As stated in a recent Instagram post…
…I have Guillermo and Wilson to blame for this one. Because of them, I found out that an Antique Store not far from me…
..had film cameras for sale. I sat on this information for a while but while playing chauffeur to one of my offspring I had a few moments and decided to take a quick look. Partly thinking a limited timetable might limit the damage I could do. I was kind of right, but my wallet did not escape unscathed. Before I get to that I must say that I was a bit overwhelmed soon after I walked in. Was thinking I could sort out where the cameras were by browsing around. Nope. A tactical miscalculation. In swift order everywhere I looked there were things that I either had no idea existed, no idea I wanted, or both. I.e. I was immediately overwhelmed and already had a NY State (My home state.) license plate in my hand.
Barely remember picking it up. Funny that the NY plate was on top… Was it reasonably priced? I have no idea, but it was inexpensive enough for it not to be a concern. As was nearly everything I saw, which makes this place even more dangerous. After wandering about a good portion of the store, but still covering only a fraction of the two acre space…
…I yielded and asked where the cameras were. That is when I was led to the center aisle of many things.
I immediately knew I needed to make this quick because this could go sideways on me fast. As Guillermo and Wilson advised they had some very nice items.
Then I saw it.
It rang all the bells. Olympus? Ding. $20? Ding. Might actually work? Ding. Comes with box? If accessories come with it also then ding, ding, ding. Asked if it worked and the answer was that “That guy is pretty good. It should or it would have been marked as broken.” Good enough for me. So here is the quick “In the box” run down.
- All original individual plastic bags were included and items were wrapped. From 1999? And I thought I obsessed over keeping old packaging.
- Included chords for ports that no longer exist on modern PCs.
- Brought two Smart Memory cards I never knew existed until the moment I saw them.
- No batteries were included but it takes 4 regular old AAs.
About the batteries. Found some old rechargeable batteries around the house and at first they did not work. Put them back in the charger to top them off, but I soon realized that these years old batteries were well beyond their prime and could not power the camera for long. This was confirmed by Chris at the local camera shop who mentioned that these types of cameras were known power hogs and would plow through regular alkaline batteries also. We tested this theory with some rechargeable batteries the shop has and he was exactly right. So I picked up some Panasonic (eneloop) rechargeable batteries he recommended.
So does the camera work? To my surprise yes. Had a bit of a fight with the battery door to close it, but I was warned of this in a YouTube review of the prior model C2000Z. But once the appropriate brute force was applied the door closed, the camera powered up (Make sure to remove the lens cap of the lens will not extend.), and I was taking pictures. First surprises/impressions:
- This thing focuses more quickly than I expected. Not blazing fast by any means but serviceable.
- Viewfinder brought me back to the early days of “Sure you have kind of framed the scene but who knows if it has focused properly?”
- Not sure why I was surprised but I did not expect it to have Live View. Perhaps because it has a CCD sensor and that is why the Pentax 645D I had did not have Live View or video. While we are on that topic…
- Has video. I have no plans to use it.
- Plastics are hard and shiny, some bits feel like I could break them off on accident, but otherwise, it does not feel that bad in hand. Not offensive to look at either.
- In addition to the back color menu/review/live view screen there is a top LCD so there is that.
- Smaller than I expected. Had seen pictures of cameras like this before and I had always thought they were larger for some reason. Very compact.
- Flash works well.
- While many settings and menus are convoluted, largely because I refused to crack open the included manual, I did manage to figure out how to adjust everything.
- Once you sort it out you can have full manual control of the camera… Me? P or Aperture priority please and thank you. Maybe Shutter priority someday. I do not see myself messing with full Manual.
- Your file formats are JPEG or TIFF only. No big at 2MP.
- Oddly there are lower quality file options. I guess when 2MP is just way too much detail.
- It zooms so there is that.
- Given it zooms I was surprised by the f/2 to f/2.8 aperture range. But given the 1/2 inch sensor size that is not something to get excited about as I used the smallest sensor available on mmcalc.com and f/2 worked out to more than f/11. But I am not complaining. Was not expecting to take portraits with this and that is exactly why this thing has a healthy flash.
But there was one more thing to address. After reviewing the old timey connectors supplied I needed to find a way to get these files on my computer. I did find it amusing that the box excitedly advertised the availability of a Smart Card to floppy disk adapter. Great. Now I just need a floppy disk adapter. Actually thought of taking that route for giggles until I realized I was raising the bill on this adventure even higher. The local shop did not have a suitable card reader, no surprise but worth a shot, so I secured one online. Here is the part that is funny to me. The batteries and the reader cost more than what I paid for the camera. That left me to take some shots over the last couple of days, not 100% sure if I could import the images. So the card reader arrived and it worked just fine thank you very much. After reviewing the images here are my first thoughts.
- What the heck? I mean seriously. Was expecting a giggle. A “Look how far we have come from the dark ages of digital photography.” moment. But nope. The images did not look bad at all. I would call them sharp low resolution photos. Anti-pixel peeping photos. Looks sharp? Good. No, you cannot zoom in. Just look at it as is.
- Good colors.
- I do not see too many glaring faults like chromatic aberrations.
- Some shots lack contrast and can look a bit hazy, but who knows. At this age maybe there is something in the lens? Either way simply slide Clarity and Dehaze to the right and keep it moving.
- AWB balance actually does a decent job automatically choosing the right white balance.
- Auto ISO seems pretty spot on. This is funny since Olympus themselves state that you choose between an “equivalent ISO of approximately 100, approximately 200 or approximately 400”. The first time I have seen ISOs stated as approximate. In any event, it does just fine.
- With a full-frame equivalent aperture as this narrow and only as high as “approximately 400” ISO available, according to Olympus, flash is your friend indoors. Unless you just like blurry images. More of a fun quirk than a downside in my book. House mascots may be startled though.
- Image styles are available. Was testing black and white above. I do not see myself using this but it is there.
But the main takeaway for me is that the image quality is not that bad. Looking at it alongside images taken with other cameras on my Flickr feed these images do not stand out as inferior as I thought they might. Not bad for a camera older than my adult children. Here are the first sample images followed by some closing thoughts.
Rationale check. Will this camera stand up to modern options? Of course not. This is a digital camera well beyond the legal drinking age. While common that film cameras even older often work fine I count it a minor miracle that this digital camera is still fully functional. So if it is not a reasonable alternative to more current cameras what is it? Well, I am glad I imagined that you asked.
For this and other cameras of similar vintage that is all I need to hear. Sign me up.
Is it fragile? Wil it be short lived? Perhaps. But at $20 a clip I would just get another if I felt so inclined. In all honesty early on when I thought this camera might not work I was not going to bring it back. Would have just been relegated to shelf trophy status. Have spent a little more on ancient film cameras that serve that purpose currently.
Do I recommend something like this to others? Depends. Do you like cheap fun?
If your answer is no then my answer is also no.
If yes there are worse ways to burn $20 or so in my opinion. And batteries and card reader aside that is the end of your expenses. I would rather that than get a single use film camera, and unlike cheap old film cameras, or even a favorite half frame plastic fantastic I reviewed not that long ago it does not require follow up expenses like film and development. Unless. like me, you just like visiting your local camera shop or developing your own color and black and white film. And I am also fairly certain this camera will create images that I would prefer over many of those older, cheap, film, and fixed focus plastic lens cameras.
For the record, I do not see this as replacing anything else for me. Just another way to have some fun capturing images. A little vintage digital therapy.
Well, that about wraps it up.