I’m continuing with my point and shoot camera reviews for all of you who are looking for an alternative for the Olympus MJU II. This time I’m taking a look at another Olympus MJU II — the one with the dreaded zoom lens. Is it as good as the one with the 35mm lens? Let’s find out!
Before moving along, I’d like to point out my new Olympus AF-10 review. AF-10 (or Olympus Infinity Jr, as it is also called) is an excellent alternative for MJU II, so I’d highly recommend checking that article out too.
I’ve had at least three or four MJU II zooms. My last purchase was the Zoom 80 version, which I rather enjoyed. At least for a while. As mentioned in the previous articles, I’m still having mixed feelings about MJU II. On the other hand I really like it, but then again not enough to hold on to them. I’ve always ended up selling or trading them for something else. This time though, I was out scavenging my usual flea market when something black and shiny caught my eye. It was a mint MJU II Zoom 80. I believe it cost me around 5€. The price was right so I gave it a good home for few weeks.
The most distinctive feature was, in my opinion, just how beautiful camera it was! Especially the black version. Plastic point and shoot cameras don’t age that well, but this was almost unused and shiny.
I’ve always kind of regretted when I’ve sold my MJU II’s, because the idea compels me. The actual experience tends to remind me how ever, just why I don’t use point and shoots. But I can’t help it, the last time I sold my MJU II, I ended up missing it. I’ve been looking for one ever since. The only problem is the price. I’m not going to pay any more than 20€ for a point and shoot. Period. If I’m spending my little pennies on gear, I’m buying film. 5€ for this beutiful zoom version was just right though and I was glad to give it a try.
The zoom version isn’t as good as the 35mm version
I’ll just get right to the fact that the zoom version just isn’t as good as the fixed lens one. This didn’t come as a surprise of course, but just in case you’re wondering, I’ll just say it flat out and save you the trouble.
I’ll keep this short and sweet; Zoom 80 doesn’t have nearly as nice image quality as the 35mm fixed focal length model. It’s definitely not bad, but the 35mm model is so highly regarded because the tack sharp photos, which is something that the Zoom 80 version just doesn’t provide. If you’re looking into MJU II for high quality optics, I wouldn’t recommend the zoom version as a substitute.
The zoom goes between 38—80mm, which is completely pointless range. That’s basically like using a 50mm lens and taking one or two steps closer of further away from the subject. You’ll practically walk faster than zoom. The motor is painfully slow and it’ll literally take longer to zoom from 38mm to 80mm than to just walk closer to the subject.
The biggest problem is just how slow the lens is. Sure, you’ll get the most pointless zoom range ever invented, but at what cost? The lens is an absolute opposite of a low light monster. Bearing in mind that the actual 35mm lens MJU II has the maximum aperture of f2.8, the Zoom 80 versio has f/4.5-8.9. The so called “tele-end” has A MAXIMUM APERTURE OF F8.9! Cavemen had faster cameras than that!
I never bothered to use the zoom, but leaving it at 38mm, the shooting experience was pretty decent. In the end I ended up carrying it just because it looked so nice and I wanted to pretend to own a real MJU II once again. Sure enough, it wasn’t enough reason to keep it and I traded it for a nice haul of film.
The zoom versions are gaining popularity as well. The 35mm version is so popular that the crappier versions are of course bound to drag behind. Maybe some people are settling for them and like me, pretending to belong to the club of real MJU II’s. If for what ever reason, you’re drooling over a MJU II, don’t get the zoom version. You’ll be disappointed. On the other hand, many of us has been disappointed with the actual MJU II’s as well, because it just isn’t as good as lead to believe. Bear in mind just how much pure hype there is around the camera. I’d get either one if the price was right and 5€ for the zoom version certainly wasn’t a bad deal.
The dreaded flash
Just like the actual MJU II, zoom version(s) has an automatic flash setting, that you cannot turn off all together. The next time you’ll turn on the camera, the flash setting has been reset to the default ‘auto’ setting.
The flash is located at the top of the camera. It jumps out from the camera like a bunny ear and there’s no way of preventing that. It’ll just pop out even if you’re not planning to use the flash.
In the core of the camera’s problems, is the zoom lens. So far, it has already ruined everything by just existing and being so slow. In addition to that, it affects greatly to the shooting experience. Unlike the MJU II 35mm fixed focal length version and Olympus AF-10, the lens has to come out from the body when turning it on, and retract when you close the lens cover. The fixed models doesn’t have this problem, because the lens stays neatly where it is, without having to extract. So basically, when you turn the camera on, there’s a long waiting time before you can actually take the shot. And when you try to close the lens cover, it will first bump into the lens barrel, then you’ll have to wait about a second until the lens has retracted. After that you can push the lens cover all the way back.
I really wanted to like the camera, just like I wanted to like the 35mm version too. Olympus MJU II Zoom 80 would be much better without the zoom, which means look for the 35mm version if you really want to have one of these cameras. I’m tempted to say that it is not a bad camera, but the lens is slow and pointless, that I’m having a hard time making that statement. It is extremely well made and solid and would be a joy to use if it wasn’t for the idiotic lens. For a cheap price, it’s not bad, but it seems that the prices are getting higher and higher. I definitely would not pay a premium price for this camera. It’s just for fun and games.
For further reading, here’s my previous reviews about Olympus MJU II cameras: