Olympus has provided the mju 9010 with a 10x optical zoom and an HD movie mode, but they aren't its only tricks. It also has an in-camera panorama mode, 2GB of internal storage and a set of 'Magic Filters'. And at around £230 it looks a pretty good deal compared to other compact superzooms.
This camera follows on from Olympus' mju 9000, and boasts a redesigned exterior and an increase in resolution from 12 megapixels to 14. It's small but weighty, and has a plain-looking but uncluttered two-tone exterior.
Round the back you get a bunch of simple but effective controls. There's no mode dial -- instead you use a set of menus overlaid on the right-hand side of the LCD. The top menu item swaps between the intelligent auto, program, Magic Filter, panorama and Beauty modes, while the others take care of things like the ISO, white balance, EV compensation and so on.
Bottom right is a help button. This launches the in-camera manual, which walks you through some of the key features, such as the panorama mode, and offers an A-Z of common terms. It's not Wikipedia, but it's not bad.
The 2GB built-in storage is another plus point, though high-capacity SD cards are cheap these days, so it's not like it's saving you a fortune. Speaking of cards, Olympus has swapped over to the SD format for the mju 9010, so we can wave goodbye to xD Picture cards (don't let the door hit you on the way out) and that tricky microSD adaptor Olympus peddled during the changeover.
You're hardly going to use the Magic Filters every day -- they offer after effects such as pop art, fisheye, and sketch -- but they are rather fun, as is the in-camera Panorama mode. And if you want to shoot HD movies, just press the big red button on the back.
The panorama and movie modes do highlight this camera's weaknesses, though. Like the camera itself, they're all right, but not quite as good as they sound. The panorama mode is half way towards Sony's Sweep Panorama system, but not as good. If you don't pan fast enough, the camera shoots the same frame twice, and it's difficult to keep the camera steady for each frame when you're not quite sure when it's going to shoot it. The joins can be distinctly iffy too.
The movie mode is also flawed. It's not quite as sharp as you might expect from HD, it jerks around if you don't move the camera extremely slowly and, worst of all, the mju 9010 won't zoom or focus while you film. Actually, it will, but only if you dig through the menus and turn off the sound. Olympus clearly disables the zoom and AF to avoid operational noise spoiling your vids, but what you're left with is a stark choice -- no controls or no sound.
The mju 9010 doesn't produce terribly good stills, either. Going up to 14 megapixels hasn't done anything for the definition at all. In fact, fine detail has a disappointingly soft and hazy look to it, which is common enough in high-resolution compacts, it's just that here it seems just a little bit worse.
The mju 9010 is a pretty plain camera that turns in a pretty plain performance. It's £30 to £40 cheaper than the class-leading Panasonic Lumix TZ10 superzoom, but so it should be, because it's nowhere near as good. As do-it-all compact superzooms go, this one is, sadly, near the bottom of the heap.
Edited by Nick Hide