The menu is nice and bright and easily read, with a well designed interface, as well as secondary function menu for the most useful features such as ISO, white balance and so on. The four-way D-pad also allows quick access to the flash, self timer, macro and exposure compensation features. The macro mode by the way has three options, standard macro down to 10cm, super macro down to 2cm and super macro with LED. This provides a constant light on the subject to make focusing easier and remove unwanted shadows on the subject, although I found it a little harsh. Still it’s a useful and unusual tool.
The build of the camera is its selling point and there’s no denying it’s toughness. I dropped the camera and it survived, placed it in my washing up bowl and freezer, all without detrimental effects. Sadly my budget didn’t stretch to trips to the Himalayas and the Caribbean to really put it to the test.
Images from the Olympus mju 1030 SW, don’t quite match up to more generic cameras, with some lens problems coming from the folded optical array. There’s a tendency to lose definition at the edges of the frame, and some minor fringing, though nothing too serious.
Noise is more of a problem, especially at sensitivities higher than ISO 400. Certainly by ISO 1600, although nice to have that high ISO, the images are frankly terrible, so I’d recommend using lower settings whenever possible. For this reason it would be nice to have the option of a physical image stabilisation system rather than resort to high ISO and its accompanying noise.
For those possessed of an adventurous spirit, such as skiers, gap year backpackers or snorkelling enthusiasts, the Olympus mju 1030 SW could be the answer to their dreams. The build of this camera is fantastic and a remarkable feat of engineering in what is usually a delicate electronic instrument.
The image quality lets it down a little, but compromises must be made somewhere, and I imagine this is an area sacrificed for the convenience of robustness. That said, if you are climbing a mountain, for example, it’s better to have a tough camera that takes average pictures than a perfect camera that’s broken.