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Film Fridays: Olympus mju-II – a great camera but too expensive (for what it is)

Hamish Gill / 35mmc

The Olympus mju-II, also known as the Stylus Epic, is a cult favorite film point-and-shoot that's been increasing in both popularity and price over the past 10 years. A relic of the late 1990's it offers a sharp 35mm F2.8 lens, excellent metering and accurate autofocus, all in a highly-pocketable, weather-sealed package. Sounds pretty appealing, eh?

Sadly, the days of purchasing one these for bargain prices are long gone. What may have set you back $40 in 2013 will likely cost you 5x that much today, for a plastic camera that's now 7-years-more degraded. So are these little wonders still worth acquiring? 35mmc's Hamish Gill has the answers...

Read: Olympus mju-II review – a great camera but too expensive for what it is

About Film Fridays: We recently launched an analog forum and in a continuing effort to promote the fun of the medium, we'll be sharing film-related content on Fridays, including articles from our friends at 35mmc.

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(unknown member)

While I can understand the attraction to these 35mm film cameras, the reality is that the Olympus XA series through to the more sophisticated mju, were built to absolutely appalling standards. I have no personal axe to grind, but I had connections with with a leading UK camera company at one time, who were sending back dozens of Olympus compacts and as I recall many OM-10s every week. Things were so bad, they threatened to stop handling all Olympus products. Other small 35mm cameras that gave trouble included the Minox which was unreliable and the best of the bunch was probably the fairly expensive Rollei 35S.

2 months ago
breschdlingsgsaelz

I owned a mju back in film days when I was tired of lugging around my praktica and three lenses (zoom lenses for M42 were not really an option back then). I do not remember if it was a mju II or a mju zoom but think it was the zoom sibling.

I remember a lot of misfocused pictures and the mechanics failed pretty soon. I would not even spend $40 for a new one - who actually pays 5x as much?

An old GF3 (or any other small m43 body) with the 20mm Pancake is the same size and has a much higher picture quality, will even cost less - not taking into account the cost of film and development.

It is not waterproof but neither is the mju. The amount of splashs that the mju can take will probably not kill the GF3 either.

2 months ago
geopapa

I don't really miss film. There are so many things modern digital cameras can do better. The only thing I liked better then is that even with a compact plasticky camera you got some subject separation because of the size of the film's frame (see portrait picture). To achieve the same result today with - say - an MFT compact camera you need a 17.5mm 1.4 lens.. With an aps-c you need 23mm 1.8 I review some pictures taken with my first slr film camera and even with the kit 3.5-5.6 zoom lens there is some good subject separation.

2 months ago*
nycgazelle

Film is real bro.

2 months ago
Silken
Silken

I worked in a camera shop as a kid, sometimes helping out the on-site repair guy. He used to call them Olympusuck because of these little cameras. I'm amazed to read so many comments from people who still have working ones! Don't take it to the beach! And why can't anybody make a digital replacement? $900 for a GR 3 and it doesn't even have a viewfinder! X100V for $1400...RX1RII for $3000 if you want one with a proper sensor, but they're a helluva lot bigger. What, nobody can shoehorn 5D II innards into an RX100 body at this point in time?

2 months ago
Sirandar
Sirandar

Does anybody know the details of this camera because I have one but it's labelled as Infinity stylus epic and made in Hong Kong not China....

I'm going to shoot a few rolls with it for good conscience and see how the pictures turn out and probably sell it.......

PS.... Thank you DP review staff for publishing this very useful article.....

2 months ago*
tomatoketchup

Stylus epic and mju-ii are the same camera. I believe in different parts of the world they were called different names.

2 months ago
tomatoketchup

I bought a few of these back in 2011 for around $50 and sold them a year ago for over $250. Couldn't believe how much they had gone up in price.

My preference is the Olympus XA. Excellent battery life, sturdier design, and no shutter lag. The lens isn't as good as the Stylus Epic, but still solid glass for this price range.

2 months ago
User7584811583

Do check the work of the Dutch photographer Bertien van Manen (book: 'A hundred summers, a hundred winters') . And check this blog: http://blog.foam.org/2012/04/rob-philip-on-bertien-van-manen.html

She documented the fall of Soviet empire with this little gem of a camera.

2 months ago
User7584811583

Use this little fellow now for many years. Never let me down. Sharp and allways ready. Great cam indeed.

