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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus C-8080 WZ


Olympus C-8080 WZ Review

Review Date: June 11, 2004

Category: Advanced Amateur - Prosumer

Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide-Zoom


Flowers: 1/160 sec., F2.8 and ISO 50
12.1mm, Program, Pattern, 1/160 sec., F2.8 and ISO 50

The Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide-Zoom innovates in body design with a brand new look. At 124W x 84.5H x 99D mm (4.9W x 3.3H x 3.9D in.), it's one of the larger 8MP digital cameras. With a large lens barrel and tall body, handling feels sure and comfortable. It comes in a professional black finish that feels tough and very high quality, the best of the current 8MP crowd.

There's no doubt that Olympus engineers have decided to rethink the traditional placement of controls, as most reviewers have found out. Some have dismissed the new layout design out of hand because, as with any new design, it does take some time to get used to the operation of the C-8080, especially its Menu System. One of the reasons why I like to review one camera at a time is because it gives me plenty of time to get to know the camera quite well in the space of 2-3 weeks. This cannot happen if I am carrying two or more cameras with me and switching from one to the other all the time. My personal bias will automatically favour the one I feel most comfortable with and look at the others unfavourably.

The Olympus C-8080 has a nice sculpted handgrip which is comfortable and allows unimpeded reach of the controls on top of the camera. However, because the handgrip is not deep, carrying the camera in one hand, holding it by the handgrip (as I like to do), does not feel too safe because it starts to slip out of my hand. So I find myself carrying the C-8080 by its lens barrel instead, which is also quite comfortable. The C-8080 comes with a nice neck strap for those who prefer to carry their camera this way.

[Having read some concerns in the forums, I'll just like to mention that the lens itself moves slightly inside the lens barrel. This is normal, so don't worry about it.]

On the back of the C-8080, there's a deep well for your thumb to rest in, and the Control Dial and Mode Dial are within easy reach of the thumb. Personally, I can rotate the dials easily with my thumb and both dials click securely in place. However, if you rotate the Control Dial with your index finger and thumb, you will most probably inadvertently switch the camera off a couple of times because of the placement of the power button. I like this power button that does not require you to hold it for a few seconds to turn on/off the camera. It would however be simply better if it were recessed a bit to avoid the accidental switching off.

The index finger comes to naturally rest on the shutter release button, which is angled a little bit more to the vertical than is traditionally the case. At first, if you find yourself confusing the Power button and Shutter Release button, don't worry. You'll get used to that, too, in no time.

Olympus engineers figured that the middle finger has been idle far too long and so decided to give it a job to do: it comes to naturally rest on the AEL button, which is uncharacteristically on the front of the camera body. Until you get used to its placement, it's easy to forget it is there!

At the back, controls are limited to the Menu button and the Arrow Pad surrounding it; the Quick View button, which provides a quick way to review your last shots (you can press the Quick View button again or tap the shutter release button to instantly revert back into Shooting Mode); the Monitor button to toggle between the LCD monitor and the EVF; and the Card button to toggle between the xD-Picture Card and CF memory card. That's right: the C-8080 has dual memory card slots!

There's one more button that sits right next to the EVF: the Self-timer/Remote Control/Erase button. Now that button is just out of place there. In fact, I hunted quite a while to figure out how to erase pictures: the red trash can symbol is kind of small and, being in the shadow of the large comfortable eyepiece, is very difficult to notice. I think I know why it was placed there. You press the button with your left thumb, and dial in your selection with your right thumb. So, by necessity, it had to be placed on the left side. Its proper place is, of course, where the Monitor button is currently sitting.

The EVF has 240,000 pixels resolution and is very clear. There is a Diopter Adjustment Ring around the eyepiece and -- as is unfortunately too often the case with the majority of digital cameras -- is quite difficult to turn while you are peering into the EVF. Fortunately, you only have to set this once and be done with.

The 1.8-in. LCD monitor has 134,000 pixels resolution but no usable B&W high-gain option in extreme low-light situation. It tilts up 22°, 45° and 90° to allow low-angle shots, and down 45° for high-angle shots. At the 90° placement, waist-level shots are easy. This tilting LCD is incredibly useful when taking low levels macro shots.

In My Mode, you can specify whether the EVF or LCD monitor should be the default when you turn on the camera.

All the other control buttons are on the left side of the body and, if you are used to the buttons being on the back of the camera, at first this arrangement seems kind of odd. But you get very quickly used to it. There are no buttons on the large lens barrel itself which I find quite surprising. The AF/Macro/MF button would have been at home on the lens barrel. [I have this feeling that the large lens barrel and lens itself are to make way for the 4/3 System image sensor, the natural evolution for the Olympus prosumer digital cameras.]

