Dec 072012
 

The Ultimate Film Compact: The Olympus mju II

By Illya Reddy

I’d love to tell about the camera I have deep feelings for – legendary film point-and-shoot Olympus mju II (a.k.a. Stylus Epic). This summer I began to shoot film (i described my first impressions here http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2012/08/09/my-little-road-trip-by-illya-reddy/). This experience was un-forgetful, so I decided not to give it up. Following my friend’s advice I bought myself a mju II. And yet I would never exchange it for any other film camera. This is my world’s best camera #1. Let me explain why this camera got such a special place in my heart.

Size

To say that “This camera is small” means to say nothing. When I first got my hands on Olympus mju II it was hard to believe one could fit a roll of film in it. The shape is just right, the lens covering doesn’t open when you put camera in jeans’ pocket. Nevertheless the price you have to pay for compact body is ergonomics. It is not very easy to hold it with one hand and not to cover the lens with your finger. But I have gotten used to it, so hopefully everybody will.

Lens

The main point of mju II is fixed 35mm f/2.8 lens. They managed to fix this beautiful sharp technology masterpiece in such a tiny body. Focal length is just right for me – not too tele (like 50mm would be), not too wide (like 28mm would be). F/2.8 is not that large aperture, but for the lens this size it is great result. At f/2.8 images are a bit soft in the corners but when it stops down a little bit images are sharp edge to edge.

Automatic camera

Aperture and shutter speed are not manually adjustable, unfortunately. But good news is great metering system, I had no problems with camera under- or overexposing shots. AF is pretty fast, and it is MultiAF, so there is more than one AF point (I believe there are 3 of them, but I’m not sure). Nevertheless it does not misses focus sometimes, but it doesn’t happen often. Also you can use central metering mode (I believe in this mode both metering and AF use only the central point) and it actually works well. But you have to turn this mode on every time you turn on the camera, which is not easy at all: it requires pressing two buttons at the same time. Flash always resets to auto mode and if you want to be sure it won’t fire you need to turn it off every time you restart the camera.

Price

Price is quite reasonable. You can find it on e-bay for ~60$ if you are lucky as I was you’ll find it for 10-20$. Price looks even nicer when comparing to its main competitors’ price tags: Yashica T4, Contax G2 – these film compact cameras are also famous for their 35mm lenses, but they are much more expensive.

Not a perfect camera – that’s for sure. But if you manage with its quirks Olympus mju II will serve you faithfully. For me it is a perfect film camera: I just load it with 1$ expired film and grab it with me in any kind of tough places or just whenever I’m in a mood to shoot film. It does the job!
Thanks for reading!
My flickr page
My page on Momentum’s website

 

 

  46 Responses to “The Ultimate Film Compact: The Olympus mju II by Illya Reddy”

  1. Hi Illya, A great little camera indeed. I had one for several years. At many times I couldn’t tell the difference in picture quality between my Canon analog slr or the Olympus mju II. Even shot a few concerts with standing front stage. In 2002/2003 my work with a ferry company came to an end(a 6km tunnel now…) and I got an assignment to make photographs on the work-floor. In many occasions I pick the Olympus mju II as my camera of choice. ‘Fullframe’ in the palm of your hand. At one day I had bad luck and drop the camera into deep water :-( Doesn’t it have spot metering as well. Not sure anymore.

    Enjoy shooting with your mju II

    Greetings Ronald

  2. I had one that I loved, but alas it was stolen out of my trunk a few years ago. Good spotlight of a cult favorite. The lens is on par with any of the great compacts of the end of the film era and the speed and size make it a great street shooter. The lack of manual control is the ONLY flaw.

  3. I remember that camera, faithful companion of family holidays when I was young(er).

  4. That’s $60 well spent! All power to your elbow Illya, just keep shooting

  5. I love this little camera but there is one major problem : the flash. The camera cannot remember flash settings and it’s difficult to shut down auto flash it in bad light conditions (tiny buttons). That my only grief but its a big problem IMHO.

  6. Nice post. Small P&S film cameras are the perfect go anywhere camera that produces great quality photos. I’ve been loving my Contax T3!

  7. Yeah it’s a decent camera, not used mine in ages. Have to say that the XA2 is (for me) a far, far better camera for discreet shooting with an almost silent shutter snick, manual wind on, great manual zone focusing and folds into itself for super easy pocketability. Plus you can pick them up for under £20 easily. :)

  8. Enjoyed your comments and nice of Steve to publish it. I have it’s cousin, the Pentax UC-1 which is always in my car and have taken some great shots with it. The lucky ones that come along unexpectedly when the heavy gear is the bag and out of reach.

