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Olympus PEN E-PL8 (REVIEW)

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Olympus PEN E-PL8 (REVIEW)

Today, you will find many good-quality cameras as well as compact-sized cameras that look stylish. Few cameras, however, have all of features at the same time. The Olympus PEN E-PL8 is trying to get closer to this ideal, and I have to say that it does so quite well. It attracts attention first and foremost due to its great design. The following article will look at its design, control features, ease of use and, of course, image quality, and performance versus its price ratio.

Olympus PEN E-PL8 - A Versatile Beauty

Olympus PEN E-PL8 is a beauty, and I'm not even afraid to use the expression that's it's key feature is its design. There's nothing wrong with that. The camera is stylish, modern and good-looking. Its design is a blend of retro and modern style. It's perfect for those that have been taking photos for many years and for younger generations alike. A photographer from an older generation may adore its analog-look-a-like camera body design, and a young photographer might fall in love with it's stylish colours and small size. The appealing design has three colour options: white, creamy brown and classic black, which are all highlighted with silver components. I have to admit that I really like this camera and I believe that it's the most stylish one in the market.

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Olympus has managed to create the perfect combination of a retro design, modern style and great functional features. It's also versatile with its articulating display, which makes it even easier to take selfies.

That's enough about the design. The camera also has a solid build with metallic and leather detailing. It's not just retro by its look, but also due to the quality materials it's built from. When first holding the camera in your hand, you'll find that it's compact in size, but it also may seem a bit heavier than it looks. There's an added grip on the front and back, which makes it easier for bigger hands to hold. Those with smaller hands will find it very comfortable to hold. The control system is quite good for its price point. The buttons are a bit smaller, but the rotating dial on top is larger and made of durable materials (metal). The camera doesn't have a viewfinder to probably save space, but it does have a high-quality touchscreen LCD monitor. The monitor can be tilted and flipped to easily take selfies and record videos. There is also a metal hot shoe, as well a metal bayonet and tripod socket on the bottom. I highly rate the camera for its modern design, build and ease of use. To those that may find the functions on the control dial lacking, it's important to note that one can customise the programmable button. I recommend setting it to controlling the ISO sensitivity.

i Olympus PEN E-PL8 is a stylish piece that appeals to all ages and all types of users. It combines nostalgia with an oldschool body with a modern design made out of quality materials. And it's not just the look that's retro. The body is made of durable materials, like other retro cameras. I personally find this the most appealing camera in the market today.

The LCD Display and Picture Quality

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 camera features the 4/3" Live Mos (CMOS) sensor, built-in Super Sonice Wave Filter cleaning and a 17.3x13mm display size. The 3.5 EV stabilisation system is slightly lower than usual, but still good. I'll probably be repeating myself here - stabilisation is a very important feature. I wouldn't recommend any camera without this system. But back to the chip - the resolution is 16 megapixels (4608 × 3456 pixels), which is perfect for this type of camera. A higher resolution would maybe do more harm than good for this model. The  ISO sensitivity can be set from ISO 100 to ISO 25,600, which seems just about right when looking at the competition and the overall market.

The camera shoots quite well in terms of practical photography, even when using relatively high ISO values. There's a significant reduction in quality when using ISO 12,800 to ISO 25,600, which is already going beyond the boundaries of picture quality - this high ISO value can be seen in virtually all cameras in the market today, regardless of category and price. You can judge the picture quality yourself with the sample images that you can download at the end of the article in full resolution, without any edits.

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The Olympus PEN E-PL8 delivers perfect results in natural daylight. Quality does not diminish even when shooting indoors with higher ISO sensitivity.

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 is missing two things - a viewfinder and a built-in flash. As far as the viewfinder is concerned, it is clear that it was made this way to save space, but perhaps even to keep the price down. Rating this aspect is a bit subjective, since someone might care greatly that it's missing, and another might not care at all. I personally do wish it had a viewfinder, but I also value that its compact size makes up for it. The high-quality LCD monitor is easy to use, so it's a compromise for the missing viewfinder. The built-in flash is missing as well, but the camera delivers good performance even in poor lighting conditions at high ISO settings, so the flash is not that often needed.

On the other hand, a lot of photographers may use flash often, even in the daylight for shadow clarification. I have to admit here that I prefer using a flash. But there's no need sulk just yet because the Olympus FL-LM1 has a small external flash that can even be synchronised up to 1/4000 seconds with the Super FP mode, so it can also be used outdoors when the sun is shining. Other common lightning modes are also available, such as red-eye reduction, and using longer speeds. If this flash isn't enough, there are plenty of other more powerful external Olympus flashes to choose from.

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We also tested the quality of photos with various ISO settings. You can download Olympus PEN E-PL8 sample images in full resolution at the end of this article.

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 Fits in Your Pocket

This camera isn't for pro photographers, but it's not just for complete amatuers necessarily either. It's control system is quick and easy to use. It features a wide range of 25 different scene modes, 14 art filters and 9 effects. You can easily take a one-touch selfie by turning the LCD monitor around. It's also quite simple to capture one-touch movies. You can also cut and edit your videos right in the camera settings, and you can edit your photos too. All controls are easy to use, so you can fully focus on the scene. However, you can also use classic and fully manual settings if you wish to explore.

