Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic Compact Camera Review

Olympus µ[Mju:]-II, a Tiny All-Weather 35mm Film Point-and-Shoot

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Olympus Mju II Infinity Stylus Epic is the second generation of its famed pocketable 35mm film camera series with a faster lens, weatherproofing, wireless remote trigger, smaller footprint, and even slicker design outline.

Like its predecessor, Mju II’s design is rooted in simplicity, compactness, and capable optics: a 35mm 𝒇2.8 prime. It’s not often that you’ll find such a large aperture lens on a point-and-shoot camera, but then again, Stylus Epic isn’t just any ol’ plastic box. Mju II is a part of an insanely-popular pedigree of Olympus cameras that had sold over two million copies since their introduction in the ‘90s. Feature-wise, it’s the best one in the series.

Feature-wise, it’s the best camera in the series. Along with its 35mm 𝒇2.8-𝒇11 prime lens that can auto-focus as close as .35m (just over a foot), Mju II sports an ultra-fast leaf shutter with 1/1000s top seed, all powered by the common CR123 battery. It has a fully-motorized film transport that accepts DX-coded film with ISOs 50-3200. It also has a great built-in flash that recharges in 3.5 seconds, useful for up to 4m at ISO 100 with five modes: auto, red-eye reduction, suppressed, fill, night scene (slow synch up to 4 seconds).

Ergonomics and design.

The camera’s incredibly simple controls — a large silver shutter button and two tiny rubber knobs at the back — are matched with a slick, purpose-built shape that feels very comfortable in hand. Mju II can be pulled out of a pocket and made to snap a photo in under five seconds.

Mju II is very light — 145g (5.1 oz) — and it’s ridiculously small for a film camera — measuring 108mm or 4¼” lengthwise and 35mm or 1⅓” in depth. It’s hard to believe you can fit a whole roll of film inside.

Mju II (left) and Minolta TC-1 (right).

Of course, the plastic shell doesn’t “bling” like the titanium body of a super-premium compact. It’s not as durable or expensive-looking. But the tolerances are very tight, and the overall construction quality is excellent. The plastic shell is just as well-made — if not better — than that of the German-crafted Voigtländer Vito C — perhaps, the best example of quality moulding.

You can also bring your Mju II out to take pictures in the rain, which would surely ruin 99% of all other film cameras.

Another small detail I’ve enjoyed on this camera is how the retractable lens works with the slide cover. While the less refined Pentax Espio 140V would not let you shut its cover quickly as the lens that blocks its path takes a second to retract into its body completely, Mju II’s glass is never in the way. The lens on Stylus Epic is always flush and only extends briefly to focus before taking a shot.

My only dislike is how difficult it is to press the flash mode cycle button on Mju II. My hands are average for a man, yet I’m forced to use my nails to get the little rubber sucker to work.

The shutter button, on the other hand, is very well made. It’s easy to feel the half-press position, and it’s large enough for even the thickest of fingers. But I’m not too sure about its oblong shape and the stark glossy silver look.

Mju IIs came in two colours: matt silver and black. I would choose black every time — the inevitable scratches aren’t nearly as visible on the darker cameras. The silver one will have every scuff show as a black line since it’s the same black plastic underneath. It also has date/time controls which you’ll probably never use. A DLX silver version is also out there — with a panorama mask that does little more than destructively cropping your frame.

Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic (left) and its older cousin: Olympus Mju Infinity Stylus (right).

Loading film and using flash.

I love the modern film camera design with automatic film transport when it comes to loading 35mm film. All you have to do is match the tip of the leader next to the orange arrow; in the case of this camera, on the left. As long as the camera got its battery working, it’ll take care of the rest.

Turning Mju II on and off is as simple as sliding its lens cover; unfortunately, this also means that whatever flash or exposure mode you’ve set on your camera will reset as well.

Taken on Olympus Mju II and Kodak Pro Image 100. The flash (in fill mode) brightened up the shadows — particularly the dark carpet, flower pots and the shady side of the couch — while keeping the exposure right for the intense outdoor light.

The built-in flash on this camera is fantastic. It has automatic colour balance, variable power output, decent coverage, and an even light that Mju II uses smartly to ensure that your subjects look as natural as possible with little to no blown highlights.

The flash is so good on this camera that I’m not even mad that disabling it takes two presses of a tiny black button every time the camera powers on. Unless I’m concerned about startling my subject, there’s no harm in keeping it on. It works very well as a fill light for the darkest shadows that negative films usually struggle with.

If you intend to take portraits with a flash, a red-eye reduction mode may be helpful. Night mode flash is a good option for taking photos with the flash while adding up to four seconds of exposure to your shots to ensure that your backgrounds are well-lit. However, you may want to use a tripod for your night mode or be OK with having your backgrounds have some motion blur.

Auto-exposure and autofocus.