  9. I fell in love with photography because of this camera, it was in 1997 or 1998 I think. The exposure and the optical quality made me buy my very first SLR… but then I came back to the Mju: II for its size. The must is that the viewfinder is even way better than the one on the Leica Minilux.
    Anyway, I also wrote some posts about it three years ago on my blog : HERE
    ;)

  10. I had one for a few years until it died just as I started my first big overseas tour. Often it is only later you realise how good something was. Of course I could put the same “sensor” in it as any pro with his SLR. The beauty of film. Usually used Fuji film ASA 400.

  11. This little camera is great. Do you know that : Helmut Newton was also an adept ! (I remember photos he took with it, that have been published in some magazines). Perhaps in 10 years a digital equivalent. Perhaps in 20 years a digital equivalent at the same price :-)

    • I now have the equivalent (and then some). Fuji X100. Costs way more but try shooting film at ISO 3200.

      • X100 is bigger, much more expensive, with a slower AF, and it’s not a full frame ! But you’re right, feelings should be relatively close.

      • Some of my best film photos have been with 3200 film, and without digital noise. Film grain and digital noise are not the same thing.

  12. Thank you for this. I restarted photography with digital in early 2010. Then I got interested in B&W and thought it would be fun to try film. I have a the predecessor to your camera, a mju I (one) with a 3.5 lens which I bought new in the early nineties. I put an Ilford 400 ASA film in it a year ago and finally finished the roll a few weeks ago. I had it scanned – not particularly high resolution it turns out – and have been stunned by the qulity of the results. So I was very interested to see and read how you’d done with its successor. It won’t be the last time I take this little wonder for a run – after all it’s full frame by digital standards !? – and next time I won’t just be trying it on!
    Thanks to Steve for including this and similar posts.

  13. What strange coincidences. I’m currently in the hunt for one if these (called the stylus epic in the US) as I’m looking for a quality compact film camera to add to my collection of dslr, slr and m43 cameras. One that I can keep in my bag along with my favorites at all times. Been watching a lot if reviews and have settled in this little bad boy. Your shots prove my thought is correct! Great images and welcome review!
    Thanks.

  14. This article brings back good memories. I still have my Stylus Epic. One day I’ll dust it off and shoot a roll of film. My original carry-around camera was a Yashica T4 Super which, in my opinion had better contrast- and included a waist level finder. You could turn the camera upside down to take photos over people’s heads. It was great until I lost it on vacation.

  15. I used to sell a ton of these in the 90′s when I worked at a camera store. It makes one wonder why they can’t make a same size digital with a full frame sensor.

    • Memory and processing power requirements drive body size almost as much as the lens mount. This camera is smaller than most, if not all M4/3 cameras. Though the new EPL5 is getting close.

  16. Great shots! Mid/Higher end film P&S have a definite photographic style, especially the ones released in the late 90′s early 2000′s. I’m a supporter of the Yashica/Kyocera T4 Zoom as greatest film P&S of all time, the lens on that camera is superb.

  17. Nice review!

    I recently gave mine away to Goodwill! Found it in the sock drawer, had not been used in years. Fond memories though. I had replaced it with a Contax T3, which was a stunning camera. I recently sold that, in a day on Craigslist, for $700. This after a famous camera shop said it was worth $0…

    The huge advantage the Olympus had over the Contax was that I used it and abused it, and did not worry about it. It had little dents and nicks but still worked great. My Contax I babied…

    The best camera is the one that you have with you.

  18. Yes great camera. I still have mine. Sold back in it’s day for $89 US if I remember correctly. The XA mentioned in a comment was also great.

    ej

  19. Great images and a great camera. I have a Yashica T5 which I love.
    These small film compacts are such fun!
    The quality I get from mine always astounds me.

  20. Lovely stuff indeed. Bizarrely I had just dug out my old Olympus AF-10 Super and stuck a couple of AAA batteries in before reading this. There was a film in it with a couple of shots exposed – no idea what they are at all!
    I liked the AF-10 because the flash is set by a simple slider under the lens at the front. Closing the cover mechanically resets it to auto, but it’s 1/2 a second’s job to change that. It comes with a 35mm f3.5 lens as well, and it went everywhere with me in the 90s. Took some pretty nice shots too, as I recall, until it was replaced with an EOS 300.

  21. Thanks for the post. This was the first camera I ever bought. It was my faithful companion on a number of great trips so triggers feelings of nostalgia every time I see it in a drawer (which is where it now lives). I am not sure why people think it is such a technological achievement for Sony to fit a full frame sensor into the RX1 – film compacts like the mju II beat Sony to it by about 20 years (not criticizing the RX1 – I am sure it is a great camera).

