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Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom
by Jeff Keller, DCRP Founder/Editor
Originally posted: February 11, 2004
Last Updated: April 21, 2004
This review has been completed using a production-level C-8080 Wide Zoom.
In case you haven't noticed, 8 Megapixel cameras are the latest and greatest thing in 2004. It seems like just about everyone has announced one! The C-8080 Wide Zoom ($999) is a totally new body style, finally breaking free of the body that's been with us since the C-2000Z.
In addition to its 8 Megapixel CCD, the C-8080WZ offers a 5X optical zoom lens (that starts at 28mm), manual controls, a hot shoe, a flip-up LCD screen, VGA movie mode, and dual memory card slots (CF and xD). The new TruePic TURBO image processor promises improved image quality, as well as rapid startup, shutter release and playback speeds.
Learn more about the C-8080 in our review!
What's in the Box?
The Olympus C-8080WZ has a very good bundle. Inside the box, you'll find:
Olympus includes a 32MB xD card with the camera, which won't hold very many 8 Megapixel photos. So, you'll quickly want to buy a larger card -- I suggest 256MB as a good size. Like the C-5060, the C-8080 supports both xD and CompactFlash cards. If you're after a large capacity card, then CF is the way to go. The camera is FAT32 compatible, so that means you can use the big CF cards (2GB and above) with the 8080.
The C-8080 uses the same BLM-1 battery as the E-1 and C-5060UZ. This battery has a whopping 10.8 Wh of energy, which is way more than previous generation batteries. Unfortunately, Olympus doesn't publish any battery life statistics, but it's seemed to be very good during my time with the camera. Do note that extra battery costs a whopping $70 -- so there's one big disadvantage of the BLM-1. The other is that if the camera is running low on juice, you can't just drop in 4 AAs to get you through the day.
When it's time to recharge the BLM-1, snap it into the included BCM-2 charger. It takes a sluggish 6 hours to fully charge the battery. Note that this isn't one of those nice "plug it right into the wall" chargers -- there's a power cable.
If the BLM-1 just isn't enough for you, then you want the B-HLD30 power battery holder ($149). It can hold one or two BLM-1 batteries, giving you (drumroll please) double the battery life. It also provides vertical controls, and a port for the remote shutter release cable ($53).
Olympus includes the RM-2 remote control with the camera. It's very basic, with just one button. You can take a picture with it, or view a slide show in playback mode. No zoom control or anything.
Olympus includes a lens cap and retaining strap to protect that nice lens. Something else that's included and not shown here is a lens hood, which comes in handy when you're shooting in bright outdoor light.
Optional wide-angle lens
The C-8080Z has a nice selection of accessories available (I already mentioned the battery grip). Here they are:
|Accessory||Model #||Price||Why you want it|
|Wide-angle lens||WCON-08D||$190||Brings the wide end of the camera down to 22.4 mm; requires CLA-8 conversion lens adapter ($35)|
|Telephoto lens||TCON-14D||$200||Boosts the tele end of the camera to 196 mm; requires CLA-8 conversion lens adapter ($35)|
|Dramatically improve your flash photos|
|Hot shoe TTL cable||FL-CB02||$55||Lets you put your flash on a bracket or elsewhere|
|AC adapter||C-8AC||$40||Save your batteries by plugging your camera into the wall|
|LCD hood||??||$20||Makes it easier to see your LCD outdoors|
Like all of Olympus' recent cameras, the C-8080 is fully compatible with Mac OS X and Windows XP. Most likely, you won't even need to install drivers.
The C-8080WZ includes version 4.2 of the Olympus Camedia Master software. The screen above shows you everything it can do.
The editing tools included with Camedia Master are impressive. You can change all kinds of things like brightness, contrast, and color balance. There are also red-eye reduction and "instant fix" options.
Fans of the RAW image format can also use Camedia Master to tweak the properties of your images. This includes exposure compensation, white balance, contrast, sharpness, saturation, and hue. The beauty of RAW is that it allows you to change settings like white balance with no loss in image quality. It's a "virtual reshoot", if you will.
If you don't mind parting with $20, Olympus will upgrade you to the "Pro" version of the software. This adds contact sheet printing, image e-mailing, HTML albums, panorama stitching, and slide shows.
The C-8080WZ continues the unfortunate tradition of including the camera manual on CD-ROM. The manual itself is decent, but it's a shame that you have to view it on your PC. A printed basic manual is included, but it lacks the depth of the full manual.
