Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Olympus Mju

Discovering the Olympus Pen range of digital (and then film) cameras last year - which in turn lead me to read about the brilliant Japanese camera designer Yoshihisa Maitani - is what got me started on this film photography re-discovery. Since then, I guess you could say I've become an Olympus fan boy. Although, since Maitani was the designer of the Pen FT, OM Series and Compact XA line, it's probably more correct to say that I'm a Maitani fan boy. The man was a true engineering genius.

My first truly collectable camera purchase was the Olympus Pen EES-2 and not long after I bought my first OM SLR - the OM2 (followed by an OM10). As yet I don't have a Pen F camera, but definitely plan to fix that in the future.

In looking around at compact film cameras, one name kept popping up as a good (to excellent) series with a bit of a cult following - the Olympus Mju (Stylus Epic in America). The revolutionary design for the Mju (named after the Greek letter for 'micro') has, not surprisingly, morphed out of a Maitani design for the Olympus XA, with the character 'convex' front that closes over the lens.

My two Mju's -
the Mju 1 and Mju 105
The first Mju - the Mju I (incidentally, Mju rhymes with 'pew') has a fixed 35mm f3.5 lens (see the black camera in the photo left). and was first introduced in 1991. The Mju II moved to a fixed f2.8 lens and introduced waterproofing to the range, which was to become a selling point for all Mju's to follow.

After the outstanding success of the Mju I and II, Olympus released various zoom versions. I have the Mju Zoom 105 (the champagne coloured camera bottom left) with a 38-105mm f4.5/8.9 zoom lens with 6 ED glass elements and one aspherical element. All the Mju cameras are completely automated, although the flash can be turned off after start-up with a couple of button pushes. Also Mju's after the Mju I feature a spot metering mode for more accurate exposure control.

I have yet to shoot with the Mju I, but have been using the Mju Zoom 105 over the last week or so. It's an easy, quick and responsive little compact to shoot with, although it is a pain that you can't disable the flash (it always pops up, even if you set it to 'off').

I think I'm going to like the Mju I as well, since almost all the images I've taken so far with the Zoom 105 have been at the 38mm focal range. I think I may have used the zoom once? And at f8.9, that doesn't really give you a shallow depth of field!

I'm shooting Kodak Black & White with the camera for a more 'artsy' feel, and am looking forward to seeing the results. The Mju's are known for their accurate focusing and sharp lenses, as well as their small size and super cool (cute) styling. They really can fit in your pocket (jacket, not pants) and are a lot of fun to shoot with. And even though I turn the flash off, they are also known for their well-balanced flash exposures. Might have to try a few indoor 'people' shots with flash just to see how intelligent these little cameras really are?

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