Olympus Mju 9010 Review
Announced at CES 2010, the 14-megapixel, 10x zoom Olympus mju 9010 (also known as the Olympus Stylus 9010) is the new flagship of the mju / Stylus range. Boasting a 28-280mm equivalent zoom lens in a compact body, the range-topping Olympus mju 9010 offers image stabilisation, 720p HD movie recording, an in-camera manual, 2GB of internal memory and SD / SDHC card support. Also on board is an iAuto mode that detects the five most commonly used scenes and adjusts settings automatically. A 2.7-inch rear LCD screen, Advanced Face Detection, AF Tracking, in-camera panorama stitching, Shadow Adjustment Technology and a range of "Magic Filters" round off the features list. Available in Champagne Gold and Midnight Black, the Olympus Stylus 9010 can be yours for £234.99 / $299.99.
Ease of Use
The Olympus mju 9010 (marketed as the Olympus Stylus 9010 in the U.S.A.) is somewhat thicker and heavier than its little sister the Olympus mju 7040 we reviewed last week. It also appears to be sturdier. One of the reasons for the extra weight is the longer zoom, which spans a focal range of 5-50mm, or 28-280mm in old money. In fact the only significant points of difference between the mju 9010 and the mju 7040 are the lens and the LCD screen, with the other differences being largely cosmetic in nature. The user interface and features of the two snappers are so similar that they actually share the same user manual. For this reason, we will use some of the text from our mju 7040 review, except where the two cameras differ from each other.
The front plate is one place where they do. If anything, the faceplate of the Olympus mju 9010 is even more polished and classy than that of the mju 7040. As on that camera, the left half of the front plate is occupied by the Olympus logo and the Greek letter mju, with the slimline flash unit and AF assist lamp sitting above them. The right-hand side of the camera's front is dominated by the lens which retracts fully into the body when not in use but protrudes quite a bit when zoomed to full telephoto. To the right of the lens is a barely noticeable pinprick indicating an on-board microphone. The top panel offers even less in the way of controls, featuring only a small on/off button with a LED power indicator sitting right next to it, and an elongated shutter release.
While the Olympus mju 9010 can be considered a successor to last year's mju 9000, you wouldn't tell that based on the appearance of the rear panel, which has undergone a total design overhaul. The only thing that remains unchanged is the 2.7-inch LCD screen. The layout of the controls to the right of the screen is completely new. Below the zoom buttons - which replace the mju 9000's top-mounted zoom lever - is an all-new movie record button that allows you to start recording a video clip without having to enter a dedicated movie shooting mode beforehand. Further down we find a slim Playback button that can be configured to act as a secondary Power button too - a good idea as you sometimes only want to turn on the camera to review your shots rather than to take new ones, in which case you do not need the lens to extend (and make noise doing so). A half-press of the shutter release takes you (back) to Record mode when you need it. A four-way pad with a centred OK button and an all-new control wheel, plus a Menu and a Camera Guide button round off the controls inventory.
The control wheel encircling the navigation pad may be new to the mju series, but it's not a complete novelty in the camera world. We have seen a fairly good (though not perfect) implementation of it on the Canon Digital IXUS 980 IS of 2008; but on the Olympus mju 9010 it feels redundant and quite pointless, as it does exactly the same thing as the Left/Right buttons in the main shooting menu and the Up/Down buttons in the setup menu and the on-board user's manual. The only use I have found for it is that it allows you to move across captured images in magnified view, making it easier to compare subsequent shots of the same subject in terms of critical sharpness.
Speaking of the Up/Down buttons, there are different functions mapped unto them, which are only accessible when the camera is in Record or Playback mode (i.e. not when it is displaying the Setup menu or the in-camera manual). The Up button cycles through the available information displays in Record as well as Playback mode. These include no info, restricted info and full info. In Record mode, the latter means all shooting menu icons plus a shooting grid and a very useful live histogram, whereas in Playback mode it comprises a thumbnail image, a luminance histogram and detailed shooting data. The Down button gives you quick access to the main shooting menu in Record mode, while it acts as an erase button in Playback.
