The Olympus µ[mju:]-ii is one of my favourite cameras. It is not without faults, but is quite an innovative bit of kit – They often sell for quite a bit though I got mine for a fiver I think, maybe even less…

About

The Olympus µ[mju:]-ii was produced in 1997 and won a number of awards for design and features. The Mju ii – also known as the ∞ Stylus Epic in the US was obviously the second in the line, which continued with a number of variations with various zoom lengths and so on.

Cobbles - Olympus Mju-ii and Fujicolor C200
Cobbles – Olympus Mju-ii and Fujicolor C200

It is a sleek small design, which manages to be both angular and curved at the same time, it fits easily into a pocket and is light and quick to use. It has a built in flash, a sliding lens cover, and on the rear is an LCD panel with two buttons which control the flash and the timer/remote, and a further two for the date function.

Some innovative features are the splashproof exterior (it is rumoured to dry out pretty well even if it has got water inside it), and the fact that pressing the two buttons together activate a spot metering function.

It has 6 flash modes – Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Off, Fill-in, Night Scene, Red-eye Reduction Night Scene – though sadly the flash is one of its weak points, as auto seems to translate as on, except in the brightest conditions, and closing the shutter resets whatever settng you did have back to auto. However, the Night Scene is lovely, a slow sync which meters for the background and fires the flash which combined with a slow shutter speed of up to 4 seconds is very nice indeed.  The flash also has ‘colour balancing’ which I am not quite sure about – I guess this reads the colour of the ambient light and changes that of the flash, though I have not found out anywhere how this actually works. The flash range is listed as 4.1m at ISO 100, 5.8m at ISO 200 and 8.2m at ISO 400.

Outside Remedy - Olympus Mju-ii and Tudorcolor 200
Outside Remedy – Olympus Mju-ii and Tudorcolor 200

The lens is a standard 35mm offering, but with a wide aperture of f/2.8, constructed of 4 elements in 4 groups. Unfortunately though, this is the second negative point as the lens is often set wide open via a very aggressive shutter speed priority. Close focus is 1.1m and there are parallax correction marks in the viewfinder for this distance.

The autofocus has three points, which prioritize the closest one if more than one is locked to a suitable subject. In spot metering mode only the central one of these is used. These correspond to a line across the viewfinder frame. If none of these is activated infinity focus is set.

Exposure

Antique & Classic Cameras provides a comprehensive discussion of the Mju ii’s exposure, based on his tests and some information gleaned from the repair manual. Basically, he notes that with ISO 100 film, you will never get the aperture smaller than f/8, and anything under EV10 is likely to be shot at f/2.8 where sadly much of the sharpness of what could be a very sharp lens is lost.

Extrapolating from the information provided we can create the following exposure table:

ISO EV Conditions Aperture Shutter Notes
50 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 4 1
2 Lightning f/2.8 4
3 Fireworks f/2.8 2
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 1
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 ½
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 ¼
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/2.8 1/8
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/2.8 1/15
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/2.8 1/30 2
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/2.8 1/60
11 Deep shade f/2.8 1/125
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/4 1/125
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/4 1/250
14 Weak hazy sun f/5.6 1/250
15 Bright  hazy sun f/5.6 1/500
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/8 1/500
17 Rarely found in nature f/8 1/1000
100 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 4
2 Lightning f/2.8 2
3 Fireworks f/2.8 1
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 ½
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 ¼
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 1/8
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/2.8 1/15
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/2.8 1/30
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/2.8 1/60
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/2.8 1/125
11 Deep shade f/4 1/125
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/4 1/250
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/5.6 1/250
14 Weak hazy sun f/5.6 1/500
15 Bright  hazy sun f/8 1/500
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/8 1/1000
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000
200 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 2
2 Lightning f/2.8 1
3 Fireworks f/2.8 ½
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 ¼
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 1/8
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 1/15
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/2.8 1/30
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/2.8 1/60
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/2.8 1/125
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/4 1/125
11 Deep shade f/4 1/250
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/5.6 1/250
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/5.6 1/500
14 Weak hazy sun f/8 1/500
15 Bright  hazy sun f/8 1/1000
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/11 1/1000
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000 3
400 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 1
2 Lightning f/2.8 ½
3 Fireworks f/2.8 ¼
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 1/8
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 1/15
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 1/30
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/2.8 1/60
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/2.8 1/125
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/4 1/125
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/4 1/250
11 Deep shade f/5.6 1/250
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/5.6 1/500
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/8 1/500
14 Weak hazy sun f/8 1/1000
15 Bright  hazy sun f/11 1/1000
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/11 1/1000 3
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000 4
800 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 ½
2 Lightning f/2.8 ¼
3 Fireworks f/2.8 1/8
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 1/15
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 1/30
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 1/60
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/2.8 1/125
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/4 1/125
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/4 1/250
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/5.6 1/250
11 Deep shade f/5.6 1/500
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/8 1/500
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/8 1/1000
14 Weak hazy sun f/11 1/1000
15 Bright  hazy sun f/11 1/1000 3
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/11 1/1000 4
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000 5
1600 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 ¼
2 Lightning f/2.8 1/8
3 Fireworks f/2.8 1/15
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 1/30
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 1/60
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/2.8 1/125
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/4 1/125
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/4 1/250
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/5.6 1/250
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/5.6 1/500
11 Deep shade f/8 1/500
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/8 1/1000
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/11 1/1000
14 Weak hazy sun f/11 1/1000 3
15 Bright  hazy sun f/11 1/1000 4
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/11 1/1000 5
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000 6
3200 1 Distant Skyline f/2.8 1/8
2 Lightning f/2.8 1/15
3 Fireworks f/2.8 1/30
4 Candle lit close ups, under streetlights f/2.8 1/60
5 Night home interiors f/2.8 1/125
6 Fairs, amusement parks f/4 1/125
7 Bright night time streets, stage shows f/4 1/250
8 Bright city squares, bright fluorescent lit interiors f/5.6 1/250
9 Landscapes 10 minutes after sunset f/5.6 1/500
10 Landscapes immediately after sunset f/8 1/500
11 Deep shade f/8 1/1000
12 Open shade, heavy overcast f/11 1/1000
13 Cloudy Bright – no shadows f/11 1/1000 2
14 Weak hazy sun f/11 1/1000 3
15 Bright  hazy sun f/11 1/1000 5
16 Bright sun – sand or snow f/11 1/1000 6
17 Rarely found in nature f/11 1/1000 7
Notes:1) One stop under exposed2) With a small light camera and focal length of 35mm the camera could start closing the aperture here

