Down the Road

Roads and life and how roads are like life

Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

22

I wonder if the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 ever really had a chance, given that it was introduced in 1999. Within a few years everybody who bought auto-everything 35 mm cameras like these would be ditching them for digital cameras. If the number of these cameras available on eBay at any moment is an indication, Olympus sold a ton of these cameras. That they all seem to be in like-new condition says a lot about their unfortunate place on photography’s timeline. This camera’s time in the sun was so short that many of them show up on eBay with marketing stickers still on their faces.

Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

The Stylus Epic Zoom 80, which was known as the μ[mju:]-II Zoom 80 outside the US, was feature-packed, starting with autofocus and autoexposure. The telescoping lens zooms from 38 to 80 mm. It’s flash can adjust to reduce red eye, fill to brighten shadows, and fire in conjunction with a slow shutter speed for better night shots. It also has “infinity mode” that focuses on infinity for landscape shots, and “backlight mode” that reduces exposure by a stop and a half when your subject is lit from behind. What it lacks is any manual control whatsoever.

Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

This camera is small; it reminds me of a bar of soap in my hand. Its design is so modern that if you took this camera out in public nobody would give it a second glance because they’d think it was digital.

This is my second Stylus Epic Zoom 80. I gave my first one away several years ago and missed it, so when I came upon another for cheap recently (ahh, supply and demand) I nabbed it. I immediately put a roll of Kodak T-Max 400 through it. When the film came back from the processor, I was reminded of this camera’s two big flaws.

Blown out bushesFlaw #1: In contrasty situations, the exposure system seems biased toward resolving the darker areas, which has the effect of blowing out the lighter areas.

The FlawFlaw #2: The lens has a tendency to produce a curved flare in the image’s corners. I can’t figure out what lighting conditions bring this on, but it happened on at least one shot on every roll with both of my Stylus Epic Zoom 80s. The camera forums are full of stories from other users who experienced this problem.

Another issue that doesn’t quite rise to the level of Flaw: At full zoom, the lens goes a little soft. The zoom isn’t that deep anyway, so I hardly use it. When I want a tighter shot I just move in closer.

What makes me call out these issues is that they stand in such stark contrast to how pleasant this camera is to use and what good results it can otherwise return. I slipped it into my pocket on a recent bike ride – it’s so small and light I hardly noticed it. It feels good in my hands. I can slide the lens cover out of the way with one hand, and by the time I get the camera to my eye the lens has finished extending. The shutter button is right where my finger wants it to be. All I have to do is frame my shots. The viewfinder isn’t very big, but it’s plenty bright and surprisingly accurate. This signed tree is in a wooded lot not far from my home.

No Dumping

It was a day for shooting trees, I guess. I’m super impressed with the tones in this shot.

Tree

It’s fitting that when my previous Stylus Epic Zoom 80 was my go-to camera, I shot plenty of my go-to film, Fujicolor 200, in it. I took it on my early road trips. State Road 45 is a twisty handful to drive between Bean Blossom and Bloomington.

SR 45 WB W of Trevlac

State Road 62 is also twisty fun through some of Indiana’s southernmost counties. Here, the road curves around a rock formation at the entrance to Harrison-Crawford State Forest.

SR 62 at SR 462 6 mi W of Corydon by Harrison Crawford State Forest

This is the Ohio River at the town of Leavenworth, which is also on State Road 62.

Ohio River SR 62 EB W edge of Leavenworth

I took my Stylus Epic Zoom 80 on my third and final mission trip to Mexico in 2006. Vida Nueva Ministries has a large compound outside Piedras Negras in Coahuila. They run a school there; this animated student wouldn’t rest until I took his picture.

Happy student

This is a side street in Piedras Negras near their open market, where they are happy to take gringo dollars.

Piedras Negras

The last road trip I made before I bought my first digital camera included a stop at the Bridgeton covered bridge. It had just been rebuilt after an arsonist destroyed the original 1868 bridge. It was a rare opportunity to photograph brand new wooden Burr arch trusses.

Bridgeton Covered Bridge

Outside, the scene looked like a set from Little House on the Prairie.

Bridgeton Covered Bridge

If this were my only camera I’d find its flaws to be a major bummer, especially that unpredictable flare. It’s a shame, because otherwise there’s so much to like about the Stylus Epic Zoom 80.

See more photos from this camera in my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 gallery.

Do you like vintage cameras? Then check out my entire collection!

22 thoughts on “Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

  1. Lone Primate

    The colour shots have an interesting hint of desaturation about them. The curving road Harrison-Crawford shot is given a particular poignance by it, I think. I was wondering if that’s a result of the film you used or something about the optics of the camera. It’s expecially noticable when you compare them to the Brownie shots that immediately follow.

    1. Jim Post author

      I was having my film processed at Wal-Mart back then because of cost. They weren’t the best processor in the world. I wonder if that plays a role. I even punched all of the color shots up in Photoshop Elements before posting them, because they were a little hazy and dim.

  2. ryoko861

    This is really weird. I just came across a brand new, still in the blister pack Olympus Trip AF 31 35mm camera this weekend! Comes with a brand new roll of Kodak Gold film. And batteries to boot! Do I dare open it? I need another camera like I need another car. It’s all there, film, case, batteries…..and there’s none on the internet for sale. What do you think it’s value is?
    It looks like these little cameras take good quality pictures. Other than the little flaws you mentioned, they seem crisp and the clarity is fantastic. I mean it does everything for you. All you do is shoot and develop. Love that Ohio River and covered bridge shots! Speaking of covered bridges, do you have many Amish in your area?
    I’m thinking that even though digital gives you a supposedly better picture, is it really worth it? These little 35mm seem to do just as good or better. I think it all comes down to developing. If you can find a reputable camera shop that can give you worthy developing as oppose to printing out your own pictures or taking your card to Wallyworld, I think your results would be pretty much the same.
    Jim, give me some advice as to what to do with this Olympus I have. I’m still trying to find my Minolta. Would love to show that one to you.

    1. Jim Post author

      The Trip AF 31 you found is probably worth $5. It was part of that last wave of auto-everything point-and-shoot cameras before the digital wave hit, and they are considered junk cameras now. For the record, so is my Stylus Epic Zoom 80. 20 years from now they might experience a renaissance of sorts and prices might soar. But even then, your Trip is probably not going to be one of the well-remembered P&S cameras of the era. I’d put a roll through it to see if you enjoy the experience of shooting it. If so, keep it. If not, well…

      It does all come down to processing. When I’m on the road I can take 200 photos in an afternoon. If I shot film, that’d be 9 rolls to be processed. CVS charged me $5.50 to process one roll and burn the images to CD, which is about as cheap as it gets. The cost really adds up fast!

      1. ryoko861

        In twenty years the film will probably be no good. Maybe I’ll open it and have some fun with it! Thanks Jim!
        You did good with just $5.50 for processing and burning! I remember it used to cost over $15 just to process a role!

  3. Mike

    You got some very nice pictures from it. I had pretty much the same experience and came to the same opinion. It seemed like too much of a good thing, and a bit late to the party. Still like my MJU 1 a lot and have film in it right now.

  4. Ted Kappes

    I have one of these too. I think it came with a lot of other cameras that I bought. As I can tell from your photos it is capable of some good results. I did put a roll of b&w through it last winter and was mostly pleased with the results. As you probably know I do kinda have a thing for this type of camera. I’m afraid that the elements that might make them a future collectible aren’t there, however stranger things have happened.

    1. Jim Post author

      I think that certain cameras from this type and era will be at least minor collectibles. The Olympus Stylus/mju series qualifies because of the high level of miniaturization and the good lenses. The original Stylus/mju is likely going to be the best known by far, though.

  5. hk

    Stumbled across your blog and this post, and couldn’t help commenting. I had one of these cameras with the same issue. It’s caused by a light leak. Put a piece of gaff tape (or electrical tape, or anything lightproof) over the little window that lets you see the roll of film on the back of the camera. Problem solved (at least, it worked for me in 1999).

  6. Brandon Campbell

    I had an older Stylus zoom from 1994 that was similar to this except it was black and the zoom only went from 35 to 70 and it didn’t have an infinity focus mode. I loved it for the longest time, but I also sometimes noticed circular flare in the corners like yours.

  7. Richard

    Jim,

    I own this little camera and tested it at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin a few years ago.

    I purchased it for $30 via Craigslist. I’m in Chicago, find the camera in Madison via Craigslist, send emails, and then purchase it long distance for $30. The lady probably thought I was a bit obsessive (back then she was right).

    It’s always fun testing an old camera but my photos with this camera weren’t anything special. But the old photos had some shots of a friend who recently passed away and that brought back memories.

    Thanks for your many film camera posts.

    Richard

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      I have an affection for this camera because it was the first decent point-and-shoot film camera I’d ever owned (when I bought my first one in about 2005). I used it enough to know how to work with it. So when I bought this one it was an old friend and I got results that pleased me.

  8. Dawn

    Hi Jim-

    I’m cleaning out my credenza that is filled with cameras, some new and in the box. Could you tell me which, if any, are worth holding on to for any reason or what they are worth if selling? My husband and I like simple, simple, simple, and I still love my “old” Kodak Easy Share V550 (even though the viewing screen is ruined for daytime use, from a Geyser in Iceland–I have to look through the viewfinder for daytime shots.) Would love to get the screen repaired but a new camera is less expensive and probably better anyway. Any thoughts on the repair?)

    Here are the cameras I have:
    Minolta Freedom Dual 60
    Canon EOS Rebel G Kit, in box
    Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80, in box
    Ricoh RZ-735
    Olympus D-340L
    Canon AE-1
    Kodak Disc 6000

    Thanks for your time and your help.
    Dawn

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Dawn, your Canon AE-1 has value if it is in good working condition and would be a good candidate to sell. Same goes for your Rebel. The others are all point-and-shoot cameras and don’t bring much on the open market today. I’d bet I could buy any of them for $10 on eBay right now. Well, except for the Disc 6000, which is essentially worthless.

      As for your EasyShare — yeah, just buy a new camera. Seriously. For simple point-and-shoot digital cameras I recommend Canon. Even a $100 Canon digital camera is capable of good work.

      1. bwc1976

        The Rebel G was Canon’s entry-level SLR in 1997 (I had one), and the Rebel name and design lives on in their entry-level DSLR’s to this day. I agree it’s not as interesting or historically significant as the AE-1 though.

        1. Jim Grey Post author

          Oh yes, good catch. The Rebel is also a camera of value and could fetch some cash on that auction site. I edited my response above to reflect that.

  9. Kana

    I found your review because I recently bought a Lomography Tungsten film but I don’t have a 35mm camera and I remembered my parents have an Olympus Infinity Zoom 80. Now I am eager to try
    I was blinded by new cameras megapixels but my happiest days taking pictures were when I took pictures with an old Nikon F2 (now broken).
    Greetings from Chile.

    1. Jim Grey Post author

      Hi Kana, and thanks for commenting. This little Olympus is a fun point and shoot and I recommend it, especially since they can be found for cheap.

      I’m shooting with a Nikon F2 this year and am having a great time with it. If you go to the blog’s main page and look back through this year’s posts, you’ll see some of the work I’m doing with it.

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