The 'miniaturised optics, maximised brilliance' philosophy of Olympus certainly applies to the new mju 9000, which packs a 10x optical zoom into a body no bigger than that of the average compact camera. And, at around £260, it's pocket-friendly in every sense.
Panasonic kick-started the whole pocket-superzoom idea with its Lumix TZ series, and it's had that particular niche to itself for quite a while. Not any more, though. The 9000 is just as compact as the latest Panasonics and nearly matches them for focal range, too.
The 9000 looks good and feels good. Ours came in black but you can get a blue version too.
The start-up speed is average, but it's surprisingly quick at zooming from one end of its range to the other, and the autofocus is snappy too.
Round the back, there's a crisp and high-contrast LCD that's easier than most to make out in bright daylight, and, next to that, is an unusual, square-shaped navigational controller that lights up briefly with a green glow when you press it. Buttons for the macro mode, EV compensation, flash and self-timer are clearly marked, and you can make other adjustments (white balance, ISO and more) very quickly using the func button in the middle of the controller.
You can have some fun with the 'beauty' mode, too, either when you're shooting or by applying it to photos in playback mode. We've seen other examples of beauty 'fixes' that simply make your pictures look like they were shot through a tub of Vaseline, but Olympus' version works well.
Pictures are bright and vibrant, and they look sharp at both ends of the zoom range. Superzoom lenses typically soften up quite markedly at maximum focal length, but the 9000's is distinctly above average.