The options are fairly standard. There are 18 scene modes, including Program, Landscape, Portrait, Sport, Night Scene, Candle, Available Light Portrait, Behind Glass and Document. As you scroll through the scene menu, you get an example of each shot. After a couple of seconds the picture shrinks away to make space for a short description that explains when to use that mode. It's very similar to the scene mode menu on the Casio Exilim Zoom EX-Z57, which we liked. We like Olympus' version too.
Under flash, you can choose auto, soft (a less powerful burst), red-eye, fill-in or off. Under macro, you have two options: regular, which gets you as close as 100mm from your subject, or super, which takes you down to 50mm. Once you get into the mode menu, you can change the image size, turn on burst mode, apply exposure compensation, change the white balance, select auto or spot metering and select auto or spot focus. Novelty features hiding in this menu include a 2-in-1 mode that lets you take two half images and join them together. You can also photograph your subject through a decorative frame.
The voice-recording feature enables you to add a sound clip to a photograph -- to make a note of the location, for example. You can also record random voice memos. The microphone is on the front and the speaker is on one end, so you may find yourself conversing with the lens, then pointing the camera at your ear to hear the reply.
The movie mode is disappointing. You can record sound as well as images, but the resolution is only 320x240 pixels, rather than the 640x480 that's becoming standard. There's a digital image stabilisation feature that tries to reduce the effects of camera shake, but we couldn't see any improvement when we turned it on. If recording video clips is important to you, you should choose another camera.
Playback functions include a calendar display that makes it easy to find pictures from a specific date. There's also an album feature that lets you sort pictures into groups. It might be useful if you're travelling and want to show people a selection of your pictures, but given the 51mm LCD, this isn't the best camera for passing around. You can also apply some basic editing functions to your images and movies.
The Olympus documentation makes no claims about battery life, other than to inform you that the number of pictures you can take "may vary depending on the shooting conditions or battery". The battery went flat on one occasion, something that doesn't normally happen to us when testing cameras. The IR-300 will be fine for day-to-day shooting, especially given the ease of recharging, but it isn't ideal for extended trips away from the docking station.
Snapshots were sharp and detailed. Exposure was generally correct, with a good balance of highlight and shadow detail, even on bright sunny days with high contrast. Colours were well saturated, but bright reds tended to shift towards orange. Our local post box and phone box came out an orangey red, rather than a true pillar-box shade. In some shots we also saw problems with excessive noise in areas of solid colour. However, skin tones were natural and pleasing. Overall, we doubt that snapshot photographers will find much to complain about, but if you're looking for a pocket camera as backup for your digital SLR, you can do better elsewhere.
Additional editing by Nick Hide