Designed to blow away the competition by bringing distant objects closer, the Mju 9000 sports a hefty 10x optical zoom in a comparably thin body.
Olympus Mju 9000: Specification
- Zoom: 10x optical (28-280mm)
- Resolution: 12Mp
- Sensor size: 1/2.33in
- Sensor type: CCD
- Max. image size: 3968x2976
- File type: JPEG
- Sensitivity: ISO64-1600
- Storage: xD Picture card, MicroSD
- Focus types: TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection
- Normal focusing: 50cm
- Close focusing: 1cm
- Metering types: ESP light metering
- Exposure compensation: +/- 2EV in 1/3 step increments
- Shutter speed: 4sec-1/2000sec
- Flash: Built in-0.2-5.4m (wide-ISO800), 0.9-3.0m (tele-ISO800)
- Monitor: 2.7in Hypercrystal III LCD 230,000dot
- Interface: USB2.0
- Power: Li-Ion
- Size: 96x60x31mm
- Weight: 185g (excl. battery and card)
For £234 you can get a large 10x optical zoom, 12Mp and 1cm macro shown on a 2.7in LCD screen. The Panasonic DMC-FX150 costs £10 less, has a larger 14Mp resolution on a larger sensor but a smaller 3.6x optical zoom. Alternatively, the Sony Cybershot DSC-T90 costs £8 more, has the same resolution and a similar zoom to the Panasonic but uses a superior Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens.
Olympus Mju 9000: Features
Let's get this straight, I'm not a massive fan of futuristic looking cameras although the artist in me can appreciate a more modernist approach to camera design. However, I'm happy to say that the Olympus Mju9000 fits snugly between modern and vintage with its blocky, square design and large lens barrel covered in glossy black plastic and reflective surfaces.
Beauty mode smoothes out the skin and reduces blemishes.
Olympus have also tried to keep things minimal on the back and top plate with only a few buttons to choose from. Interestingly, there's a mode dial which seem to be disappearing from compacts these days. It's operated by the thumb choosing between modes such as intelligent auto, scene modes, video, playback and a nice “beauty” mode. This mode is designed to analyse the person in a portrait and it patches over blemishes and spots while the camera swirls the image around to make it look busy.
A shiny gunmetal coloured face has a slim flash in the top corner which has a less than perfect performance. It barely illuminated the portrait shots to a degree that was noticeable and the proof can be seen in the specification. The range distances don't seem to bad but it can only manage that at ISO800 which will cause problems with noise. For me the idea of using a flash is to keep the sensitivity down and at a lower ISO, the flash simply can't cope.
The top plate only has the power button, shutter release and zoom slider switch with a “busy” light on the corner. Down the back, menu and playback buttons sit under the command dial with a clear plastic navigation pad that doubles up as a macro, flash, exposure compensation and drive access buttons. At the bottom, two buttons go into the display options for the Hypercrystal screen and on the right is the delete button for when you're in playback but otherwise it enters into a mini menu for choosing the shadow adjustment, panorama and a really cool new feature called multi window.
This latter option throws up four options of zoom, exposure compensation, white balance and metering. Whichever you choose shows four alternatives of the same shot. For example the white balance will bring up the shot in all settings for you to select the most balanced. Choosing a different zoom level will automatically zoom the lens out to that setting. It's a great feature that allows you to cover more bases making sure you get a perfect shot.
Olympus Mju 9000: Build and handling
I like the weight of the Olympus Mju9000 and I think it can be attributed to the metal body as well as the huge lens. I think Olympus have done well to get a 28-280mm lens crammed into such a thin body although the lens barrel and screen do stick out slightly to compensate but it's not unattractive.
The glossy cover of the camera is nice and I find the whole reflective edge of the casing attractive but it is prone to fingerprints which simply look messy. This is unfortunate and unless you're Meatloaf carrying a handkerchief in your hand everywhere you go then it's going to happen to you too.
I think the camera is well laid out and even though the menu system is essentially the same layout as before, the white background and snazzy icons make it look nicer and easier to use.
The Li-Ion battery is under the camera and shares its space with the dual slot memory card. Instead of taking SD or SDHC cards, the Mju9000 takes microSD cards which are normally found in smaller media storage facilities such as mobile phones. This could be useful if you run out of memory and have a MicroSD card in your phone.