  22. Love the photo of the cat, really nice composition and colours.

    Contax g system is worth a look, the f2 45mm planar is out of this world good and as well as using the lenses on a g1 or g2 film body you can use it on your micro four thirds, NEX or fuji system. It’s super sharp and renders colours beautifully. Here are a couple of examples pairing the 45mm with the Panasonic g3 where it comfortably out resolves the 16 megapixel sensor even wide open:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daniel_came/7973561740/in/photostream
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/daniel_came/8161862207/in/photostream

  23. This was my wife’s favorite camera when she was young. Great to see that somebody is still using it.

  24. I also have a Mju II and I recently bought a G2.. both are awesome cameras, but the compact size of the Mju and it’s lightness allows me to carry it every day.. awesome camera, great lens and auto mode.. I just don’t like the flash modes (and apparently I’m not the only one!)

    I wrote a small piece about my Mju, but it’s in portuguese.. (you can see the pictures, anyway!)
    http://brunocstreet.tumblr.com/post/34090480736

    • It’s great because of it simplicity: open , frame, and press the shutter release. I have mine to my dad for his trip to India about 5 years ago and it was the only camera I took to there in 1999.
      However, it’s noisy, soft and vignettes at f2.8, and the program defaults to f2.8 until about EV about 11?
      There are better film cameras and I get better results from my canon s100 in a smaller size. However, the s100 can’t shoot velvia!
      I’d take it as a back up to my backup camera.

  25. Lovely photos. I think my favorite camera of all time was the Olympus XA. Just brilliant and tiny, and fun to use (I’m a rangefinder guy).

  26. I still use mine occasionally. May be worth pointing out that it is a properly weatherproof camera, unlike many digital compacts.

  27. It’s good to see this little masterpiece come up here. I have it from when it was new 12 or 13 years ago.
    The lens is very, very sharp. Comparable to my Nikon primes.

    How ever the weakness of this camera is the metering, the original mju/epic (the one with 35/3.5) is much more accurate on metering on complex subject. Olympus called it “ESP” metering, supposed to work like matrix metering. But the original mju with center weighted (if I’m not wrong), is much better.

  28. Nice article Illya! It’s great when a camera starts to feel less like a tool and more like something you have a personal bond with, something you enjoy despite of (or even because of) it’s quirks! No camera is perfect I agree, but it’s good you’ve found one you’re this fond of!

    Great photos, the portrait in B&W is wonderful and even has nice subject separation. Olympus lenses in their compact cameras are in my opinion the best around, and have a distinctive signature. I have a couple of Olympus Trip 35s that always surprise and amaze me with their sharpness and clarity.

    Keep taking great pics and enjoying the camera!

    James

  29. I have a soft spot for Olympus. My first ‘proper’ camera was a OM10…I like compacts too and own a few Olympus versions! So easy to slip into your pocket and always ready to go. I’ve never owned the Mju but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it. Happy shooting! P.s I like to see that that dog is using the Zebra Crossing :-)

  30. Olympus XA is the street photographers choice. Also, it is about $25 on ebay

  31. Oh.. I love the size and lens of that camera, but the one I had could NEVER focus correctly, the focus was always in front of the subject or behind the subject. I tried so many different compositions to make it work, but it never focused where I wanted.. So, it ended up in the trash.

  32. I didn´t work for decades with these little Cameras – just because 35mm Lenses were never
    my favourite and I was not able to see the correct deep of field.
    The Yashica T5 I own was perfectly made for Snapshots and the Autofocus was quite good enough
    for most of the things you like tho photograph on a journey.
    This little Zeiss Lens was awsome sharp and should blow up some digital Brains even today when
    you load some modern Kodak Ektar Films !!

  33. Great little camera, served me well for years, must dig it out again some time.

  34. Thank you for this post, I have just bought a limited edition of this camera and looking forward to having fun with it.

  35. Trerrific little beast, this Mju. Just bought another one for EUR 25 here in Holland and looking forward to the pictures again. Metering was just fine with te old one. The flash, well …. I have a routine to switch it of immediately after opening the lensdoor.

    Good shooting everyone!

  36. Just out of curiosity, what films were used for the pictures above? I like the color rendering of the last one.

  37. Hi Illya, Love your photos.

    I have a mju2 which is in good working order and which I don’t use anymore, I would love to pass it on to someone who would appreciate it. Let me know if you would like to swap it for some of your prints.

    Sue

  38. I just got one from a garage sale for $5 :) i knew that I have read about this camera and this was the post. Just came back to say, i’m so lucky to get one :)

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