2 months ago
sunilkumar

For used price of 270 usd for excellent condition . I have 2. It never disappoints and I have in my pocket.
Buy a Contax t2/t3 at 1000 usd or this. This is f***amazing what it is.

2 months ago
duchamp

I don't think it was too expensive for what it was. It was a predecessor of cameras like Nikon A, Ricoh GR and Fujifilm aps-c fixed lens line - a camera that isn't a burden to carry. I had it all the time with me then and thanks to it I have memories of many good occurrences of my family and friends that otherwise wouldn't exist.

2 months ago*
kiwishamoo

Yeah nah, I'll stick with my old D610 thanks

2 months ago
four under

I had no idea these were commanding so much money. I bought mine for 3 dollars Canadian at a flea market about 2009 or so.

2 months ago
Eric Hensel
Eric Hensel

Konica C35AF...still cheap.

2 months ago
Julio Sánchez

I'm rich!
This was one of the latest pocket cameras y buyed and was very Good I buy this to replace a Rollei 35 because it has a flash and the rollei with a external falsh was not ok for the pocket.

2 months ago
nextSibling

Had one I sold a few years ago and got about $120 for, which I thought was ridiculous. It's not a bad little compact for what it is - the viewfinder is pretty horrible compared to anything more modern of similar size and it was tricky to persuade the exposure program to stop down very far - but current asking prices are deranged.

If you're looking for a quality old-school 35mm compact of similar form, the Yashica T4, if you can find one, is a better bet for its sweet Tessar 3.5 lens, more accurate focusing and superior viewfinder.

2 months ago*
nextSibling

Just looked up used prices on the Yashica. Good grief. Never mind, they're insane.

2 months ago
sunilkumar

You can get that at 550 or Contax t2 at 1100 or better Contax t3 at 1500.

I would say it is best deal at 270

2 months ago
picktherighttoolforthejob

I have two of these...boxes and warranty cards and manuals too. One only slightly used. One used a bit. Great little cameras.

2 months ago
John356

Nice camera but my remote never worked

2 months ago
MannyZero

This camera was an All-Terrain little wonder. Oddly enough it was considered as
"A gift for my girlfriend" item. Maybe because it was so elegantly designed. It brought the bacon home, nevertheless.
Mine was the all around love affair: Minox 35 GT.
I hope they will dedicate an article to this beauty.

2 months ago
allineedislight

This is a great camera!! I had one for years and years! Loved the "zzd-zzd" sound when the lens extend and retracts at each shot!

There is a famous foto diary "1999" by Frank Horvat. He used a Mju II to take a picture every day in the year 1999. All the images are on his web page so you can see what a great photographer can do with this little gem. Some pictures are selfies with the Mju II!

Online gallery of "1999":
http://www.horvatland.com/WEB/en/THE90s/PP/DAILY%20REPORT/multi.htm

The book:
https://www.amazon.co.uk/1999-Daily-Report-Frank-Horvat/dp/1899235183

Reviews of the book:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xi3tx2nPIaw
http://v1.zonezero.com/magazine/articles/ziff/dialyreport.html

2 months ago*
Artak Hambarian

Excellent photos - showing that in the hands of the master the camera characteristics can only give opportunities. Also shows how much more advanced are the modern cameras (I have the mju myself too), at least resolution-wise...

2 months ago
themountainphotographer

Just looked on the bay of e, one was sold a few days ago for £350.

GASP!

2 months ago
Turbguy1
Turbguy1

Get an XA. Period.

2 months ago
themountainphotographer

50.53% of the world population don’t have periods. Full stop.

2 months ago
nextSibling

But check the hair-trigger shutter release still works (frequent weak point) and the battery contacts aren't corroded (another) before you pay for one.

2 months ago
Ie1234

In the good old days of film also compact cameras had a 'full frame sensor' so to say, not the tiny ones like in the digital world. Good basis for hq photos.
Frank

2 months ago
Funny Valentine

That's a very scientifically illiterate statement. Film and digital sensors have very different methods of capturing and processing light. TBH if these days you can't get a high quality photo even with a smartphone, maybe something else is to blame beside the camera.

2 months ago*
aris14
aris14

I know some cases that the pro photographic gear was found in the wrong place on our planet and this -and some other little beasts- saved the moment... And this Oly was a very very serious little beast...

2 months ago
themountainphotographer

Even those small sensors output a better result than full frame acetate.

