Olympus mju 9000 Review
The Olympus mju 9000 (also known as the Stylus 9000) is the first attempt at a travel zoom camera by Olympus. Offering a 10x zoom, wide-angle lens equivalent to a focal range of 28-280mm, 12 megapixel CCD sensor, and 2.7 inch LCD screen, the diminutive mju 9000 is taking on the likes of the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 and Canon PowerShot SX200 IS. It also offers Dual Image Stabilisation to help keep your pictures sharp, macro mode of 1cm, 5fps shooting (at 3 megapixels), Advanced Face Detection and ISO 64-1600, while Intelligent Auto Mode detects the scenes and adjusts settings, focus and exposure automatically. Compatible with xD-Picture and microSD cards and available in black and blue, the Olympus mju 9000 has a launch price of £310 / $349.99. Does it offer enough features and performance to take on and beat its main rivals? Carry on reading our expert review to find out...
Ease of Use
The Olympus mju 9000 camera quite easily fits in the palm of my medium sized man's hands. One of the mju 9000's main advantages is that it's both a little lighter and smaller than its main competitors, the Panasonic Lumix SX200 IS and Canon PowerShot SX200 IS, especially in width, although there's only 5mm or so difference between them. Olympus have still somehow squeezed in a 10x zoom lens, equivalent to a focal range 28-280mm on a 35mm camera, which provides a focal range that should cover almost every photographic situation that you'll encounter. It's not quite as versatile as the TZ7's 25-300mm or the SX200 IS's 28-336mm lens though, and it does extend quite a long way when zoomed to full telephoto. The lens' maximum aperture is a fast f/3.2 at wide angle but a rather slow f/5.9 at full telephoto.
Taking hand held photos, especially in the longer half of the zoom range, carries the risk of your photos being ruined by camera shake. This is where image stabilisation comes to the rescue. Olympus markets the mju 9000 as having “Dual Image Stabilisation", a mechanical and digital system, but the latter simply boosts the ISO sensitivity to avoid having to use longer shutter speeds, so it's the former that really counts. The mju 9000, just like its immediate predecessors, counteracts camera shake by shifting the sensor in the opposite direction. Image stabilisation can only be activated from the menu, and is turned on by default. When set to On, image stabilisation kicks in whenever you depress the shutter release halfway, giving a faint, continuous sound. The live view on the LCD or EVF shows the stabilisation effect - the image appears to be floating in an almost surreal way. With image stabilisation, you can use about two times longer exposure times to take blur-free hand held shots than without it.
The Olympus mju 9000 is a very well-built camera with a high quality metal body, with our review sample finished in an attractive metallic blue with silver accents. The design is dominated by the 10x lens on the front and the 2.7 inch LCD screen on the rear. There is no optical viewfinder, which follows a recent trend in digital cameras, and this does make the camera a little harder to keep steady at the telephoto end of the zoom. The hand-grip on the mju 9000 is unfortunately of the almost non-existent variety which doesn't make it particularly easy to hold, although there is a plastic, textured thumb-rest on the rear next to the small mode dial.
On top of the camera body are the On/Off button, shutter release and zoom lever. The large shutter release is in a natural location for your index finger, with the zoom lever positioned to the right. I found that this push-pull lever had a rather "spongy" feel that didn't inspire too much confidence. Everything feels generally well built and substantial, with only the zoom lever feeling a little out of place. The camera comes with a printed quick start guide and a fairly well cross-referenced PDF manual on disk. Not really much use though if you're out taking pictures and need to find out what a particular option does.
The mju 9000 is powered by a 3.7V / 880mAh lithium-ion battery. The battery compartment door is located on the bottom plate and has a plastic lock - note that the battery can be easily inserted the wrong way round. The memory card slot is also located here. The Olympus mju 9000 accepts xD-picture and microSD cards (more commonly used in camera phones). This is a problem in so much as xD cards are slower and more expensive than the more popular SD cards, and fewer external card readers have a slot for them. In an emergency, you can save about 7 full-resolution shots in the mju 9000's 45MBs of internal memory. Next to the battery / memory card compartment is the tripod socket, which is unfortunately made of plastic but is at least aligned with the middle of the camera body. Moving to the right hand side, as viewed from the back, you'll find a small plastic flap protecting the DC In / USB/AV Out port, and below an eyelet for attaching the supplied wrist strap.
