The 2x zoom range is a disappointment; we found it was often faster to change perspective by taking a step forward or back than to use the 35mm-to-70mm (slightly wide to not very telephoto) zoom. There's no manual focus control, but both multipattern and spot autofocus worked well in all three of the µ-mini Digital S's focus ranges. Olympus has divided the macro features into two modes. Ordinary macro works from a useful 200mm to infinity, so you can use it in a variety of situations if you don't mind the autofocus hunting over such a broad range. The Super Macro setting takes you as close as 80mm.
The built-in flash is positively feeble, with a range of about 3m when the lens is set to wide-angle and no more than 2m at the telephoto position. When ISO is set to Auto, the µ-mini Digital S automatically bumps up sensitivity to compensate for the lame flash range. We actually got some decent flash exposures out to 4 to 5m, but the prodigious visual noise at the ISO 400 selected by the camera was disappointing. Only auto, red-eye, fill, and off flash modes are available.
Control over exposure is limited to exposure compensation (±2EV in 1/3EV increments) and your choice of evaluative or spot metering, with shutter speeds set from 1/2 to 1/1,000 second, or up to 4 seconds in Night scene mode. The aperture is fixed at f/3.5 or f/4.9 at the telephoto position. The 15 shooting modes allow a little user input. They include the automatic programmed mode, Portrait, Landscape, Landscape/Portrait, Night, Night/Portrait, Cuisine (with extra contrast and saturation), Beach and Snow, Self Portrait with and without a self-timer and a Display Window mode for shooting through glass. There are also Indoors, Candle, Sunset and Fireworks modes. Postprocessing special effects include Soft Focus, Fish-Eye, Sepia and Black-and-White.
This µ-mini Digital offered slightly improved performance over its forebear, particularly in shot-to-shot times of about 2 seconds, more than a full second faster than the original. This camera also powered on to its first shot more quickly, in a respectable 2.5 seconds, and cut 0.1 seconds from its shutter-lag timings, snapping off a picture in only 0.7 seconds under high-contrast lighting.
However, the µ-mini Digital S is still slow when shooting with a flash, with more than 5 seconds between shots. It also paused for a 1.5-second shutter lag under dim, low-contrast lighting, probably partly because no focus-assist lamp is available.
Even a smallish optical viewfinder would have been helpful as a backup. This camera's LCD was a little dark under dim illumination, and outdoors, it was overwhelmed by even indirect sunlight. Ghosting was a problem when the camera or subject moved.
Burst mode was on the poky side: we got 6 full-resolution/minimal compression shots in 4.8 seconds and 133 VGA-resolution snaps in 2 minutes. However, dropping down one compression level let us capture 32 5-megapixel images in 31 seconds with minimal loss in image quality.
Of course, the µ-mini Digital S doesn't have a lot of photo quality to spare, with a level of image detail that's just average for its ultracompact 5-megapixel class. We saw visual noise in our shots even at ISO 64, and ISO 400 is very noticeably noisy. JPEG artefacts also obscured details a bit and we saw some moderate purple fringing around backlit objects. It seemed to be easier to blow out highlights with this camera, even if exposures were otherwise spot-on. While colours were fairly accurate and well saturated, this camera's red-eye preflash did little to prevent glowing red pupils.
Edited by Aimee Baldridge
Additional editing by Nick Hide