It's difficult to make an impression in the cutthroat compact camera market. How will Olympus's Mju Digital 500 shape up? It's got a weatherproof metal body, a 2.5in LCD and 20 scene programs, making it a good option for the novice - it's very responsive when shooting and the recent price drop to £255 makes it cost-effective. However, it doesn't have a decent feature set and images lack punch.
The 500 is a plain Jane compact with a retractable 3x optical zoom and a 5Mp (megapixel) CCD (charge-coupled device). Shots are stored on a 32MB xD-Picture card, and juice is supplied by a rechargeable lithium battery - you'll get up to 200 shots per charge. Unfortunately the proprietary battery shape means AAs don't fit, so you can't buy back-ups from the shops.
Its metal body makes the 500 slightly too heavy to be considered truly compact, but at least it feels like it can take the knocks. It's easy to get to grips with the 500's buttons, and it looks like Olympus has gone down the same route as Kodak on pre-programmed shooting settings. Each one has an explanatory picture and text - not a bad idea, even if some of you are bound to feel patronised.
Olympus claims blur is eradicated because of the LCD's 25ms response time. The display is certainly clear, can be viewed from almost any angle and copes with all lighting conditions, and a quick pan on full telephoto holds up well. But zoom in wide-angle and there's a lot of blur. This makes it difficult to compose - and there's no optical viewfinder.
The images we took looked drab, even in direct sunlight, and we felt the 500 lacked the detail normally associated with a 5Mp digicam.