The Olympus mju 850 SW is a truly waterproof, shockproof compact digital camera that doesn't sacrifice its looks or portability. It's not bad at taking pictures, either.

Olympus has been making all-weather cameras for a number of years, but until recently you needed to enclose your camera in a waterproof case to be sure that it would continue to function after a good soaking.

The Olympus mju 850 SW is a truly waterproof digital camera that doesn't sacrifice its looks or portability (although it's not the least heavy camera we've tested). And the Olympus mju 850 SW is shockproof too.

While we didn't don snorkelling gear to test whether the Olympus mju 850 SW fuilfilled Olympus' claims of being able to keep out the elements as far as 3m underwater, we relished putting it through some fairly gruelling everyday tests just to be sure.

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First, we doused the Olympus mju 850 SW in lager – a quick dunk first; but then a full immersion. Bad behaviour, yes, but if you're going to buy a so-called waterproof camera, that's exactly the sort of hijinks your friends are going to indulge in. We even took a photo or two with the beer still dripping from its shiny black case.

The poor Olympus mju 850 SW then spent the day of our photoshoot dunked in a waterfilled coffee jug and being forced to take underwater snaps. We didn't achieve photographic excellence, but we did get proof that the mju 850 lives up to its claims of indestructibility.

What you do notice when you pick up the Olympus mju 850 SW is its weight. At 152g and with relatively compact dimensions, you notice it's bulk, but there's something reassuring about the solidity of its construction.

Even so, we were all set to dismiss the Olympus mju 850 SW as a bit of a gimmick. There were a few things that faintly annoyed us, such as the fact it has a proprietary mini USB connection and you have to invest in Olympus' own media storage, xD Card. However, where it counted, we were impressed.

NEXT PAGE: taking pictures with the Olympus mju 850 SW, and our expert verdict > >

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The Olympus mju 850 SW is a truly waterproof, shockproof compact digital camera that doesn't sacrifice its looks or portability. It's not bad at taking pictures, either.

The Olympus mju 850 SW is a camera with plenty of manual controls and Olympus has had the nous to show customers how to use them. Far too many point-and-shoot cameras come with all the handholding scenes presets beginners need, which means they don't get round to trying out the plethora of controls that could make the difference between ending up with a mere snap or a memorable shot.

Olympus equips the mju 850 SW with all the automated quality controls you need to take a basic, in-focus, sufficiently lit shot – anti-shake, face-detection and a low-light compensation feature called BrightCapture are all included. But a turn of the dial to Guide ushers in a whole new aspect: onscreen advice on visualisations of the effects of the Olympus mju 850 SW's manual tools and how to make the most of them.

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For example, you're encouraged to experiment with the effects of the Olympus mju 850 SW's different light meter settings.

There are some interesting scene selections too. Having tried every flash and scene setting going with several other compact cameras in a bid to capture an item in a shop window, it looks as though the Behind Glass option on the Olympus mju 850 SW was what we really needed.

Not everything is wonderful with the results from the Olympus mju 850 SW, however. We noted a tendency for shots in auto mode to underexpose and look gloomy while bright sunny conditions sometimes looked washed out and overexposed. Sharpness was spot on, however, and we noticed only the merest fringing effect when we blew up our test shot of the City of London's famous Gherkin building.

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Olympus mju 850 SW: Specs

  • 8Mp compact digital camera
  • 2.5in LCD
  • 3x optical zoom (equivalent to 938-114mm)
  • 100 to 1600 ISO rating
  • 30fps VGA video capture
  • TruPic III image processor
  • waterproof to 3m
  • drop-proof from 1.5 m
  • usable at up to -10 degrees
  • optical image stabiliser
  • face-detection
  • BrightCapture low-light compensation
  • 24 scene presets
  • 152g
  • 94x61x21mm
  • 8Mp compact digital camera
  • 2.5in LCD
  • 3x optical zoom (equivalent to 938-114mm)
  • 100 to 1600 ISO rating
  • 30fps VGA video capture
  • TruPic III image processor
  • waterproof to 3m
  • drop-proof from 1.5 m
  • usable at up to -10 degrees
  • optical image stabiliser
  • face-detection
  • BrightCapture low-light compensation
  • 24 scene presets
  • 152g
  • 94x61x21mm

OUR VERDICT

Judged side by side with the exceptional Nikon Coolpix P5100 in terms of shots captured, the Olympus mju 850 SW comes up short, but this is a truly durable and capable sub-£200 compact camera with all the manual controls you could want. (And you can't dunk the Nikon Coolpix P5100 in beer and then expect to use it.)

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