Olympus : The Not-So-Superzooms

Discussion in 'Modern Film Cameras' started by rick_drawbridge, Apr 17, 2011.

  1. In 1988 an unlikely contender won the prestigious "European Camera of the Year" award. It was
    the Olympus AZ300 Superzoom, a large 35mm point-and-shoot-camera with a motorised zoom
    35-105mm f/4-5.6 lens, and the innovative ability to zoom the image in the viewfinder in
    tandem with the lens. It was also known as the Infinity 300 and the IZM300. A couple of
    models later and a couple of years down the track, Olympus released the AZ330 Superzoom.
  2. These are interesting cameras. In Olympus parlance the Infinity AZ cameras are commonly
    referred to as "bridge" cameras; future development branching out into the Mju series, much
    smaller, highly innovative, pocketable and stunningly successful, and the IS series of fixed
    lens SLR zoom cameras, which ran through a progression of models before reaching a
    developmental dead-end. The AZ330 is a development from the original AZ300, being slightly
    larger and better finished, with much the same feature set and the stunning addition of a
    lenscap that doubles as a wireless remote! Excuse my sarcasm; I could be more genuinely
    enthusiastic had Olympus designed the remote so users could replace the battery, but no such
    luck; when the battery dies I guess one buys another lenscap. My copy still works,
    surprisingly enough....

    It's a well-featured camera. Here's a list of it's attributes:
    Lens 38-105mm (maximum aperture f/4-5.6) with 12 elements.
    Motorized zoom , user-controlled or continuous subject-tracking.
    Automatic film load and rewind.
    Self-timer,remotely controlled from lenscap.
    ± 1.5EV exposure compensation (in 1/2 steps)
    Center-weighted average or spot metering.
    Focusing range: 0.8 m - infinity :"Macro" ability down to 80cm.(at 38 mm).
    DX decoding. 25-3200 ISO.
    Flash: auto, red-eye and fill-in.
    Multiple auto-exposure modes.
    Double exposure capability.
    Single shot, continuous drive (at 1.3 frames per second) or double exposure modes.
    Passive or continuous subject-tracking auto-focus.
    Motorised film advance, single shot or continuous at 1.3 frames per second.

    The camera has a good bright LCD panel on top to display settings and frame count, and runs
    on two CR123A Lithium cells.
  3. I don't find it a pleasant camera to use. I dislike having my hand trapped in the side strap
    yet the camera is awkward to hold in any other way. The original curvy design was quite
    attractive, but they spoilt it by sticking on a couple of ugly little rubber finger-grips
    which look totally out of place. The zoom is rather slow and noisy, but I guess it does the
    job. The lens was applauded when the camera appeared and it was certainly sophisticated at
    the time; it's very sharp and contrasty and surprisingly distortion-free, but the maximum
    aperture is a little woeful. Autofocus, metering and flash are all very accurate, the AF
    being very quick and positive. Other than the zoom, the camera is very quiet; several times
    I had to check the frame numbers to make sure I'd actually taken a photograph! As usual,
    when it's switched off, it defaults to factory settings, an annoying feature common to most
    cameras of this genre. It's also a boring thing to tote around, without a neckstrap.

