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Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom

Olympus enters the 8 megapixel arena with a feature-packed body and fast f/2.4-3.5 5x zoom lens.

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Page 3:Design

Review First Posted: 02/12/2004, Updated: 05/07/04

Though it has a somewhat similar look and feel to past Olympus digital cameras, the Olympus C-8080 Wide Zoom has a new body that brings many more functions out onto external buttons, rather than hiding them in a complex menu structure. The C-8080's all-black body is something of a cross between the styling of a traditional SLR body and that of a rangefinder camera, measuring 4.9 x 3.3 x 3.9 inches (124 x 84.5 x 99 millimeters) and weighing a hefty 25.2 ounces (715 grams) with battery and xD-Picture card loaded.

The C-8080 Wide Zoom looks and feels quite similar a small film-based SLR camera, and is substantial enough for a good hold (thanks to a large right hand grip). It is probably rather too large to slide into a purse or coat pocket when you're done shooting, so you'll likely want to purchase a small camera bag - although the included neckstrap lets you keep the camera close to hand for those spur-of-the-moment photo opportunities. The C-8080 has a very pleasing heft to it - not too heavy, but conveying an impression of solidity and ruggedness (there's no noticeable "give" or flexing to the body panels, which with the exception of the plastic battery and flash card doors seem to be of a metal construction).

When fully retracted, the telescoping lens extends about half an inch from a 1.5-inch deep collar that serves both to protect the lens mechanism and (courtesy of a removable ring) to provide threads for a tube onto which accessory lenses can be attached. The lens extends about half to 1.5 inches further (depending on the zoom position) when the camera is powered on in either Still Shooting (Record) or Movie capture modes. The front lens element is protected by a plastic lens cap that gently press-fits onto the front of the lens, and attaches to the camera with the supplied tether strap.

From the front of the camera, the edge of the zoom lever (upper left corner) is visible, as well as the shutter button, AF illuminator, AF sensor, pop-up flash, microphone, AEL button, and in the handgrip, both the remote control receiver and self-timer / remote control lamp. The front of the exterior lens barrel has a removable ring behind which are a set of threads that accept an optional lens adapter tube for attaching auxiliary lenses to the camera. (Wide angle, telephoto, and macro auxiliary lenses are available.)

The camera's rear panel layout, whilst being rather packed with controls and features, is logically designed. Most of the control buttons are positioned within easy reach whilst holding the camera with a stable grip. A 1.8-inch LCD color monitor dominates the rear of the camera, and lifts out from rear panel slightly so that it can be tilted upwards 90 degrees, or downwards about 45 degrees. Unlike the tilt/swivel LCD monitors used on some cameras, this doesn't allow you to turn the monitor around to face the back panel (protecting it from damage) or to have the monitor face forwards for a self-portrait - but the tilt action does let you take photos from angles that would otherwise be inconvenient or impossible (such as holding the camera up over a crowd, or down low to the ground). The four-way Arrow Pad is adjacent to the right side of the display, with the OK button in the center. Below it is the CF / xD button, for selecting the memory card being used, and the Display button, whilst above it is Quick View button (these last two buttons together controlling the LCD / Electronic Viewfinder display modes). In the top center directly below the back of the flash hot shoe is a small Command dial, for making changes in conjunction with the external control buttons, whilst the edge of the Mode dial can be seen to the right of the hot shoe. The Self-Timer / Remote Control button is to the left of the optical viewfinder eyepiece, and also accesses an Erase menu in Playback mode. On the left side of the LCD monitor, on a beveled body facet, are the AF / Macro / MF / Protect, Flash Mode / Rotation, Metering / Print, and Exposure Compensation / Information Display buttons. (Pressing both the Flash Mode / Rotation and Exposure Compensation / Information Display buttons simultaneously adjusts the flash exposure.) A red LED adjacent to the memory card door lets you know when the camera is writing to one of the memory cards. A diopter adjustment for the Electronic Viewfinder surrounds the eyepiece, and two plastic doors on rubber hinges at the bottom right of the camera cover the DC In, USB and A/V Out ports. I'm not crazy about flexible hinges like these, as I'm concerned that they might fatigue and split over time, but manufacturers keep on using them, so maybe I should just relax and stop worrying. ;-)

The shots above show the LCD lifted out from the body, and angled up and down the maximum amount allowed.

The large black hand grip, which houses both the battery and memory card compartments, makes up the right side of the camera. It is sculpted to fit comfortably in your hand, with a slightly concave finger hold on the rubberized textured front and a smoothly contoured thumb grip on the back. The hinged, plastic door of the memory card compartment opens from the back. Inside the compartment, are two slots, one that accommodates Compact Flash Type I and II cards, and another that holds xD-Picture Cards. Right above the compartment door is one of two neck strap eyelets, with the second one counterbalancing it on the left side of the camera. (The neckstrap eyelets are unfortunately quite close to the rear of the camera, which will give it a tendency to hang somewhat lens-down around your neck.)

On the left side of the camera are the second neckstrap eyelet, plus the button to pop up the flash unit, and below this the White Balance and Record Mode buttons. Also visible on a beveled body facet, are the AF / Macro / MF / Protect, Flash Mode / Rotation, Metering / Print, and Exposure Compensation / Information Display buttons which were described previously.

At the far left on the top of the camera is the flash unit, which stands relatively high on two "legs" when popped up, about three inches above the center of the lens. To the right of this is the external flash hot shoe, which is compatible with either generic "dumb" flash units, or Olympus' own dedicated strobes. The remaining controls, clustered on the right hand side of the camera's top, are the Shutter button, Power button, Zoom lever, Mode dial, and Custom button. The controls are all fairly logically placed, and easy to reach (perhaps with the exception of the Custom button, which I found a bit close to the Zoom lever to comfortably reach with my index finger).

The bottom of the camera holds the battery compartment cover, speaker, and a metal screw-mount tripod socket that's too close to the battery compartment to make battery changes easy when mounted on a tripod. One way around this is to use the optional AC adapter, handy for time-consuming projects, such as working in the studio or downloading images to the computer. Fortunately, the location of the flash card door on the right hand rear of the camera means that if you're on AC power, the camera needn't be removed from the tripod to offload images when your flash card is full. The good news about the tripod socket is that it's metal, and located about as close to the camera's center of gravity as possible. Both factors make for long life. The downside of the tripod socket location is that it's not particularly close to the optical center of the lens, as needed when shooting multiple images to be assembled into a panorama. (This probably isn't too big an issue though, as the optical center of the lens is actually near the end of the body-mounted lens collar anyway. This means you'd need to use a panorama head with the camera even if the tripod socket were directly centered under the lens cylinder.)

The infrared remote control included with the camera is the new RM-2 model, which only allows you to trip the shutter. The camera itself is compatible with the older (and still available as an optional accessory) RM-1 remote, which lets you control the optical zoom and scroll through captured images remotely. I've always enjoyed this feature on past Olympus digicams, as it comes in quite handy in the studio. It's also great any time you're using a really long exposure time and want to prop the camera on something to avoid jiggling it by pressing the shutter button. A nice thing about this remote is the distance from which it will control the camera - In my experience, out to 15 feet or more, depending on the ambient lighting. In a very welcome change, the C8080 now incorporates an option to fire the camera's shutter as soon as the remote shutter button is pressed. This is in addition to the mode in which a 3-second delay is imposed for remote triggering, formerly the only option available. (Thank you, Olympus, for listening!) The shot above includes a CF memory card as well, so you can get a sense of the scale of the C-8080.

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