Letting Go Of The Olympus Stylus Epic
In keeping with my last article of deciding whether or not a material is right for me, the same question can be applied to your tools as well: in this case, a camera.
Anyone who is remotely interested in photography knows that the options for cameras is truly overwhelming. With a new digital camera being released seemingly every week (if not day) there is no end in sight for variety out there. With film photography, there is over half a century’s worth of camera manufacturing from a massive pool of brands and companies. In a word, there are a LOT of cameras.
It’s this vast array of possibilities that greatly contributes to Gear Acquisition Syndrome, or as we all know better, as GAS. With each camera having its own quirk and can fulfill a different need in your photography, it’s difficult to know where to start or where to end. This predicament can be a real stone of stumbling to some people and can find themselves overwhelmed, constantly disappointed, or making poor decisions.
Within this never-ending list of cameras, there are a select few that find their way into the forefront of envy and desire. These cameras are sought after for their collectibility, their quality, or because they hold a certain symbol of status that people want to be identified with.
This usually causes the prices to climb to ridiculous numbers and people will still pay, even though it could potentially break or die at any moment. Certain cameras gather what they call a “cult following” and are highly desired by certain folks. I’m not entirely sure what causes such a following, but it’s definitely a thing and people go nuts over them.
These cameras can often be quirky and unique, or a camera-of-choice for some YouTube influencer that can really drive the desire for them. However, often times they’re just GOOD cameras – one of them, is the Olympus Stylus Epic.
Is it epic? Well, many people will say so, but I myself never got that impression. It’s no doubt a great camera and is a perfect candidate for that Cult Classic status, but I never found it to be mind-blowing.
I’ve already written a fair bit about what the Epic is and how I feel about it to continue too much down that road, but I do want to talk a little bit about my time with it and how I finally came to the conclusion that it was time to move on.
I really do like this little point-and-shoot. It’s been a blast keeping it in my lunch box, or in my glovebox on a drive into town. Its crazy compact, clamshell design (as mentioned multiple times before) makes it so easy stick anywhere in a backpack or jacket pocket and it not be in the way. Basically, the Epic is perfect for that “always have a camera on you” way of life and there have been MANY times I was happy to have it on me.
I was extremely fortunate to have been gifted my Epic by a dear friend of mine who has turned to the Digital Dark-Side. It was the camera that they use to have around the house and traveling – after all, that’s what these cameras where meant for.
The Epic was the ideal kitchen-drawer camera, and fit perfectly in Mom’s purse. It was truly a high-quality camera that fit the family needs rather than relying on the junk disposables for your 10th birthday and your first trip to Disney World. While these cameras saw their hay-day in the 90s, point-and-shoots have found an amazing nichè today.
My Experience With The Olympus Stylus Epic
Point-and-shoot cameras, in the last decade, have been become extremely popular for their snapshot aesthetic. With their often out-of-focus portraits and wide angles, some people have really been able to use them to their advantage and make some truly beautiful work. I suppose point-and-shoots require a certain frame of mind and it’s one of which I just can’t grasp.
They’re all the rage , all the cool kids have them, and they’re becoming more and more sought after. However, point-and-shoots and I just don’t get along.
While the experience and idea of using a point-and-shoot may appeal to me, the results do not. Though the lens on the Epic is notoriously sharp, it’s also very tiny… and I can’t help but feel a lot of detail and resolution missing in some of my photos.
I thought perhaps this could be due to the fact that I mostly use Kodak Gold in it, so I loaded it with a sharper, fine grain film, Kodak Ektar, and still (as seen in the photo above) it’s a bit off.
Even taking shots from a distance, when theoretically, it all should be in focus, it’s still lacking somewhat. I realize this is mostly due to the fact that it’s 35mm with a tiny lens and I can’t be expecting medium format quality, however I still think I would get better quality using an SLR.
The autofocus isn’t reliable, and while it may SEEM to be in focus, often times it’s just oh-so slightly off. While the out-of-focus look can be pretty cool and add a bit of feeling into a photo, most of the time I just want my photo to be in focus for pete-sake.
That said, if you can make it work, this camera is awesome for those quick snaps with a bit of blur. On a recent road trip through the mountains, my wife borrowed the Epic and absolutely killed it on the shot below.
Sometimes, It Nails It.
The funny thing about the Epic, is that every now and then, it NAILS focus and exposure. It’s these types of photos that made me continually want to load the camera back up and keep shooting it.
Unfortunately, these shots just didn’t happen often enough, and everytime, I wish I had just been using my SLR.
I’ve been lucky with getting some really great photos from the Epic, but at what point do we stop relying on luck? How many disappointing rolls in-between great shots do we need to decide it’s time to move on from a camera? For me, I guess that time had come.
It Wasn’t All Bad
While the camera may not have nailed it, there were plenty of shots that I was still quite happy with. I don’t mean to sound contradictory, but looking back, I got a lot of cool photos from the Epic.
This is one of the reasons I shot with it so often. It’s aforementioned low profile makes it a joy to keep on the pocket while walking with friends rather than a big SLR around your neck all day.
The lens is nice and snappy, making saturated films like Ektar or basic consumer emulsions look great (as long as it’s in focus). Again, it’s slim design makes it so quick and easy to use that even though I was disappointed in alot of my shots, it’s still a blast to shoot with.
It’s not just “better than nothing”. It’s certainly better than using my phone and while I continually struggled with the autofocus, there’s enough confidence that I’m going to at least get SOMETHING out it.
While a great camera, the Epic just isn’t for me. In fact, I don’t think point-and-shoot cameras in general are for me. I’m sure I will always have one sitting on my shelf and will use them from time to time, but like I said in my last article, I need to focus on what works for me rather and always getting hung up on the work other people are doing.
I need to take my focus off of the tools other photographers are using, and focus more on what tools fit me best. Perhaps this is an unintentional New Year’s Resolutions for 2021, but it feels good to finally move on from something that I’ve been fighting with and realize I don’t NEED it in my arsenal in order to take good pictures.
If you’re one of those people who can harness the untamed and reckless natural of these little cameras and the Olympus Stylus Epic has been on your radar, I say go for it. While the price tag will probably be a hard pill to swallow, I don’t think it will be a camera that will disappoint you as long as it is the point-and-shoot aesthetic you’re going for. It’s just a GOOD camera, but it’s one that I have finally decided to part ways with.
One thought on “Letting Go Of The Olympus Stylus Epic”
My Stylus Epic has taken 100’s maybe 1000’s of great pictures over the past 15-20 years but due to a slight light leak and the faded out film door display its sadly time to retire it. Perhaps I was lucky but the auto focus was always right on target, I always thought the Epic pictures were sharper than my Yashica t4 and the Epic’s faster lens and smaller body made it an easy choice as to which camera was always in my pocket. I’ve recently picked up a couple of Nikon digital cameras and as good as they are its a poor replacement for film., may as well hang my head in shame and use the phones camera function.