Is the Olympus Mju II Still Worth It In 2023?
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The Olympus Mju II is one of the most popular 35mm point and shoots ever released. This ultra-compact camera won many awards upon release, maintaining a cult status 26 years later.
But with all of these accolades, the prices for this previously humble camera have skyrocketed.
There isn’t much point in debating whether or not the Mju II is a good camera – with millions of copies sold and resale prices continuing to climb, it’s clearly a hit.
Instead, you might be wondering if the Olympus Mju II is still worth it in 2023. That’s a harder question to answer.
With around a decade of experience with this camera, we decided to weigh in – check out our detailed, hands on review to see what we like, what we hate, and whether or not we’d still buy the Mju II today.
*Note – All of the images featured in this article were taken on the Olympus μ[mju:]-II.
Originally released in 1997, the Olympus Mju II was a massive success. We’ve seen production estimates as high as 10 million cameras for all models of the Mju, over 3.5 million of those being the Mju II.
To clear things up right away, the camera was released under the name “Olympus μ[mju:]-II” in Japan. In America, the same camera was called “Olympus Stylus Epic”. We’ll use both names going forward.
The appeal of this camera hasn’t changed much in the 25+ years since it was released.
The Olympus Mju II is small, lightweight, and easy to use, with a lens much sharper than the majority of 35mm point and shoots from the same era.
With such a large number of models produced, you used to be able to find the Mju II for a steal – they weren’t particularly expensive cameras when they were released.
Unfortunately, just like all of the other popular point and shoot film cameras, the price of the Stylus Epic has skyrocketed in recent years.
There’s no denying that it’s a great point and shoot film camera, but the real question is:
Is the Olympus Mju II worth it in 2023? Jump straight to our answer.
We’ve written a hands-on review of the camera, after owning multiple versions throughout the years. By the end, you should be able to decide if the Olympus Stylus Epic is still worth it for you.
The Olympus Mju line of cameras was expansive and beloved. Featuring just as many digital cameras as film, all of the models were compact point and shoots.
Even just considering the film versions, there are too many to cover all of the differences in this article.
There’s a reason that the Mju II is the most popular of the bunch. That said, the original Mju/Stylus offers a similar shooting experience for a lot less money.
The majority of the different versions are some variation of a zoom lens. There’s no doubt that the zoom lenses aren’t quite as sharp as the prime versions, but image quality might not be a huge concern for some people looking at this type of camera.
Since this review is focused specifically on the Mju II, we’re not going to go into the details of the other models.
If you jump down to the additional resources, we’ve included a handy comparison of the most common models, directly from Olympus Camera’s archives.
We won’t go into much detail about the technical specs of the camera – there are plenty of other places online where you can find this info.
We’d recommend checking out the original user manual (linked at the bottom of this article) for a detailed rundown.
But if you don’t know anything about the Mju 2, we’ve included some of the noteworthy specs that are relevant to this review.
With a 35mm focal length and a maximum aperture of 2.8, the lens featured on the Stylus Epic is one of the biggest selling points.
The lens features an extremely close minimum focus distance of 14 inches. Combined with the versatile 35mm focal length, the Mju II’s lens is capable in most shooting situations.
The most significant difference between the Mju II and other Mju models is the lens.
Most of the other models’ lenses are a lot slower, especially the zoom versions. (A “slower” lens means a higher minimum f-stop).
Size / Dimensions
Plenty of point and shoot cameras are small – that’s one of the biggest draws to this type of film camera – but few other models are quite as compact as the Stylus Epic.
The physical dimensions of the Mju II are 108 x 59 x 35 millimeters, or 4.25 x 2.32 x 1.38 inches.
The camera weighs 135 grams, equivalent to roughly 0.3 pounds.
The Mju II includes a built-in flash. Compared to a lot of other point and shoots, the flash works well and has a few different settings available.
You can select the “no flash” setting, unlike a lot of other point and shoots that don’t have a way to avoid using the flash in dark shooting situations.
On the flip side, you can also turn on the flash when it’s not needed to use it as a fill-flash.
The other flash modes are Auto Flash, Red Eye Reduction, Night Scene, and Night Scene with Red Eye Reduction.
Performance & Handling
The rest of this review is a summary of our experience using the Stylus Epic. We’ve owned a few different copies with at least one in rotation for the better part of a decade.
This is our unbiased opinion about this camera – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s what we would’ve liked to know before buying a Mju-II.
Size / Ergonomics
A lot of fuss is made about the size and form of the Mju 2, for good reason. There aren’t too many other film cameras as truly pocket-sized.
The clam shell design also helps – even though there are smaller point and shoots, the Stylus Epic is a real brick of a camera without any dials, knobs, or a lens to add bulk and get caught on things.
We’re big believers in the “best camera for you is whichever camera you’ll bring everywhere” philosophy, and the Mju II truly shines in this regard.
In fact, this might be the single best part of the camera – the compact, lightweight design ensures that it’s never a burden to bring it along.
