5 frames with...

5 frames with a the Olympus mju-II – by Francisco Varone

February 15, 2018

After several years using Canon digital cameras, in 2008 I bought an Olympus XA on eBay. I felt in love immediately with this compact and beautiful camera. Returning to film photography was a great satisfaction that motivated me to make pictures everyday. But after two years and many rolls of film, I was seduced by Panasonic’s GF1 and the tiny 20mm 1.7. Having autofocus again felt really great!

This year during a trip to Costa Rica, a friend lend me his Olympus mju-II for a few shots. It was like going back to my old days with my XA but now with autofocus a compact flash and a spot mode that I found very useful. Of course when I returned home I bought one. I have shot several rolls by now, all color film. I enjoy doing portraits, especially because it’s so small and unobtrusive that people don’t take it very seriously, so using it with strangers or in the streets is not a problem. I read somewhere that the camera, if possible, uses the diaphragm wide open at 2.8, so usually I get a nice out of focus background in my pictures.

Definitively this is my all day carry around camera. Next week I will try it with some 1600 ASA film.

Francisco Varone is a film director and script writer from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Instagram: @panchovarone

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  • Reply
    Terry B
    February 15, 2018 at 4:17 pm

    Francisco, nice images with punchy colours. What film is it?

    Regarding what you’ve read about the camera setting f2.8, I’m fairly sure that this was a reference how auto exposure works in this type of camera in program mode. The brightest light it can record will be its smallest aperture combined with its fastest shutter speed. At the opposite end of the spectrum, it will be f2.8 combined with its slowest shutter speed. However, if this was a linear relationship, shutter speeds would get too slow to hand hold even before the camera reached f2.8, so by programming the exposure, for part of the exposure range there is a correlation with slower speeds and wider apertures, but the camera is designed to get to f2.8 first and when the shutter speed is around 1/60 to 1/125, thus promising more successful hand-held shots. In the original instruction manual you may well find a graph showing the program bias for you camera.

    • Reply
      February 15, 2018 at 5:13 pm

      Thanks Terry for your comment. The film is Kodak GC 400. But I am using this camera with different types of film, fuji Superia 800, Kodak Portra 400, Fuji 100. And thanks a lot for your explanation about how auto exposure works!!!

  • Reply
    February 16, 2018 at 5:07 pm

    To get the wider apertures, I’m guessing it’s best to use slower films?

    • Reply
      February 16, 2018 at 5:14 pm

      I think you are right if you are shooting outdoors during day. But I have tried the camera with 800asa film during night scenes and interiors, and it will also be using the wider possible aperture. In that case, with this camera you have to remember to disable de flash before shooting.

  • Reply
    February 17, 2018 at 9:02 am

    A 35mm 2.8 lens would not be most people’s preferred option for shallow focus. These type of cameras were intended to give sharp pictures in point and shoot situations, and Olympus programmed the MjuII to prioritise faster shutter speeds in relatively bright conditions. I never thought of the MjuII as a portrait camera, but if it works for you that’s all that matters.

    For more conventional P&S situations I prefer my XA3 to my MjuII. There’s no lag, and I can choose which zone to focus on. When shooting layers this is important, as autofocus locks of this era locks on to whatever’s in the middle of the frame which isn’t always the main subject.

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