The elderly Olympus Mju II becomes something Nju for an extraordinary bikepacking excursion into Australia’s Blue Mountains.
A couple of weeks ago, along with two friends, I spent three days bikepacking on mountain bikes in the glorious Blue Mountains west of Sydney. We rode 230 km, mostly on dirt roads and trails, and climbed a total of 3,533 metres. And I chose an extraordinary and much-sought-after mini film camera as the best tool to record the adventure.
We were a self-contained unity, carrying changes of clothing, tents, sleeping bags, cooking utensils, stove and all our food. We topped up with water from town supplies and from streams along the way. Carrying enough water is always a major issue if you are backpacking or bikepacking. Currently, there is plenty of water in the streams in the area which can be drunk after filtering, but that’s not always the case.
The trip was a great success and the three of us are already looking at routes for our next long ride. The weather was ideal for the trip but it would not be feasible in high summer—just too hot—and it could be too cold in winter.
To record the trip, I used an Olympus Mju II which I last used in 2006. It entered an early retirement in that year when I went digital. The camera had laid unused in a box for 14 years, with an unprocessed film inside it. Sadly the shots on that film were junk when processed so no unexpected delights there. I had high hopes but…
The Olympus Mju II, which was launched in 1997, was a very popular camera in its day. And going by the prices on eBay it is currently enjoying a cult following. This is a full-frame, point and shoot, 35 mm film camera with a good 35 mm f/2.8 lens in a very compact body.
The Mju fits easily into a pocket and, when shut, it is dust-proof—a major consideration on a mountain bike ride. There is no digital equivalent to the Mju II today. That category of compact point-and-shoot camera has vanished from the market, displaced by smartphones.
I loaded the Olympus with the excellent Kodak Portra 160 negative film for the trip. The results are not at all bad by my reckoning and it’s not difficult to see why the Olympus is so well regarded even today.