2 months ago
AllFlawed

The current attempt to revive this old film sensor size in the modern world which probably on the whole no longer needs it has inflated the always present competitive size is everything atmosphere in photography. The increasingly desperate sales push going on at the moment to make 'full' frame the common format hopefully will not succeed and people can carry on and obtain the cameras they like, need, can afford and conveniently carry be it 'full' frame or non 'full' sizes. Vive la difference.
I wonder if this constant hectoring of smaller formats and current massive oversell of full frame is going to be counterproductive and a threat to the viability of photography and just turn people away, seeing it as as nothing but a specialist fringe interest populated with rather aggressive snide purist protagonists.

2 months ago*
themountainphotographer

The psychology of using the word ‘full’ plays on insecurity.

2 months ago
Ie1234

Hmm, actually I did not want to compare film and digital. My point is simply that in the film area, the 'light catching unit' was basically the same for a professional SLR as for a compact camera. So a good basis to get similar output within the restrictions (focal length) of the fixed lens. Despite some exceptions, that is different in the digital world.

2 months ago
AllFlawed

The smaller formats in film were pretty terrible I will admit as I remember from a few 110 cameras for example.
it is a good point that these sort of comparisons are less relevant in digital so I understand your comment better.

2 months ago
phouphou

in my opinion the 35mm focal length on fullframe film or digital offers a certain aesthetic look that pretty much got lost in the digital age. All modern FF 35 or 28mm equiv. compacts are premium products.
I have a Ricoh GR but i want a RX1 or Q2 type because i think thats where the sweetspot is.

2 months ago
BryceM
BryceM

I bought 4 of these - All silver 35mm/f2s. The first was full retail back in the late 90s. The other three were all $10-$15 finds at Goodwill! I kept one as a spare, and sold two on E-Bay for $150/ea to make some hipster happy ;-) Great caneras if you can find one at a reasonable price.

2 months ago
Adam Palmer

Had that camera in the 90s. Loved it. Of course if I wanted to go back to film now I would go all manual.

2 months ago
Sylverphoto

@Adam Palmer, I am doing more film than ever. Like 70 - 90 rolls of film per year. People love it. Got an old F3 and slapped some Milvus lenses on lit.

2 months ago
graybalanced

The Stylus Epic was my trusty pocket travel camera for those times when it was too intrusive to use the SLR or the SLR was not at hand. But the camera I now use today in the same role, the Sony RX100, beats the carp out of the Stylus Epic. I recently digitized some old film from the Stylus Epic, it was ISO 400, and it looked way worse than you would get out of ISO 400 from any current digital camera.

In low light it is no contest, digital wins. Half the time you get unsharp images from these compact film camera because the shutter speed was down to 1/30 sec but you don’t have any image stabilization, and the ISO can’t go to 800 or 1600 because of the kind of film you put in it. (Yeah, I pushed film in the past, pushing doesn’t work so well for color)

2 months ago
tangbunna

I got mju-1 since 1996 and dead after 3 years. great film camera but very plastic toy after all

2 months ago
rodriguezPhoto
rodriguezPhoto

I bought the Stylus Infinity (mju-1) new in December 1993. It is still my carry everyday camera. Just feed it a new battery every few years and it keeps chugging along. :)

2 months ago
dwill23

I sold about 30-40 of these while working at Ritz Camera. I think the version we sold had a F2.8 lens and was golden colored. We sold it for $99.99 (with a few rolls of film and a frequent foto membership card of course). And an ESP (extended service plan) for $30 for 1 year. Ha what a joke. They used to LIE to us and say they didn't make ANY money on that, and yet they'd have insane district training on how to sell (i mean offer) them to customers. When i worked at best buy they told us, "we make 94% profit on these, so sell them". Since they didn't lie to me, I did. I sold 83 years worth of warranties in one day (A record at the time!). Now I own several rental houses and work in finance :) What a journey.

Oh yeah, the little camera was great! but 30-40 over 2.5 years meant I didn't sell them that often at all.

2 months ago*
BobT3218

Film will always have a place as an art medium. However, as for the enthusiast photographer, seriously, how many more times can it be nostalgically rediscovered only to be discarded again as costly and impractical?

2 months ago
Henry Richardson

I still have both the mju that I bought in 1992 and the mju II I bought in 1998. I paid 28,000 yen for the mju in Tokyo in 1992. At the exchange rate of the time that would have been about $225 or so. I don't recall how much my mju II cost, but I think it may have been less.