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 is mostly sold as a set with the basic pancake lens by M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ. Its range corresponds to the equivalent of 28-84mm, which is an ideal base for the lens speed. This combination is ideal for everyday use. Not saying there are better lenses. There certainly are plenty, but this is a good basic lens when comparing the quality, price and features. It covers the basic functions, and the pancake design gives the camera a compact size. You can carry it in your pocket, which is a plus. So, if you're hesitating and have no idea how to get started, this basic set is the perfect choice. More demanding users who know what they're looking for will be able to choose for themselves.

Olympus PEN E-PL8 Specifications

ParametersOlympus PEN E-PL8
Image Sensor4/3" Live Mos (CMOS), 16Mpx
Aspect Ratio4:3
StabilisationYes - Efficiency 3.5 EV
Image ProcessorTruePic 7
ISO Sensitivity Range100 - 25,600
Exposure Time Range1/4000 to 60s.
Auto Focus81 points
Continuous Scanning Speed8.5fps
LCD DisplayTouch-Screen - 3" (7.5 cm), approx. 1px
VideoFull HD 30p
Wireless InterfaceWiFi
Memory CardsSD/SDHC/SDXC
Battery CapacityAbout 350 photos
Body MaterialMetal
Dimensions115×67×38mm
Weight357g

Personalise Your Style with Olympus Accessories

As already mentioned in the introduction, it's not just about the camera, but also about it's stylish accessories. Olympus has even created a fashionable women's accessory collection. They have plenty of accessories to choose from, and their leather ones are especially appealing. There are also more functional accessories and lenses. One lens I would like to mention is the M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.8, which is perfect for those that want to use the camera in poor lighting conditions, or want to play more with depth of field - the disadvantage is perhaps that it's a bit expensive. There's also a cap in the form of fish eye, the M.Zuiko Digital BLC 9mm f/8 Fisheye, which can be quite fun to use, and it's affordable.

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The Olympus PEN E-PL8's has a wide range of stylish accessories.

You can even pair a smartphone with the camera through the Olympus Image Share mode. After connecting to your phone, you can take advantage of a variety of features, such as share photos on social networks, use the wireless camera remote control option and view specific information about the photo, or add the GPS information.

About Olympus Image Share in English: Olympus Image Share

i In the Olympus PEN series, you'll also find the PEN E-PL7, which is quite similar to the PL8, but just has different colour combinations.

Olympus PEN E-PL8 Final Evaluation

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 isn't just a fashionable accessory, it also takes great photos. The retro design will appeal to everyone. The high-quality camera is packed with various cool, fun features that that are automatic and some are fully manual. The camera is really compact in size, so it's the ideal companion for everyday use in all types of situations. It allows you to use a wide range of accessories that are fashionable, practical, or both. You can even easily connect to smart devices, like a smart phone. It does has some drawbacks - it's missing a viewfinder and a built-in flash. You can get an external flash though. You just have to remember to bring it and make sure you won't lose it. Another disadvantage is that at this price point, you could consider going for an APS-C or full-framed DSLR camera. These bigger cameras don't look as stylish and they won't fit in your pocket. The accessories are also a bit more expensive, like the attractive prime lenses with fast lens speeds, such as the M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.8 or the classic 50mm, M.Zuiko Digital ES-M 25mm f/1.8M lens. These are tempting lenses, but they are also a bit more expensive.

Sample images in full resolution

Olympus PEN E-PL8 Advantages and Disadvantages

Rating 87% Alza.cz
Parameters: Design
95%
Image Quality
85%
Price to Performance Ratio
80%

Advantages

  • Great design
  • Compact size
  • Fast response speed
  • Easy to use control system
  • Good picture quality
  • Articulating touch-screen LCD display
  • Various design accessories available

Disadvantages

  • It doesn't have a built-in flash
  • It has no viewfinder
  • Some of the accessories are more expensive
Michal Kupsa

Michal Kupsa was born in Brno in 1970. He took interest in photography at an early age of 15 and started his journalist career three years afterwards. He has collaborated with a number of prestigious Czech and foreign media, including the Czech Television, Czech Radio, National Geographic, US National Library, iDNES, People in Need and many other Czech photography magazines. He mainly focuses on travel articles, photography reviews and photography courses.

Olympus PEN E-PL8 black + Pancake lens + ED 14-42EZ black - Digital Camera
-9%
Olympus PEN E-PL8 black + Pancake lens + ED 14-42EZ black
Digital Camera - 4/3" CMOS 17.2 megapixel, 3.0" tiltable LCD touch-screen, full HD video, SD/SDHC/SDXC 3D mode, HDR histogram, WiFi, HDMI, USB, face detection, burst shooting, image stabilizer, built-in flash

-9% £536.90
£489.90 excl.VAT £408.25
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