(Pocket-lint) - Olympus has launched a 12-megapixel 10x optical zoom compact in the guise of the Mju 9000 but should you bother? We get zooming to find out.

Like the Canon SX200, which actually sports a 12x optical zoom instead of 10, the Olympus is a chunky monkey. Don't get us wrong, it's still a compact, but it is surprising how much that zoom lens makes a difference to the thickness of the model.

The front is dominated by a large protruding lens and for those that are wondering that equates to around a 28-280mm for a 35mm camera. The top sports the on/off and shutter buttons as well as a zoom toggle forced off the back probably due to lack of space.

Although the lower rated Mju 7000 has a 3-inch screen, here you get a 2.7-inch HyperCrystal View screen with the controls crammed in next to it on the left.

Like the Mju Tough-6000, the experience is rather fiddly. Admitted there are less buttons, but there are still too many for our liking. Fat fingered photographers won't be too pleased. If it's not a tiny dial to select the camera modes it's a glow in the dark see-through d-pad.

To add to it all there are buttons that unless you press them will give you no idea what's what. I get that disp means display but what about "?" or "OR", who knows? Okay so we could read the manual, but why should we do that?

The bottom sees a locked battery and xD-Picture card slot. Olympus has bundled a mircoSD xD-Picture card adapter in the box, so you can plug your microSD card into the xD-Picture card jacket and use that in your camera, rather than forking out for what is practically a dead format.

Get past the details of the design and the camera offers a 12 megapixels, that 10x optical zoom plus the usual feature set of dual image stabilisation (both digital and optical), shadow adjustment, face detection technology, Intelligent Auto Mode and video capture.

In use and its all fairly easy to understand, the menu system isn't as straightforward as some but it shouldn't cause you too many issues.

As for camera's performance, on the whole it's probably best described as average. We found that the camera tended to wash out colours; the yellow sign for example in our test shots is a very bright yellow in real life and here it's a bit washed out. Likewise we noticed purple fringing on images when there was plenty of detail in the shot (see the flowers). Noise wasn't as much of an issue as we expected it to be, there are 12 million pixels crammed on to a very small sensor, however at higher ISO levels it could be an issue.

So what's it like compared to the competition? Compared to the Nikon S620 you do get the extra 3x optical zoom, however we preferred the overall picture quality of the Nikon. We haven't yet tested the SX200 from Canon fully here at Pocket-lint so can't rate it against the Mju 9000, but from an early play it's certainly something to bear in mind.


So what's the final feeling? Well the Olympus offers a good zoom and some nice features, however we weren't overly impressed with the image quality or the button layout on the rear of the camera.

Images seemed flat when reproduced, and although our test day was on the overcast side in terms of weather, even the bit of sun we did get didn't lift our spirits or image colour that much.

So what's the suggestion? If you aren't too fussed by the long zoom but want something with a little more oomph when it comes to pictures, the Nikon S620 might be the better bet, either that or wait a couple of weeks and will see if the SX200 is as good as Canon promises.

Writing by Stuart Miles.