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The camera's performance is pretty brisk. It starts up in well under two seconds and shuts down again just as quickly. In single-shot mode its shot-to-shot time is approximately 1.8 seconds, while in continuous mode it can maintain 1.2 seconds per shot, which may not sound fast but it does adjust focus for each shot, so it works well with moving subjects. There is also a high-speed continuous mode that can shoot at approximately five frames a second, although this is limited to a resolution of three megapixels. Interestingly the specification sheet for the camera states that the continuous shooting modes are limited to seven and eleven frames respectively, but in fact I found that using a faster Type H xD-Picture card meant that the camera would maintain its maximum shooting speed indefinitely. I'm surprised Olympus doesn't mention this.
The autofocus system is very quick and reliable in good light, and works well even in a poorly lit room. However once the light drops to nightclub levels it doesn't cope well, failing to focus at all most of the time. Surprisingly for a premium camera there is no AF assist lamp, and this rather poor performance is going to limit the 1010's appeal as a social snapshot camera. Another low-light problem is the flash, which is poorly metered and produces very inconsistent results.
Image quality is mostly very good. The lens performs well, with no wide-angle barrel distortion or chromatic aberration at all, although it's not the sharpest I've ever seen. Images have an overall softness that robs them of the kind of fine detail that we've come to expect from 10MP compacts. There is also some slight additional blurring in the far corners of the frame, but no worse than may other comparable models. Colour rendition and exposure metering are very good, although the limited dynamic range does result in burned-out highlights on sunny days. Noise control is also good, with acceptable noise levels at 400 ISO, and printable results even at 800 ISO. At the maximum 1600 ISO noise is very visible, but even at this setting colour distortion is fairly minimal.
Whatever the marketing logic behind launching two such similar models, there's no question that the mju 1010 and 1020 are good quality cameras, offering superior zoom range, great handling and decent performance, all in a stylish weather-resistant body. Image quality is generally good in most situations, but poor low light performance and an inferior video mode will limit their appeal as social snapshot cameras.