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A review of the Olympus Stylus Epic

Regarded as an antique, this 35mm compact camera is known as the Mju-II outside the US, and was on the market between 1996 and 2003. It was popular among enthusiasts for being cheaper than equivalent point-and-shoot cameras, and was praised for its sleek design and clamshell cover that protected it from rain and other adverse weather. In addition, its lens is fixed or 'prime', meaning although it can't zoom, the quality is superior to a zoom lens.

The pros

Aperture
Unusually for a low-budget point-and-shoot, the Olympus Stylus Epic has an f2.8 aperture lens. This aperture is found on only the highest quality lenses. Such a wide aperture means that the shutter speed is extremely fast, which in turn ensures that the images are pin-sharp. It also reflects the right lighting conditions - the background of the photo has an aesthetically pleasing blur or bokeh. Other advantages
The Epic’s spot metering mode is another benefit as it is helpful in tricky exposure situations. It is a well-known fact the 35mm semi-wide angle lens is ideal for landscape and architecture photography. The camera also has an intelligent flash mode and better-than-average battery life. In addition, the clamshell cover is seen as not only a practical solution for bad weather, but also as an elegant accessory.

The cons

Aperture
Unfortunately, the fast nature of the lens means that it nearly always takes photos at a wide aperture. This is detrimental when more detail is needed on an image, calling for a narrower aperture of f8 or f11 instead. Other disadvantages
The focus can be unreliable beyond 20 feet as the camera uses a multi-beam focus system as opposed to a more reliable passive focus system. In addition, the pop-up flash fires when the shutter speed falls below a certain level, (which some find annoying), and the viewfinder could be larger. Finally, red eye is reported to be a fairly common affliction. The camera does have red-eye reduction but this may slow down the shot-taking process.

The verdict

Although digital cameras now rule the roost, the Olympus Stylus Epic is one of those antique gems which caused a stir when it was released. Despite its impressive f2.8 aperture and artistic design, however, the presence of a few weaknesses mean it still gets a respectable score of 7 out of 10.

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