The high-zoom compact camera is a relatively new idea, but one which has seen a rise in popularity over the past couple of years. It was Ricoh that first introduced the concept, but most of the other manufacturers now include such cameras in their product line-up, most notably Panasonic with its extremely popular TZ series, which are sold as travel cameras. Olympus is trying a similar sales pitch with today's camera, the new Mju 9000.
Facing a lot of well-established competition the Mju 9000 needs an impressive specification to stand out from the crowd. It features a 12-megapixel sensor, a 10x zoom lens equivalent to 28-280mm, a 2.7-inch wide-view monitor and robust but compact body. It's currently selling for around £240, which is quite expensive compared to its closest competitors, the Ricoh R10 (£170) and the Canon PowerShot SX110 IS (£185). It's considerably cheaper than the Panasonic TZ7 (£305), but remember that camera has a 12x zoom and HD video capability, something which the Olympus lacks.
The Mju 9000 is not a particularly pretty camera, but it is well designed and solidly put together. Physically it's about the same size as the Ricoh R10, and quite a bit smaller and lighter than either the Canon SX110 or Panasonic TZ7. It measures 96 x 60 x 31 mm, and weighs approximately 205g including battery and memory card. The body is made mostly of plastic but feels robust and well made, and the finish, while a bit over-fussy, is at least of a high standard. The shape of the body is easy to hold, with a detail on the front that serves as a finger grip, while the back has a small textured thumbgrip area.