Conclusion - Pros

  • Very good resolution, joint best of group
  • Fastest startup time of any prosumer digital camera
  • Superb build quality, professional feel
  • Wide angle five times zoom lens, fast at wide
  • Probably the highest quality new lens designed for 8mp
  • Low high ISO noise, employs noise reduction
  • Fast Auto Focus
  • Widest range of image parameter adjustment
  • Good flash performance
  • Excellent lens, no issues, good performance
  • Nine ISO steps from 50 to 400
  • Programmable Custom button and initial menu
  • Majority of camera settings available on body buttons
  • Unique 'direct histogram' mode is surprisingly useful
  • Framing assist lines option on live view
  • Unlimited (streaming) video
  • Excellent battery life, best of group
  • LCD performed well outdoors, best of group
  • High resolution electronic viewfinder
  • Dual media slots (xD & Compact Flash)
  • USB 2.0 connectivity
  • Supplied IR remote control

Conclusion - Cons

  • Least zoom of current eight megapixel prosumer digital cameras
  • Camera locked while writing RAW images
  • Further than average minimum focus distance (0.8 m)
  • LCD only tilts upwards, does not twist out
  • Only five steps of zoom from wide to telephoto
  • CF card sometimes difficult to grip when removing
  • Initially complex button+dial controls, although it becomes easier in time
  • Aging menu system
  • Slow image to image browsing in play mode
  • Zoom speed too fast, not proportional zoom lever

Overall conclusion

My first impression of the C-8080 Wide Zoom was, "at last a prosumer camera that feels as though it is worth its price tag". The C-8080 is built to a higher standard than any of the other eight megapixel digital cameras (save maybe the Sony DSC-F828), with a thick, high grade metal body simple rubber coating and innovative yet unfussy control layout. This is a camera which feels as well put together as a much more expensive digital SLR, you just know it's going to last. Olympus also broke the mold with the C-8080's design and although initially the camera controls may seem complex it all falls into place and changing settings (almost any setting, they're all there) become fast and logical.

The C-8080's has two major assets which set it up as an excellent 'photographic tool'. The first is the thing which dominates the camera's shape, the large lens. Olympus didn't rush to go down the 7x or 8x zoom route, instead they chose a 5x design but kept the lens diameter big and used high quality glass. This has paid off, image quality is excellent, resolution very high with almost no artifacts and no problems created by the lens itself. Of the five eight megapixel digital cameras currently on the market Sony, Canon and Olympus chose to design new lenses for the sensor, in my opinion the Olympus is the best of all. (The only improvement I could suggest would have been a mechanically linked zoom ring).

The second asset is the camera's performance, being in the right place at the right time to get that once in a lifetime shot is one thing, having the camera switched on and ready is another. Thanks to an amazingly short startup time and short auto focus and shutter release lag you're far more likely to capture the moment with the C-8080 than some of the competition, and we really shouldn't underestimate that.

Take other elements into account, good noise reduction keeping higher ISO's cleaner, a good range of image parameter adjustment, good flash performance, the unique 'direct histogram' feature, superb battery life and an excellent LCD monitor which works well even outdoors and there's little doubt the C-8080 deserves our highest rating.

Highly Recommended

Detail Rating (out of 10)
Construction 9.5
Features 8
Image quality 9
Lens / CCD combination 8.5
Ease of use 7.5
Value for money 7.5

Digital SLR footnote: If you're considering an eight megapixel prosumer digital camera you should also not rule out a sub-$1000 digital SLR while initially more expensive (certainly if you want to achieve the 28 - 200 mm zoom range) these cameras offer higher quality image processing, cleaner images (virtually noise free up to ISO 1600), faster performance, more flexibility and for all intents and purposes (even large prints) as much resolution. On the downside they're not an 'all in one' solution and they're likely to be larger and need you to buy and carry at least a second lens. By sub-$1000 (at the time of publication of this review) we're talking about the Nikon D70 and Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel).

So which one should I buy? A question I get asked several times a day, and I wouldn't like to say. In a new addition to my reviews (after the amount of feedback I normally get) I've added a link to a specific forum in which you can discuss the review or ask me specific questions which I've not answered in these pages.

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