Fuck a T2 just get a µ[mju:]-II

Fuck a T2 just get a µ[mju:]-II

Before starting, we would like to clarify that, normally we would not make a comparison like this because the Mju II and Contax T2 are two completely different things (like comparing a Toyota to a Porsche). Although both are Point and Shoots, they have completely different characteristics and, when they came out on the market they had two very different target audiences, the Contax T2 a high-end targeted camera, the Mju definitely not, was more a compact camera for everyone.

There are endless amounts of posts/forums where you can read up on every little detail about each camera etc. but, both of these cameras have bit hit with the hype machine recently and the prices have been steadily rising, so we figured we would give our two cents.

Here at Safelight we have the unique opportunity to be able to try and shoot many different cameras and over the past few weeks, after shooting both the T2 and µ[mju:]-II, both of us came to the conclusion, fuck a T2 just get a mju

That said, and given the reactions on Instagram, we thought that an explanation was due.

First of all, two lines on the history and specifications of both models (info from Camerapedia):

The Olympus µ[mju:]-II (US: ∞ Stylus Epic) was an award winning 35mm compact camera issued by Olympus in 1997. Its small splashproof body, accurate autofocus, fast and sharp prime lens, and integrated auto-flash, led to it becoming something of a modern classic. It was originally available in black or silver. Around 3.8 million examples were sold.

Specifications:

  • Lens: 35mm, f/2.8, focusing from 0.35m-infinity. (4 elements in 4 groups).
  • Active multi-beam autofocus with focus lock.
  • Film format: 35mm DX-coded film, ISO 50-3200.
  • Automatic exposure range of EV 1-17, f/2.8, 4s -f/11, 1/1000s. Spot metering available.
  • Self-timer (12 second delay).
  • Autowind and rewind.
  • Integrated colour-balanced flash. Recharges in 3.5 seconds, working range 4.1m at ISO 100.
  • Flash modes: Auto, red-eye reduction, suppressed, forced/fill-in, night scene (slow synch up to 4 seconds).
  • LCD with battery check and frame counter.
  • Time/date stamp (Quartzdate model only).
  • Optional RC-200 remote control.
  • Weatherproof (resistant to splashes).
  • Power: one 3V lithium CR123|CR123A.
  • Dimensions: 108x59x35mm.
  • Weight: 135g (without battery).

Released in 1990, the Contax T2 was the second of the Contax T series of high-end compact film cameras targeted at the professional and luxury consumer markets. It was offered in in champagne silver, black and gold plated finishes. The Contax T2 was renowned for its Carl Zeiss T* multi-coated Sonnar 2.8/38 lens comprising 5 elements in 4 groups and user friendly controls. While it offered full automation, including Autofocus and Program AE, the Contax T2 was one of the most readily user-controllable cameras of its era, featuring Aperture Priority AE selection on a dial on the retracting lens body, and manual focus on a thumb dial. Exposure compensation of +/-2 EV in 1/2 EV steps is controlled by a dial at the top left and the EV compensation is given in a small window. Shutter speed and focus lock confirmation is given in the viewfinder.

Specifications:

  • Carl Zeiss T* multi-coated Sonnar 2.8/38 lens comprising 5 elements in 4 groups.
  • Active multi-beam autofocus with focus lock.
  • Film format: 35mm DX-coded film, ISO 25-5000.
  • Exposure range of +/-2 EV in 1/2 EV steps.
  • Shutter speed 8s - 1/500s
  • Aperture F/2.8 - F/16
  • Self-timer (12 second delay).
  • Autowind and rewind.
  • Flash modes: Red-eye reduction, pre-flash option, 3.5 s recharge
  • Power:1 x 3V CR123 or equivalent
  • Dimensions: 119x66x33mm.
  • Weight: 295g (without battery).

What we think a Point & Shoot should be:

Our criteria for what makes a good point & shoot is exactly in the name just point and shoot, and the result should be a properly exposed and in-focus photo. When people are using these types of cameras they should be good "all around" cameras. Most of the time these cameras are the one you have in your pocket/bag all the time. 

You should be able to just use the camera at a moments notice with out any thinking, shoot, and the result should be that of a useable photo.

Our photographic style, with point & shoots, is quite intrusive, unpredictable and the time to seize the moment is always quite minimal.

When we are using these cameras, usually it is with out any plan or project in mind per se, they are merely in our pocket to collect any interesting things that happen in our daily life, snapshots.

