Carrying a jug

Olympus’s Stylus line is well known to deliver the goods, with fine lenses and easy pocketability. The granddaddy of all Styluses is this, the ∞ Stylus (aka the μ[mju]: in markets outside North America).

Olympus Stylus

I’ve put a lot of film through this little camera. Here’s one of my favorite shots from it ever, on expired Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400.

Garfield Park

I hadn’t shot black and white in my Stylus in a while, so I spooled in a roll of Kodak Tri-X 400 and slipped it into my winter-coat pocket. It went everywhere with me for a couple weeks.

House at Coxhall Gardens

That’s the beauty of a camera that’s about the size of a bar of soap — it’s so portable. Anywhere I happened to be, I could quickly photograph anything I thought was interesting.

Chevy Citation

All was not skittles and beer with my Stylus. Several shots were marred by a little leaked light, a problem this camera has previously not had.

Rushing water

I like to focus close sometimes, but the Stylus doesn’t. I suppose someday I should read the manual and find out its closest focus distance. This subject isn’t exactly easy for autofocus to figure out, either. What was I thinking?

Berries, out of focus

And then there’s the infernal flash. Every time you turn the Stylus on (by sliding the cover out of the way) it goes into the mode where the camera decides whether the flash should fire or not. You can override it, but it’s so easy to forget to. I get at least one shot on every roll with flash reflecting harshly in something. Here I shot the sun poking through the trees and reflecting onto the creek, first with flash, and after I dropped an s-bomb, without. The effect turned out to be negligible.

Reflected on the water 1
Reflected on the water 2

Its meter struggles with high-contrast scenes. I shouldn’t be surprised; it probably meters near the center, which isn’t going to result in nuanced work. Nothing a little Photoshop can’t rescue, though, as here.

Lion graffiti

Finally, it requires films that are DX coded, and you can’t manually override the ISO. I like to shoot color-negative film a stop fast sometimes, and you can’t do it with the Stylus.

Black Dog Books

But when the Stylus hit, it hit big. Look at the great tonality and contrast it delivered.


Its 35mm lens grabs lots of the scene, which I like for general walking-around photography.

Decorated fence

To see more from this camera, check out my Olympus Stylus gallery.

I want to own a solid, extra-compact point-and-shoot 35mm camera. Ideally I’d keep film in it all the time and always carry it in my coat pocket. The Stylus’s feature list ticks every box for me, and it has loved every film I’ve ever thrown at it. It’s a brilliant little camera.

I know I sometimes ask too much of it, which leads to most of my wasted shots. But I do have a legitimate gripe with its automatic flash. I almost never use flash and want a way to leave it off by default. Every time I use this camera I waste shots thanks to that infernal flash.

Perhaps I haven’t found my perfect point and shoot yet. Or maybe I have: my zone-focus Olympus XA2 is no bigger, can be used like a point and shoot under most circumstances just by leaving it in the middle focus zone, and lacks any frustrating behaviors. Perhaps it should be my carry-everywhere camera.

This has been another tough-call camera, where I’ve waffled for weeks about whether to keep it. The sheer number of rolls of film I’ve put through it says I like it a lot. Despite its troubling light leak, I’m going to hold onto it for now. Its fate will be sealed only when I finally decide on a carry-everywhere camera. I look forward to trying more of them on the road to deciding.

Verdict: Keep

To get Down the Road in your inbox or reader six days a week, click here to subscribe!
To get my newsletter with previews of what I’m working on, click here to subscribe!


15 responses to “Operation Thin the Herd: Olympus Stylus”

  1. lasousa2015 Avatar

    Nice images, these Olympus pS with Zuiko lenses are marvels. The Franka Solida III is the version with the Schneider lens if you decide to give it a run after your shed!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      Thanks for clarifying on the Solida!

  2. mike connealy Avatar

    The only camera that has made more pictures for me than the mju is my Pentax Spotmatic, and the biggest reason for that is that I’ve been shooting the Spotmatic for forty years longer.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I can’t deny that I turn to the Stylus over and over for easy shooting. It looks like I’ve put something like seven rolls through this camera since getting it in 2015 — given how many cameras I shoot that is a lot of film in one camera.

  3. Victor Villaseñor Avatar
    Victor Villaseñor

    I saw the entry on my feed reader and immediately came here to read. I was thinking “Jim cant let this one go, its a great P&S!”

    Verdict: Keep


    Now, on the DX coding thing, I love my Stylus so much, I dont mind using some tape and a pocket knife to alter the DX coding (albeit it works for a roll at the time).

    I’ve developed the muscle memory of sliding the cover open and mash the flash button twice, darn do I hate that flash auto on reset.

    Here is my latest published shot with this camera:

    That first picture is amazing!

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m certain that if I shot the Stylus a lot more often I’d perfect the open-the-front-mash-the-flash-button-twice technique too!

      Thanks for the compliment on the first shot! Nice work with yours too.

  4. Heide Avatar

    Yay! I was glad to read your verdict, in part because I was so partial to my little Stylus, too. You got better pictures out of yours than I ever did, though. ;)

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      It’s a charming little camera. 📷

  5. Dan Cluley Avatar
    Dan Cluley

    I was going to joke about Colonial Williamsburg coming to Indiana, but I see that is actually the case here.

    I know that thinning the herd is the goal, but with a camera this small and convenient (and potentially hard to get repaired) having more than one doesn’t seem unreasonable.

    I don’t have any experience with this one, but I know my Mom & Sister were both fans of the Stylus series. I think they both went through a couple before going digital.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’ve never been to Colonial Williamsburg so I’ll have to take your word for it!

      When I bought my Stylus you could pick them up anywhere for $20. Now they’re $75. Little point and shoot cameras are hot right now.

  6. Photography Journal Blog Avatar

    That automatic flash would really annoy me I suspect.

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      I’m sure you suspect correctly.

  7. Hellauer Avatar

    Great shots. I’m in the midst of the same XA2 v. Stylus walkabout camera debate right now. Plenty to like about either one…

    1. Jim Grey Avatar

      That’s a fact! I should carry each camera around in turn, constantly, for a while.

  8. […] cameras one last time in an attempt to decide which ones to keep or sell. This week it’s the highly desirable Olympus Stylus, a camera I have yet to shoot but may have to after reading Jim’s […]

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: