With the C-8080, Olympus enters the 8-megapixel arena with a splash. It’s well suited both to amateur photo enthusiasts who want to ramp up their power and to professional photographers who need a smaller camera that’s still loaded with a high-quality lens and expected high-end features. To that end, the C-8080 has a hot shoe for an external flash and the ability to add lenses (in conjunction with Olympus’s bayonet-connected lens adapter tube).
With a body modeled after Olympus’s professional E-20N, it has a classic SLR-style look but with a smaller profile (it’s less bulky than Sony’s DSC-F828). The rubber hand grip feels quite comfortable, making it easy for our fingers to access all the operation buttons on the right side. That said, we had to train ourselves to press the shutter-release button instead of the power button, since it is placed a bit lower from the top than where our fingers wanted to go. We also occasionally turned off the camera when making adjustments to the mode dial.
The left side also collects several buttons that are used in combination with the jog dial on the back (enabling quick access without having to go through all the menus). These buttons include flash pop-up and mode selection, resolution and image quality, and exposure compensation buttons. The LCD can be pulled away from the camera body and tilted up and down, which is especially handy for capturing ground-level photos.
Ergonomics aside, the C-8080 offers a powerful array of photographic features that make it easy to snap pics automatically or with your own manual settings. Here are some highlights:
- The C-8080 has four continuous shooting modes, with the fastest being five shots at 1.5 frames-per-second (which was helpful in capturing the tip-off at an NCAA basketball game). It also has an AF burst mode where the focus is adjusted frame by frame, but this slows down the capture speed.
- The manual focus mode allows you to get in as close as 7.9 inches (20 cm). A zoomed portion of your subject appears at the center of the LCD enabling you to get the right adjustment.
- The movie mode allows you to record up to 640 x 480 resolution (VGA) with sound, and it’s only limited by the amount of free space on your memory card–the LCD shows how much more video you can fit there. You’ll also be able to hear audio during in-camera playback thanks to a small, built-in speaker at the bottom.
Other fave features included the electronic viewfinder (which helps keep the LCD from draining battery power), the My Mode setting (which can save up to 8 presets), and the ability to shoot in RAW format.
Although the 5x optical zoom is smaller than other current 8 MP models, we found it to be quite adequate. It’s also a bit on the wide side–28-140mm with maximum aperture settings of f2.4 at wide and f3.5 at telephoto. The aspherical glass lens is built to the same quality level as the Zuiko lenses used with Olympus’s E-1 digital SLR. We were quite happy with its clarity and ability to pick up fine details–even in a romantically lit restaurant.
The included 32 MB xD memory card is nice start, but you’ll definitely need the space for storing 8 MP photos; we were able to fit 20 HQ 3264 x 2448 images onto the card. It’s also compatible with Type I and II CompactFlash cards, and we recommend purchasing either a large-capacity CF card or a MicroDrive to ensure you’ve got enough capacity. One bonus of using xD is its faster write speed (images save about one second faster than a MicroDrive). The downside to using the two card formats at once is you have to choose a destination card each time you start the camera (it defaults to the xD card, even if it’s maxed out).
We found the battery life to be quite long-lasting–we only used about half of its capacity during five days of moderate use. The C-8080 is powered by the rechargeable lithium-ion BLM-1 battery. The camera conserves battery power by going to sleep within three minutes of not being used; press any button to immediately bring it back to life.
Overall, Olympus delivers a worthy, professional, SLR-style camera with a good range of high-end controls, handy features, expandability, and great image detail. The only factor that tempers our enthusiasm is its somewhat awkward button layout. –Agen G.N. Schmitz
- Sharp 8-megapixel details and bright lens
- Good variety of professional-quality photographic features, including hot shoe and add-on lenses
- Articulated LCD and electronic viewfinder for saving battery drain
- Dual xD and CompactFlash/MicroDrive compatibility
- Long-lasting lithium-ion rechargeable battery
- Poor layout of control buttons–a slip of the finger easily turns off the camera
- Need to choose CF card every time camera is turned on if xD card also present
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