Point & Shoot

The Olympus Mju II Zoom 80 Panorama – A review by Ken Hindle-May

A Sunday morning. A tabletop sale. An Olympus camera case catches my eye. It’s about the right size and shape. I sidle over, pick it up. Act casual, act casual. I open it and…it’s not a Mju II. Well, it is, but rather than the oh-so sought after 35mm f/2.8 I was hoping for, I’m looking at the champagne chassis of its zoom-lensed cousin – the Olympus Mju II Zoom 80 Panorama. I reach into my pocket full of assorted camera batteries (no camera hunter should leave home without one) and hear “that’s just a pound, love” from the stall holder. Sold.

That classic Olympus clamshell design.

The Mju II Zoom winds out the flash every time it’s opened, whether you’re going to use it or not. For a relatively small compact, it’s not terribly discreet.

Back in the car, I finally battery test it and all is well. Slide back the lens cover and the Zoom 80 whirrs to life with a flourish I don’t think I’d ever tire of. Zoomed all the way out to 80mm it’s almost as long and unwieldy as its name, but in use I rather liked it. It’s a touch larger and has better ergonomics than the regular Mju II, the tapering shape of which leaves nowhere for the left hand’s fingers to naturally fall. The Zoom is squarer and easier to grip.

The biggest improvement lies in the viewfinder, which is significantly larger and easier to sight through compared to the ‘through the keyhole’ experience you get with the Mju II Prime. The Zoom 80 has selectable panorama baffles and, pleasingly, blacks out SLR-style while the shutter is open.  The panorama mode proves disappointing in use, however, combining both wonkiness and fuzzy edges.  I’ll stick to my Minolta Riva Panorama for that sort of thing.

If you like your panoramas wonky and blurry at the edges, this is the camera for you!

The Mju Zoom 80 meters and focuses just as accurately as its fixed-lens sibling, but shares its frustrating lack of flash mode memory.  I found the half-press on the Zoom significantly easier to find than the hair trigger one on my Mju II, though that might just be a factor of this camera being virtually box fresh and mine being heavily weathered.

The controls and LCD are situated on the top plate, rather than on the back like the ordinary Mju II.

How does it compare in terms of image quality? Its 38mm f/4.5 wide end is certainly the Zoom 80’s strong suit. It shares the Mju II’s pleasing tones and is decently sharp. My few shots at 80mm are harder to judge, though. Several came out soft but I can’t say whether that’s an inherent quality of the lens or merely a combination of f/8.9, 200 speed film and an overcast day.

“Here, boy. Put this in your trousers.”

The Mju II Zoom is capable of capturing dramatic sporting events such as this one.

If you want to get the best from the Zoom 80, it’s best to stick to the lens’s wider end. Simples.

What does let the Olympus Mju II Zoom 80 Panorama down, however, is a strange circular flaring/artefact that appears toward the corners of several shots. I thought this might be a fault with my copy, but a search of Instagram suggests they all seem to do this. It only appears in the corners, so rarely ruins images completely, but I’m surprised Olympus sent a camera to market with such an obvious flaw.  Consequently, it’s hard to recommend the Zoom 80 as the great value (a Mju II will cost around four times as much), versatile, all-weather compact it so nearly is, but it remains well worth picking up if the price is right.

Heylan’ coo. Note reflective artefacts top right and bottom left.

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11 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Andrew Karlson
    June 27, 2018 at 10:00 pm

    From other reviews I’ve gathered that arc-shaped artifact is s symptom of the seals around the base of the lens giving way, and that it’s an inevitability with all of the Mju-zooms.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ken Hindle-May
      June 28, 2018 at 11:38 am

      That would make more sense than a major failure at Olympus QC. They still seem to sell for around £50 on average, though, despite the fault.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      walker
      June 28, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      yep, mine was one of those 🙁

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Cameraville.co
    June 28, 2018 at 4:34 pm

    I was hoping for more panoramics! Oh well I will just letterbox it with my fingers. I enjoy the compact faux panoramas 🙂

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ken Hindle-May
      June 28, 2018 at 8:15 pm

      I did take a few, but not many came out well. I should probably have taken it out hiking for better scenery!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Pedro Trevino
    July 2, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    I haven’t come across this one! I shot a Zoom 80 Wide DLX, which has a 28mm f4.5 on the wide end. I think that breathless moment of spotting an Olympus is a universal experience. Haha.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Iman Benjamin
    August 17, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Are you able to tell me how you’d activate or use the time mode? haven’t been able to find a manual or video tutorial. Only just found my Olympus zoom in thrift store. Thank you so much!!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ken Hindle-May
      August 18, 2018 at 8:33 pm

      Unfortunately I don’t have the camera anymore to check, but looking back at the pictures the self-timer button appears to be by the top right corner of the LCD panel. I would guess it’s a case of pressing that until the little clock icon appears in the panel. Sorry I can’t be more certain.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Gordon Palmer
    January 15, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    That arced lens flare problem…I’m not sure about the seals, more likely a lens near flush with the barrel . Let me explain – My lomography lomo’instant instax camera has the same problem – Nearly 100% solved by fitting a lens hood. My Rollei Prego 140 had a sticky auto lens-cover, so I took off the defective cover, leaving the lens near flush with the edge of the barrel. Whilst waiting for a replacement to arrive (in the form of using the part from a Samsung Vega 140 which has the Identical mechanism), I took some shots with no lens cover. When the part arrived, put it on. The processed shots without the lens cover almost All had the circular flare. Those with the lens cover back on didn’t.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ken Hindle-May
      January 16, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      That’s an interesting idea. This problem is not occurring more and more as these cameras age, including on the fixed-lens Mju, so I suspect the seals are at fault but it makes me wonder if fitting a flush hood might rectify the problem.

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Gordon Palmer
        January 22, 2019 at 12:54 am

        I’ve just picked up a zoom 80 – can see that the glass is almost flush. Will see how that translates into light arcs on mine.

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