The rear of the camera is dominated by the 2.7 inch monitor, which has an acceptable resolution of 230k dots. It has an admirably wide viewing angle, and is fairly usable outdoors too, something that cannot be said of all LCD screens. Importantly, the display can show you overlaid shooting information if you so desire, and this includes Rule of Thirds gridlines and a live histogram too - albeit not both at the same time, which is a shame. To the right of the LCD is the ubiquitous four-way controller with buttons that provide direct access to exposure compensation, two macro modes, self-timer and flash modes. In the middle is the OK/FUNC button which is used to call up a L-shaped sub-menu containing 6 frequently used options, a system that's incredibly similar to the one used by Canon's compact camera range.
The Olympus mju 9000 has a comprehensive range of shooting modes, accessed from the small shooting mode dial on the rear. There is a fully automatic mode, marked iAUTO on the mode dial, for those with absolutely zero photographic experience. In this mode you just zoom, focus and shoot without having to fiddle with the settings, which are all being taken care of by the camera. Intelligent Auto is a bit more sophisticated than the usual Auto modes, detecting the five most commonly used scenes and adjusting the camera settings, focus and exposure automatically. Being limited to only 5 scenes, it's certainly not foolproof though, so if you want tot take a little more control, turn the mode dial to the SCN setting and choose from the 14 scene modes available. None of these require you to know anything about f-stops, shutter speeds, white balance or depth of field - all you have to do is tell the camera what type of scene you are planning to take a picture of by picking the appropriate scene mode.
The mju 9000's new BEAUTY setting automatically smoothes people's skin, useful for giving your friends and family the Hollywood treatment. It automatically detects faces in the picture, then shows a side-by-side comparison of before and after the effect has been applied, before finally recording the slightly softened and more flattering image (the whole process takes about 10 seconds). The Beauty Fix playback option lets you apply 3 different effects (Clear Skin, Sparkle Eye and Dramatic Eye) separately or apply them all in one go, so its a better idea to beautify your subjects at this stage.
The Movie setting allows you to specify the resolution (VGA or QVGA), the frame rate (30 or 15fps), set digital image stabilisation on or off, and whether you want to take a silent clip or one with sound. In the first case, you may use the optical zoom and sensor-shift image stabilisation, but you can't if you choose to record sound. Exposure compensation, white balance and metering mode are available in movie mode too. Depending on the type of xD Card that you use, there are various restrictions on the length of movies. The options when using an xD M, M+ or H card are 640x480 at 30 fps or 15fps and 320x240 at 30fps, with a maximum file size of 2GB. If you're only using a xD standard card, the limit is reduced to a mere 10 seconds at 30fps. Finally, there is a Playback mode marked on the dial, which is a little unnecessary given that there is also a dedicated Playback button just below it!
SAT, or Shadow Adjustment Technology, is similar to Sigma's Fill Light, HP's Digital Flash / Adaptive Lighting, Sony's DRO and Nikon's D-lighting. It lifts the shadows in an image without affecting the midtones or the highlights. This mode is accessed by the OR button underneath the navigation pad (you can also access the panorama and multi window options here). Since the best uses of this technology are in landscapes, cityscapes and streetscapes, when you can't control the light and the shadowed areas may be too big or too far away to be filled in with flash, I was utterly puzzled to learn the only AF mode available with SAT turned on is Face Detect. Another surprise came when, upon reading the relevant section in the manual, I found out Olympus recommended using this technology when shooting portraits against a bright background. What? That's one occasion when you DON'T need it - just set the ambient exposure for the background and use the flash to illuminate your subject's face. Note that the task of opening the shadows in a contrasty photo can also be performed post capture, under the Lighting Fix option of the Perfect Fix menu in playback mode, but the results are less than perfect.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
The mju 9000 has a couple of continuous drive modes, accessible via the main menu. Full-resolution shots can be captured at a rather pedestrian 1fps, but the camera also offers a faster 5fps Hi1 mode at 3 megapixels. This sounds a lot more exciting, but the quality is not what you'd expect, even when you consider the reduced pixel count. This is not just because the camera automatically increases the sensitivity to ISO 400. Apparently what happens is that the mju 9000 takes a video at the specified frame rates, then takes the individual frames and blows them up to 3 megapixels. The resulting images don't print well except in the smallest paper sizes, so you'd better use the faster drive mode when shooting for the Web. There are a variety of auto-focusing modes on offer, including Face Detect, iESP, and Spot. Face Detect AF tries to find a face in the frame and if it succeeds, locks on to it. In iESP mode the camera uses several AF points and picks one of them at its own will. Spot AF is what most people would recognise as centre-point AF.
The start-up time from turning the Olympus mju 9000 on to being ready to take a photo is quick at around 2 seconds. Zooming from the widest focal length to the longest is a little slower at around 3 seconds. Focusing is quick in good light and the camera achieves focus most of the time, and the lack of a focus-assist lamp doesn't deter the mju 9000 from locking onto the subject even at the tele-photo end of the lens in fairly low-light situations. It takes about 1 second to store an image, allowing you to keep shooting as they are being recorded onto the memory card - there is a very brief LCD blackout between each image.