The oft-mentioned main shooting menu offers up a set of user adjustable shooting variables, including the shooting mode - P, iAuto, Scene, Magic, Panorama and Beauty - and a range of other settings. These are limited to the flash mode and the self-timer in iAuto mode, while the full set - available in P mode - includes the macro mode, exposure compensation, white balance, ISO sensitivity and drive mode as well. The other shooting modes offer varying degrees of user control that fall between these two extremes.
The last icon is invariably a >> sign, which takes you to the setup menu. It is here that you can adjust the file quality settings, the autofocus mode, the metering mode, the Shadow Adjustment feature - which lifts the shadows in a photo taken in contrasty light -, the image stabiliser, the video settings and a number of less frequently accessed items. The setup menu is always accessible, regardless of which shooting mode you are in, but you sometimes get a "Conflicting Settings" message if you want to change something, without the camera bothering to elaborate on what settings it thinks are in conflict and why.
Overall, I have found the menu system of the Olympus mju 9010 more straightforward to use than that of the earlier models in the mju / Stylus series, but a bit slow for my taste. Accessing the setup menu is a notably sluggish affair, as is toggling between Record and Playback. And I really missed a one-button shortcut to exposure compensation - it takes way too many button presses and too much time to get to this important function. In this respect, the previous model's otherwise less attractive user interface worked better. I also find it a bit frustrating that you cannot pick an AF point manually - you either entrust the camera with this task (in iESP mode) or use the central AF point only. There is a third auto-focus mode as well, called AF Tracking, but I did not find it particularly useful - an elderly person walking slowly toward the camera was enough to cause the focus system headaches.
Some of the mju 9010's features are worth expanding upon. These include the four Magic Filters - Pop Art, Pinhole, Fish-eye and Drawing -, the Beauty and the Panorama modes, as well as the video mode. Olympus' Magic Filters made their début on the E-30 digital SLR camera of 2008 under the name "Art Filters". That's what Olympus still calls them when they appear in a DSLR or Micro Four Thirds camera, but ever since the introduction of the mju Tough 6010, they have been calling them Magic Filters on their compacts. The Olympus mju 9010 has the same Magic Filters as the mju 7040, and they work the same way as on that model. To wit, the Pop Art filter boosts saturation and contrast, the Pinhole filter alters the colours somewhat and adds a very obvious vignetting effect, the Fish-eye filter causes straight lines to bend outwards as if the picture was shot with a fish-eye lens (it does not recreate the ultra-wide angle of view though), while Drawing does exactly what it says on the tin and converts your photos into black-and white drawings.
The Beauty mode, first seen in last year's Olympus mju Tough 8000, is an on-board solution to touch up portraits. In this mode, you take a picture of a person, then the camera identifies the face and tries to remove blemishes and other minor imperfections, giving the skin a smooth look in the process. The resulting image is then saved alongside the original. Alas, the whole hocus-pocus takes way too long, and renders your camera useless until it's over.
|Battery Compartment||Memory Card Slot|
The mju 9010's Panorama mode is more interesting, at least on paper. There are three options on offer, including Auto, Manual and PC. In Auto mode, you only have to press the shutter release once. After that, all you need to do is move the camera to the next position, so that the target marks and pointers overlap, and the camera automatically releases the shutter for you. Three frames can be taken this way, which are then combined into a single panoramic image automatically in camera. The problem with this mode is that it's almost impossible to stop moving the camera exactly when the target marks and pointers overlap, which ultimately results in image blur and poor-quality stitching. In Manual mode, you can also take three frames with the help of an on-screen guide, but you have to release the shutter manually. After that, the camera stitches the frames as above. Finally, in PC mode, you can take up to 10 photos, which can be stitched using the supplied [ib] software after being downloaded to the computer.
One feature offered by the Olympus mju 9010 that wasn't present in the mju 9000 is the ability to shoot 720p high-definition movies. As mentioned earlier, you can begin filming at any time by pressing the dedicated movie record button on the back of the camera. The video settings can be adjusted beforehand via the setup menu. The options are limited to resolution (720p, VGA or QVGA) and quality (Fine or Normal). You can also tell the camera whether or not to record sound along with the footage, and whether or not to provide image stabilisation. If you opt to turn off the sound recording, you can use the optical zoom while filming, and the camera will refocus on the fly as needed (though not terribly quickly, might I add). If you want video with sound, you need to give up the ability to zoom while recording a movie, and focus will also be fixed at the beginning of the clip (sometimes at the wrong setting, which results in blurry footage). Videos are compressed using the H.264 codec and stored in MPEG-4 format. The Olympus mju 9010 has an HDMI port that allows users to play back their movies on an HDTV.
