein. It has a tough metal body with a glossy scratch-resistant coating, and a sleek, rounded shape with no protrusions to snag on clothing or get broken off. The controls are designed in such a way as to be easy to use while still lying almost flush with the camera body. The mju 800 has several more controls than its predecessor but the design minimises their impact. As with previous models the main mode control is a dial set on the right and turned with the thumb. The dial is quite stiff, and while this isn’t a problem under normal circumstances, it is very difficult to operate while wearing gloves, which is a possible disadvantage in a camera that should be popular with skiers and outdoor sports enthusiasts. For people like this, it’s worth pointing out however that the mju 800 is not actually waterproof. It’s OK with a little rain or spray, but dunk it underwater and you’ll soon be shopping for a new camera. If you want something that’s completely waterproof, you’re best looking at the Pentax Optio WP.