On paper, the Olympus mju 7000 looks like a tempting prospect. It's a pocket-sized, 12-megapixel compact with a 7x optical zoom, face detection, automatic scene detection, image stabilisation, an 11 frames per second continuous shooting mode and an HDMI output. All this and it's yours for around £200 or less. That's got to be good, right?
The 7x zoom range is equivalent to 37 to 260mm in 35mm camera terms, so you're getting serious telephoto capability in a snapper that can slip into your shirt pocket. Round the back, there's a rather good 76mm (3-inch) display and a navigational controller which lights up when you press it, so that the icons really stand out, especially in poor light.
It's easy to make routine adjustments, thanks to a 'func' button that offers quick access to the white balance, ISO, drive mode, metering pattern, image size and quality settings. Those who like to just point and shoot can leave it to the camera to work out automatically which scene mode to use, while hands-on photographers will find it quick and easy to take over.
The pictures are good, too. The 7x zoom offers decent sharpness, the colours are accurate and lifelike, if a little subdued, and you won't often need to override the auto-exposure system.
So what's not to like? Well, just look at it. The all-black version might be alright, but the blue one will never be as pretty as the cheaper mju 5000, and the silver version looks like it's been quickly cobbled together from a bin. The combination of a black plastic lens bezel and metal front panel looks botched and unfinished. And what's with that horizontal crease along the centre line?
As with many other compacts, the 7000's great-sounding specs wilt under close examination. Automatic scene detection? Yes, but only from the five 'most common' scene modes -- not the full repertoire. 11fps shooting? Yes, but as long as you don't mind the resolution dropping to just 3 megapixels. HDMI output? Sure, but there's no high-definition movie mode, so really the only benefit is displaying stills at higher resolution on your HD television.
The most bothersome problem, though, is the lens -- not so much in terms of its quality, which is pretty good, but its range. It's not a wideangle and it's not long enough to be a superzoom. It has a numerical advantage (7x versus 5x) over the 5000, but that's not much in real terms and you'll typically pay another £20 or £30 to get it.
The Olympus mju 7000 seems like a middle-of-the-road compromise that's been created just to fill in the range. As a result, it's almost impossible to get excited about it. If you don't want to spend much, get the 5000 -- it's prettier, cheaper and, except for a slight reduction in telephoto capability, every bit as good. Or, if zoom range is important, get the mju 9000 -- it doesn't cost much more than the 7000, it's got a longer, wider zoom range and, unlike the 7000, it's not as ugly as sin.
Edited by Charles Kloet