You don’t think twice about grabbing the Stylus Epic because even if you’re not sure that you’ll shoot any photos, it’s barely noticeable when you have the camera in your pocket (or even hanging around your neck).
Now, from all of these benefits comes a disadvantage – the compact form of the Olympus Mju II causes somewhat awkward ergonomics when actually using the camera.
Compared to other cameras, even other point and shoots, it feels like there isn’t a good place to rest your fingers when you’re taking a photo. There’s always a bit of concern that a finger tip is going to end up in the edges of one of your photos.
The camera even feels a bit uncomfortable on your face when holding the viewfinder to your eye. This is even worse if you wear glasses.
In short, the Olympus Mju II gives you an incredibly compact form that is a breeze to carry, but the size and shape also create an awkward shooting experience.
Durability / Longevity
Generally speaking, point and shoots aren’t the most durable film cameras.
Most models are made entirely of plastic and controlled by electronics, which unfortunately means that once they break, it’s unlikely that they can be fixed.
Compared to all of the point and shoot film cameras we’ve used over the years, the Olympus Stylus Epic is one of the more durable options.
Even though the camera is lightweight, the design makes it feel like a small brick. Once again, the clam shell style is a real benefit here.
One of the reasons we keep talking about the ability to store the Mju II in a pocket is that for other models, this is a recipe for disaster.
But since the lens is tucked away behind the clamshell cover and the camera only turns on when it’s opened, pocket-storage is a safer bet with the Stylus Epic.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t still potential risks with storing your camera this way – rather, it’s nice that with the Mju II, at least you don’t need to worry about damaging the lens or accidentally taking photos of the inside of your pocket.
Another important note on the durability of these cameras is that they are considered “all weather” or “splash proof”. The Mju II is weather sealed so that even if you end up getting it a bit wet, the moisture won’t make its way inside of the camera.
We feel perfectly comfortable with the Stylus Epic getting beat up a little bit. Especially with the camera closed, it feels like it would require some significant force to cause issues.
Ours have been dropped on pavement, left outside in the rain, and even covered in sand. None of these instances ever caused any major issues (although some of that sand did get stuck in the small crevices of the camera).
Now we make a distinction here, between durability and longevity. When we talk about longevity, we are referring to the likelihood of the camera continuing to operate as time goes on.
Unfortunately, like most other 35mm point and shoots, the Olympus Mju II doesn’t necessarily have the most longevity.
Chances are, if something on your Mju 2 breaks, you won’t be able to get it fixed. Oftentimes, it’s not even that you do something to cause the issue, the camera just wears down over time and different components begin to fail.
One common example, which has affected copies that we’ve owned, is that the focus mechanism can fail, effectively ruining the camera.
This isn’t particularly unique to the Stylus Epic – most point and shoot film cameras have the exact same longevity issues.
And it makes sense – some copies of these cameras are over 25 years old and were released as a relatively inexpensive, consumer-level model. They weren’t designed with the intention of lasting for three decades.
So while the Mju II might not have the most longevity, you’ll be hard pressed to find a 35mm point and shoot that does much better in this regard.
Just like with the longevity issues, hard-to-use viewfinders are a common trait among point and shoot film cameras. But the Stylus Epic is one of the worst offenders of them all.
The viewfinder on the Mju II is incredibly small and difficult to see out of. Once again, glasses make these issues even worse.
We find ourselves constantly needing to adjust the camera position so that the viewfinder isn’t obstructed in any way. There’s a weird inclination to squint your non-viewfinder eye as hard as possible, as if that will help you see any clearer.
And not only is the viewfinder difficult to use, but it doesn’t even show the entire frame that will be captured in your photo. Once again, this isn’t unique to the Mju 2, but the translation from viewfinder to photo feels particularly bad compared to other point and shoots.
Where the previous issues with the Stylus Epic have been universal to 35mm point and shoot cameras, the flash has problems all of its own.
As we mentioned above, the Stylus Epic has a handful of flash modes that you can select. Those options are: Auto, Auto with Red Eye Reduction, No Flash, Fill Flash, Night Scene, and Night Scene with Red Eye Reduction.
Sounds great, right? Plenty of settings to choose between, and the ability to override the automatic flash unlike a lot of comparable cameras.
The issue is that the Mju II has no way to remember which setting you last used, so every time you open the camera and turn it on, you have to reset the flash mode.
Naturally, the camera automates to “Auto” mode and, honestly, this usually does a pretty good job. If anything, it feels like the camera is overly liberal with using the flash, often firing when there seems to be enough light to make a good exposure without it.
This isn’t a huge deal for us, but other photographers find the focus mode reset to be incredibly frustrating. It is definitely annoying and leads us to constantly feel like we need to check the flash mode before snapping any photos.
It seems like the main reason people get so worked up about this little quirk is that they use the Mju II almost exclusively in No Flash mode. This is fair – it can be difficult to find a point and shoot film camera that allows you to override the auto flash and take photos that still look good.
