1.12.2017

Point and Shoot Pity Party Part 1: The Olympus Infinity Zoom 200

This is Part 1 of a recurring series on basic point and shoot consumer cameras, the details of which can be found here.

Olympus is a camera maker known over the decades for engineering some of the most compact cameras of their types.  Among the most well known of these are the svelte OM series of SLR cameras, but also the PEN half-frame cameras, XA and 35 series rangefinder models, and the modern micro 4/3 mirrorless digital cameras.  Thus, the rather blocky Olympus "compact" camera below caught me by surprise when I spotted it for sale in the thrift shop display case.  It was certainly among the earlier of autofocus point and shoot cameras, but was it any good?  I was about to find out. 


Name: Olympus Infinity Zoom 200
Format: 35mm
Type: Autofocus Point and Shoot 
Year: 1989
Features: Multi-Flash, Spot Focus, Auto Portrait Mode, Date Back, concealed removable remote trigger, Limited filter use possible with optional proprietary attachment.
Lens: Olympus 38-90mm f/4.5-6.4, 7 elements in 7 groups.
Battery: 2 CR-123 Cells.
Manual: http://www.olympusamerica.com/cpg_section/cpg_support_manuals.asp?id=972


Cost: $5.00
Cost When New (and adjusted): $250.00 ($485.00)
Where I found it: Goodwill, Ellicott City, MD.
Why I got it: Perusing the offerings of various point and shoot cameras, I wasn't terribly wowed by any of the choices, but a generally good Olympus reputation gave this model the nod over the others in getting me a cheap camera that was new to me.

What film: Fresh Dated Kentmere 100. 


Top View - Two distinctly colored buttons scroll through the shooting options.  Note that the zoom buttons are reversed from most set-ups.  Sadly, this way, while atypical, makes more sense from the grammatical perspective of Zoom IN(ward) for close ups, and Zoom OUT(ward) for landscapes. 


The viewfinder of the Infinity Zoom 200 is excellent, and uses easy to understand indications instead of the typical ambiguous lights.  "AF" confirms autofocus, the lightning symbol with "S" suffix suggests switching to the mode of the same name to reduce red-eye for people shots, while the simple lightning symbol denotes flash readiness and usage.

What I liked: 
  • Simple and logical two button interface.
  • Availability of the Spot Focus Feature.
  • Well sized viewfinder uses inset colored letter/graphic indicators for flash and focus status rather than simple lights on the periphery.
  • Multi-Flash mode was a really unique setting.
What I didn't like: 
  • Battery Hog requires 2 123 cells like an SLR and unlike most point and shoots that will require only one.
  • Battery cover had a tendency to pop off regularly.  
  • Never could figure out how to restore power to the date back.  
  • Comparatively bulky for a manufacturer renowned for products with small form factor.  
Results:

One could readily achieve focus on non-centered objects and recompose on the Infinity Zoom.


Close shots rendered quite nice, and out-of-focus areas portrayed nicely. 


Sometimes, achieving focus on tough subjects was a sticky spot with the Olympus.  Delved into shadow, the shutter speeds were on the longish side as well with 100 speed film.


Shots taken on the wide end rendered quite sharply on the Olympus. 


Not sure what went on here to cause such blur in this brightly lit scene.


I expected very little from the night performance of this Olympus with its apparent 1 second maximum shutter speed, but actually was nicely surprised to get this result. 


The multi-flash mode does a long shutter speed with 4 strobe blasts of the flash.  It took me a bit to figure a decent test for this, but I figured something out of wobbling back and forth in front of the cookie jar to take this photo.  I actually kind of like this odd mode. 


Marginal light and a marginal result.  A bit of movement blur, but otherwise a passable shot on an overcast day. 


Again, the Infinity Zoom struggled in the limited light to pull off a sharp photo.  


Another tough result compromised by a longish shutter speed. 


Certainly far better than the last two was this shot.


One other attempt at a macro type photo doesn't quite succeed. 


Thoughts: In good lighting, the Olympus did pretty well, while also putting forth some decent images in low light when aided by a tripod.  The multi-flash feature is a neat one that I will certainly look to find a particularly creative use for in the future.  The slight bulkiness of this early AF model combined with a tendency to struggle handheld in low light situations preclude this model from being an easily toted model for slower speed films.  My guess is that it would perform better with 400 speed film or faster.  

Despite its shortcomings, there was still something very refreshingly usable about the Infinity Zoom 200. It carries with it just enough tacky chic to make it oddly appealing in an "I don't care what you think" kind of way.  If I happen to have a pair of free 123 batteries and want an extra carry along on a photo ramble, I can certainly see it coming along for the ride.

Oh by the way, I did try to use the embedded "remote" to try a selfie for this article, but its reportedly non-replaceable battery designed for a minimum life of 6 years, had given up the ghost.