Besides cycling through the flash options, you can also trigger the spot-meter mode by briefly holding the flash and the timer buttons simultaneously. The camera will always pre-focus and set the exposure on whatever’s around the middle of the viewfinder when you half-press the shutter button. But in the spot-meter mode, Mju II will measure your exposures more tightly around the center of your frame, ignoring whatever’s not directly within the crosshairs.

✪​ Note: Pre-focusing and exposure-locking lets you take sharp, properly exposed photos of subjects that aren’t directly in the crosshairs of your viewfinder. Simply point your camera at them, half-press and hold the shutter button, then move your camera into the desired position (recompose) and squeeze the shutter button further to take the picture.

It’s worth noting that the camera will prioritize larger apertures when taking photos in dim conditions over slowing down the shutter. This is consistent with my style of photography, but if you’re looking to get great depths of field with a tripod in subdued light, Mju II may turn out to be a disappointment.

Mju II’s autofocus fail.

Mju II’s autofocus is fast and percise. In most cases, you would never have to think about it; the camera just works. However, I would strongly advise you to stay away from taking photos with lots of reflective surfaces — they will confuse the Stylus Epic system, leaving you with a wasted frame of film. Ironically, taking photos in the rain with this camera may not be such a great idea, despite its ability to withstand water damage. Especially in the city, where flat manufactured surfaces are abundant in bad weather.

Unfortunately, Mju II’s viewfinder will not notify you what the camera is intending to focus on. Whereas some cameras like Minolta TC-1 and Pentax PC35AF will have a display showing the focus distance, Stylus Epic will keep you guessing whether your shot will end up in focus or not. Thankfully, it’s accurate 99% of the time.

Mju II’s viewfinder.

The viewfinder will show a solid green light when you half-press the shutter indicating that the camera found focus; it will blink if Mju II can not find focus (this will block you from taking a picture). A solid orange light will indicate that the flash will fire; a blinking orange light will indicate that the flash is charging, preventing you from taking a picture as well.

The crosshairs in the viewfinder are where you want to point your Mju II for autofocus; right in the middle of them is where the camera will point its spot-meter. The tiny square brackets at the top show where the frame will get cut off when you focus on something really close due to parallax error. Alas, the markings are drawn in really thin black lines, so they can be very difficult to discern in the dark.

Mju II’s viewfinder is neither too small nor comfortably large. It’s very bright, but you may not be able to see the entire frame if you wear glasses. The fact that this camera is fully-automatic is certainly helpful though I wish that the bit used to compose was a little easier to peer through.

Mju II’s shutter button and remote trigger.

When it comes to the shutter button itself, Olympus did a really good job. It’s easy to find by touch, and you can find both the half-pressed and fully-depressed positions with ease. The button is also really well balanced; taking pictures at 1/15s with no motion blur is possible with this camera.

Mju II’s shutter system also comes with two fantastic options for self-portraits: a 12-second delay self-timer and a wireless remote trigger. A tripod hole completes the selfie rig.

Camera sounds and known issues.

For a fully-motorized point-and-shoot, Mju II is fairly quiet. There’s virtually no audible shutter sound, and the only thing you’d hear is the whirr of a small motor. It sounds pleasant and modern.

A gap between the frames on Olympus Mju II.

My copy had an issue with occasional overlapping or gap frames on film. I’m not sure what may be causing it, and I certainly have no idea how to fix that.

This wasn’t a huge deal for me — gap frames were simply the case of the motor advancing the film too far rather than skipping any exposures, and overlapping shots comprised just four out of 72 I’ve taken.

A reader noted to me that these cameras may be prone to issues with focus. So if you’re looking to buy an Mju II, make sure that the camera is tested, or better yet: film-tested. They’ve also noted that Mju II could not recognize fraction-stop DX codes such as ISO 250 and ISO 500. Wikipedia confirms: “It only has four DX-code reading contacts instead of the normal six, limiting the available ISO settings to complete stops, i.e., 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, and 3200.”

Olympus Mju II with Kodak Ektar.

Olympus Mju II lens and image quality.

Olympus Mju II’s 35mm 𝒇2.8 lens is quite good. In many ways, it’s an improvement over Mju I.

Though there is some barely-noticeable softness in the lens’ corners, they are much sharper than on the previous Mju generation. The lens does mostly a good job at correcting chromatic aberrations, and it has minimal flaring. The flares that you do get with it look rather interesting.

Olympus Mju II with Kodak Ektar and built-in flash. Wild-looking flares.

There’s no vignetting at all in the photos made with my Mju II.

The lens isn’t perfect, of course. When shot fully-open — as the camera tends to do often with ISO 100 film in moody weather — there’s a slight lack of sharpness across the frame. You can see it if you have good scans and are able to zoom in. It’s possible, though unlikely, that this could be an autofocus issue. I also wish the photos had a bit more contrast and something that would make the glass stand out from the pack a bit more.

