A small, slim, high-resolution digicam for snapshooters who want a long zoom range.Claimed as the smallest 10x optical zoom digicam, the Olympus Mju 9000 has a slick pocketable plastic body accented in stylish chrome. Equipped with a 12-megapixel CCD sensor, this flagship of the Mju line-up is targeted at travellers who want a small, light, point-and-shoot digicam. Physically smaller than competitors like the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, Panasonic TZ7 and Ricoh R10, the Mju 9000 is also less capable in many ways. . . [more]
Claimed as the smallest 10x optical zoom digicam, the Olympus Mju 9000 has a slick pocketable plastic body accented in stylish chrome. Equipped with a 12-megapixel CCD sensor, this flagship of the Mju line-up is targeted at travellers who want a small, light, point-and-shoot digicam. Physically smaller than competitors like the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS, Panasonic TZ7 and Ricoh R10, the Mju 9000 is also less capable in many ways.
Although the lens covers a wide focal length range - equivalent to 28-280mm in 35mm format - it's not particularly fast and there's no AF-assist lamp so the camera struggles to focus in low light levels. The small sensor also means noise becomes an issue at ISO settings above 200. The 2.7-inch LCD monitor has a resolution of only 230,000 pixels and all button controls have been designed for users with tiny fingers.
Ergonomics and Controls
Marginally larger than the Mju 1060, the new camera has similar styling but is a little chunkier in appearance. This could be due to its longer zoom lens (the Mju 1060 only offered 7x optical zoom) because the new model's LCD screen is slightly smaller than the 3-inch display on the Mju 1060. Both models have similar electronic flash units and both include CCD-shift image stabilisation.
Front view of the Mju 9000 showing the large, retracting lens. (Source: Olympus.)
The retracting lens dominates the front panel of the Mju 9000, with its housing sitting a couple of millimetres proud of the camera body, which has a raised finger grip along the right hand side. Powering up the camera extends it by approximately 20mm, with a further 20mm extension as you zoom from the wide to the tele setting. It takes just over a second for each process. Consisting of nine elements in six groups, it contains five aspherical lenses, one Dual Super Aspherical (DSA) lens and an Extra Low Dispersion Aspherical (EDA) lens.
Two thirds of the rear panel is covered by the LCD monitor, leaving no room for an optical viewfinder - and little space for the main controls. These consist of a 10mm diameter mode dial and an arrow pad with central Function/OK button. Above the arrow pad are the menu and playback buttons, while below it lie the Display and Erase buttons, the latter doubling as a brightness adjustment for the LCD. A small textured thumb grip partially surrounds the mode dial.
Rear view of the Mju 900 showing the main button controls. (Source: Olympus.)
The mode dial carries six settings: iAuto, P, Scene, Beauty, Movie and Playback. In the iAuto ('intelligent' auto) mode, the only shooting functions you can adjust are image size and quality. The P (Program AE) mode lets you set white balance, ISO, drive mode and switch the fine and digital zooms, voice recording, image stabiliser and shadow adjustment functions on and off.
The Beauty mode is like similar settings on Casio and Samsung cameras. As well as engaging face detection, it also reduces the image size to 2M or lower and, at the same time, blurs the texture of skin areas to remove blemishes and wrinkles. We were unimpressed with this setting on the Samsung WB500 and see no reason to change our opinion with the Mju 9000.
Selecting the Scene mode accesses 14 scene presets: Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow and Pre-capture Movie Mode. An illustrated example is provided for each mode and pressing the Display button calls up a brief text explanation.
Still images can only be recorded as JPEGS, with seven image sizes and two compression settings provided. Typical file sizes are shown in the table below.
3968 x 2976
2560 x 1920
2048 x 1536
1600 x 1200
1280 x 960
640 x 480
Movie clips can only be recorded in standard definition, with two quality settings provided: VGA and QVGA, both recorded in AVI Motion JPEG format with sound. High-definition widescreen video is not supported.
Typical clip lengths with a 1GB memory card are shown in the table below for the resolutions and frame rates supported.
