Mju and me
Olympus point and shoot cameras come with a tremendous pedigree. The production run for the Olympus Trip 35 ran from 1967 to 1984 with over 10 million units sold. The wonderful XA was one of the smallest rangefinder cameras ever produced.
Working in a supermarket photo-lab we carried a small range of cameras while doing a brisk trade in Kodak disposables. At that time I lusted after the weatherproof Mju 35mm cameras; sadly it was a little too rich for my paltry hourly wage. The Mju 2 seems to have developed a Yashica T4/5 like cult around it judging by the prices they command on eBay thanks to its pocketable size and super sharp lens.
Their digital variants, however, are a damn sight more affordable allowing me to bag a boxed Stylus 800 as my second vintage digital last month.
This 8MP compact Olympus was unveiled May 2005 offering, at the time, one of the highest pixel counts in its class. The Stylus 800 kept the Mju’s ‘weatherproof’ design and brought with it something called, ‘Bright Capture’. This allowed the camera to boost sensitivity to help to ensure a bright screen image and blur-free non-flash photography in very low light.
It cost me £10 but I had to drop another £5 to source a used 512Mb xD picture card. The mid-00s were back in the days before SDXC cards pretty much became the norm for digital media. Despite its age, the Olympus has been well looked after with only a few scuff marks. Its ergonomic, rounded body is lovely to hold while the lens disappears behind a protective screen when not in use with a reassuring clunk. Sadly, there’s no optical viewfinder for screen-free shooting. An early taste of what was to come to the majority of point and shoots.
I whacked it into SHQ mode; no RAW here sadly, and took it on a couple of brief lockdown strolls to test it out. The first thing that amazed me was its ‘SuperMacro’ mode that allows for accurate focusing as close as 3cm. It’s incredibly impressive given the age of the camera.
I eschewed any of the zoom capability (38–114mm) to keep the lens as bright as possible, as well as keeping clear of the cluttered scene menu. This offers a bewildering range of subject options; from fireworks to document scanning, night portraits to cuisine. Amazingly, there’s a full digital manual built into the menu system with a dedicated button to access it. Different times.
The weather was in my favour on both days of snapping photos but the colour reproduction from the CCD sensor is fantastic. The level of detail captured from this diminutive digicam is equally great.
It lacks the high-end polish of the Canon I picked up but the macro capabilities alone as enough to make me want to shoot with it more.
Undoubtedly, a tenner well spent; especially when you consider this was a £280 camera at launch.