The Mju9000 offers the latest Trupic Turbo III processor which is Olympus' version of a dedicated imaging processor. Canon started this fad off with the D!GiC processor and since then every camera manufacturer worth their salt have released one meaning faster processing of images and nicer colours.
Olympus Mju 9000: Performance
Start up time is pretty fast at around 1.5sec and taking a picture straight away from there gives a total of just under three seconds.
There are two burst modes which are found in the function menu along with resolution, white balance, sensitivity and metering. In normal sequential, Olympus say that the Mju9000 can manage 1fps and that's about right. I actually got nine shots but the first and last images were half a second within the ten second limit each meaning theoretically another shot could be got in the limited time we allow.
The hi-speed mode takes lots of pictures in a short time then stops to download from the buffer unlike the normal mode which will keep going until the card is full. It managed 11 shots in two seconds but only took a second or so to download because the resolution is dropped to 3Mp in this mode. This did mean that I got to take more pictures and in ten seconds I managed a total of 24 images with an average rate of 2.4fps ( frames per second). Of course 3Mp means lower quality but then that depends on whether you're going to need big pictures. If you only want 6x4 prints then the quality is wholly acceptable.
White balance doesn't cope very well with incandescent light. Taking the colour test chart shot I found that incandescent turns the image too blue and there's no manual white balance setting. I still had to balance out the white balance in post processing afterwards which is unfortunate. However, it did reveal that the processor boosts primary blue more than every other colour and in fact they look quite lame in comparison.
I like the balance of the mono tones and that the pastel colours can be seen. I think the skin tone looks a little pale but isn't off colour in a big way. The earth brown and forest green colours look nice as does yellow and bright pink.
There are two macro modes on the Olympus Mju9000 for normal macro work which has a close focusing distance of 10cm and a supermacro mode that can focus in at 1cm for ultra cropping.
I had trouble with white balance again for the portrait test as there isn't a shade option so set it to auto to get what the camera thinks is right. In portrait mode the image is a little soft but skin tone is good and there's enough detail in the hair. Adding flash is bit of a mistake as it starts to bleach out the head. It's filled in shadows nicely but is a bit on the cool side for my taste as the auto white balance compensated enough.
However, in auto mode, the flash is a lot more balanced with only a glimmer of light reflecting on the glasses to suggest it's been used. In stark contrast, shadows are a lot deeper in auto mode.
Portrait mode with flash.
Portrait in auto mode.
Portrait in auto mode with flash.
Metering has coped quite well in the landscape test
with only slight burn out on the sky and mild underexposure in the darker areas of shadows. The image looks sharp from a normal viewing distance which you could argue is all you need. Magnified to 100% you can see the smoothing of noise reduction and purple bleeding of colour fringing on the winch that's in the sun on the left of the frame.
It's not a wholly unpleasant result but I think that Olympus are capable of much more and especially from a higher end compact such as this one.
Olympus Mju 9000: Noise test
I can be pretty harsh on cameras that perform badly in this area because I believe that if it doesn't perform well at low to mid-range sensitivity then it's failing in its primary function. I love the detail in the petals of the ISO64 image but being really critical I have to mention the colour invasion on the grey tile at full magnification.
Little changes until ISO200 where the detail starts to deteriorate from the petals and this goes on a steady downward path until the maximum ISO1600 setting. ISO800 shows black specks start to litter the grey tile where coloured blobs have already invaded and pillaged.
Olympus Mju 9000: Verdict
The ISO64 test.
The ISO1600 test.
What began as an impressive display of features and build quality slowly soured as I used the camera more and more. If this camera can be kept in normal balanced daylight that's bright enough to use a low ISO then the results will be acceptable.
That's the problem, though. I'd expect them to be more than acceptable as a camera that sits higher than others in its range and no flashy graphics or lit up buttons can change that.
Olympus Mju 9000: Plus points
Improved user interface
Olympus Mju 9000: Minus points
Noise problems at low ISO
White balance is too limited
The Olympus Mju 9000 costs around £234 and is available from Warehouse Express here:
Olympus Mju 9000