Continuous recording length with 1GB memory card
640 x 480 pixels
9 min. 21 sec.
18 min. 37 sec.
320 x 240 pixels
22 min. 3 sec.
43 min. 37 sec.
The optical zoom is disabled in movie mode but digital zoom is available. Digital image stabilisation (which crops the frame a little) is available in movie mode.
The Mju 9000 provides the standard suite of playback functions, including single and multiple-image displays, calendar thumbnails and slideshow playback of images in memory. It also includes several 'Perfect Fix' retouching adjustments for correcting images in-camera. Among them are red-eye fix, shadow adjustment and a suite of 'Beauty Fix' settings that includes Clear Skin, Sparkle Eye and Dramatic Eye.
Clear Skin produces similar results to the Beauty shooting mode but offers three levels of processing: soft, average and hard. Sparkle Eye increases contrast in the area covered by the subject's eyes, while Dramatic Eye enlarges the subject's eyes with respect to the rest of the face.
You can also create small copies of images for emailing. Two sizes are offered: VGA and QVGA. Post-capture colour adjustments include B&W and sepia conversion and hard and soft saturation adjustments. You can also add four-second sound bites to still pictures. Edited images are saved as separate files. All these post-capture adjustments are once-only processes because images that have been edited cannot be retouched a second time.
It was difficult to gauge exposure levels by looking at the LCD display because it appeared significantly brighter than we expected for the camera's EV adjustment setting. It was also very prone to streaking in backlit situations. Fortunately, on our computer monitor we found test shots had a better than average dynamic range for a small-sensor digicam, although blown-out highlights were common and the colour balance in outdoor shots was slightly warm.
The zoom control was very jumpy and it was difficult to achieve precise levels of magnification for composing shots, particularly at longer focal lengths. The image stabilisation system appeared to work quite well with the Macro and Super Macro settings, where we recorded some attractive close-up shots. However, shooting at full tele zoom proved a bit hit-and-miss with focusing and, although exposures were usually well positioned many shots were blurred due to both focusing error and camera shake.
Photographs taken with the test camera showed many of the other characteristics of a small-sensor digicam. Colour saturation was slightly elevated and image quality deteriorated as ISO sensitivity was raised. Imatest confirmed our subjective assessments and showed resolution to be below expectations for a 12-megapixel digicam. It also revealed significant differences between centre and edge resolution.
Saturation was relatively modest for a digicam but Imatest showed skin hues to be slightly off the mark and revealed shifts in almost all warmer hues, although blues and blue-greens were close to the mark. Edge softening was relatively consistent across all lens focal lengths. The graph below shows the results of our Imatest tests.
Imatest resolution remained relatively constant in our tests of ISO performance, although the test camera showed a constant (and fairly large) difference between centre and edge resolution right up to (and including) ISO 1600. Both centre and edge resolution plummeted at ISO 3200. The graph below shows the results of our tests.
Lateral chromatic aberration was consistently high for all the focal lengths we tested. Both coloured fringing and edge softening could be seen in test shots taken in bright conditions.
Coloured fringing can be seen with a 100% enlargement.
Auto white balance performance was patchy. In our standard tests, the review camera corrected more of the orange cast caused by incandescent lighting than many cameras we've tested. Shots taken under fluorescent lighting were also relatively neutral in hue. However, in the field, the camera failed to compensate for the slight blue cast resulting from cloudy conditions.
Auto white balance under cloud.
The flash was capable of illuminating an average-sized room at all ISO settings and exposures were reasonably consistent from ISO 100 and ISO 1600 (inclusive). Image noise became visible in low light shots at ISO 400 and was obvious by ISO 800 in flash shots.
Long exposures were difficult because of the camera's limitations with the slowest shutter speed in most shooting modes at 1/4 second. Shots taken at ISO 400 and higher were seriously noise-affected in the iAuto and normal shooting modes but using the Night Landscape Scene mode allowed exposures as long as four seconds with lower ISO settings, which were less noise-affected - although their colour balance was skewed.
