Over the past couple of years long-zoom compacts or “travel cameras” have become one of the most popular categories of digital camera. Olympus' first foray into the long-zoom market was the mju 9000, a well-received 10x zoom 12-megapixel model launched early last year. Olympus has recently launched its successor, the new Mju 9010, retaining the same 10x zoom lens but upgrading the sensor resolution to 14.0 megapixels and adding 720p HD video capability.
The mju 9010 is going to have a lot of competition in what is probably the most hotly contested sector of the digital camera market. All of the main manufacturers has a product in this category, with a wide variety of prices and specifications. The benchmark for long-zoom compacts is of course the Panasonic Lumix TZ10 (£220), but other major rivals include the high-tech Casio EX-FH100 (£245), the superb Samsung WB650 (£200), the feature-packed Sony HX5 (£235), the Canon SX210 IS (£200), the Nikon S8000 (£180), the Ricoh CX4 (£230) and the new Pentax RZ10 (£180). In terms of both price and specification the £202 mju 9010 sits close to the middle of the pack, not a comfortable position if Olympus wants its new camera to make an impression.
What does make a good impression is the mju 9010's appearance. The camera's body has been re-designed, transforming the rather ugly shape of the mju 9000 into a very handsome new style. The body is fractionally thicker at 31.1mm, but smaller in other dimensions, measuring 94 x 57.6mm. It is also quite a bit lighter, weighing 171g including battery and memory card. Although it doesn't share the rugged adventure-proof credentials of its mju-Tough siblings the build quality is very good, with an aluminium shell front and back. It is available in two colours, an anodised black and the metallic champagne finish shown here.