You can't have everything, especially with Olympus compact cameras. While the company has plenty of similar cameras that serve specific purposes, there's no catch-all, high-end, great-at-everything camera. The Olympus µ 720 SW offers waterproof shooting. The µ 730 features an intuitive design and a 76mm (3-inch) LCD screen. The µ 750 includes an image-stabilised, 5x optical zoom lens. But none of these cameras share these useful features.
The Olympus µ 1000 follows that trend -- it features a 10-megapixel sensor, but it isn't waterproof, its LCD screen is only 64mm (2.5 inches) and its meagre 3x, 35-to-105mm-equivalent lens lacks optical stabilisation.
The µ 1000's sturdy metal body has a gentle wedge shape, making the camera extremely comfortable for one-handed use. The tapered left side, however, makes it even more awkward for left-handed users than most point-and-shoots. The controls are mostly flat buttons that are responsive under the thumb, but extremely similar in feel. It's easy to accidentally hit the menu button instead of the direction pad when reviewing your photos.
The power and the image-stabilisation buttons sit on either side of the shutter release, but they're recessed enough that you probably won't accidentally press them while shooting.
Though light on manual controls, the µ 1000 has some nice features. Like all cameras in the range, its metal body has rubber gaskets and seals to keep water and gunk out. You can't shoot underwater, but you can splash it without fear or hesitation. For low-light and action shots, the µ 1000 includes digital image stabilisation and can shoot at as much as ISO 6,400. Images greater than ISO 1,600, however, are cut down to 5 megapixels.
The camera lacks an autofocus light, but it does automatically increase the gain of its 64mm (2.5-inch) screen when shooting in low light -- making it easier to frame your shot. Besides some basic controls, such as exposure compensation, ISO and white balance, it has 24 scene modes that let casual users set the camera for the type of shot they want. The camera also includes a 30fps VGA movie mode for shooting video clips.
The µ 1000 performed sluggishly in our tests, especially in dim light. It took only 1.7 seconds from power-on to first shot, but after that we endured a 3.3-second wait between shots without flash. That pause increased to 4 seconds with the onboard flash enabled. Shutter lag measured a respectable 0.7 seconds in bright light, increasing to 1.3 seconds in dim conditions. Burst mode could shoot at only half-resolution or less, but proved quite fast at 3.8fps.
Noise is the µ 1000's greatest weakness. It started to appear at ISO 200 and became quite noticeable at ISO 400. At ISO 800 and 1,600, images suffered from a distinct, greenish-purple grain and details became horribly softened. At the 5-megapixel settings of ISO 3,200 and 6,400, even coarse details were completely destroyed by noise.
At low ISO settings, however, the µ 1000's 10-megapixel images were large and quite crisp, with fine details showing up clearly. We noticed distinct purple fringing on the edges of white objects and some slight barrel distortion at the lens's widest angle, but otherwise the camera's images looked very good.
The Olympus µ 1000 offers high-resolution images and a water-resistant metal body. Unfortunately, noise issues and slow performance mean poor photos in low light. Unless splashability is a major factor in your purchase, you might want to look at other 10-megapixel cameras. The Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX2 offers a great lens and tons of manual controls, while the Canon Digital IXUS 900 Ti stuffs its 10-megapixel sensor into a frame even smaller and sleeker than the µ 1000's.
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Edited by Philip Ryan
Additional editing by Elizabeth Griffin