Digital zoom shots were sharp and slightly artefact-affected. The fine zoom setting, which doesn't involve such high magnification, delivered much better picture quality but both settings tended to magnify any focusing errors and camera shake. Backlighting was reasonably well handled, although some contre-jour shots were noticeably flare-affected.
Barrel distortion was obvious at wider focal lengths but largely corrected by mid-way along the zoom range. No pincushion distortion was seen at the 50mm focal length setting. Video quality was similar to other Mju models Photo Review has tested and the optical zoom can't be used while shooting movie clips. Picture and sound quality were good for the camera's limitations - but far from spectacular.
We measured an average capture lag of 0.6 seconds, which reduced to 0.1 seconds with pre-focusing. It took an average of 2.7 seconds to process each high-resolution JPEG image, although the image remained on-screen for as long as 4.6 seconds unless you pressed the shutter button.
In the standard continuous shooting mode, the camera recorded 12 shots in 8.4 seconds. Processing of these images appeared to be on-the-fly as there was less than two seconds' delay between the end of the burst and when the indicator light on the camera went out. Swapping to the high-speed mode reduces image size to 2048 x 1536 pixels. We recorded 14 frames in 2.4 seconds in this mode. Again, processing appeared to be on-the-fly but it took just over three seconds to quell the camera's indicator light.
Buy this camera if:
- You're a snapshooter who would like a pocketable long-zoom camera and are prepared to accept this camera's limitations.
Don't buy this camera if:
- You want to shoot raw files (this camera is JPEG only).
- You'd like to adjust aperture and shutter speed settings.
- You want to shoot widescreen or high-definition video (VGA at 30 frames/second is the best this camera offers).
- You want good low light performance.
Auto white balance with incandescent lighting.
Auto white balance with fluorescent lighting.
Close-up with the Macro mode setting. 5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/3.2.
Close-up with the Super-Macro setting. 7.3mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/3.9.
5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/8.
50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/800 second at f/5.9.
Digital zoom. 50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/250 second at f/5.9.
Flash exposure. 21.6mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/5.5.
Flash exposure. 21.6mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/125 second at f/5.5.
Night exposure in auto mode; 5mm focal length, ISO 1600, 1/4 second at f/3.2.
Night exposure in Night Landscape mode; 13.2mm focal length, ISO250, 4 seconds at f/3.2.
Backlit subject shot with iAuto mode; 5mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/1000 second at f/8.
Image sensor: 6.13 x 4.6 mm CCD with 12.47 million photosites (12.0 megapixels effective)
Lens: 5.0-50mm f/3.2-5.9 zoom lens (28-280mm in 35mm format)
Zoom ratio: 10x optical, up to 5x digital
Image formats: Stills – JPEG (Exif 2.21); Movies - AVI Motion JPEG with WAV sound
Image Sizes: Stills –3968 x 2976, 3648 x 2736, 2560 x 1920, 2048 x 1536, 1920 x 1080 (16:9 aspect ratio) 1600 x 1200, 1280 x 960; Movies – VGA or QVGA at 30 or 15 frames/second
Shutter speed range: 1/4-1/2000 seconds (up to 4 sec. in night mode)
Self-timer: 12 second delay
Image Stabilisation: CCD Shift type (up to 4 EV claimed)
Exposure Compensation: +/- 2 EV in 1/3 EV increments
Focus system/range: TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection; range range 10 cm to infinity; macro to 1 cm
Exposure metering/control: ESP/Spot metering
Shooting modes: Program AE plus 14 scene presets (Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Pre-capture Movie Mode)
ISO range: Auto, ISO 64-1600
White balance: Auto, sunlight, overcast, tungsten, fluorescent (x3)
Flash modes/range (ISO auto): Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off; range: 0.2-5.0 metres Sequence shooting:
Storage Media: 45MB internal memory plus xD-Picture card slot
LCD monitor: 2.7-inch TFT colour LCD with 230,000 pixels
Power supply: Li-50B rechargeable lithium-ion battery
Dimensions (wxhxd): 96.0 x 60.0 x 31.0 mm
Weight: 185 grams (without battery and card)
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