Comparison: Olympus Stylus Epic And The Minolta Big Finder Af50

Compact point and shoot cameras are a thing. People love them and are spending absurd prices on these little fashion statements. While some of these cameras may be the cream of the crop and very good quality, are they really worth the prices they are going for?

Before we get into it, I do want to say that I’m not completely against these price increases. People can do what they want with their money and spend it where they please. The more willing people are to spend money on these cameras, the more it may help give companies the incentive to start investing in the market (as in new cameras).

The purpose of this article isn’t to say you shouldn’t spend money on these cameras, but rather show that there are other options. I’d like to compare popular, sought after cameras, with various inexpensive cameras to see how they hold up.

There are so many cameras out there that are perfectly functional and do a surprisingly good job. Not everyone has the spare change kicking around to drop on a Contax, but there are other options that will suit your needs just as well. It’s easy to look at these high priced cameras and wish to own them. I myself would love to get my hands on a Contax to see what they’re all about. However, I’ve picked up some real gems from garage sales that hardly cost me anything. We’re gonna take one of those cameras and put it up against a highly sought after and loved point and shoot; the Olympus Stylus Epic.

The Epic

The Olympus Stylus Epic is a truly awesome camera. It’s so compact, and feels well made. It’s very comfortable to hold, making it so easy to use with one hand. The sleek and slender profile of the Epic makes it almost nonexistent in any camera bag or pocket. It’s all-weather resistant making it the perfect little camera for taking along on a hike or trip you are planning.

Something I really like about the Epic, is when you open the camera, it’s on and ready within a second. Some point and shoots have to charge the flash and wake up before being ready to shoot. With the Epic, it’s ready the second you open it.

Not only is the epic almost perfect in it’s build, but it takes excellent photos.

The Lens

The Olympus Stylus Epic is renowned for having an amazingly sharp lens. I tried doing some research on this lens but came up empty handed. I am curious if these Epics are equipped with the 35mm Zuiko lens like in the Olympus XA. While I couldn’t find confirmation on this, I have a feeling it’s the same lens. Zuiko lenses are beautiful, sharp and are the glass of choice on most, if not all Olympus cameras. So it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Epic carries this lens. But for now, all I know is that it’s glass, 35mm, and lovely.

Being a 35mm lens is actually a huge plus for this camera in my opinion. I don’t usually jive well with very wide angle lenses. Many point and shoots have a 28mm lens and I just find thats too wide for most of what I like to shoot. I rarely shoot anything other than a 50mm on my SLRs, but the 35mm works quite nicely.

AutoFocus

As with majority of point and shoot cameras, they’re autofocus. Most of the time, they have a little window for framing, and that’s pretty much it. Other than a few modes for flash and half-pressing for prefocus, you don’t have much control with point and shoot cameras. But that’s kind of the point.

These cameras aren’t meant to be complicated and be loaded with options and controls. They were meant to be thrown in a kitchen drawer, ready for birthday parties, babies first steps, or any other “Kodak Moment”. Family photo albums are full of pictures taken with cameras just like these, and many of them may not be in focus. So when reviewing a point and shoot camera, I have to keep this in mind when complaining about focusing. If you’re too close and the light is a tad low, you’re probably going to end up with subjects not being in focus. That’s my experience anyway. I’ve had a lot of frames out of focus with this camera, and for a while it put a bad taste in my mouth.

If I’m honest with myself, I miss focus on an SLR almost as much as the Olympus Stylus Epic. So the autofocus is a negative I have towards this camera, though not exactly a legitimate one.

The Viewfinder

The viewfinder is another negative towards this camera. It’s tiny. I find myself struggling to get my eye aligned properly when trying to make a quick shot. This struggle would probably go away if I were to use this camera enough for it to be second nature. However, for the time being, I have a hard time with it.

I also get confused by the two small frame lines. At first I thought these were, well, frame lines. But I found that they don’t seem to represent all of what is in frame. For instance, I composed a shot to remove a subject from within frame, but it ended up being in the frame anyway. So if these are supposed to be “frame lines”, then they’re certainly not accurate. At least that is the case with my camera.

Pros and Cons.

The Pros:

  • Beautiful build design, comfortable, and small.
  • ISO Range from 50-3200 (DX)
  • Tack sharp, 35mm 2.8 lens
  • Center weighted metering
  • Focusing range from 1.1′ to infinity
  • Turns on and ready to use the minute you open the camera.

