Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom
At a Glance
Olympus's C-8080 is a pumped-up version of the C-5060, our current Best Buy. The two cameras resemble each other in overall design and shape, but the C-8080 has 8-megapixel imaging to the latter's 5.1 megapixels, and is significantly bulkier. Its wide lens barrel houses fast f2.4/f3.5 optics (wide angle/telephoto)--a significant improvement over the C-5060's f2.8/f4.5. (The C-5060's relatively slow lens has received some criticism in user forums.) Olympus has also made small usability improvements with the C-8080, though it's just a matter of making a good thing better: The trigger button and zoom control are now separated and better placed, and the selector dial is in a more efficient location.
On the other hand, given the C-8080's price and size, its zoom range is surprisingly short--just 5X, a rather meager jump from the C-5060's 4X. Both cameras start at around 28mm (35mm equivalent), which is better than Nikon's competing 8-megapixel Coolpix 8700, which starts at 35mm. In making the jump to 5X, Olympus moved from an optical viewfinder to an electronic one. It's as sharp as the Nikon Coolpix's, but the colors seemed muted, giving a false sense of what colors you'll see in the actual recorded image.
Fortunately, the images produced by the C-8080 are superlative. Its image-sharpness score on our test photos was second only to that of the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-F828, and its exposure accuracy was second only to the C-5060. Color precision was fairly good, though one test image had a slight blue cast.
A finely designed menu system makes changing camera settings--even some of the more obscure settings such as the extensive custom white-balance controls--quick and intuitive. One of the more useful features is the My Mode setting, which lets you save up to eight different combinations of custom settings; it's a great way to quickly recall the best exposure selections for specific shooting conditions. The only drawback is its labeling: With the settings tagged as Custom 1 through 8, you'll need a notepad or a good memory to remember which setting to use when.
Like the C-5060, the C-8080 has an articulated LCD panel, but the C-8080's is less flexible--it rotates out and up at right angles to the camera body, but cannot spin 180 degrees as the C-5060's can. Both cameras take wide-angle and telephoto lens adapters, but the lenses are not interchangeable between the two cameras. Our unit came with a lens shade and a wireless remote control--very useful for macro shooting, because extremely few digital cameras take a cable release.
The C-8080 is short on the zoom range for a camera of its size and price, but its well-thought-out design makes its extensive controls easier to use than its competitors'.