Date written – 04/08/2023
I’ve shot a tonne of MJU IIs and MJU Is over the years and in that time I’ve figured out how these two cameras differ!
The Olympus MJU I is a compact point-and-shoot camera with a 35mm 3.5 lens and the Olympus MJU II is a compact, weatherproof point-and-shoot camera with a 35mm 2.8 lens. It isn’t just the aperture that sets these cameras apart though.
If you want to find out how these two cameras differ and whether it’s worth the price jump up to the Olympus MJU II then read on!
A Brief History
1991 saw the beginning of the mju series which doesn’t just include the mju I and II, but a whole host of mju zooms and the like. The symbol µ is a Greek letter that is used in science to mean “micro” and this is exactly what Olympus wanted to achieve.
The Mju (or ‘mew’) is always super compact and sports a sliding ‘clam shell’ door that helps to keep it safe from the elements.
So with the mju I in 1991 and the mju II in 1997, we have two of the most popular film cameras ever made and two of the best, not to mention all of the other mju versions produced over that time.
There’s a bit of a difference in the build of the mju I and mju II. The mju I is a bit bigger with a more symmetrical shape than the mju II and because of this, it’s a little bit more bulky.
The Olympus mju ii is an incredibly small and light camera which can easily be put in most pockets.
Both of these cameras have really strong builds but the Mju II has a small weakness at the bottom left corner of the back door which can sometimes be cracked or broken. Both cameras can have broken battery doors but the Mju ii has more of a weakness because the part that you push in to open the battery door can snap off over time.
The mju ii also has an ‘all weather’ which means it’s great in bad weather, which is a big plus but I honestly think the same can be said for the mju i for the most part, I just think they hadn’t thought of it as a unique selling point at the time. (Of course, the mju ii will have better weatherproofing).
Obviously, the mju ii is better in terms of size, weight and weatherproofing but in terms of overall build quality, the mju ii tends to have more small knocks to the body than the mju i does (in my experience).
Hot damn, this is where the difference really is, these two have brilliant lenses, but those 6 years between the two really gave Olympus a chance to put together something brilliant.
First of all, there’s a little thing called ‘focusing steps’ which are basically the distances at which the camera can focus. For instance, the Olympus AF-10 only has 4 focus steps (which is basically like the far older Olympus Trip 35), so this means that unless your subject is in one of those 4 zones, then it’ll either be out of focus or the camera will attempt to use aperture to make up for the lack of focus (if it’s at F16 then it’s likely most of the image will be in focus anyway).
The Olympus Mju I has around 100 focus steps, which probably made it one of the best point-and-shoots of its time. This would have meant that most of the time your picture would be in focus and the camera wouldn’t need to up the aperture to make that happen.
You might think 100 focus steps is a lot and yeah, it kind of is but it’s not that much when you compare it to the Mju II. The Olympus Mju II has more than 400 focus steps, making its autofocus absolutely unreal.
This vast difference in focus steps makes a difference, but I guess it’s nothing like the difference between 4 and 100. Once you get past 100 it’s kind of like great, of course it’ll make a difference and make focus much easier but it won’t make nearly as much difference as going from a poor AF system (like AF-10 to a good one like the Mju I). However, it’s clear that the Mju II is far superior when it comes to AF.
The Olympus Mju I has a 3 element lens in 3 groups, whereas the Mju II has a brighter four-element lens and there’s some debate about what is better. The more lens elements you have, the more control you have when it comes to focusing and the like, however, more lens elements can cause flares or lower contrast.
I think the Mju II’s 4 element lens is probably the sweet spot, but it shouldn’t make that much difference, not when compared to focus steps.
Things really change when we start talking about AF systems of the Mju series. The Mju I was produced in 1991, still early for AF systems and while it was really really good, it was still just a standard AF system.
In contrast, the Mju II has an unbelievable Multibeam AF system which is arguably one of the best of any point-and-shoot ever produced (hence its popularity). They both have brilliant focus ranges (I think they’re both 0.35m) but the speed at which these cameras focus is definitely something to consider. The Mju I definitely takes a few moments to focus whereas the Mju II is pretty rapid and a bit more consistent.
Since the focal length is exactly the same for these two cameras, one of the last differences is the lens’s aperture. I would argue that the Mju II didn’t really need to be F 2.8 but they probably produced it that way to concretely and visibly set it apart from the Mju I.
The Mju I has a 3.5 lens and the Mju II has a 2.8 lens, but does the Mju II really need to go that wide open? For instance, the Yashica T4 has a 3.5 lens when its predecessor (the T3) had a 2.8 lens, and the T4 is one of the best point-and-shoots ever made.
