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Olympus mju 1010 review: Olympus mju 1010

Olympus has always kept its mju series of cameras sleek and skinny -- no mean feat when consumers demand ever bigger lenses and higher resolutions. The mju 1010 is a 10-megapixel style camera with an impressive 7x lens, image stabilisation and face detection. It can be found online now for around £180.

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7.5

Olympus mju 1010

The Good

Long, stabilised 7x lens; large screen; smooth movies.

The Bad

Grainy night shots; tiny, plasticky controls; low on detail.

The Bottom Line

This mighty mju 1010 continues the Olympus tradition of packing great technology (including a stunning, stabilised 7x zoom) into neat, usable cases. Photos aren't quite as impressive as the build, but there's nothing else to complain about in this fun, usable compact

Strengths
With a pedigree in slimline snappers that stretches back to 35mm film, Olympus knows how to put a compact camera together. The mju 1010 combines a metal case with plastic detailing in an impressively solid -- if slightly showy -- wedge-shaped design (25mm thick at its widest point). At the front, a 7x zoom lens reaches from a so-so 37mm wide-angle setting (look for a wider 28mm equivalent if you like taking pictures of open landscapes or buildings) to a handy 260mm telephoto. The CCD-shift stabilisation is very effective too, allowing you to grab blur-free close-ups of distant athletes or wildlife, even in low light. It's best to leave this on all the time as it doesn't affect battery life -- 260 shots per charge -- significantly.

Around the back, you'll be framing and playing back on the 69mm (2.7-inch) LCD. This is well up to Olympus' usual high standards, delivering sharp, vibrant colours in daylight and coping pretty well inside, although it does add a good dollop of grain when light levels drop.

The face-detection system on board is average, working very well with full-face portraits on a plain background, but tending to get confused with multiple subjects, busy backgrounds, hats, glasses and faces at an angle. Shadow adjustment -- to improve detail in shaded areas -- is a handy feature to have, although won't blow you away.

Image quality generally is also good, rather than excellent. Exposure and focus are smart and reliable, but colours are a touch flat and detail at 10 megapixels is less than perfectly crisp. It's fine for a compact without too many creative aspirations, but won't wow anyone used to digital SLRs. Movie clips are confident and smooth, but sadly don't let you use that great zoom lens while filming.

Weaknesses
While the Olympus is generally well-made, its smooth plasticky buttons seem to have been thrown on to the body as an afterthought. The power button is too small -- turning it off can take two or three stabs -- the shutter release is spongy and the less said about the miserable zoom rocker and cheap four-way pad, the better.

Despite that, controlling the 1010 is actually fairly easy, if only because there aren't too many manual or creative features to get you confused. Most of those -- white balance, ISO, image size and quality -- can be tweaked quickly in a one-touch menu, though metering and focusing options are buried a couple of menus deep.

The Olympus isn't especially happy in low light, either. Images show digital 'noise' starting at fairly low sensitivities -- even ISO 200 -- and the built-in flash lacks the power to blast away grainy shadows.

Conclusion
Olympus has done a great job squeezing such a long and well stabilised 7x lens into a body that's still small and neat enough to slip into a handbag (or manbag, fellas). Image quality and handling leave something to be desired, though.

If you're in the market for a slimline, high zoom camera, be sure to also check out Panasonic's 10x zoom TZ4 (8-megapixel) and TZ5 (9-megapixel) cameras, for around the same price.

Edited by Jon Squire