2 months ago
deep7

Ooh, ooh, am I rich? There must be one or two of these lying around the house...

Seriously, though, I had the original m𝛍 and it was a fantastic little thing - until it got run over by a horse truck. Even then, it still wound the film back in and kept the light out. Tough cameras.

2 months ago
MyReality
MyReality

Agree. They were known as the back pocket jean camera. I still have mine.

2 months ago
deep7

I had a look. I only have an original m𝛍 and a m𝛍II zoom. So I'm not so rich after all...

2 months ago
Chris59

I have had one of these since new and bought a mint Mu zoom some years ago for $5. Great little camera that I used when the OM! and OM2 were too much bother. If the going price really is $200, then it's WAY too expensive.

2 months ago
Photoman
Photoman

Pre-digital, this was a must have camera to party with until it is 1999!

2 months ago
fotolapsa
fotolapsa

There are better and cheaper film cameras, though a bit of research by the individual may be required

2 months ago
MyReality
MyReality

There are better, but not cheaper and smaller.

2 months ago
fotolapsa
fotolapsa

There are better cheaper and just as small I guess you missed the self research part

2 months ago
mick232

I have one in good condition. I got it from my mother as a replacement for my Yashica camera because she poured milk over it. It was the time when digital became popular so the Olympus was rarely used.

Unfortunately it is the zoom model which is not as valuable.

2 months ago
YWG

Managed to buy this camera and the T4 for almost nothing at the local Goodwill years back. They worked fine but got onto digital later. Surprised at how much people want for these cameras these days

2 months ago
Leicalika

silly yups

2 months ago
Andrew Gardner
Andrew Gardner

I had a T4 and loved it. I bought the Stylus Epic after I lost the T4 in a taxi. Stylus Epic was nice, I liked that I didn't have to worry about taking it out in the rain. I hated that I had to turn off the flash every time I turned on the camera (if I'm not mistaken the T4 remembered the flash settings.) The T4 felt more sturdy, but both were pretty well put together.
Somebody offered me $150 for my Stylus Epic a few years ago (I paid $US 80 or so) so it was a no brainer, since I'd completely switched over to digital (aside from one old folding medium format camera and a Konica Hexar AF).

2 months ago
GRUBERND
GRUBERND

sold my µ:2 in 2000 because i hated the totally unpredictable behaviour of the AF. Too much hit and miss.

Bought a Ricoh GR1s instead, imho the best compact ever built. Except for it's mechanical robustness which was .. let's say .. not optimal for a pocket camera.
R.I.P.

2 months ago
MyReality
MyReality

No. The best compact camera ever built is my Leica Minilux with titanium body. There is no "except" for that camera.

2 months ago
GRUBERND
GRUBERND

@Myreality .. if it has a mechanical switch for the flash and exposure compensation plus a programmable fix-focus feature, yes. otherwise .. no. ;-)

also .. the lens extends from the body which gives it just the same mechanical weakness as the Ricoh.

the 40mm lens would have been nice but the body of the Leica is way too bricky for my taste.

ah, well, good thing I don't want to use film anymore.

2 months ago
Karroly

Fine. I have inherited a seldom-used one from my father in like-new condition and that I have never used myself. Time to sell it... Just have to put a roll of film into it to check it is OK... I still have some rolls hibernating in the fridge.

2 months ago
nextSibling

Sell it soon while prices are still high before the film fashionistas fixate on the next shiny thing.

2 months ago
themountainphotographer

I still have mine, together with an XÁ and Trip 35, a Pentax P30 and P50, Kiev 4, Leica M2, Praktica MTL-5, Yashica Samurai, a few I have prolly forgotten. And (for me) my pièce de résistance, a Canon MC (Micro Compact) with all the original gubbins and sales receipt. Very, very sharp lens. The film advance sounds like a coffee grinder in heat.

Good days, but I don’t want to return to film.

2 months ago
elefteriadis alexandros

I have back then this Olympus but i change for the Yashica T4. Olympus lens is ok but nothing special. The corner is blur while T4 lens is tack sharp from center to extreme corner.

2 months ago
Peter CS

I had both the Yashica T4 and this camera - or the Stylus Epic Deluxe. Problem was, other than shots at infinity or distant, the autofocus often found the wrong setting and objects were not sharp, if they were in the foreground. I did not have the problem as often with the Yashica. Could have just been my sample, but...

