Design

From a design standpoint it's nice to see Olympus taking a fresh look at the body shape and styling of their camera, for too long we had camera after camera which looked like the good old C-2000 Zoom, the C-8080 is like a breath of fresh air. The two defining details of the camera's design have to be the large diameter lens and the way that the left side of the body is rounded to match the lens barrel, in this respect it reminded me of Sony's fine old DSC-D700.

The body itself is made from the now familiar magnesium alloy, although a heavier grade that we're used to seeing in a prosumer digital camera, tough, robust and professional. Olympus has clearly spent a lot of time on the hand grip with a beautifully shaped front grip portion and molded thumb grip on the rear. The front grip and lens barrel are both coated with a soft rubber compound. The C-8080's LCD monitor is attached to an articulating arm which allows it to be pulled away from the body and tilted both up and down (although not side to side).

Side by side

Below you can see the C-8080 Wide Zoom with the rest of the eight megapixel competition. The C-8080 Wide Zoom weighs in 182 g (6 oz) lighter than the F828 although also gives up some telephoto capability to the Sony. The lightest eight megapixel so far is Nikon's Coolpix 8700. Of all the cameras shown here the C-8080 is certainly the most professional and robust feeling.


Camera Specs Dimensions Body weight
(inc. batt & CF)
Nikon Coolpix 8700 8 mp, 8x zoom 113 x 78 x 105 mm (4.4 x 3.1 x 4.1 in) 512 g (1.1 lb)
Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 mp, 7x zoom 118 x 72 x 90 mm (4.6 x 2.8 x 3.5 in) 640 g (1.4 lb)
Minolta DiMAGE A2 8 mp, 7x zoom 117 x 85 x 114 mm (4.6 x 3.4 x 4.5 in) 654 g (1.4 lb)
Olympus C-8080 WZ 8 mp, 5x zoom 124 x 85 x 99 mm (4.9 x 3.3 x 3.9 in) 724 g (1.6 lb)
Sony DSC-F828 8 mp, 7x zoom 134 x 91 x 156 mm (5.3 x 3.6 x 6.1 in) 906 g (2.0 lb)

In your hand

Again, I have nothing but praise for the C-8080's ergonomic design, the hand grip is just the right size for the camera (and my hand) and the molded thumb grip on the rear provides a very nice steady feel. The lens barrel provides even more grip for your left hand. The camera is weighty but not heavy, it feels fairly well balanced although there's no getting away from the fact that there is quite a bit of glass to the left of the center of the camera.

LCD Monitor

The C-8080's LCD monitor is attached to the body by an arm which allows it to be pulled away and tilted both down and upwards. There are four locking positions (including flat against the body), this provides great capability for waist level, macro, studio and overhead shooting.

The C-8080 has a brand new 134,000 pixel 1.8" LCD monitor, it's bright clear and detailed but most noticeably it refreshes very quickly and appears to have no 'smear', it responds very quickly and provides a crystal clear view when panning the camera. Kudos Olympus.

 

Electronic Viewfinder

The C-8080 has a high resolution 240,000 pixel electronic viewfinder. This is essentially a tiny LCD monitor (about half an inch diagonally) with an eyepiece which relays exactly the same image you would see on the LCD monitor. In low light situations the camera switches to a high gain (but low refresh rate) mode, it's sufficient but not as good as Minolta's very high gain B&W live view.

Battery Compartment / Charger

The C-8080 is powered by the same BLM-1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable battery Olympus used in the E-1 digital SLR. This battery provides 7.2V and has a capacity of 1500 mAh (11 Wh), which is a lot for a prosumer camera and should mean very good battery life. The battery compartment is located in the base of the hand grip and is held closed by a sliding lever, the battery itself is held in place by a small red catch which when pushed releases the battery.

The camera is of course provided with a charger, a new slimmer version of the BCM-1 called the BCM-2, charging a completely flat battery should take just over an hour.

 

Storage Compartment

The C-8080 has dual storage slots, one for xD-Picture Card and one for Compact Flash Type I/II. The storage compartment door makes up the right side of the camera and when opened reveals the two slots. If only one card is inserted the camera will automatically use that card, if both slots are populated you can switch between them by pressing the CF/xD button beside the compartment door. The C-8080 supports Compact Flash Type I and II as well as the IBM Microdrive. The camera is supplied with a 32 MB xD-Picture Card. I'll have a moan here and now that the CF card can sometimes be difficult to remove because it does not eject far enough to be gripped.