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Olympus µ-7000 review

Ben Pitt
22 Apr 2009
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
190
inc VAT

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Specifications

1/2.33in 11.8-megapixel sensor, 7.0x zoom (37-260mm equivalent), 132g

Shopper isn't the only publication to have spent the past year criticising camera manufacturers for using sensors with huge resolutions and tiny sizes, which invariably lead to mediocre image quality.

Sadly, the industry hasn't listened, with nine of the 11 leading manufacturers moving from 10- to 12-megapixel sensors while keeping the same tiny ?.3in dimensions. Only Fujifilm and Ricoh buck this depressing trend. So it was with a heavy heart that we started testing the ?-7000, the first of these 12-megapixel cameras to grace our labs. The surprise is that we actually like it.

It's Olympus's best-looking compact camera to date, with smart, clean lines, a 3in screen and illuminated buttons. The lens's 7x zoom is remarkable for a camera that's just 26mm thick, although the smallish f/3.5 maximum aperture won't capture as much light as other lenses.

There's an HDMI output for viewing photo slideshows on an HD TV. Videos wouldn't play over HDMI and, disappointingly, are recorded at just 640x480. Judging by the mediocre performance for still images - 2.5 seconds between shots and managing just two frames in the top-quality continuous mode - we reckon this camera simply doesn't have the image-processing power for HD video capture. The use of slow xD media doesn't help. A microSD-to-xD adaptor is included, but Olympus's switch to SDHC is long overdue. The 150-shot battery life is yet another disappointment.

We're rarely swayed by onscreen animations, but the way photos are browsed as if leafing through pages of a book is genuinely charming. Thankfully, such frivolity is kept to a minimum during shooting. The mode dial has a new option called Intelligent Auto Mode, which apparently detects portrait, landscape, night portrait, sport and macro subjects automatically and adjusts settings accordingly. Another new option, marked Beauty, treats faces to a digital makeover by smoothing over skin textures. Processing took ages, but the effect was subtle and the results didn't look too laughable.

Otherwise, image quality was generally impressive. The edges of photos were a little vague, and high-contrast lines revealed heavy chromatic aberrations, but the centres were sharp. Intelligent Auto Mode was extremely reliable at judging exposures. We had to switch to the standard shooting mode to suppress the flash in low light, and then change the ISO setting from Auto to High Auto to avoid slow shutter speeds. However, after doing so, we were pleasantly surprised by the results. Admittedly, details were smudged and darker regions were noisy, but despite the massive resolution and tiny sensor, low-light images weren't a disaster, and good enough for 6x4in prints.

Poor battery life and the high price are turn-offs, but on balance this is a likeable point-and-shoot camera. Fujifilm's F100fd takes better pictures, but this is easier - and more fun - to use.

Basic Specifications

Rating***
CCD effective megapixels11.8 megapixels
CCD size1/2.33in
LCD screen size3.0in
LCD screen resolution230,000 pixels
Optical zoom7.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent37-260mm
Image stabilisationoptical, sensor shift
Maximum image resolution3,968x2,976
Maximum movie resolution640x480
Movie frame rate at max quality30fps
File formatsJPEG; AVI (M-JPEG)

Physical

Memory slotxD, microSD
Mermory supplied16MB internal
Battery type3.7V 710mAh Li-ion
Battery Life (tested)150 shots
ConnectivityUSB, AV, HDMI, DC in
Body materialaluminium, plastic
AccessoriesUSB and AV cables
Weight132g
Size56x96x26mm

Buying Information

Price£190
Supplierhttp://www.fotosense.co.uk
Detailswww.olympus.co.uk

Camera Controls

Exposure modesauto
Shutter speedauto
Aperture rangeauto
ISO range (at full resolution)64 to 1600
Exposure compensation+/-2 EV
White balanceauto, 6 presets
Additional image controlsdynamic range
Manual focusNo
Closest macro focus2cm
Auto-focus modesmulti, centre, face detect
Metering modesmulti, centre, face detect
Flashauto, forced, suppressed, red-eye reduction
Drive modessingle, continuous, self-timer