But, perhaps, I’m asking a little too much of this already great little point-and-shoot. So instead, I am attaching a few high-res scans to this review and invite you to be the judge for yourself.

Olympus Mju II with Kodak Pro Image 100 after some colour correction.
Olympus Mju II with Kodak Pro Image 100.
Olympus Mju II with Kodak Pro Image 100.
Olympus Mju II with Kodak Pro Image 100 and built-in flash.

Mju II did not appear out of thin air. This camera is a product of years of innovation based on the original Maitani Yoshihisa designs for the smallest rangefinder ever created: Olympus XA. And so, to help you understand it a little better, I’d like to conclude this review by briefly comparing Stylus Epic to the original Mju (Infinity Stylus) and the XA.

Note: If you’ve already made your mind up about Mju II, see below for links and purchase advice.

Olympus Mju II vs. Olympus Mju I.

Both cameras were produced in the ‘90s. The original Mju was launched in 1991, and Mju II in 1997. The cameras look very similar next to each other, especially when the covers are closed. But there are some fundamental differences that make shooting each a distinct experience.

Olympus Mju Infinity Stylus (left) and Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic (right).

The most obvious difference is in weight and shape. The second-generation Mju is almost 10% lighter. It is also a bit smaller and feels nicer in hand.

Feature-wise, the major distinctions are the lens apertures — 𝒇3.5 on the original Mju, 𝒇2.8 on Mju II — and top shutter speeds — 1/500s on the original Mju, 1/1000s on Mju II. The original Mju also lacks spot metering.

I found the older model to have softer corners on the images it produced. Oh, and there’s no weatherproofing on the older Mjus either.

But despite the newer Mju II leading on almost all accounts, the difference in overall shooting experience isn’t as clear. I’ve really enjoyed how the older camera rendered my scenes, and I haven’t noticed the need for a faster lens or a higher top shutter speed in practice.

If forced to choose between the two, I’d pick the older model, mostly because I’ve had better luck with it thus far (Infinity Stylus sample photos). But that would be an upsetting decision as I’d miss the weatherproofing and the lighter, sleeker design of my Mju II.

Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic (top) and Olympus Mju Infinity Stylus (bottom).

Olympus Mju II vs. Olympus XA.

Olympus XA was introduced in 1979, nearly twenty years ahead of Mju II.

Both cameras have a fast 𝒇2.8 lens — although the XA has its smallest aperture close all the way down to 𝒇22, whereas Mju II only stops at 𝒇11. The much newer Stylus Epic has a faster (by one stop) shutter speed and comes with a really nice built-in flash. Of course, there’s no weatherproofing on the XA.

Mju II is also slightly smaller and significantly lighter than XA — despite the added weight of autofocus, motorized film transport, and onboard flash.

Olympus XA. It’s slightly taller than Mju II but considerably heavier at 240g — a difference of nearly 100g/3½oz. XA does not have autofocus or motorized film transport; instead, it houses moving metal components.

But the XA offers a lot more control over your exposures with its aperture priority system. Better yet, it’s a rangefinder which means that it’s a lot more reliable when it comes to getting perfect focus. Sure, it’s a little slower to use, but the creative control may be worth it.

I also think that XA has a much better lens. It seems sharper, and it absolutely does not get soft in the corners. It renders everything really nicely and has a fantastic bokeh. It also has more contrast and seems to flare less. The fact that it has a name, F.Zuiko, shows a sense of pride for the optics few point-and-shoot cameras ever display.

With all that said, I would never choose XA over Mju II. The older design, though technically incredible, is brittle and finicky. The rangefinder patch tends to fade, and the shutter button has awful feedback — you can’t even tell if the photo was taken or not half the time. It’s almost heartbreaking to witness such an incredible potential crumble due to poor handling.

In the end, Mju II’s plastic body with a less impressive lens and diminished creative controls is a lot more fun to use. And given its much-improved reliability, it’s likely to leave you with better photos as well.

Is Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic worth the money?

In 2022, these cameras go for anywhere between $250-350, which could be a significant chunk of money. Especially considering how much they were selling for when film photography was still in decline.

If this does not fit your budget, there are still many great pocketable camera options out there for under $200. Of course, none will have the same ergonomics and a matching set of features like motorized film transport, spot metering, and weatherproofing. But they will do the job, and many will have a great lens, perhaps even better than that of Mju II.

But if you happen to have a few hundred bucks for a fancy new toy, this could be the one for you. Especially if you want a fast lens, quick shutter speeds, slim profile, best-in-class built-in flash, and ease of use.

Mju II is neither overrated nor overhyped. It simply has a unique set of features that today’s market is hungry for. Sure, there are fancier cameras out there, but they will cost you even more.

By the way: Please consider making your Olympus Mju II Stylus Epic camera purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!