2010-03-19 at 23-02-56

The best cheap camera ever

It’s often said that the best camera is the one you have with you because being able to get the shot even with compromised gear is better than not getting the shot at all. It’s a phrase that people use to defend iPhone cameras, and sites like Cellular Obscura show that cell phone cameras can, indeed, capture decisive moments. My iPhone goes with me most places, but I’m sure I’ll replace it within the next year or two.

However, before the iPhone and before digital pocket cameras, the camera that went everywhere with me was the Olympus Stylus Epic. It was small, stylish, and had better and faster optics than most point-and-shoot cameras produced in the 1990s. It spent five years in my backpack, going, literally, everywhere. Eventually, I stopped using it around the time I became more serious about black and white photography and also found a digital camera whose quality and controls I felt were up to my standards.

A couple weeks ago, I found the Stylus in a drawer. I popped in a new battery, rewound the roll of film that was in it, and had it developed. On that roll of T-Max 400 were a few decent shots, which I’ll be posting on this blog over the next couple weeks. The one in this post I shot on the street in San Francisco in 2001. I don’t know if I was driving or walking but I do know that this is the very sort of scene that you shoot if you have a camera and you don’t if you don’t. I had my camera, and you can see the result. It’s not great, but it’s better than nothing.

And twelve years after I purchased the Stylus, it still shoots as well as it did on the day I bought it, which I can safely assume is more than people will be saying about their Canon digital ELPHs and iPhone cameras in twelve years.