A big novelty on the mju 9010 - and all Olympus models in the Class of 2010 - is the presence of an SD card slot. While Olympus offered SD card support for its Micro Four Thirds cameras from day one, it had hitherto stuck with xD-Picture cards in its compacts. It appears that xD is officially dead now, though owners of older Olympus compacts wishing to trade up can probably use their existing xD-Picture cards via an adapter. New owners have the choice of getting an optional SD or SDHC card - strangely enough, SDXC memory cards are not supported - or rely on the mju 9010's generous 2GB built-in memory. Just remember that while 2GB is plenty for stills, it may prove inadequate if you plan on shooting a lot of high-definition video.
The Olympus mju 9010 is powered by a proprietary Li-ion battery that shares its compartment with the memory card. You can charge the battery in the supplied mains charger or in camera, via USB. If you - like me - tend to "chimp" a lot, do not expect the battery to last very long. Getting a spare is definitely a good idea.
This concludes our evaluation of the Olympus mju 9010's ergonomics, handling and feature set. Let us now move on to the image quality assessment!
All of the sample images in this Review were taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 5.5Mb.
During the test, the Olympus mju 9010 produced images of distinctly better quality than its little sister the mju 7040. At most focal lengths and subject distances, the lens was noticeably sharper, especially off centre, where the 7040's 7x zoom often struggled. Packing 14 million pixels on a tiny-tiny sensor took its toll on the signal-to-noise ratio, however, with noise creeping in even at the lowest sensitivity settings. The company's Shadow Adjustment Technology produced a more subdued effect than on the mju 7040, which is a good thing. The night shot came out okay, but the camera is very reluctant to use truly slow shutter speeds, which is why it is not the ideal tool for night photography. The Magic Filters are fun, though of limited actual use.
In P mode you can set the ISO speed yourself, while in the other shooting modes, the camera picks the right sensitivity setting at its own discretion. The Olympus mju 9010 shows a degree of self-restraint by stopping at ISO 1600 (some earlier Olympus compacts offered speeds of up to ISO 10,000) - unfortunately, it's still too much for the tiny, pixel-packed sensor to handle. For the most part, ISO 200 is OK and ISO 400 is usable, but sometimes you can easily see noise at the lowest settings too. 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)
The Olympus mju 9010's lens offers a very versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.
The Olympus mju 9010 shoots JPEG only, and the available file quality settings are Fine and Normal. We have included a couple of 100% crops for you to see what the quality is like.
14M Fine (100% Crop)
14M Normal (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 images are a little soft at the default sharpening setting. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9010 handled chromatic aberrations well during the review, with only limited purple fringing seen along contrasty edges, as shown in the example below.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9010 has both a Macro and a Supermacro mode, albeit the zoom can only be used in the former. The shot below demonstrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case, a CompactFlash card. (In fact you can get even closer than that but lighting the subject becomes an issue beyond this point.) We have included a 100% crop from the centre of the frame to show you what the sharpness is like.
The available flash settings include Auto, Fill-In, Redeye Reduction and Off. These shots of a white ceiling were taken at a subject distance of 1m.
Flash Off - Wide Angle (28mm)
Flash On - Wide Angle (28mm)
Flash Off - Telephoto (280mm)
Flash On - Telephoto (280mm)
And here are some self-portraits. Redeye was not a real problem with the Olympus mju 9010 in this test. Of slightly more concern is the autofocus performance, which is somewhat hit-and-miss in low light.
|On (100% Crop)|
Red-eye Reduction (100% Crop)
The Olympus mju 9010 is not particularly well suited to night photography. In P mode, the slowest shutter speed is just ¼ of a second, which is why I took the night shot below in the Night Scene mode, in which the 9010 chose a shutter speed of 4 seconds at ISO 100. That is the absolute slowest shutter speed the camera is capable of, so if you are seriously interested in night photography, the mju 9010 is probably not the camera for you. We have included a 100% crop to show what the quality is like.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
Shadow Adjustment Technology or SAT is Olympus' solution to lifting the shadows in a contrasty scene, without blowing out the highlights. On the mju 9010, the effect was more subdued than on the 7040, which is a good thing.
