digital camera experience has gone from 3 MP to 5 MP to 8 MP, in
just a few years. While megapixels alone are not the only criteria
for image quality, Olympus has put together a very impressive package
in their new C-8080. The improvement in resolution over each previous
camera is very real, and while I made nice 13 x 19-inch prints from
my 3 MP digicam, I now make smoother and sharper images from the
8 MP. I can even afford to crop a lot and still make beautiful 13
camera is ergonomically designed to feel solid and professional
in your hands. It weighs in at about a pound-and-a-half, including
battery and memory card. All I carry on most picture taking occasions
is the camera, and an extra CF card and back-up battery in my pocket.
And with this minimum outfit, my results are better than anything
I remember when I was shooting with 35mm film.
to the excellent picture quality is the Olympus lens that comes
with the C-8080. It works in a 28mm to 140mm rangeö in 35mm camera
terms. That covers a lot of useful ground. The wide extreme is an
ideal focal length for group photos and also works well as a dramatic
focal length for architecture and outdoor scenes. The 140mm telephoto
setting covers most sports and action shots adequately. In between,
the 85-90mm range is perfect for portraiture.
course, the real focal length is 7.1mm to 35.6mm. This is both an
advantage and a disadvantage. At these short focal lengths you have
extraordinary depth of field and most of the stuff in your picture
is sharp. Thatās an advantage. The disadvantage, though, is that
you may not always want everything sharp. Itās hard with any of
the digicams in this category to get shallow depth of field.
the C-8080 the smallest f-stop is f-8. Now f-8 will give you plenty
of depth of field, probably equivalent to f-22 on your 35mm film
camera. That I can live with. But one problem I havenāt solved is
that I have to work pretty hard to get my studio strobes to shoot
at low enough power not to overexpose my images when I can only
stop down to f-8. Furthermore, the C-8080 has no ćPCä flash terminal!
A camera with these capabilities should certainly have a way to
plug in professional studio strobe units. There is a work around,
though. You can buy an inexpensive accessory that lets you connect
a PC cord to the hot shoe on the top of the camera.
back to f-stops, there is a reason that manufacturers find it difficult
to make them smaller: the optical quality would suffer from really
small openings of short focal length lenses because of a phenomenon
called diffraction. While smaller f-stops do give you greater depth
of field, you also begin to lose overall image sharpness. The old
rule of thumb is that youāll get your sharpest pictures at 2 ö 2-1/2
stops down from the widest opening of the lens.
a studio set up to illustrate to my digital camera class the comparison
of various resolutions and what they mean. To make this kind of
comparison and not skew the results with different subjects, I set
up a controlled still life and photographed it at every resolution
available on the C-8080ö RAW, TIFF, SHQ, HQ, SQ-1, and SQ-2. Lighting
was provided by a tungsten soft box and all the pictures were printed
on an Epson 2000 printer using 13x19 paper.
best was RAW, followed by TIFF, and then SHQ, which is the least-compressed
JPEG. But it would be hard to pick out which was which if I hadnāt
marked the prints. TIFF, SHQ and the other JPEG setting have some
camera sharpening built in. You can adjust that in the C-8080 from-5
to +5. I leave this set at the midpoint, which is 0. If you want
to shoot RAW, you have to be resigned to a little extra work, using
either the manufacturerās software or the RAW converter in Photoshop
CS, which I used. RAW always requires some sharpening and lately
Iāve been using Focus Magic (www.focusmagic.com) at a very low setting
(2 or 3 usually).
C-8080ās many, many options can be a little overwhelming at first.
Although there are more than a dozen buttons on the camera body
that control various settings, itās quicker to use them than to
go through menus. For instance, pressing and holding the button
with a left pointing arrow while turning a wheel just below the
hot shoe lets you easily scroll through your resolution choices.
When you like your choice, just let go of the button and the camera
is set. The flash, exposure compensation, and other function buttons
work the same way, so once you learn the sequence it becomes second
nature to use them during a shooting session.
different set of controls works from the OK button on the back of
the camera. This button, surrounded by a 4-way rocker switch, allows
you to navigate and make choices, such as ISO, White Balance, and
other functions. These are settings you might set once and then
leave alone during a shooting session. The camera body buttons are
the ones you may want to adjust as you shoot.
been setting the white balance to Auto with very good results. In
addition to Auto, there are two sets of presets, plus custom, plus
one-touch white balance. I found the presets confusing. In one of
the presets you can choose from four kinds of fluorescent settings
but the picture icon for each of them looks the same. This is a
matter of too many choices. The one touch WB works by aiming your
camera at a white piece of paper or other white surface and pressing
the OK button.
Sensor res-8.0 megapixels
Image dimensions-3264x2448 down
ISO-50 to 400 or auto
Lens-F:2.4-8 glass Olympus
Lens focal length-7.1-35.6 mm (28-140mm
Shutter-1/4000 to 16 seconds
Exposure compensation-+/- 2.0 EV
in 1/2 EV steps
Storage-xD Card and CF Card
Focus-Contrast detection/phase diff.
LCD screen-1.8 inch TFT (134k pixels)
Viewfinder-electronic (240k pixels)
Battery-Olympus BLN-1 lithium-ion
Weight-1.1 lb. w/o battery or card
Dimensions-4.9 x 3.3 x 3.9 inches
brings me back to RAW. If your goal is making beautiful prints beyond
snapshots, you can set the camera to RAW and the white balance to
AUTO and the only other thing to set is the ISO setting. Everything
else can be changed later. Ironically, if you just need casual snapshots,
the white balance and the other settings should be as correct as
possible because big changes in an imaging program are damaging
to the quality of the picture.
up, the camera turns on quickly and has less shutter lag than my
earlier cameras. I prefer to preview the image on the LCD monitor
and the swing-out adjustment of the LCD monitor is useful for low
angle photos and even the occasional over-the-head shot. I wish
the viewfinder produced a more photographic image. I know Iām more-or-less
accurately framing the subject but I hate the way it looks after
years of composing through real groundglass pentaprisms. Also, the
zoom control is very antsy - it moves very fast and itās hard to
frame images precisely.
included infrared remote is very useful when doing a macro shot
or anything exact because you can fire the camera with no accidental
movement. Battery life is very good. With my other cameras, Iāve
always needed the spare in a few hours of shooting, but not with
this excellent Lithium-Ion battery. My routine has been to shoot
either RAW or SHQ. I like to use the RAW at ISO 50, if at all possible.
When shooting in poor light at ISO 400, I feel that RAW has no real
advantage so I shoot SHQ. Overall, there is probably more of a learning
curve with the C-8080 than with most consumer cameras, but the control
it offers and the quality of images it produces makes the effort