Olympus Infinity Zoom 80 is a light, pocketable point-and-shoot camera with motorized film transport, auto exposure, and autofocus. The camera’s banal design doesn’t fetch much value in the aftermarket, though it can still be bought brand new for over $200.
The camera sports a 38-80mm zoom lens with 𝑓4.5-8.9 aperture. It takes ISO 100 - 3200 DX-coded 35mm film, uses a built-in flash and can flip the shutter anywhere between 2-1/600s. It also comes with a built-in flash, red-eye reduction, self-timer, and a date stamp option.
Other than the buttons for motorized zoom and shutter, the controls aren’t that useful or comfortable. Disabling flash takes a couple of fiddly rubber button pokes on a cramped interface. Self-timer and date stamp found no use in my hands.
The zoom viewfinder is the most intriguing feature. Olympus has designed a separate set of optics that imitates the lens magnification as the motorized extension tube adjusts the focal length. This contraption might have taken at least two dozen extra components, just for the extra comfort while shooting.
Ergonomically, the camera fits very nicely in-hand and on a person. It’s great to be able to quickly slide the protective cover and immediately have the device ready. It’s fairly light and as sturdy as a plastic body could allow; the Zoom may be cheap, but it’s well-built.
In capable hands, the camera can produce images good enough for a decent print. The lens is sharp enough for web scans. The challenge being a slow maximum aperture, over-zealous flash, and the lack of manual controls for focus and exposure. The advantages: quick-focusing electronics, great exposure automation and the form factor that makes chucking it into a bag a no-brainer. Should a scene worth photographing materialize, it shouldn’t take more than ten seconds to grab the camera and snap.
Better film will yield better results. After all, it’s a full-frame camera, and it will give most digital point-and-shoots and entry-level DSLRs a run for their money.
The flash will enable itself every time in dusk lighting, ready to make your photos flat, with bleached colours that we used to loathe in the ‘90s. Today it’s a different world; it may be your thing, and it could be done well. Or you can use monochrome film for that classic contrasty look.
Zoom lenses come with inherent optical complexities which make them bulky, adding hard to correct distortions. I find them a nuisance; I prefer a “normal” 50mm focal length, which simulates an average human viewing angle. Still, it was nice to have a choice of framing the shot a little differently with Olympus.
Olympus Zoom is an easy camera to love if you have your expectations set right. It’s comfy and easy to use, for the most part. It’s relatively versatile and could be bought cheaply on the aftermarket. It can and will do more than the likes of plastic toy cameras. It will not give you full creative control, however, so you can forget about bokeh and long exposure shots. Not that it won’t be possible to make the little brick do what you need; Zoom is a tool designed to be a simple, fun companion, not a precision instrument.
The camera is comparatively young, likely last produced this decade, on a modern assembly line. It should last another twenty or more years with no issues, provided that it’s handled with care, and the batteries are replaced on time.