The other control buttons on the left side are: WB, Record Mode (Image Quality/Size), Exposure Compensation, Flash Mode, and Metering. You depress the button to bring up the valid options on the monitor and use the Control Dial to select one.

Manual Focus is possible on the C-8080 and it is controlled by the Up and Down Arrows. The central portion of the screen magnifies and a useful distance indicator displays on screen. It works quite well, though not as elegantly as a Manual Ring does. There is a ring around the lens barrel but it's just decorative, and you twist it off to permit the attachment of optional lens converters.

The C-8080 comes standard with a wireless Remote Controller that is very useful in group portraits, macro shots, and slow shutter speeds using a tripod. For the Remote Control to work, you need to first set it in the Menu (depress the Self-timer/Remote Control/Erase button and rotate the Control Dial to select Remote Control). The Remote Control Receiver is on the front of the handgrip so you need to be careful not to include yourself in pictures inadvertently. I find that if you preset to use the Remote Control, you can still take pictures using the shutter release button, so I am not sure why Olympus did not just implement the C-8080 to acept the use of the Remote Control by default (i.e. not have to go into the Menu to set it on).

As with any powerful system, there is a certain amount of complexity that goes with the wide range of options available. For example, the Menu system of the C-8080 is quite intricate with tabs going down the left side and each tab providing two to three levels of nested options. This gets even more complicated when some of the options are labeled cryptically.

White Balance is one example: instead of allowing the user to scroll through all available White Balance options, we are forced to pre-assign a value to Preset 1 and Preset 2. Preset 1 is for Outdoors (Shade, Cloudy Day, Sunny Day, Evening Sunlight), and Preset 2 is for Indoors (4 fluorescent options and 1 tungsten). It would have been extremely easy even for a beginner programmer to program the menu display to substitute the label "Preset 1" with whatever option was assigned to it. Ditto for "Preset 2." Say, we assigned "Shade" to Preset 1 and "Tungsten" to Preset 2. Then, when we press the WB button, we should see on screen "Auto, Shade, Tungsten" instead of "Auto, Preset 1, Preset 2" -- much more user friendly, eh? However, I would still have preferred to be able to scroll thru all the available white balance options.

I am not a big fan of the colour scheme used in the menu, finding it sometimes pretty difficult to read green on yellow. The menu options are listed diagonally instead of straight down and I find this quite distracting.

To tame the C-8080's intricate menu tree, Olympus engineers have provided us a shortcut -- and this works very intuitively. Here's how it works: Press one of the button and a sub-menu pops up on screen listing only the options available for that button. Scroll the Control Dial to select an option. Voila!

There is an AF Illuminator to aid in low-light focusing that works quite well even in total darkness. For some subjects, however, the focus will tend to favor the more contrasty background if you have selected iESP AF in the menu; I find that by selecting Spot AF in the menu, I can get focus lock in low-light situations. Unfortunately, you won't see anything too well in the EVF/LCD monitor in extreme low-light situations; the monitor image does not switch to a high-gain B&W image that is usable.

The C-8080 is fast! Fast startup at less than 1 sec! If you keep missing pictures because your digital camera takes too long to start up, you will want to check out the C-8080.

As usual, we profer a number of improvements that we feel would make the C-8080 even more enjoyable to use:

  • Interchange the positions of the Monitor button and the Self-timer/Remote Control/Erase button.
  • Make the Remote Control option a default, i.e. always ON and active. The camera works as usual, but if we decide to use the wireless remote controller, we should not have to go into the menu to set it on before we can use it.
  • Change the green on yellow colour scheme of the menu -- or else, allow us to select our own colour combinations.
  • Please no more diagonal menu lists. A simple vertical list will do, thank you.
  • Mute the ping of the pop-up flash. While the pop-up flash pops up nicely with a muted thud, it retracts back with a loud ping on my review camera.
  • A dedicated ISO button is missing.
  • When there are only two or three selections to a sub-menu, provide a toggle option: instead of having to hold down the button and dial in a selection, allow repeated press of the button to toggle between the selections. The advantage of this functionality over the submenu is that you can still concentrate on the image instead of being distracted by a submenu.

The Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide-Zoom feels right and comfortable. It has a super fast startup and, while the Menu system takes some learning, the dedicated control buttons and sub-menus make operation fast and intuitive. It has the best construction finish of the current 8MP digital cameras and, more importantly, the best image quality. If you are graduating to the advanced amateur photographer / prosumer status and prefer a larger digital camera, check out the C-8080.

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