Obviously, 2.8 is handy, it helps in lower light and sometimes if you’re lucky, the camera might stop down to 2.8 while you’re shooting a portrait or something of that nature.
I guess when you have one of the best AF systems on a point-and-shoot camera then stopping down to 2.8 isn’t as much of a risk as it might have been in the past (see the Canon Sureshot).
Just one thing
Both of these cameras tend to be confused by reflections, so they struggle to find focus and they’re likely to mess up the focus when there are reflections around.
Ease Of Use
Both of these bloody cameras have one of the most frustrating aspects possible, they’re always back in Auto mode when you next turn the camera on. This means that if you don’t want the camera to flash then you’ll have to turn it onto no flash mode.
This is so frustrating and such an oversight, because if you’re shooting intuitively, you don’t want to be thinking about turning that flash off. This is possibly the biggest downside to the Mju range for me.
Otherwise, they’re virtually the same camera when it comes to what they do and what buttons to press. It’s just that the Mju II is quicker and more reliable. The Mju I will take a while to focus whereas the Mju II is pretty much immediate.
They both store really well and they both feel great in the hand. Also, something I really like about them is it’s not easy to accidentally leave the power on unlike with cameras like the Nikon L35 AF.
One of the only thing that some people might not like about the Olympus Mju series is that the viewfinder is very small, some people will definitely find that annoying although it’s not something that’s ever bothered me.
Obviously, there’s quite a jump in price when it comes to either of these two point and shoots and while most old heads would complain that current prices make no sense at all, that is where we are right now.
You’ll hear all sorts of stories that back in the day you could pick one of these up for $10 and so why should anyone pay today’s prices? Well, the answer is, now people want these cameras, they were always good cameras but for about 10-15 years there were thousands of them and no market for them.
These cameras are limited and they’ll only get more limited over time however, I believe recent rises in the cost of film has stunted/reduced the price of film cameras (at least for now), as more people see it as a completely unaffordable pass time.
Currently, the price of a Mju I sits at around £130-170 and the Mju II sits at around £230-300. Of course, prices vary in different countries and you may pick one up in a flea market for $10 but that’s the exception and not the norm.
This difference in price is pretty significant and choosing between the two is really down to what you want the camera for and how much money you can sink into a camera.
I’ve bought and sold well over 100 Mju I & IIs so I’ve really got to grips with some of the common faults with both of these cameras.
Predictably, the Mju I tends to have a few more issues than the Mju II but the Mju II can be just as frustrating.
Firstly, the Mju I can have a fault where it no longer loads film properly, no matter how you position it it just won’t wind on. It also regularly has a problem where the lens extends but it doesn’t shoot or the lens stays out and you’re unable to close the clamshell door. Both of these render the camera useless and any refurb would probably cost you more than the camera.
Finally, the Mju I commonly has a problem with the battery door, but not as commonly as the Mju II does.
The Mju II can have more different problems but they tend to occur less regularly. The Mju II doesn’t tend to have the film loading issue that the 1 has but it does have an issue where you press the shooting button and the lens comes out but it doesn’t go back in.
It can also become damaged on the bottom corner of the back door which could cause a light leak. Also, it can produce a small hole somewhere inside the foam around the lens which creates light leaks.
Finally the battery door is very often damaged which isn’t really a big deal, it’s just annoying.
All in all, despite having more common issues, the Mju II is still much more reliable than the Mju I, probably due to its age as much as anything.
I’ve shot a lot with both of these cameras so I may as well show you the difference in the images.
The above shots are from the Mju I but it’s really important to note that images can vary a lot based on the type of film used as well as the camera.
The above shots were taken with a Mju II (I can’t remember what type of film I used for it though).
Which One Should You Go For?
This question really depends on what kind of photography you want to do and what kind of money you have available.
The Mju II is unquestionably better, quicker and smaller than the Mju I but is it another £100-130 better? That depends on how sharp you want your pictures to be and how reliable you need the camera to be.
If money is no object then yeah, go for the Mju II, there’s no reason not to, it’s really good. However, if you’re on a bit of a budget, the Mju I is still a really good camera, with 100 focus steps, a good AF system, compact style and being reasonably reliable, you can’t really go wrong.
It’s really down to what’s right for you and what you can actually afford.
How To Use Them?
I’ve shot with these cameras a lot and I really love using them. I love being able to shoot intuitively, without worrying about settings and without having to consider other aspects. Sometimes that’s what you need from a camera in order to get some of your best shots.
Either way, take care and shoot whatever you bloody want.