The Olympus Mju820’s subtly asymmetrical design makes it feel much smaller than it really is. It’s only when you compare it side-by-side with other compact cameras you become aware of its slightly larger dimensions.
However, the Olympus Mju820's few extra millimetres bring you a weatherproof case and a powerful lens which telescopes out of its gently-curved body like a tiny wedding cake. This gives the Olympus Mju820 a large 5.6x optical zoom range where most others manage only 3x.
Image quality is good, but doesn’t benefit hugely from being 8Mp rather than the 7Mp favoured by many compact cameras. There’s also a tendency for the Olympus Mju820's images to smear slightly at higher ISO settings, losing a little detail.
Like Casio and Canon’s compact cameras, the Olympus Mju820 supports face detection, which will ensure that when you’re photographing people, it’s their faces that will be in focus rather than the background. Behind the scenes, shadow adjustment and bright capture technologies ensure that shadow and highlight detail is preserved without the need for later editing on your PC.
No-one likes to have to carry camera manuals around with them, so the Olympus Mju820 has plenty of built-in user help. Moving the mode dial to the Guide position brings up a menu-driven shooting guide which outlines several shooting scenarios, such as "Shooting into backlight", and then takes you through the steps required to take the best photograph.
Many settings are given a live preview where for any given feature the Olympus Mju820 will display the results of up to four settings simultaneously in a split-screen mode. You then simply select the one you like best.
A 640x480 pixel video mode is provided but it’s sadly limited to ten seconds of capture at this resolution. The use of xD memory cards could also be a disadvantage for some, especially owners of multiple cameras based on the more prevalent SD format.
The Olympus Mju820 is an impressive camera, with a high specification and good image quality at a very competitive price.