The Cons:

  • There is a slight delay when taking a picture due to the lens extending just before the shutter fires.
  • It’s noisy. The motor of the lens extending out, retracting, then advancing the film creates a lot of noise. This isn’t ideal when you’re trying to be discreet.
  • The viewfinder is small and the frame lines are confusing.
  • The autofocus, in my experience, can often miss focus.
  • Unless you luck out at a garage sale or thrift shop, prices on these cameras are climbing.

All of these technical pros and cons aside, the Olympus Stylus Epic is a great camera. I would recommend this camera to anyone. If you have the money, they just might be worth what they’re going for on Ebay, between $150-$250 (or more in some cases).

The Minolta Big Finder af50

I found this little gem at a garage sale as well. It happened to be in a bag with 6 other cameras for $15! You can find them on ebay for around $30. So they’re extremely affordable and I think they’re excellent little point and shoots. While it’s not as small as the Epic, the Big Finder is still a nice size, fitting in a pocket nicely and easy to tuck into a camera bag. When I shot my first roll with this camera, I was totally shocked at the results I got back. Since then, it’s been one I toss in my lunch kit and take to work with me the most.

You might remember this camera from a past article when I took it to the Ice Castles. I was having trouble with it terribly underexposing the images. I believe I have figured this out. It was either the cold or the batteries. I have changed the batteries and shot the camera while it was warm and the shots turned out fine.

Unlike the Epic, something that really annoys me about this camera is that it takes forever to turn on when you open it. The little green light beside the viewfinder flashes not twice, not three or even four times but TWELVE times!! Then it is ready to shoot. The Epic is ready in a second while the Big Finder is ready in 12 seconds. When I take it out for a walk, I find I just leave the lens door open, keeping the camera on for when I’m ready. You can obviously see the discomfort and potential disaster in doing this, but I’ve missed many a shot waiting for the camera to wake up.

That said, this dynamite little camera has been one of my favorites and I’ve taken some pictures that I really like with it.

AutoFocus

To be honest, I’ve almost found the autofocus in this camera to be a bit more reliable than the Epic. Other than the odd shot that missed focus, I’ve had a much higher hit rate with the Big Finder than the Epic. That said, generally all point and shoots I’ve tried have all struggled with closer subjects. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that the Big Finder has hit focus more often than the Epic. Whatever the case, this has been one of the biggest reasons I’ve put it in my bag over the Epic.

The Viewfinder

This is definitely one of my favorite things about this camera. It’s called the Minolta Big Finder for a reason. It’s big. Unlike the Epic where I find myself searching for the veiwfinder, the Big Finder so easy. I can hold it up to my eye with no effort. It has big bright frame lines that are easy to see and compose with, and from my experience, they’re pretty accurate.

The Lens

The lens is one of the things that surprised me the most about the Big Finder. It’s remarkably sharp. Minolta is known for having incredible glass and the Big Finder didn’t miss out on that.

It has a 27mm 5.6 lens. This is much wider than I’m use to and it’s so easy to get your knuckles in the frame or wrist strap hanging in front of the lens. However, I do enjoy having such a wide lens in this camera.

The small cover is very sleek, and easy to open when holding the camera with one hand. For a cheap little point and shoot, I think this camera gives surprisingly good images.

Pros and Cons

The Pros:

  • 27mm lens, beautiful image quality.
  • Comfortable sleek design
  • Very affordable
  • Massive veiwfinder. Bright clear frame lines.
  • Overall all metering seems very reliable.
  • Fairly quite for a point and shoot camera, having a simple click of the shutter and a small whine of the advance.

The Cons:

  • Takes 12 seconds for the camera to turn on and wake up.
  • Limited ISO range of 100-400 (though this is common with most point and shoot cameras). In comparison to the Epic, this is a con
  • Lack of information on this camera. I’ve looked the internet over, and I can’t find much regarding it. Even the manual didn’t seem to have much information (assuming I had the right manual).
  • The autofocus isn’t as accurate as I would like it to be, but you can’t expect much from a cheap point and shoot camera. However the focusing hasn’t been too bad.
  • Focusing range of about 3.5′ to infinity.

Again, the Pros and Cons aside, I think this is a cracking little camera. It has really impressed me and I certainly recommend it.

Head to Head

So, thats enough about the specs and technical details about these cameras. What matters is the end result. If it’s a good picture, no one is going to care what you shot it on. There’s a world full of them and it’s interesting to see how they compare to one another and what it’s like to shoot with them.

To finish this off, I’ve taken a few pictures with these cameras side by side. Each loaded with Kodak Gold 200. While I have done a little bit of cropping and editing to some of the photos, these are the end results from each camera. As for which is the best, I’ll leave that up to you!

Here they are.

Let me know in the comments below what you think about these 2 cameras an how they compare!

Thanks for reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *