Shooting the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 for the last time

I’m breaking up with my Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80.

Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80

It’s been my favorite point-and-shoot camera. It’s so small and easy to use, and I love the contrast and sharpness it always delivers. No matter what film I drop in, I’m always thrilled with the results.

Except for its fatal flaw. And I’ve finally had enough of it.

It’s this weird curved light leak, which this photograph shows. I shot a roll in this camera recently, some Kodak Tri-X 400, and half the images suffered from it. I’ve owned two of these cameras and both had this problem. And reading the forums, it’s not just me; this appears to be a problem with this camera, period.

Rock Bottom

One forum participant said to cover the window on the back that shows the film canister inside. He thought this was the leak’s source. I tried it and it didn’t work. I assume now that the leak comes from around the lens barrel, and I don’t know how anyone would fix that.

It’s a shame. This lens is so capable. And the 35-80mm zoom range is useful, even though the camera zooms slowly. And the flash is pretty good for an onboard flash, lighting remarkably evenly, as this throwaway shot of my kitchen shows.

Air drying

Typical of this kind of point and shoot, the camera decides when to use the flash. But the camera uses it well. I didn’t intend for the flash to fire on this shot, so I turned it off and shot it again. The flash-enabled shot looked much better. Could this camera be smarter than me?


But anyway, back to the light leak. I’ve always cropped the leak out of the afflicted photos, as I did on this shot of some mailboxes in my neighborhood. But I’m tired of having to do it. And sometimes the leak covers up some of the subject.


I’m sad that it’s time to break up with this camera. It’s just perfect to carry around with me everywhere. I’ve started taking 15-minute walks around my neighborhood before going to work, and after a skiff of snow fell one morning I snapped these tire tracks on the street. It’s great to whip this light little camera out of an inner coat pocket and quickly grab the shot.

Tire tracks in the snow skiff

On an evening when I met Margaret for a pint I photographed this fence across the street. Truly, except for this flaw this is a quality point and shoot camera that’s easy to carry and use enables photographs I might not otherwise make.


But now the search begins for an easily pocketable point-and-shoot 35mm camera with a great lens. Is it too much to ask of it to take a battery I can buy at the drug store, and will zoom across the 35-80mm range?

What pocketable point-and-shoot cameras do you like? Tell me in the comments.

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27 responses to “Shooting the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 for the last time”

  1. dan james Avatar

    Jim, I’ve not tried the Mju zoom you have, but I’ve got great results with my Mju-1.

    I don’t much like zoom compacts, but ones I’ve tried that have been consistently excellent are the Pentax Espio series (I think they’re called IQ Zoom in the US). Probably my favourite of these was one of the first, the Espio AF Zoom, which is a 35-70mm zoom. Very compact and very capable, with just enough features.

    This is what it looks like –

    Here are some shots –

    If you want something wider, either the Espio 120SW with a 28-120mm lens or the even wider 24EW with 24-105mm lens have both given me great results and are very classy compacts. You can see albums for each of these on my Flickr too.

    Ricoh (who now own Pentax) have specs of the last range of Espios on their website still –

    For a fixed lens, I’d go with a Mju-1 (or its sibling the LT-1). If you definitely need a zoom, I wouldn’t look any further than Pentax, if it was me.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Ooh, that’s a pretty camera. How big is it? Because the things I like about the Mju/Stylus series is that they’re bar-of-soap sized.

      I have an original Stylus here. It’s a good little camera and will probably become my pocket camera at least for now. I’ll miss the little zoom range but that’s not a dealbreaker. I’m not in a hurry to replace this Zoom 80.

  2. Peter Avatar

    It seems like you’re right about the lens barrel, judging by the shape of the leak. Did you try and disassemble the camera to take a look? I don’t need to tell you about deteriorating light seals, as you’re probably aware. May I suggest applying some sticky tape on top of the lens barrel to cover the gaps? Just be careful about jamming the lens.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I haven’t disassembled this camera. I’m not sure where I’d even begin to – this little guy is sealed tight, with no obvious screws to take it apart. The lens extends when you open the camera, so I’m not sure how I’d tape it up. It’s a shame; this little guy does nice work. And its viewfinder is pretty accurate, in that what you frame through it is very close to what the lens sees. It’s a pet peeve of mine when a viewfinder isn’t accurate.

      1. Peter Avatar

        I’m not suggesting taping over gaps between the body and the lens barrel, but rather sticking some tape on top of the barrel to slightly increase its diameter.

        1. Jim Grey Avatar

          Ah! That’s an intriguing idea. Kind of like stop-leak for a radiator: fill in the gaps. I’ll chew on this idea.

        2. Peter Avatar

          Yeah, it’s kind of that. The thing with deteriorating seals is they don’t just fall apart, they shrink. So you might be able compensate for that by increasing the diameter. Worth trying. That little guy seems to be a decent perfomer aside from that leak.