Look and Feel
The C-8080's body is sort of a mix of the C-5060 and the old (but good) E-10. It's got a magnesium alloy body (and just a little plastic) and it's built like a tank. It has a small, but comfortable right hand grip, and the big lens leaves plenty of room for your left hand. The major controls are all within easy reach, though there are small buttons scattered about whose locations you may need to memorize.
Here's a look at the dimensions and weight of the C-8080WZ, and how it compares to the competition:
|Dimensions (WxHxD)||Volume (bulk)||Mass|
|Canon PowerShot Pro1||4.6 x 2.8 x 3.5 in.||45.1 cu. in.||545 g|
|Minolta DiMAGE A2||4.5 x 3.4 x 4.5 in.||68.9 cu. in.||565 g|
|Nikon Coolpix 8700||4.5 x 4.1 x 3.1 in.||57.2 cu. in.||480 g|
|Olympus C-8080WZ||4.9 x 3.3 x 3.9 in.||63.1 cu. in.||660 g|
|Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828||5.3 x 3.6 x 6.2 in.||118.3 cu. in.||955 g|
As you can see, the C-8080 falls right in the middle of the pack.
Let's begin our full tour of the camera now!
The C-8080WZ has a brand new 5X zoom lens -- and it's on the "wide side" as well. This F2.4-3.5 lens has a focal range of 7.1 - 36.6 mm, which is equivalent to 28 - 140 mm, putting it on the lower end of the 8 Megapixel camera (in terms of total zoom power). The end of the lens is threaded (for filters), and you can unscrew the ring around the lens barrel as well (for conversion lenses). I believe the threads on the lens are 55 mm, but I'm not 100% positive.
Directly above the lens is a powerful pop-up flash, which has a working range of 0.8 - 5.8 m at wide-angle, and 0.8 - 4.0 m at telephoto. If that's not enough flash power for you, or if you want to eliminate redeye worries, try using an external flash. You'll see where that goes in a second.
To the lower-left of the flash is the autofocus sensor. The camera uses both traditional contrast detection and phase-difference detection (which is what the sensor is used for) to focus. That helps speed up focusing in normal lighting. But wait -- there's more. Just to the left of that sensor is an AF-assist lamp, which is used in low light situations. This camera really has it all in the focusing department.
Below the AF-assist lamp is the AE-lock button. At the top-left of the photo is the shutter release button. Finally, that red item on the grip is both the remote control receiver as well as the self-timer lamp.
The C-8080 has the same flip-up LCD as the C-5050Z and E-10/20. It's not quite as useful as those that can rotate as well, but it's better than a standard fixed LCD.
The LCD itself is a high resolution 1.8" screen with 134,000 pixels. The screen is bright, sharp, and motion is very fluid. Brightness is adjustable in the setup menu.
As tends to be the case with cameras like this, the C-8080 has an electronic viewfinder instead of a traditional optical one. As EVFs go, the one on this camera is excellent. With a whopping 240,000 pixels, it's very sharp. Just like the main LCD, the EVF is bright and motion is smooth. You can adjust the brightness of both the LCD and EVF in the setup menu. By turning the knob around the EVF, you can adjust the focus of the screen (diopter correction). Both the EVF and LCD are usable in low light, sine the camera brightens them automatically.
To the lower-left of the EVF is the button for self-timer/remote control and deleting photos. Over on the opposite side of the EVF is the main command dial, which you'll use to select various camera settings.
To the right of the LCD, you'll find several buttons, the four-way controller, and the I/O ports (I'll get to the stuff to the left of the LCD a bit later).
The QuickView button is the fast way into playback mode (no need to use the mode dial). The four-way controller is used for menu navigation, and using the program shift feature that I'll describe later.
The display button (with the screen on it) switches between the LCD and EVF. The CF/xD button to the right of that chooses which memory card slot to use.
Below those, under plastic covers, are the I/O ports. These include DC-in (for optional AC adapter), USB 2.0 high speed, and A/V out.
The C-8080WZ's hot shoe supports Olympus' own flashes, plus third party flashes as well. Do note that if you use a non-Olympus flash, you'll need to use both the camera and the flash in manual mode. Unlike the C-5060 (and I believe the E-10/20 as well), there's no flash sync port on the camera. The camera can sync as fast as 1/300 sec. A slave flash mode allows you to choose how much light is emitted by the flash (in 10 steps).
Just to the right of the hot shoe is the mode dial, which has quite a few options. The options include:
Since I've knocked Olympus on this before, I'll give them credit when they do things the right way (or at least the way I like things). On previous models, you can't get at the full range of shutter speeds while in shutter priority mode -- you had to use "M" mode. That's no longer the case, with a 15 second max shutter speed available in "S" mode. Yay!
