Recently I have been eying up a very nice looking Leica M2 with an old Elmar collapsable to get back into some analogue street photography. Total cost for this little outfit is a tad under £1000, hence a degree of hesitation on my part, especially as I believed after a while I may need the rangefinder re-calibrated to the lens, likely costing another hundred quid ! Ah.! Then I thought maybe a point and shoot, umm, the Contax G2 looked sweet too, with gorgeous Zeiss lenses but also priced very highly now. Instead I opted for an Olympus mju f3.5, costing just £3 in a charity shop. It looked clean, led display worked, battery still in place and showing charge. Add a roll of Agfa colour 200 asa 24 exposure film purchased from Poundland for [you guessed] one £1.
The little mju is a joy to use, slips easily into a pocket and is ready to use instantly by pushing the neat clamshell lens cover open. There is a satisfying shutter button which allows focus and exposure setting with a half press so you can re-compose if required. Focus and metering seems more or less instant and then a little whizz as the film advances automatically to the next frame. The flash is constantly alert waiting for low light and fires automatically. there is a tiny button to switch it off or to use fill flash and another tiny button for self timer. Aside from this there are absolutely no other controls so any form of creative or manual photography is impossible.
For street photography it is brilliant. Slide it out of a pocket while sliding off the lens cover hold up to eye the sweet little viewfinder, compose, shoot.. three seconds, I reckon. I tried firing from the hip which was quite successful too. I bunged the roll into Boots, and opted for one hour processing. From a roll of 24 I achieved 22 exposures, two were spoiled because I thought the film had re-wound when in fact it hadn’t. My mistake, if I had looked at the lcd counter it would have told me as the motor wound back the frames. A couple of shots were blurred again my fault for trying to shoot without the flash, in low light so an element of camera shake. The others were pretty good, perfectly well exposed and reasonably sharp and contrasty. Total cost including camera, film and printing. £11.50
Well, now for the comparison. Leaving aside the camera purchase could I have used the Leica M2 as easily? For a start it is larger and heavier, no metering and I would have to focus every shot. I am happy with zone focussing so this would not be too much of a problem. Here is a fabulous article about metering for film by Johnny Patience well worth applying. The Olympus reads dx film code and this means there is no way to override the ASA/ISO setting, unless you scrape off the black squares on the film canister, so unfortunately I was unable to over-expose by one stop as Johnny suggests. So with my Leica I could have set my own parameters, including ISO, managed shutter speed and aperture and thus bokah. I could happily have applied the sunny sixteenth rule or used pocket light meter on the iphone, but given that I was walking around in sunlight and shade this would have been a little tedious. OK, I agree there is no real comparison and undoubtedly given more control and the lovely Leics lens I would have [possibly] ended up with better images. So I will leave it for you to judge. Here are some of the photos I took scanned in with a £40 all in one printer.
Being a strictly FujiFilm digital shooter I am a big fan of Kevin Mullins official Fuji X photographer. So I kind of like the saturated colour and contrasty shadows that my Olympus mju achieved. What is more, if I didn’t like this little monkey so much, I could sell it on ebay as a genuinely film tested camera and give the excess profits back to the charity shop.