The rising prices of film point and shoots is a very popular topic of discussion both in store between staff and customers, as well as in the general film photographer community. One of the key indicators of this price hike is the price of the Olympus Stylus Epic, commonly known as the Olympus mju II. Once a camera that was a common find in thrift stores for $10-20 dollars, now sells for upwards of $450 on used markets. With the cost of this camera reaching the resale prices of more enthusiast point and shoot cameras, one begs to ask if this camera is worth the price it sells at now. I decided to compared my Olympus Stylus Epic to my new Nikon 35ti, to see if this camera can hold up to cameras worth double than what it sells at.
Starting off with the Stylus Epic, this camera was released back in 1997 aimed at being an affordable and pocketable camera for those who still wanted crisp images. This camera sports a 35mm f2.8 lens, which is surprisingly sharp wide open.
It is very light, weighing only 135g without the battery, but this in turn causes the camera to feel flimsy and not robust. Although this is the case with any plastic made camera, ergonomically the Stylus Epic feels great in my hands. The auto-focus on this camera is fast, from the time it takes to open the front shell to taking the actual photo. Its compact size makes it very easy to bring around in every day scenarios, which made this camera my go to camera before I upgraded to the 35ti. An added bonus of this camera is that it is weatherproof, allowing the camera to be used in rainy conditions.
Olympus Stylus Epic – Portra 800
The viewfinder however, leaves something to be desired. Since the camera was designed for quick shooting, the viewfinder is not the brightest, nor is it the biggest, so framing images can be a bit difficult. Also, the camera does not allow for any manual exposure control, so you are left at the mercy of the Stylus Epic’s internal meter.
Moving on to the newest addition to my camera collection, the Nikon 35ti, which is a more enthusiast-oriented point-and-shoot camera. The 35ti, which was released in 1993, is vastly underrated in comparison to the more sought-after Contax T2 and T3 cameras (thank you, Frank Ocean, for popularizing them). Even though Contax cameras are higher in demand in the film resale market, I believe the Nikon 35ti is just as good.
With its rugged titanium body and large viewfinder, the camera is a joy to use. The 35ti used Nikon’s matrix metering system, which is the same technology used in Nikon’s top SLR’s of its time. The camera’s physical appearance is stunning and stands out due to its vintage analog display. The top exposure display allows for a quick view of the exposure without having to check settings in the viewfinder – making shooting discretely quite a bit easier.
Nikon 35ti – Portra 400
While fully automatic – like the Stylus Epic, – the 35ti also has built in Program and Aperture Priority modes, making manual exposures possible in such a small body. Combined with the built in 35mm f2.8 Nikon lens, the shooting experience on this camera is a joy to behold.
Compared to the Stylus Epic, on paper the Nikon 35ti beats it on almost every aspect. While the Stylus Epic allows for quick snapshots, the 35ti does that plus more. However the biggest difference between the two cameras comes down to it’s price. The 35ti on the resale market fluctuates anywhere between $1050-1300, while the Stylus Epic sits around $350-500 depending on its condition.
After looking at the specs of each camera and reading every similarity and difference the two cameras had, I wanted to shoot the two cameras side by side to compare colour reproduction between the two lenses. I put a roll of Superia 200 in both cameras and brought both cameras out with me for two days. The images on the left are taken with the 35ti, and the ones on the right were taken with the Stylus Epic.
The first thing I noticed was how well the Nikon 35ti metered the frame compared to the Olympus Stylus Epic. While deep blacks and contrast work well with films like Superia 200, the 35ti was able to maintain shadow detail while still not losing detail in the highlights.
I will say however, it was a lot faster for me to take out the Stylus Epic have it shoot compared to the 35ti. For on the go snapshots, I did start to prefer the speed of the Stylus.
In evenly lit conditions, both cameras perform very similarly. There was not a noticeable difference in the sharpness between the two.
One thing that I was pleasantly surprised with was the quality of the flash on the Stylus Epic. Photographers rave about the built in flash on the Olympus, and it is very apparent in how well it fills the frame vs being more powerful in the middle.
Overall, the Olympus Stylus Epic is a camera the I personally think deserves the hype. Do I think it’s worth its inflated resale price tag? Ehhhhhhhhh, maybe. As great as this little camera is, the big part that is holding me back from saying that it is 100% worth its price tag is the availability of parts to have them serviced. Since they were made for the consumer market back in 1997, parts are not nearly as available to repair technicians to have them serviced (as is the problem with almost every film camera that requires electronics to function.) I still do believe that the Stylus Epic is a good camera, and if you’re able to snag one at a good price, you will not be disappointed.