  3. Joshua Fast Avatar

    I’ve had two epic 80s and they both have done the very same thing. I think the felt between the lens barrels has deteriorated enough that with the right angle of light it will create the leak. My solution was to sell them and get something different. I love P&S and carry one with me every day. I’m not a big fan of zooms but I’ve had a few that were noteworthy. I highly recommend the Yashica Microtec 70. Its a 35-70 zoom and feels like a zoom version of a Yashica T4 with the viewfinder of a Contax T2. Solid, roughly the same size as the MJU’s but built much better. I literally just gave one away last week. I would have donated to the Jim Grey’s HFWC. Look at the Nikon One Touch line, they have great zooms. Pentax IQZooms can be picked up at nearly any goodwill for $3 and they are also excellent.

    I have never been able to get my head around the MJU’s, just never bonded with them. I carry a Yashica T2 in my bag daily and although its a bit bigger i love it’s results. I was able to obtain a broken Contax T2 for free and when it returns from repairs it might be replacing the Yashica.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve had two so afflicted as well. A bummer. My original Stylus is pretty good but sometimes is muffs focus. One in 50 times, but I’ll be goldanged if that one time is always a shot I really, really wanted. Thanks for the ideas about cameras to look at! I’m usually not a fan of zooms myself, but this Stylus Epic’s zoom was pretty good. Except at max zoom — focus was always a shade off. But back off from max just a hair and all is well.

  4. SilverFox Avatar

    For some reason I can’t see any of the images on this post; all I see is lines. Even when I click on them and it takes me to your FlickR I can’t see them. It must be me or something as I see other people seems to see with no problem. Thought I would let you know anyway.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well now isn’t that odd. I just checked, and I can see them from here. Perhaps something is blocking Flickr on your end. I hope that’s all it is.

    2. SilverFox Avatar

      Okay scratch that. Eventually they turned up. Must be some network thing on my side.
      I can’t offer any suggestions to your search I’m afraid as I haven’t owned a compact 35mm for some time. I haven’t thought about them in the way you are so it’s interesting that I have dispelled them like that. I seem to remember Canon Sureshot was a good camera back in the day and I had a lovely Ricoh but can’t remember whether there was much in the way of a zoom.
      Good luck with your search.

      1. Jim Grey Avatar

        I like to have one good, small P&S to slip in my coat pocket and take along wherever I go. I’m more an SLR guy but a solid P&S is just right for casual shooting.

  5. bigcityal Avatar

    I have the Stylus 120 and it does not do that. The flash as auto on and the other settings not staying bugs me a lot and I don’t really use it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Yeah, those auto settings bug me too. If I used this camera all the time I’d build a routine to set everything as I want when I open the front, and I’d do it automatically.

  6. Kevin Thomas Avatar
    Kevin Thomas

    My favorite pocket camera is a Voigtlander Vito 2. Not as convenient as an 80’s P & S, but a lot of fun. I’ve got a model 1 Stylus, but didn’t really bond with it.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Fun no doubt! But a little bigger than I’m hoping for. Those bar-of-soap Styluses are hard to beat for size.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Hmmm. Worth looking into!

  7. Vicky Avatar

    The circular lightleak is a common problem on the mju zoom series as the light seal deteriorate overtime, the only real solution is avoid zooming much so you didn’t get that unique looking light leak.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Well that makes sense. Thanks for solving the mystery!

  8. Roberto Rodríguez Avatar
    Roberto Rodríguez

    Hi Jim. I also own a Zoom 80. I found out that mine only leaks light in when the cover is moved to the open or close position. Once the lens is extended, there’s no more leaking. What I do is open or close the cover inside a bag or a pocket. I only shoot in the 38mm focal length, so the camera is still quite compact to carry around without turning it off (careful with the shutter button):

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s great information and good to know!

  9. Paul Farrell Avatar
    Paul Farrell

    Hi Jim, I’m coming to this post two years late as I’ve recently put a couple of rolls of film through a Mju II that I’ve owned from new but haven’t shot for over a decade and I’ve got the same light leaks on mine. Did you ever find a solution or fix?

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve only recently heard that the mju II has this same problem. I never figured out a fix for my Zoom 80 and so I sold it on. Some people like the effect the leak gives on photos.

  10. The Dude Avatar
    The Dude

    well i might have a solution if this blog is still active… 2020
    i didnt test it yet but if you push the lens gently upwards while shooting it should solve the problem… not 100% sure but it seems to work.

    i’ve tested it in a dark room with flash light in the inner part of the camera, wilth the zoom fully open … you can see the leaks clearly in the upper part ( it turned upside down on the negative- so you see it in the lower part of the image)
    and while i pushed the lens gently up no light leaks were seen…

    give it a try, i will

    i have 2 of these mju zoom i kind of like them but the light leaks are awful
    i hope we have a solution

    happy shooting

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Oh yes, I’m still here. My Stylus Epic Zoom 80 isn’t, however; I gave it away. If you get good results from your idea, do let us all know!

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