We shoot photos of our home family life, or the streets on the way to the office, or when we go out for some drinks for friends. 

You know the saying, "the best camera is the one you have on you."

 So, why do we consider the µ[mju:]-II a sort of definitive point & shoot?

Simple. For those of us who want to have a small, easy to use, responsive, and reliable camera, the Mju II wins across the board, atleast in our eyes. Moreover, in addition to having the aforementioned features the 35mm f2.8 lens (focusing from 0.35m-infinity 4 elements in 4 groups) is by far one of the fastest and sharpest of the genre (not sure what the genre is, maybe cameras your mom would use) and it is supported by an active "multi-beam" autofocus with focus lock that, very rarely is completely out of focus.

For us, Mju II is the ideal companion, in a moment is ready to shoot and the results are mostly of the time excellent.

The following are a few photos from the µ[mju:]-II with Kodak Tri-X pused to 1600: (sorry for the lo-res images, anything we upload on here gets some weird compression put on it)

Now for the Contax T2:

The photos you will get from both cameras are excellent, defined and sharp, but.... a very analytical eye with a professional scan/print at hand, can notice that the Contax T2 has something more to give...cough Carl Zeiss cough... but what we want to tell you is: do you really need to spend more than three times for a little improved printing image quality? Most people are just scanning with a pretty mediocre scanner, probably from the Epson V series, or getting the "standard" scans from their local lab and posting on instagram.

If you need a camera for your Instagram account, blog, Facebook or similar social media, our suggestion is to buy a Mju II or basically any other point & shoot with a decent lens, including the Konica Big Mini, Canon Sprint, Mju I or Sure Shot Supreme and so on.

With the money you save you will have the opportunity, to buy more film, or print your photos, or put out that zine, or travel.

The Contax T2 is not a piece of crap, let's be clear. We love the T2, but...we do not love it at 700-900 euros. It is a great camera with an impeccable design, a robust body and features that make it look more like its "cousins" the G1 and G2.

But it also has many flaws, at least for us and for the way we see and we want a point & shoot to be.

The main things that do not do it for us are, for example, the size, even if it is similar size to the Mju II, the "brick" shape of the T2 is definitely less pocketable than a Mju II.

The grip is not so great and you have this constant feeling that it will slip out of your hand, and what makes it worse, the lens is closer to the side of the grip so you really just have the tips of your fingers to hold it. Lots of times our fingers were kind of hitting the edge of the lens barrel when shooting.

The camera is incased in metal, but does not mean it is more durable. To be honest we have had way more T2's with problems in the shop in comparison to Mju II's.

If you drop the camera and there is a problem, you have a 700 euro brick, or a repair that is probably the price of just buying a normal point & shoot.

Regarding the usability/readiness, the T2 is not really immediate, in comparison to the Mju II, we speak of tenths of a second, but still you've got to spin the little thumb wheel and wait for the lens to go out. Once the lens goes out, if you did not leave the camera in "auto" then you have to pick the aperture, and if you forget this sometimes can mean messing up photos. (we messed up a few photos by leaving the camera at f/4 by accident and shooting in bright sun)

Another thing is that the shutter is flat, smooth, and very sensitive. Sometimes when shooting on the street or in any circumstance under pressure it can be hard to get the shot. Many times we had photos where the camera "missed" focus....but this is probably our fault as we need more time with the camera to get the feeling of the half press down.

The Contax T2 is for sure a better camera in every sense, on paper, it's metal, you can choose the aperture, it has exposure compensation, there is also an "auto" mode, and the main draw is the Carl Zeiss lens. 

But overall we felt like, maybe we were missing something? Why are so many people going crazy over this camera. Our shooting experience was more like...ehhhh? And then when we scanned our photos and saw them we had the same kind of reaction. There was not this "WOW!" factor that we had expected. 

Images compared:

 

Conclusions:

 In conclusion, we are not arguing that the Contax T2 is shit, we are just trying to put it in perspective. We get to shoot and see alot of cameras that come through the Safelight office and for the amount of hype around the T2, we do not know if it is justified. In reality you can get a camera that costs 1/3 of the price and shoot great photos.

We think that the extra money you would spend on that T2, use it to do something more creative. Go on that trip you have been meaning to take, print those photos, make a zine.

Both the Olympus Mju II and Contax T2 are great cameras but perhaps, due to the nonsense hype that hovers around both of them, we have lost a bit of the real purpose of a camera: taking pictures.