And we’ve got to say, the Mju II usually does a pretty good job at capturing photos in dark situations with the flash turned off. If nothing else, it does a much better job than most other point and shoots in the same general price range.
Now, there’s also a unique aspect of the flash on the Mju II that we’d consider a positive.
The flash begins charging as soon as you open the cover (which turns on the camera), making it ready to shoot much quicker than other cameras.
Most 35mm point and shoots don’t charge the flash until you start to push down the shutter and the camera calculates the exposure.
This is a more efficient use of the camera’s battery, but the delay can definitely be a downside, especially if it causes you to miss the shot.
Focusing on the Olympus Mju II is pretty straight forward. You’ll see a cross hair in the center of the viewfinder indicating the focus point and a small light to confirm the focus is locked on.
If you want to truly just point and shoot the Mju 2, most of your photos will still probably be in focus. This camera was designed to be as easy to use as possible and there seems to be a good margin for error while still producing decent photos.
The better way to focus with the Stylus Epic is to use the focus then recompose technique. You’ll just align your subject in the center of the crosshairs, push the shutter button halfway and wait for the green light.
Once you see the light, you’ll know that the camera has locked onto the correct focal distance and you can recompose and shoot your photo.
A quirk about this camera’s focus system is that the lens quickly extends forward to take the photo after the shutter button is pressed. This causes a short delay, about a half of a second.
Even if you have the camera pre focused, with the shutter held down half way, the lens won’t extend until you fully press the shutter button.
This isn’t too much of a downside for us, especially because the delay is so short. There are few times that we think about or notice the delay when taking photos.
Some photographers might be more concerned with this issue, though. While the Mju II is a fairly popular choice for street photography, we could see this being one situation where the delay would be problematic.
Image Quality / Sample Photos
You’ve probably heard a lot about the quality of photos taken with the Olympus Mju II – our experience has always been similarly impressed.
Images are generally much sharper than we’d expect from a cheap 35mm point and shoot. The lens produces a nice, punchy contrast that most film photographers will love.
We’re constantly impressed by the ability of this camera in dark situations with the flash disabled. When we do opt to use the flash, the results are usually quite nice.
A lot of cheap point and shoots don’t do the best job and metering when the flash is used, often producing over-exposed, blown out photos.
We have had great luck using most of the flash modes – the Red Eye Reduction and Night Scene settings both do a good job fixing their respective issues.
All of this said, we know that a picture’s worth a thousand words – so let’s look at some sample photos, from a variety of photographers, to get an idea what the Olympus Mju II is really capable of.
Negatives / Common Problems
We’ve mentioned some of our dislikes about this camera in the sections above, but we’ll quickly list all of the things we don’t like about the Stylus Epic in one place:
- Awkward ergonomics when shooting photos.
- Viewfinder is small and difficult to use.
- Flash mode resets every time the camera turns off.
- Small delay when taking photos because of lens movement.
- Sometimes it’s difficult to focus on small subjects.
- Auto everything – can’t change aperture, shutter speed, or film speed.
- Can’t repair / longevity issues.
- Significant price increases.
Is the Olympus Mju II Still Worth It In 2023?
Most people agree that the Mju II is a great camera if you’re looking for a cheap point and shoot. Is it the best film camera out there? Absolutely not. It’s not even the best point and shoot film camera.
Instead, the Stylus Epic is the perfect camera for vacations, parties, or snapshots of your everyday life where you might not have a nicer camera accessible.
It’s the camera that you don’t think twice about throwing in your bag, your pocket, or around your neck before leaving the house. And for being about the size and weight of a deck of cards, the little things can take a beating.
Unfortunately, even with all of this said, it’s pretty hard to justify the cost of the Mju II in 2023. The bottom line is that we would be hesitant to purchase another copy of this camera at the current prices.
$300 is probably the maximum that we would ever consider spending on one of these cameras, but even that would only happen if we were in a financial situation where $300 was insignificant.
It’s hard, because just like many other point and shoot film cameras, the Mju II is an absolute joy to use when it’s working properly. The problem is that you have no way of knowing how long that will last.
If these cameras could be easily fixed, or there were some way to guarantee that the camera would last for a significant amount of time, we’d have no problem dropping $300 on a new version. Maybe even more.
But alas, that’s the unfortunate state of film point and shoots in 2023 – you pay a lot of money and there’s no telling if the camera will last for 10 years or 10 days.
You’ll still occasionally see unopened, or mint-condition copies for sale. This might theoretically be a safer bet, but those prices are pretty ridiculous and there’s still no guarantee on the camera’s longevity.
We can still understand why some people might still want to shell out the cash to get their hands on a Mju II, though. We might even be a little bit jealous if they do decide to buy one.
Original Mju II User Manual from Scribd
Comparison of Different Mju Models from the Olympus Archives
Olympus Mju II Press Release from 1997
Olympus Mju II Photo Pool on Lomography