    Here's a family photograph with a model that preceded it, the AZ 200 .
  4. I shot a Fuji Superia 100, and was rewarded by perfectly exposed, very sharp frames
    throughout. So perhaps it's not all bad....Scans from the Frontier.
  5. Good Morning Rick,
    What an ugly beast with such a good lens! When I was in my early teens in the late 80's I remember seeing these big cameras in Curry's glass cabinets! They were quite expensive too. My father still uses the later incarnation of this series that turned into the Mju zoom. He had used a Konica all through the 80s and was sad to discard it when it finally stopped working in the early 90s. He still uses the Mju and was saying to be last week that his nephews had been urging him to go digital. With failing eyesight, I think he will shoot film as long as he lives although I am so very tempted to buy him a small digital that takes AA batteries.
    Back to your pictures, wonderful as ever! Happy shooting.
  6. Hideous, yes, but perhaps if its design had caught on, we'd now all be using similar looking cameras, instead of using the progeny of the Canon T90 that we do.
  7. I almost bought one of these but didn't. A big problem is that the lens is just too slow. Remember how bad the high speed color films were of that era?
  8. Rick - that's similar to my Fuji I posted, it appears to be a sharper lens however and I see the same complaint about comfort and speed. And I'm not sure I'd collect the family of mine! :)
    Great pictures and wright-up!
  9. It looks very similar to the Ricoh Mirai Zoom 3 I just bought. I understand that the overall design was a joint project in the 1988 period (Olympus AZ-4 and Ricoh Mirai, I think), although the Zoom 3 is from 1991 and simplified, apparently.
    I hope mine works as well as yours does, although it's not the camera, etc. ;)
    And here I thought I would steal a march on weird cameras of the era.
  10. I wouldn't include this camera in my collection but we all see that this lens is of excellent quality. Camera looks bad but what's most important; delivers very nice sharp pictures.
    Your pictures have that three-dimensional look (that I discussed long time ago regarding Minox GT) especially the first one with Toyota and the last one. I'm really suprised how good that zoom lens is!
    Thank You for an interesting post.
  11. As soon as I saw the first photo of the camera, I asked myself how the devil do you hold it. Thanks for explaining. It would appear to be awkward. Very nice photos, however.
    Question #2. What is the purpose of that thing on the back of the Toyota that appears to be a very poorly placed side view mirror?
  12. Question #3. Don't you kinda have to be straddling the tracks in order to look for trains?
    I love the Brits and that is my ancestry but they do have their quirks as we all do. I have only been to the UK once in 1985 and had a delightful trip. My oldest daughter and her husband were stationed in the UK in East Anglia, she at Lakenheath and he at Mildenhall, which are close together and they bought a house in Mildenhall of very recent vintage. It was a nice brick house, but in the bathroom, it had of course twin faucets for hot and cold, so shaving was an ooh! and ah! event. The worst thing however was that the mirror was not over the sink but on a different wall. I don't even want to know why the Brits prefer what we call wax paper for toilet tissue. But I loved the pubs and true to my heritage, I loved the haggis I ate near the beautiful city of Edinburgh, and really enjoyed walking on the wall that encircles York. I wonder if the Brit series "Doc Martin" has made it New Zealand. It is a smash hit here in the States, shown on public TV, and I can't wait for season 5 to begin. It takes place in a small fishing village near Land's End in Cornwall, where apparently there are blue skies every day of the year and no one needs a winter coat.
  13. Thanks for your responses! Nice reminiscence, Starvy. I think they passed below my radar when they were released, but I know they weren't a cheap camera. Fair comment, Mark, though there are plenty of digital camera that rival this for quirkiness! Thanks, Robert, the slow lens would have put me off, too. Please don't let this deter you from posting more weird cameras, JDM; I intend to feature a couple more in the future.
    Thanks, Maciek and Les. The quality of the lens surprised me a little, but then Olympus have always prided themselves on the quality of their lenses, and this was a very progressive design, when released. James, it's not a comfortable camera to hold, as I mentioned, in that you have to bend your right wrist back to get the camera to your eye. As for the odd mirror; I think they fit them to vans so the driver can get some better idea of where the back of the van is when backing into a tight space. The angle I've taken the railway signs from doesn't do them justice as a warning; one can see them from a great distance down the road . Thanks for your comments, always interesting, and I think Cornwall must be a lovely county!
  14. Oh, boy. That thing is hideous. However, if it's the lens that counts then this thing delivers. Better than a lot of SLR lenses I've seen.
    I can't help feeling that it's bigger than it needs to be. Perhaps they could have put it into a normal form factor. But then the selling point is the 'modern' form factor, isn't it? Funny how some things were wrong to begin with! It reminds me of digital instruments in cars in the '80s and early '90s... which went away quick smart.
    Another problem is the focal lengths. 38mm is kind of limiting Already, 35mm is not really 'wide'. For me it's more of a standard lens (and the concept of a standard lens is of the biggest cons foisted upon beginners). Anyone who tried to get good dinner table shots found their cameras with 35mm lenses wanting. 28mm is a 'proper' WA. But people don't think of that until after they buy the camera, do they? They just think about the telephoto end - more glamorous but less useful.
  15. Crossing is really very good!

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