3) One stop over exposed

4) Two stops over exposed

5) Three stops over exposed

6) Four stops over exposed

7) Five stops over exposed

Like many point and shoot cameras, the Mju ii does not read fractional film speeds. Films speeds are read as follows, which prioritizes over exposure as most films perform better and have more latitude over exposed:

Film Speed ISO Set
25, 32, 40 25
50, 64, 80 50
100, 125, 160 100
200, 250, 320 200
400, 500, 640 400
800, 1000, 1250 800
1600, 2000, 2500 1000
3200, 4000, 5000 3200

Tips and tricks

To shoot sharp in decent light use ISO 400 film. Anything less and the lens won’t stop down beyond f/8.

The camera can handle low light, but it is not a low light camera. If you have a very steady hand you would just about shoot inside with no flash and ISO 200 film (at 1/8s), certainly at ISO 400 (1/15s) as the camera is so light.

Using ISO 1600 or 3200 film, you can shoot night street shots with no flash quite easily, but remember you will be at f/2.8 – but this is the same as any camera handheld.

Anything ISO 800 and above could over expose bright scenes outside.

Where this camera probably excels is shooting a close subject with a blurred background – the classic shallow depth of field effect. With the preferred wide aperture, and the spot metering capabilities this camera is perfect for this technique – I think this may be a part of the aim, to make snapshots of people look good!

Make sure that the focus has locked before taking the shot – it is easy to press the shutter all the way too quick and this can very easily result in blurred shots with the limited depth of field from the wide aperture.

Watch for red-eye. The flash is so close to the lens it is very likely, and the red eye reduction mode takes so long before it takes the shot that your subject is quite likely to have got bored…

Vital Statistics

Lens: 35mm, f/2.8, focusing from 0.35m-infinity. (4 elements in 4 groups).
Autofocus: Active multi-beam autofocus with focus lock.
Film format: 35mm DX-coded film, ISO 50-3200.
Exposure: Automatic, EV 1-17, (f/2.8, 4s -f/11, 1/1000s).
Metering: Evaluative, Spot.
Transport: Auto.
Flash: Integrated colour-balanced flash. Recharges in 3.5 seconds, working range 4.1m at ISO 100. Flash modes: Auto, red-eye reduction, suppressed, forced/fill-in, night scene (slow sync up to 4 seconds).
Display: LCD with battery check and frame counter.
Date Stamp: Time/date stamp (Quartzdate model only).
Remote: Optional RC-200 remote control.
Case: Weatherproof (resistant to splashes).
Power: 3V lithium CR123|CR123A.
Dimensions: 108 x 59 x 35mm, 135g (without battery).

Links

View my sets on Flickr using the Olympus µ[mju:]-ii
Olympus µ[mju:]-ii Review on Antique and Classic Cameras
Olympus µ[mju:]-ii on La Collection d’Appareils
Olympus µ[mju:]-ii review on photo.net (with some useful comments)
Page on Olympus Global History
Review by Jim Simon
Review on The Lost Compass
Set by Frank Horvat using an Olympus µ[mju:]-ii
Flickr Group for the  µ[mju:]-ii
Another Flickr Group for the µ[mju:]-ii

2 comments

  1. With regards to the MJU II Quartz Date model, I was wondering whether it is possible for the date stamp function to be disabled? Thanks!

  2. Thank you for a very good review of the little Olympus.
    My experience is the same as described above. I own one of the latest models in line (probably around 2003), it is still as new. The first film a shoot was velvia as I tried to see what the camera could do. I can confirm your information about the exposure table for 50 ASA film. Autofocus really prioritizes the closest autofocus distance if a subject is shot at close (I tried it at less than 1 m). Have to try it with spot metering.
    Exposures of velvia were all good. The results when using flash-fill option can be quite impressive.
    But I was a bit disappointed with sharpness of the lens. Even in bright sunny day, pictures were not nearly as sharp as with my Nikkors. It may be that I need to steady my hands when shooting. It is quite a small camera and I am accustomed to shoot with at least 1 kg of equipment in my hands.
    But it is an interesting tool for taking pictures. Light and easy to shoot with. Only real complain that I have is about the sliding the cover to open the camera, it is very cumbersome to open it. I might glue some adhesive tape on the cover to have more grip on it.

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