120studio.com
July 2014



Background

The Stylus Epic Zoom 80 ("SEZ80") was one of a whole raft of similar-looking compact cameras made by Olympus in the 90's and early 2000's.   What makes the Epic Zoom 80 special is mainly... well, the zoom.  Its optics may not be as good as some of the other Stylus cameras, but they're also not bad.

We're going to look at some of the features, as well as a known issue with this camera.



Mongolian Barbecue
Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80
Superia 400 film
Noritsu scanned

Click here for larger

Some Specs

Aperture Range:  f/4.5-8.9
Batteries:  CR123 (x1)
Film Advance:  Automatic
Film Rewind:  Automatic
Flash:  built-in;  Auto & Fill-Flash modes
Focus:  Autofocus
ISO / ASA Range: 50-3200 (DX coded film).  Non-DX film is set at ISO 100.
Lens:  38-80mm zoom, 5 elements in 4 groups
Metering / Exposure:  Automatic
Minimum Focus Distance:  2 feet
Panorama mode:  Yes (frame-size limiter)
Self-Timer:  Yes
Shutter Speeds:  as long as 2 seconds in Flash Override mode, 4 sec. in Night Scene w/ Flash mode. 
Weatherproofing:  Yes
Weight:  6.3 ounces
Years of Manufacture:  1999-2003 (?)
Zoom Range: 38-80mm



Basic Use: 

The Stylus Epic Zoom 80 has an optical tunnel viewfinder.

The camera is incredibly easy to use.  The zoom works easily and is reasonably fast, extension-wise.  The camera has a little green light to tell you when it's in focus and ready to take the shot. 



Nope, the Epic Zoom 80 doesn't take square pictures.

So why is this one square?  See below.

Special Modes:

"Fill In Flash" makes the flash fire in daylight. 

"Infinity" or "Landscape" mode (mountain pictogram on LCD) sets the focus to infinity and turns the flash off.  Great for those daytime scenery shots.

"Night Scene Flash" mode (moon-star pictogram on LCD) uses shutter speeds as slow as 4 seconds but will also use the flash.  I have not used this mode, because my test sample has the zoom barrel light leak (see below).  If I get a better copy of this camera, I'll let you know how it goes.

There are a couple of other modes, too, but these seem like the most useful.  Oh, let's don't forget a "red-eye reduction" mode.  There's also a "red eye reduction night scene flash" mode. 



Known Problems / Repair Issues:

(By the way:  I do not know how to repair the Olympus Stylus series, so I can't offer any specifics other than what I've written in this article.  Given the low price of this camera, I'm not sure it's worth repairing... just get another one for two bucks.)

The most common thing seems to be a type of light leak, either at the base of the zoom lens or farther up the zoom barrel.   Actually, this same problem happens on the non-zoom Stylus / "mju" cameras.   Even though they don't zoom, their fixed-focal-length lenses do have to telescope outward when the camera turns on. 

Apparently the seals or light baffles deterioriate over time, allowing light to enter.  It doesn't necessarily have to be bright daylight for this light-leak to happen.  I've seen it occur after sunset.  Such as, here...



This is a good reason not to pay more than a few dollars for this camera unless you know it's in perfect working order AND has been film-tested.  When you see people asking $50, $100, even $200-plus for this camera, and they haven't even tested it for this issue... just skip it.  In fact, if it hasn't been tested this year with a roll of film, this camera should be no more than ten bucks.   And even that's a lot for it, given the fairly high likelihood of this problem.  

I would pay about two dollars for an untested Zoom 80.

Anyway, the leak is not because of direct sun, because in this photo I was looking at least 90 degrees away from the sun... which had also gone down below the horizon.

There are ideas on how to make the problem go away, but no one has a definitive solution.  Put a tiny bit of glycerin on the zoom barrel?  Paint the inside surfaces flat black?  Electrical tape the whole zoom barrel at your favorite focal length?  (Ok, that last one won't work, because the zoom retracts.) 

The thing is, I'd rather not waste a roll of film to find out which of these will fix it.  If I'm going to make the effort to take pictures that I like, I'm going to want to be reasonably sure of the camera working.  I say that because this test roll actually had a few shots on it that I would have really liked, had there not been a leak. 

Then again, it does sort of resemble an artistic effect, and the pictures are not a total loss.  You can always crop out the affected portion...

If it weren't for this one issue, the SEZ80 could have been that mythical "glove compartment camera" that I'm always searching for.  And if you find a good one, it still could be.  When the ring-shaped light leak is not occurring, this is a versatile little camera.   Since it goes down to ISO 50 and has accurate metering, you could even shoot Velvia 50 in it.


Summary

When everything works right, the Olympus Stylus Epic Zoom 80 is a lot of fun.  It's compact and it's capable.  It's also weatherproof. 

If you can find one that's been tested (or you just want to test one yourself) then get your Olympus Stylus Epic through this link.  It helps support my website when you do. 

Thanks for visiting this site!





    


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