Just above the mode dial is the power button. To the right of the dial, you'll find the custom button, which you can set to control just about any camera setting (it's ISO by default).
Above the custom button is the zoom controller, which moves the lens from wide-angle to telephoto in about 1.3 seconds. There are ten steps in the 5X zoom range to choose from.
On this side of the camera, you'll find a whole bunch of buttons. I'll work my way left to right, top to bottom.
This is how you select options on the C-8080. Hold down the button and then use the command dial.
The first button is the release for the pop-up flash. Below that are buttons for white balance and image quality. The available white balance options are:
I must confess that I don't like how Olympus splits the WB over so many submenus. By holding down the WB button and pressing the OK button, you can get to the white balance compensation menu. This lets you fine-tune the WB in the red and blue directions (7 steps each way).
I'll touch on the image quality options later.
The next button over is the focus button, which lets you choose from autofocus, macro, manual focus, super macro, and super macro w/manual focus. In manual focus mode, you use the left/right buttons on the four-way controller to focus the lens (Olympus seems to have an aversion to focus rings). The current focus distance is shown on the LCD/EVF, and the center of the frame is enlarged, so you can verify that your subject is in focus. I'll cover the macro modes later in the review. This same button is used for image protection while in playback mode.
The button below-left of that is for exposure compensation, which is the usual -2EV to +2EV, in 1/3EV or 1/2EV increments. Hold this button down and use the four-way controller to manually select the area in the frame on which to focus. This button also shows exposure information while in playback mode. The button to the right controls the flash setting. Choose from auto, auto w/redeye reduction, fill flash, flash off, and slow sync. In playback mode, this button rotates images.
Hold down the exposure compensation and flash buttons at the same time and you can set -- get this -- flash exposure compensation. The range is the same as it was for exposure compensation.
The final button here is the metering button, which gives you the choice of ESP, spot, multi, and center-weighted metering. In playback mode, this is the DPOF print mark button.
On the other side of the camera, you'll find the dual memory card slots, which are behind a fairly sturdy plastic door. The C-8080WZ supports both xD and CompactFlash Type II (Microdrive included) cards.
There's an xD card in its slot, as you can see.
We end our tour with a look at the bottom of the camera. Down here is where you'll find the battery compartment, which has a sturdy door as well as a lock.
To the left of that is the metal tripod mount, which is located in the center of the body. Continuing left, we find the 8080's speaker.
The included BLM-1 battery is shown at right.
Using the Olympus C-8080 Zoom
One of the promises of the TruePic TURBO image processor is faster startup speed -- and the C-8080 delivers. It takes 1 - 2 seconds for the camera to get ready to shoot, depending on where the lens has to go (this is based on its previous location).
Once the camera's ready, you'll find two interesting ways to display a histogram. The first (above left) is the traditional-style histogram that we all know and love. The second style (above right) -- which is hard to see here -- is what Olympus calls a "direct" histogram. Darker areas of the frame will have blue boxes superimposed, while bright areas have red boxes. Both of these can help you get better exposures, as long as you know what to do with the information they provide.
The C-8080's passive AF system allows it to focus very quickly in good light -- 1/2 second in most cases. If the camera has to hunt a lot, it can take up to two seconds to lock focus. In dim light, the AF sensor and AF-assist lamp combo allow the camera to lock focus with ease. It takes a little longer, but the camera will lock focus.
The camera does very well in the shutter lag department, as well. I didn't notice it at all until slow shutter speeds like 1/8 sec), and even then, it was barely noticeable.
Shot-to-shot speed is excellent, with a delay of just over one second, assuming you've turned off the post-shot review feature. When in TIFF mode, the camera will be locked up for about 19 seconds while the image is being written to the memory card. In RAW mode, the delay is around 14 seconds.
There's no easy way to delete a photo immediately after it is taken. You can, however, use the QuickView feature to do so.
