Welcome to the ninth in my series of quick compact 35mm camera reviews. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be publishing a total of 12 of these articles as part of an upcoming 35mm compact camera mega test spanning cameras made from 1990 to 2003 – arguably the golden age of these pocketable beasts. You can find the full list of cameras being tested here.

I’ll be comparing image quality, durability, speed and overall performance for cameras ranging from the very high end of the 35mm compact camera world to the very low – or close to it. The final articles will cover my criteria and scoring in full. At over 12,000 words in total, it seems a sensible approach to break these mini-reviews out, rather than trying to cram everything onto a single page.

You can check out the reviews that have already been published over on this tag page.

The Olympus MJU Zooms
The Olympus MJU Zooms

A zoom lens is a marvellous thing. You can reach shots you would miss with a prime-lens compact. That is a huge benefit. When I discovered how cheap these Olympus MJU Zooms were, I bought half a dozen. To be honest, I think I got carried away there. It turns out the MJU Zooms are a little bit…well, horrible. Just as the dinosaurs evolved into lumbering giants that went extinct, the sleek little prime-lens MJU and MJU II evolved into these slow, bloated beasts.

When I tested these cheap zoom compacts, my heart sank every time I pressed the shutter button and nothing much happened for a while before the camera eventually took the shot. I winced every time I heard the ageing motor struggling to wind the zoom out to a comically long focal length. I felt embarrassed every time the auto flash went off in full daylight in a vain attempt to compensate for the absurdly small maximum aperture.

Olympus Zooms - This test shot is not too sharp
Olympus Zooms – This test shot is not too sharp

Okay, I am exaggerating. These MJU Zooms are not completely terrible. To be fair, the more I used them, the more I became used to their slowness. I had quite a lot of fun trying them out, laughing at the absurdity of them.

The picture quality is adequate. I felt a bit disappointed with the sharpness compared to the prime-lens cameras, but as long as you do not compare it with those, it looks okay. When you zoom to the long end, the autofocus loses accuracy (probably because the aperture is too small for autofocus to work well). In fact, I would go so far as to say the autofocus is unacceptable at the long end of the zoom range.

However, let’s not forget that a cheap camera can be a wonderful thing. A stress-free camera is a fun camera. If you see a MJU Zoom at a bargain price, why not have a go? As a made-up tourism poster for New Zealand (from Flight of the Conchords) once said, “Don’t expect too much – you’ll love it”.

If you are tempted by one of these, I recommend the later ones such as the MJU Zoom 140 and the MJU Zoom 80 WIDE. Earlier ones such as the MJU Zoom 80, 115 and 120 had silly pop-up flashes that almost always fail, because they try to pop up right where your finger is.

Thanks for reading,

~ Ray

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About the author

Ray Rapkerg

I photograph people, including fashion photography, quirky portraits and art nudes. I feel photography is mainly about the images and the people in them, but secretly I am a bit of a gear-head as well! I like using a variety of medium format film cameras (current...

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  1. Where are the tests? Comparisons of image quality? You recommend one over the other because of flash placement?? What a waste of space

  2. Terrible post. just terrible.
    I thought I would learn something, or at least have a good read. But this is just lame.
    Zero content.

  3. The thing is, it all depends what you want from your vintage camera. If you want lots of manual control, metal body, etc then the Mju isn’t it. It’s a point and shoot, auto exposure, auto focus, plastic body.
    I have zoom140, it cost £2 from a charity shop. Suits me fine.U value.