I’ve really enjoyed the Olympus XA for the past half a year or so. I find it brilliant overall, but at times I find the image quality slightly lacking. So a few weeks ago I got an Olympus mju II on a local auction to find out if it’s more compelling. I’ve now put my first roll though it and figured that some short first impressions would be in order.
The camera is very compact, even compared to the XA. It’s quite plasticky and hollow feeling but seems reasonably well made. On paper it’s even weather sealed.
As far as handling it’s quite a simple camera. Three buttons make up the entirety of the controls. Sliding the clamshell open powers up the camera. Unfortunately everything is reset when closing the clamshell, most noticeably the flash setting which defaults to automatic. As the camera’s incredibly flash-happy you pretty much have to deactivate the flash manually every time you open it up if you want to avoid the flash firing. This is probably my biggest annoyance with it so far.
The stopped down performance is impressive. Little give images away as coming from a compact camera.
While I tend to prefer good manual focus most of the time, there are situations where auto focus is definitely helpful. It’s possible to have a very intuitive approach to shooting.
Image quality is a visible step up compared to the XA. Especially stopped down the little 35/2.8 lens is really quite impressive. Wide open the lens is a bit uneven, especially at a distance, but at closer distance the signature is quite appealing. Even the bokeh looks pretty good so far.
I like the look of this frame despite the odd flare. Possibly some internal reflection. Since it only showed up in this frame some more testing is needed to say for sure. Also note the pleasant bokeh considering the lens specs.
Since the operation is completely automated with hardly any overrides or even indications to what the camera’s up to it’s hard to make any conscious decisions about any of its settings. The only things you are truly in control of is composition and timing. Intellectually this feels appealing – simplicity at the extreme.
Auto focus is surprisingly fast, but sometimes misses slightly. Despite the lens moving only when the shutter is fully depressed there’s little noticable shutter lag.
I’m impressed by how the little camera managed here. Despite very challenging conditions – low and inconsistent light – the negative is very well exposed, focus is spot on and the majority of the frame is quite sharp.
Despite all this appeal the little mju has so far left me cold in terms of enjoyment. The shooting experience is just so detached that I have had a hard time feeling compelled to shoot the little camera. I like the XA better in pretty much every way – except for image quality. Overall I’m still impressed by how the mju performed over this first roll and I’ll hang on to it for a while longer and see how it goes. Maybe it’ll grow on me.
All photos in this post were taken using the Olympus mju II using Fuji Superia 400. Developed by Team Framkallning and scanned using the Plustek 8200i. Exif-data is intact. Open any image in a new window for a closer look.