Once you have captured a photo, the Olympus mju 9000 has a good range of options when it comes to playing, reviewing and managing your images. You can instantly scroll through the images that you have taken, view up to 25 thumbnails, zoom in and out to check sharpness, lock, rotate, erase, add a four second sound clip, set the print order, and view a slideshow of still images, movies or all. The Perfect Fix menu allows you to apply Shadow Adjustment or Redeye Fix to any photo that you've already taken, and the Beauty Fix option lets you apply 3 different effects as discussed above. The Display button toggles detailed settings information about each picture on and off, such as the ISO rating and white balance, and there is a small histogram available during playback which is helpful in evaluating the exposure.
In summary the Olympus mju 9000 is a well-made, intuitive and fairly compact point-and-shoot camera with the obvious main attraction of that 10x, wide-angle lens. There are few real innovations on offer, but also few nasty surprises or faults.
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5Mb.
The Olympus mju 9000 produced images of good quality during the review period. The biggest issue is noise and loss of detail at relatively slow ISO speeds. The 1/2.33 inch, 12 megapixel sensor recorded noise-free images at ISO 64 and 100, but there's already some noise and slight loss of fine detail at ISO 200. ISO 400 shows more noise and some more obvious softening, and ISO 800 and 1600 are even worse, with lots of noise and a distinct colour shift. The Olympus mju 9000 handled chromatic aberrations well, with limited purple fringing effects appearing only in high contrast situations and generally at the edges of the frame. The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and adequate exposure. The night photograph was poor, with the maximum shutter speed of 4 seconds not being long enough for most after-dark shots. Anti-shake is a feature that sets this camera apart from its competitors and one that works very well when hand-holding the camera in low-light conditions or when using the telephoto end of the zoom range. Macro performance is amazing, allowing you to focus as close as 1 cm away from the subject! The images were a little soft straight out of the Olympus mju 9000 at the default sharpening setting and ideally require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera setting.
There are 6 ISO settings available on the Olympus mju 9000. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting.
ISO 64 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
Here are two 100% Crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9000 has 2 different image quality settings available, with Fine being the highest quality option. Here are some 100% crops which show the quality of the various options, with the file size shown in brackets.
|12M Fine (4.61Mb) (100% Crop)||12M Normal (2.58Mb) (100% Crop)|
The Olympus mju 9000 handled chromatic aberrations excellently during the review, with very limited purple fringing present around the edges of objects in certain high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
Example2 (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9000 offers a Super Macro setting that allows you to focus on a subject that is just 1cm away from the camera when the lens is set to wide-angle. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.
The flash settings on the Olympus mju 9000 are Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, and Off. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.
Off - Wide Angle (28mm)
Fill-in - Wide Angle (28mm)
Off - Telephoto (280mm)
Fill-in - Telephoto (280mm)
And here are some portrait shots. As you can see, neither the On or the Red-eye reduction settings caused any red-eye.
|On (100% Crop)|
Red-eye reduction (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9000's maximum shutter speed is 4 seconds in the Night scene mode, which is disappointing news if you're seriously interested in night photography, as it doesn't allow you to capture enough light in most situations. The shot below was taken using a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 125. I've included a 100% crop of the image to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9000 has an anti-shake mechanism, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, I took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with anti shake turned off, the second with it turned on. Here are some 100% crops of the images to show the results. As you can see, with anti shake turned on, the images are much sharper than with anti shake turned off. This feature really does seem to make a difference and could mean capturing a successful, sharp shot or missing the opportunity altogether.
Shutter Speed / Focal Length
Anti Shake Off (100% Crop)
Anti Shake On (100% Crop)
|1/20th / 28mm|
|1/10th / 280mm|
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus mju 9000 camera, which were all taken using the 12 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.
Sample Movie & Video
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera / Lens Extended
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Front of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
It's hard not to like the Olympus mju 9000. This is a well-made, easy to use point-and-shoot that will suit everyone in the family. The wide-angle 10x zoom is a real attraction in such a small camera, and should cover all eventualities for most of its target audience. Although low-light performance is a little patchy, with obvious noise and smearing of fine detail from ISO 400-1600, image quality is otherwise pretty good, with little distortion apparent at either end of the focal range, few signs of unwanted purple fringing, pleasing colours and a great 1cm macro mode.