The Olympus mju 9010 has four Magic Filters, including Pop Art, Pinhole, Fish-eye and Drawing. These examples demonstrate what each filter does.
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus Mju 9010 camera, which were all taken using the 14 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 / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Front of the Camera
|Memory Card Slot|
The Olympus mju 9010 has left us with a more favourable impression than its little sister the Olympus mju 7040, chiefly because of its better lens and more robust build. Although a longer zoom typically means more compromises in the optical department, the mju 9010's 28-280mm lens actually exhibits better off-centre sharpness than the 7x zoom of the mju 7040 at all common focal lengths, and suffers from noticeably less vignetting. This makes for better image quality, an area that was something of a let down with the cheaper model.
Of course image quality on a digital camera does not depend solely on the lens. The sensor found in these cameras is the same tiny, pixel-packed 14-megapixel imager, which remains a limiting factor in the mju 9010 too. Noise can often be discerned at the lowest sensitivity settings, while noise reduction takes its toll on photos taken at higher ISOs.
As regards the user interface, the same observations we made when reviewing the mju 7040 apply. For the most part, the revamped user interface works well, but menu navigation still feels too slow at times, and certain important functions like exposure compensation take too many button presses and too much time to access and set. I also find it a bit frustrating that you cannot select an AF point manually.
Obviously, those trading up from a camera phone or a run-of-the-mill 3x or 4x zoom compact will still admire the extra opportunities the Olympus mju 9010 presents them with, while managing to remain small and fairly light. This and the camera's admirable lens performance have ultimately led us to award it with a 'Recommended' rating.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||3.5|
|Effective pixels||14 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Full resolution||14.5 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|
|Enlargement factor||5 x / 50 x combined with optical zoom|
|Monitor size||6.9 cm / 2.7 ''|
|LCD type||HyperCrystal II|
|Brightness adjustment||+/- 2 levels|
|Method||TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection|
|Modes||iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking|
|Standard mode||0.5m - ∞ (wide) / 1.0m - ∞ (tele)|
|Makro mode||0.1m - ∞ (wide) / 0.9m - ∞ (tele)|
|Super Macro mode||Closest focusing distance: 1 cm|
|Modes||ESP light metering, Spot metering|
|Histogram in shooting mode||Yes|
|Modes||i-Auto, Programme automatic, Scene Modes, Magic Filter, Panorama, Beauty, Movie|
|Enhancement function||Mechanical Image Stabilizer
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|
|Modes||Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet|
|Auto||AUTO / High AUTO Automatically selected|
|Manual||ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200|
|AUTO WB system||Yes|
|Preset values||Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1, Flourescent 2, Flourescent 3|
|Working range (wide)||0.3 - 3.1 m (ISO 100) 12.5 m (ISO 1600)|
|Working range (tele)||1.8 - 2.2 m (ISO 200) 4.4 m (ISO 800)|
|Modes||AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off|
|Sequential shooting mode (high speed)||10 fps / (in 3MP mode)|
|Sequential shooting mode||0.7 fps / 2 frames (Full Image Size)|
|Black & White||Yes|
|Attach a calendar||Yes|
|Correction of saturation||Yes|
|Index||Yes 4x3 / 6x5 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|
|Image Stabilisation Mode||Digital Image Stabilisation|
|Movie quality||720P Recording time:
VGA Recording time: no limit
QVGA Recording time: no limit
Note: maximum file size 4GB
|Sound Recording System|
|Sound recording||Yes , format: AAC|
|Recording format||Wave format|
|Image footage||4 s|
|Internal memory||2 GB|
|14M||4288 x 3216|
|8M||3264 x 2448|
|5M||2560 x 1920|
|3M||2048 x 1536|
|2M||1600 x 1200|
|1M||1280 x 960|
|VGA||640 x 480|
|16:9||4288 x 2416
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)|
|Perfect Shot Preview||Yes|
|Self timer||2 / 12 s|
|Battery||LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery|
|DC input||Yes (CB-MA3 required)|
|Combined A/V & USB output||Yes|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|Dimensions (W x H x D)||94.0 x 57.6 x 31.1 mm|
|Weight||171 g (including battery and memory card)|