In 2013 we had the opportunity to travel for work to Orlando. Lori was attending the national conference for DATIA and it happened to be at the Leows resort at Universal Orlando. As we can bend our homeschool schedule around life as it happens, we all went down and did the pilgrimage to see the Mouse. I elected to shoot film for this trip, and I was rewarded with an experience I won’t soon forget.
The dynamic duo for this timeframe was the GA645 and a camera I haven’t mentioned yet on this blog: the Olympus Mju-ii (aka, Stylus Epic). The Mju needs no introduction among experienced film shooters. It’s just about as good as a pocket camera can get, with a sharp, contrasty 35mm F2.8. It’s weatherproof, quick, quiet and would be perfect if the flash defaulted to OFF.
Recent readers will know that I’ve sworn off 135 film these days. The effort isn’t worth it for me in the era of 8Mp iPhone cameras. It’s not a debate I’m opening up, your mileage may vary. For my uses, it’s more than sufficient. In 2013, though, I was using the iPhone 3Gs. Newer iPhones have integrated themselves further into our lives, becoming indispensable in a number of ways. The Mju was the king of high-quality happy-snaps for me in 2013, though. Right up until I bought a Contax G2 kit. But that’s a story for another post.
Rewind to 2013, and we surprised Gracie with the trip. We got up early, drove an hour to the airport with packed backs and a groggy kid. She’s down for whatever and didn’t ask many questions. She didn’t figure out where we were actually going until the second of three airports. The cost, time and planning were worth it before we even set foot in the Sunshine State.
I elected to go full-on tourist mode and bought 35mm film as I needed it. I was delighted to find out most of the parks had film available, and not at a bad price. Good old Kodak MAX, 3-packs for $14 or so. Could be worse! The GA was fed with its usual diet of FP4. Little did I know the Fuji was ailing, and wouldn’t complete the trip. (cue the violin solo)
We had arranged ourselves a two bedroom condo for a week, some deal we found online for $179 USD for the whole stay. Fully expecting a ratbag and a week of timeshare pitches, we showed up to a tidy, quiet and friendly resort that turned out to be a very relaxing place to spend a week. The Alhambra at Poinciana was right off International Drive, handy but down the way from the brunt of the nasty. We were even able to host our friends Jonathan and Monika who jumped in their car and came down from Chattanooga and spent a few happy nights.
Grace and I had a day to ourselves at Universal Studios, and enjoyed every moment. We strolled through all the alleys and back lots, enjoyed a lunch together and soaked up the great weather. I’m lucky to have a sprout like her, one that genuinely enjoys spending time with me.
You can see here the definition shows by the 35/2.8 in the Mju. Crisp.
It’s funny to say, but Kodak MAX in a point and shoot camera looks exactly like I want my vacation shots to look. The feel is authentic, it looks like my remembered childhood, for the most part. My shots are metered properly and focused, but maybe my childhood was actually underexposed and fuzzy. I don’t remember. Grace’s childhood will be sharp.
There were static displays everywhere showcasing movies and shows produced by Universal. Every so often there was a (carefully choreographed) spontaneous show, and my favourite was the Blues Brothers.
It was around now I noticed the advance on the GA starting to make wonky, grindy noises. This is where the Mju stepped up to the plate and earned its salary.
At this point, I had to mentally shift gears. Shooting 120 is always a more serious affair for me than shooting 135. I was finished truly composing, truly photographing. After I put the GA to bed, I have to say I was more present in my family holiday.
It was fun to roam from set to set, alternate realities flowing together as the sun sank lower in the sky. Here’s where the Mju impressed the hell out of me. For a simple camera, the results are amazing. The meter is spot on, what you will see next are all off the same roll and over around three hours as the sun set and the lights of the attractions came up. This pocket wonder took it all in stride.
Upside of traveling with a camera as simple as this, you can toss it to anyone and get a respectable family photo. Every stranger born before 1990 will know to look through the peep-hole and not hold it out in front of them like a dolt.
I can’t fault the Mju at all, not with performance and flexibility like this.
Around the corner from our condo there was a small-time amusement park creatively called Fun Spot. BUT they had unlimited go-karts for $30. Jonathan and I drove many dozens of laps. We defeated all challengers, young and old. I’m sure they’re still singing songs of our exploits.
Next, of course was Disney. Now, I have to say Disney was a bit of a letdown. Maybe because it’s constantly built up so much in every way, when you actually get there it feels sort of small-time. Not so much that it’s quaint and charming though, just enough to make you feel like a chump for letting them so far into your pocket.
Again, this is all Mju with site-bought consumer film. Not perfect, but something authentic about the rendition.
The exception was EPCOT. If we hit Florida again, I’ll buy a three day pass to EPCOT and enjoy every minute.
Not sure where this is all going, but if you’re on the fence about buying a 135 pocket camera, just buy a fixed-lens Mju and be done with it. Feed it garbage film, turn off the flash and enjoy your holiday, commute, “street” photography, whatever. Florida was ok, as long as you don’t mind coming home with no money. I think it’s a right of passage for parents to bring their kids here, and to feel jaded about it afterward.Some families are in the Mouse Cult, returning every year and telling anyone who will listen. Not sure I get those people, nor would I choose to be stuck in an elevator with them.
Images in this set are courtesy of a broken GA645, F4.0 EBC Fujinon loaded with unintentional double-exposures on FP4. Color images are courtesy of the overachieving Olympus Stylus Epic, 35mm F2.8, probably loaded with overpriced Kodak 400 MAX, processing via drugstore hacks.