There are tons of image resolution and quality choices on the C-8080WZ. And here they are:
|Quality||Resolution||Approx. File Size||# photos on 32MB card (included)|
|RAW||3264 x 2448||11.4 MB||2|
|TIFF||3264 x 2448||22.9 MB||1|
|3264 x 2176 (3:2)||20.3 MB||1|
|2592 x 1944||14.4 MB||2|
|2288 x 1712||11.2 MB||2|
|2048 x 1536||9.0 MB||3|
|1600 x 1200||5.5 MB||5|
|1280 x 960||3.5 MB||9|
|1024 x 768||2.3 MB||13|
|640 x 480||900 KB||35|
|SHQ||3264 x 2448||3.8 MB||8|
|3264 x 2176 (3:2)||3.4 MB||9|
|HQ||3264 x 2448||1.7 MB||18|
|3264 x 2176 (3:2)||1.2 MB||26|
|SQ1 - High||2592 x 1944||3.6 MB||9|
|2288 x 1712||2.8 MB||11|
|2048 x 1536||2.2 MB||14|
|SQ1 - Normal||2592 x 1944||1.2 MB||26|
|2288 x 1712||900 KB||35|
|2048 x 1536||800 KB||40|
|SQ2 - High||1600 x 1200||1.4 MB||22|
|1280 x 960||900 KB||35|
|1024 x 768||600 KB||53|
|640 x 480||200 KB||160|
|SQ2 - Normal||1600 x 1200||500 KB||64|
|1280 x 960||300 KB||106|
|1024 x 768||200 KB||160|
|640 x 480||100 KB||320|
I don't think you'll find another camera with than many options. While it may be overkill (who needs a 640 x 480 TIFF file?), it's better to have too many choices than too few.
Olympus uses one of the more sensible file numbering systems that I've seen. Files are named Pmdd####.jpg, where m is the month (1-9, A-C), d is the day, and #### is 0001-9999. This way your file numbers are always unique (well, at least a year). File numbering is maintained as you erase and switch memory cards.
The C-8080Z uses Olympus' customizable menu system. When you first open the menu, you're presented with four choices:
Don't need to turn digital zoom on or off very often? With the exception of Mode Menu, you can put whatever you want in that menu. They're all just shortcuts into the mode menu.
The Mode Menu is where most of the options on the C-8080 are located. To call the menu intimidating is an understatement -- it's one of the more confusing systems out there, and it takes some getting used to. Here's what you'll find in the mode menu:
Many of those options require further explanation, so here goes:
First, the drive options. There are four continuous shooting modes. Regular sequential mode will lock the focus and exposure settings on the first shot, and will take 12 shots at 1 frames/sec, while the high speed mode takes up to 5 shots at 1.5 frames/sec (those are my measurements). AF sequential mode will redo the focus and exposure for each shot, slowing the burst rate down considerably. Auto bracketing will take 3 or 5 shots in a row, each with a different exposure compensation value. You can set the EV increment (±0.3EV, ±0.7EV, ±1EV) in the setup menu.
The frame assist feature overlays a 3 x 3 grid on the LCD/EVF, which you can use to help compose your photos (by the "rule of thirds"). Buried in the function submenu is a "guideline shooting" option, which puts the outline of a human head on the LCD. I've seen this feature before, and I'm not really sure why it's needed.
Dual control panel
The "dual control panel" feature was first seen on the C-5050Z, and now it's on the C-8080WZ as well. Basically this feature puts what would normally go on the LCD info display (if the camera had one) onto the main LCD. Do note that you can't use the EVF while having the control panel on the LCD at the same time -- too bad.
There's a secondary setup menu, which is accessed by the mode dial. The items there include:
Well enough about menus, let's do photo tests now.
The C-8080 produced a gorgeous rendition of our famous 3 inch tall macro subject. Color looks nice, and the detail is excellent.
The 8080 has two macro modes: regular and super. In each mode, you can use auto or manual focus.
Regular macro mode has a focus range of 20 - 80 cm, which isn't so hot. But the real action is in super macro mode, which lowers the minimum distance down to 5 cm. Olympus says that you can fit an object 48 x 36 mm in size into the frame (which isn't as good as the Pro1 or CP8700). Do note that the zoom cannot be used in super macro mode.
The C-8080 did a great job with the night shot as well. This F3.5, 5 second exposure took in more than enough light. Even better, both noise and purple fringing levels are low. With shutter speeds as slow as 15 seconds available, the 8080 can take great low light shots. Just remember your tripod!
Here's a look at how the C-8080 performs at different ISO sensitivities:
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
View Full Size Image
As you can see, things start getting pretty noise above ISO 200. At ISO 400 it's pretty nasty, but better than most of the 8MP cameras that I've tested (with the exception of the Sony F828). Do note that the C-8080WZ has a wider range of ISOs than most cameras, so you can find the setting with a noise level you are comfortable with.
The C-8080 shows moderate barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens, and no vignetting.
Woohoo -- no redeye!
The two things that have plagued the 8 Megapixel cameras I've tested are noise and purple fringing. You can expect to see both of these on the C-8080WZ, but neither was horrible. In fact, the 8080 takes very good quality photos which are well-exposed and sharp (most of the time; some images were soft for some reason). A few times noticed the noise eating away at some details (usually grass or leaves), but for the most part, photo quality is comparable to other 8 Megapixel cameras. At the default setting, colors seemed a little neutral to me, but that's easily correctable by adjusting the camera's saturation setting.