2 months ago
PicNoir

I used to have this and it was very comfortable for travel. However, digitizing my films recently, the quality of photographs was just to have memories, not the same as my EOS 650 or EOS 50e.

2 months ago
cosinaphile
cosinaphile

get an xa 2 or xa or xa4 macro

2 months ago
bart honhoff
bart honhoff

I agree, the XA is a splendid camera with a good distance meter, no unpredictable AF.

2 months ago
abe4652

I'm sorry.

I just looked at prints from 20 years ago, taken with a Canon EOS-3 and a 70-200 f4 IS, with good Fuji 100 ISO film, and then consider my current images with an APS-C.

There is just no comparing film to digital in terms of quality. Maybe up to 2005 or so one could, but let's get serious.

2 months ago
Old Cameras

I don’t doubt for a moment that you are correct. But an image viewed by a person at a normal distance, like a 4x6 or 5x7 or an 8x10 print, is the film image good enough?

2 months ago
barry reid

Up to 16mp I’d say scanned 35mm slide film (or ektar) and digital give roughly equal sharpness. Digital wins hands down for colour and Shadows but film can be slightly better for highlights. So yes, pretty much every current digital SLR has higher levels of measurable quality than film.

On the other hand, I’ve had people pay a couple of hundred quid for digital landscapes made with the mesuarably rubbish Lensbaby Original. So if it feels right and looks right then it is right.

2 months ago
themountainphotographer

I would tend to agree with the OP. Even my old E-1 was better than 35mm negative film. But that’s not the point. Film has a nice render to it. I was scanning some Perutz slide film and the colours just glow. Not as sharp, not as detailed as digital, but the colour was amazing.

2 months ago
crsantin

I have two of them purchased when they were cheap. They are way overpriced today. Great little camera. It fits in the palm of my hand. The lens is so tiny yet image quality is very good. Mine are starting to fall apart though. The battery compartment broke on one of them. I think the plastic is just old and brittle. I replaced a battery and the door just split in half. I wouldn't buy one at the current prices. It's a cool little camera but I don't understand how it came to be in such demand.

2 months ago
guyfawkes
guyfawkes

I suspect it was all the hype from newbees to film photography who didn't know any better. They're like youngsters who beleive they're the first to experience life and forget that their parents have already been there and done it!

A camera that is no more than OK for what it is, but not deserving of all the accolades heaped upon it.

2 months ago
MyReality
MyReality

It was advertised as the back pocket jeans camera, because of its ruggedness, I still have mine and I have carried in my pants back pocket. Great camera when loaded with Kodak T-Max 100 or 400.

2 months ago
biggercountry

Funny how these things work. I had one in 2001 that took many great pictures for me, though I would have never imagined at the time that it would become a "cult classic" nearly twenty years later. Especially when I canned it for my first digital camera the following year. It took great pictures that really popped, though.

2 months ago*
sledteam

Great camera. Tough, sharp, and it worked. I think I destroyed 3 or 4 of them in my travels and adventures. It's one of my favorite film cameras along with my Canon P, F-1, EOS 1, and calypso Nikonos. If you worked within its limitations, you couldn't tell the results between it and the others, and you could stick it in your pocket. I had other cameras that performed well, but I didn't really like as much. I might still have one lying around if my wife hasn't tossed it spring cleaning ... 8~)

2 months ago
MyReality
MyReality

Agree, along with my Leica Minilux.

2 months ago
Reactive

Damn. I sold my wife's champagne gold mju-II many years ago on eBay. I was surprised how much it sold for at the time, and assumed only an old granny would actually 'still' want a little film camera.

2 months ago
junk1

Last film camera I bought was Oly Epic. Have it somewhere.

2 months ago
tkbslc

I think most phones have more exposure control than the Mju-ii. It's really just a snapshot camera. You can't change anything but spot meter or flash off. Just point and click and hope it worked because you won't find out until you develop the film.

2 months ago
noegd
noegd

Strangely that’s a camera I never managed to love back in the film days.

To set context, my previous compact cameras were compact rangefinders: the one used for my avatar and a Canonet QL17. I still own both and are still working.

The Mju II is long sold. It always frustrated me how little control I had on exposure, where the camera would focus, and how small the viewfinder was.

2 months ago
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