But unfortunately it's also hard to recommend the Olympus mju 9000 when directly compared to its main rivals, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ7 and Canon PowerShot SX200 IS. Both of these cameras offer a more advanced feature set, 720p HD movie modes, more intelligent auto modes, better image quality and bigger zoom lenses and screens, and they also cost roughly the same price. If the Olympus mju 9000 had been released a year ago, it would have been a real contender, but in today's ever-competitive market it doesn't quite make the grade.
Which isn't to say that you should rule it out completely. The Olympus mju 9000 still has its main advantage of being smaller and lighter than its rivals, especially when compared to the Canon SX200 IS, and it certainly won't disappoint if you decide it meets all your needs. A good first attempt at the travel zoom by Olympus, but it ultimately falls short of the high standards set by Canon and particularly Panasonic.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3.5|
Reviews of the Olympus mju 9000 from around the web.
In terms of appearance and overall functionality, the Mju 9000 is one of the nicest Olympus compacts we've tested. It's the smallest camera you can get with 10x optical zoom, and we would recommend it unreservedly if it was a little cheaper and didn't have as many issues with noise.
Read the full review »
|Effective pixels||12 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Full resolution||12.7 Megapixels|
|Type||1/2.33 '' CCD sensor|
|Optical zoom||10 x (WIDE)|
|Aspherical glass elements||5|
|Focal length||5.0 - 50.0 mm|
|Focal length (equiv. 35mm)||28 - 280 mm|
|Structure||9 lenses / 6 groups|
|Maximum aperture||3.2 - 5.9|
|Enlargment factor||5 x / 50 x combined with optical zoom|
|Monitor size||6.9 cm / 2.7 ''|
|LCD type||HyperCrystal III LCD|
|Brightness adjustment||+/- 2 levels|
|LCD backlight boost||Yes|
|Method||TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection|
|Face Detection AF||Yes|
|Standard mode||0.5m - ∞ (wide) / 1.0m - ∞ (tele)|
|Makro mode||0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.9m - ∞ (tele)|
|Super Macro mode||Closest focusing distance: 1 cm|
|ESP light metering||Yes|
|Histogram in shooting mode||Yes|
|Enhancement function||Image Stabilisation Mode
Shadow Adjustment Technology
Advanced Face Detection Technology
|Shutter speed||1/4 - 1/2000 s / < 4 s (Night scene)|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps|
|Number of scene modes||14|
|Night Scene with portrait||Yes|
|Beach and Snow||Yes|
|Auto||AUTO / High AUTO Automatically selected|
|Manual||ISO 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|AUTO WB system||Yes|
|Working range (wide)||0.2 - 5.4 m (ISO 800)|
|Working range (tele)||0.9 - 3.0 m (ISO 800)|
|Modes||AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off|
|Sequential shooting mode (high speed)||5 fps / 11 frames (in 3MP mode)|
|Sequential shooting mode||1.0 fps / 21 frames|
|Image Stabilisation Mode||Digital Image Stabilisation|
|Black & White||Yes|
|Attach a calendar||Yes|
|Correction of saturation||Yes|
|Shadow Adjustment Technology||Yes|
|Index||Yes 4, 9, 16, 25 frames|
|Zoom||Yes 1.1 - 10 x|
|Image protect mode||Yes|
|Histogram in playback mode||Yes|
|Frame by frame||Yes|
|Still Image Recording|
|Movie Recording System|
|Recording format||AVI Motion JPEG®|
|Sound recording||Yes , format: WAV|
|Movie quality||640 x 480 / 30 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity (10s with 30fps when xD standard type is used)
640 x 480 / 15 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
320 x 240 / 30 fps Recording time: Up to card capacity
Note: maximum file size 2GB
|Recording format||Wave format|
|Recording length||4 s|
|Internal memory||45 MB|
|12M||3968 x 2976|
|5M||2560 x 1920|
|3M||2048 x 1536|
|2M||1600 x 1200|
|1M||1280 x 960|
|VGA||640 x 480|
|16:9||1920 x 1080|
|Menu languages in camera||39 languages (Japanese, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese (BR + PT), German, Italian, Russian, Czech, Dutch, Danish, Polish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Croatian, Slovenian, Hungarian, Greek, Slovak, Turkish, Latvian, Estonian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, Korean, Simple Chinese, Traditional Chinese,Thai, Arabic, Bulgarian, Romanian, Persian, Indonesian, Hebrew, Malay, Vietnamese)|
|DC input||Yes (CB-MA3 required)|
|Combined A/V & USB output||Yes|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|Mechanical Image Stabilizer||Yes|
|Advanced Face Detection Technology||Yes|
|Perfect Shot Preview||Yes|
|Self timer||12 s|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||96 x 60 x 31 mm|
|Weight||185 g (without battery and card)|