If things are a little too noisy for you, try turning down the sharpness a notch or two. Another option is to use a noise reduction program like NeatImage or NoiseNinja.
All-in-all, I like what I saw from the C-8080. Have a look at the gallery and see if you do too.
Olympus finally has improved their movie mode. And good news -- it's one of the better ones out there. You can record VGA (640 x 480) quality video at 15 frames/second, until the memory card fills up. Sound is recorded as well. The included 32MB xD card holds a whopping 34 seconds of video, so you'll want a larger card so you can take longer movies!
Two other resolutions are also available: 320 x 240 and 160 x 120. Both of those also have a 15 fps frame rate. The movies are saved in QuickTime format.
As you'd expect, you cannot use the zoom lens during filming when sound is recorded. But if you turn off the microphone, you can use the zoom to your heart's content.
Below is a sample movie taken at the 640 x 480 setting. Be warned, it's a very large download. I apologize for the wind noise... front-mounted microphones don't do well on the windy days that we have around these parts!
Click to play movie (16.2MB, 640 x 480, QuickTime format)
Can't play it? Download QuickTime.
The 8080 has a pretty nice playback mode. Basic features include slide shows, voice annotations, thumbnail mode, DPOF print marking, image protection, and "zoom and scroll".
The zoom and scroll feature (my term) allows you to zoom in as much as 5X into your photo, and then move around in it.
You can rotate, resize (to 640 x 480 or 320 x 240), and crop photos in playback mode.
The camera allows you to copy images from an xD card to a CompactFlash card -- and vice versa -- by using the copy function.
The RAW data edit feature lets you change several properties of the image, including quality, white balance, sharpness, contrast, saturation, and more. White balance doesn't look good? Change it in this mode and you're set! After you adjust one of those settings, the revised image is saved in TIFF or JPEG format format. You can do all of this in the Camedia Master software as well.
Normally, you don't get much information about your photos in playback mode. When you want more info, just press the "info" button to get the screen above-left. Press it again to get the screen above-right, which includes a histogram.
The C-8080 isn't terribly quick between photos, with a 2 second delay. Loading each RAW image takes about seven seconds.
How Does it Compare?
The Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom is an 8 Megapixel camera that holds its own against the competition, despite having a lens that doesn't have as much telephoto power as the competition. Image quality is very good, though expect the above average noise and purple fringing that have become hallmarks of 8MP cameras. Performance is also good in all areas, except in RAW/TIFF write times, which are on the slow side. The cameras dual autofocus systems let it focus quickly and accurately, even in low light. And speaking of which, Olympus has made sure that both the EVF and the flip-up LCD are viewable in dim lighting.
If you like manual controls, then you'll love the C-8080WZ. It has nearly everything you can think of -- and then some. The only downside is that getting to them can be difficult, with lots of buttons and a confusing menu system to deal with. In terms of build quality, the 8080 has a very nice body with a strong metal frame. It's certainly not a small camera but I never got tired of carrying it around. If the zoom lens doesn't cover enough of a range for you, Olympus offers both wide and telephoto conversion lenses. The camera also has a hot shoe for an external flash.
Battery life on the C-8080WZ is very good as well, based on my time with the camera. The hefty BLM-1 battery is a big part of that. Just be warned that an extra battery (highly recommended) will set you back $70. The camera has a nice VGA movie mode, though the 15 fps frame rate will lead to choppy video. Two other things I like about the camera include the RAW image edit function in playback mode, and the two different histograms in record mode.
All things considered, the C-8080WZ is a good choice for those who want lots of controls and 8 Megapixel resolution. For those who don't need that much resolution, but like what they've read here, consider the 5 Megapixel C-5060 Wide Zoom. The C-8080 holds up well against the best cameras in the 8MP that I've tested, namely the Canon PowerShot Pro1 and Nikon Coolpix 8700. Since they all do quite well, I recommend trying them in person to see which one fits your needs.
What I liked:
What I didn't care for:
Other cameras worth considering include the Canon PowerShot Pro1, Minolta DiMAGE A2, Nikon Coolpix 8700, and Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828.
As always, I recommend a trip to your local camera store to try out the C-8080WZ and its competitors before you buy!
Want to see how the photo quality turned out? View our gallery!
Want a second opinion? How about more?
Feedback & Discussion
If you have a question about this review, please send them to Jeff. Due to my limited resources, please do not e-mail me asking for a personal recommendation.
To discuss this review with other DCRP readers, please visit our forums.
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