Is that a zoom lens in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
Sorry, I couldn’t resist. It’s just that the Olympus μ[mju:] Zoom 140 packs an awful lot of zoom into such a tiny camera.
The Zoom 140 isn’t as svelte as other cameras in the μ line (known as the Stylus line in North America). I suppose they couldn’t cram a 140mm zoom lens into a skinnier body. By the way, this camera came to me in a camera swap with Peggy Anne, who writes the terrific Camera Go Camera blog. I sent her my Olympus 35RC in exchange.
The Zoom 140 is as fully featured as you’d expect from any Stylus or µ camera. It begins with a 38-140mm f/4-11 lens, of 10 elements in 8 groups. It reads the DX code on the film canister to set ISO from 50 to 3200. It automatically focuses using an phase-detection system, advanced for its time and a first among µ/Stylus cameras.
It also automatically sets exposure, as you’d expect; you can choose between a three-zone pattern or spot metering. The built-in flash is on by default, although it fires only when the camera needs more light. You can turn it off or set it to any of five other modes, including red eye and fill. The Zoom 140 includes a self-timer and — very nice for my aging eyes — a viewfinder dioptric correction dial. It really brought subjects into crisp view. The camera is also weather resistant; a little light rain won’t harm it. A CR123A battery powers everything.
By the way, if you like compact 35mm cameras, also check out my reviews of other little Olympuses, such as the Stylus Epic Zoom 80 (here), the XA (here) and XA2 (here), as well as of the μ[mju:] Zoom 140 (here). You could go up a little in size and experience the legendary Trip 35 (here). Or just check out my master list of camera reviews, here.
These little Olympuses love black-and-white film, so I loaded some Fomapan 200. Film loading is automatic: stretch the film across to the takeup spool and close the door. The camera takes it from there, winding to the first frame, advancing the film when you press the shutter button, and rewinding the film at the end.
I went to some of my usual haunts with the Zoom 140, including Washington Park North Cemetery.
Little point-and-shoot cameras are great for walking-around photography, especially when they pack a lens as sharp and contrasty as this one.
The Zoom 140 was good at recognizing what I meant the subject to be. That’s not a given with every autofocus compact! For distant subjects it brought everything into focus; for close subjects, it tried its best to create a blurred background.
Typical of always-on flashes, the Zoom 140’s flash sometimes fired when I preferred it didn’t. And typical of zoom point-and-shoots, the lens goes soft at maximum zoom, as the photo below shows.
Back it a hair off maximum and the lens just keeps delivering. This is a camera worth getting to know much better.
I took the Zoom 140 with me on my bike ride up the Michigan Road. This is where I found the camera’s slight chunkiness to be a problem: it simply would not fit into the back pocket of my jeans. So I switched to cargo shorts and slipped it into a side pocket.
Zoom lenses are wonderful on road trips. It’s not always practical to cross a busy road to get near a subject. The zoom lens does the walking.
The versatile Zoom 140 knows how to play any game I have in mind. Documentary photography from a distance? Absolutely. Something more creative? Well, sure! If I didn’t know better, from the test roll’s results I’d say the camera was reading my mind on each shot.
Would you guess this scene is in the city of Indianapolis? I photographed this just a short distance off Michigan Road in Augusta, a former town.
Finally, one Saturday morning I awoke to interesting light outside my bedroom window. I grabbed the Zoom 140 and stepped into the yard to try to capture it.
To see more photos from this camera, check out my Olympus μ[mju:] Zoom 140 gallery.
Olympus made a bunch of models in its μ/Stylus series. After shooting several of them, I feel sure all of them must boast very nice lenses. If you’re looking for a capable point-and-shoot 35mm camera, try a μ/Stylus — any μ/Stylus.