The Olympus mju II, or Olympus Stylus Epic as it was known in the US, is perhaps one of the more ‘upmarket‘ of the more modern point and shoot film cameras, which have been reviewed on this site.
When I call the Olympus Stylus Epic ‘upmarket’, I do so in the sense that it is supposed to be one of a series of compact cameras which even professionals, back in the days of film photography, might have used when not packing a Nikon, Canon, or even Olympus SLR for the day job.
It is certainly more expensive to buy than many of the compact film cameras that I’ve reviewed, although perhaps not more than some of the older Canonets, such as the QL19 or QL17 GIII. Perhaps due to it’s lack of manual controls, it also appears to be cheaper to get hold of, in my experience, than some of the so called ‘premium’ compacts, such as the Ricoh GR1 series, Contax T, Fuji Klasse or Nikon 28ti/35ti cameras.
However, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is not the place to make comparisons or claims about the design or quality of specific film cameras or lenses, so I’ll stick to my usual method of just reviewing the camera as it applies to my practice.
Olympus Stylus Epic / mju II specifications
The Olympus Stylus Epic is an autofocus camera, with a fixed 35mm f2.8 lens (not to be confused with the many zoom lens versions of this camera, which carry a similar name), composed of four elements, in four groups. The manual describes the viewfinder as a ‘real image viewfinder‘ which, like the Ricoh RZ-728, aims to shows the field of view with more accuracy with a magnification of 0.45x. Whilst this is a welcome feature, I am unclear of the degree of accuracy that this provides, over regular film point and shoot cameras. As far as I can tell, the view is not generated through the lens itself, but through a small viewfinder above the lens. My own non-technical viewpoint is that the feature is perhaps more directly useful for zoom cameras, such as the Ricoh RZ-728.
Focussing range is 0.35m to infinity and there is 2-zone light metering, as well as spot metering options (which is enabled by pressing both of the function buttons down at once). Film ISO selection is automatic, based on DX coding, and there is no override for this to set manual ISO speeds. Whilst lack of manual ISO control is disappointing, the Olympus Stylus Epic / mju II does offer a wide ISO range, from 50 ISO to 3200 ISO, in increments of 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600 and 3200. Films with a DX coding of less than 50 ISO, or without DX coding, are exposed at 100 ISO.
The Olympus mju II has an LCD display on the back, which has a frame counter and shows various camera settings. Settings are adjusted using two recessed buttons underneath the LCD display. Film is auto-loaded and also automatically rewound – irritatingly, the film is rewound completely into the film canister, with no film leader left exposed. The camera also has a 12 second delay electronic self-timer. Happily, the flash is also customisable, with various modes; including automatic, red-eye reducing, fill-in, forced activation and the ability to completely stop the flash firing.
From what I can tell, all customised settings are automatically reset when the camera is switched off and then on again. Depending on one’s viewpoint this is either a good thing or very irritating.
The Olympus mju II in use
The Olympus mju II is a very small camera (it says ‘ultra compact‘ on the back of it, so it must be true). In fact, it seem barely large enough to hold the 35mm film. However, because of the tapered design, it is quite ergonomic to hold and use, even with one hand. The camera switches on and off as the sliding door opens and closes, and the shutter button is large and responsive in use. The finder window shows a green light when focus has been achieved and red when the flash is charged and going to fire. The auto-focus seems to be incredibly fast
The camera was marketed as weatherproof, which is nice. Although, I’m not planning on taking the thing out into a force ten gale to test this out. If I have a criticism, it is the small indented function buttons on the back of the camera, which are a bit of a nuisance to use. But not more so than many other point and shoot film cameras. It would also be nice to have some manual controls, but perhaps that is missing the point – I rarely use the manual controls on the digital point and shoot cameras that I have, so it’s probably unlikely that I’d use them on a film compact.
As an overall impression, for what it is, it’s hard to find too many faults with the Olympus Stylus Epic, mju II, or whatever you want to call it.