Olympus E-PL8 Review
|Full model name:||Olympus PEN E-PL8|
(17.3mm x 13.0mm)
|Viewfinder:||No / LCD|
|Native ISO:||200 - 25,600|
|Extended ISO:||100 - 25,600|
|Shutter:||1/4000 - 60 sec|
|Max Aperture:||3.5 (kit lens)|
4.6 x 2.7 x 1.5 in.
(117 x 68 x 38 mm)
includes batteries, kit lens
|Full specs:||Olympus E-PL8 specifications|
Olympus PEN E-PL8 Review -- Now Shooting!
While the technology behind the updated Olympus E-PL8 is not much different from that of its E-PL7 predecessor, this new model does get a rather handsome external redesign. What's perhaps the last of Olympus' small, sleek, easy to use and affordable PEN models, with the E-PM line seemingly now gone, the new E-PL8 certainly deserves some recognition and hands-on time. Dave Pardue, a big fan of both the E-PL and E-PM series, got to spend a bit of time with this refreshed little camera and brought along a bevy of Olympus lenses, from the svelte 17mm f/1.8 to the downright massive Zuiko 150mm f/2 legacy lens! Read on below for his shooting notes and a variety of real-world gallery images.
For those looking for our detail Product Overview on the E-PL8, please click here.
Olympus E-PL8 Gallery Supplement
A gorgeous camera that can capture beautiful images
By Dave Pardue | Posted: 01/11/2017
I had the privilege of Field Testing the capable Olympus E-PL7 a few years ago, and I not only loved that camera but also found it to be a fairly major step up from the previous generation in terms of the overall feel of the controls. In short, the camera felt more like one of their higher-end models in terms of the precision and tolerance of the dials and buttons, making it an easy choice for on-the-go photography.
When I first saw rumored images of the E-PL8, I therefore got really excited because I fell immediately in love with the classy look of the camera. The rounded contours, the overall styling and the general simplicity were immediately appealing to me, so I couldn't wait to also hear about any changes they'd made "under-the-hood" of the camera. For me, this represented the best-looking PEN model in the digital era up to now.
Mutual attraction: The Olympus E-PL8 PEN is a great-looking camera, no doubt about it. Its refinements from the E-PL7 are primarily external ones, but the result is worth a look if style points are important to you. Displayed here with the capable and compact street-shooting M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 (34mm eq.) lens.
Well, as it turns out there really weren't any major internal upgrades, only outward cosmetic ones, and therefore no big reason to spend much time testing the camera other than confirming that the image quality is the same (and that it is, as our First Shots can assuredly attest). But the camera is simply gorgeous, so I still couldn't help but tossing it into a bag with other cameras I was working on in order to grab a gallery sampling for interested readers.
Olympus E-PL8: The Particulars
As mentioned while reviewing the E-PL7, I've noticed that a number of readers shun the PEN line due to the lack of a viewfinder. I can understand that rationale of course, having really enjoyed getting to know the viewfinder on the E-M10 Mark II and other O-MD cameras, but the optional VF-4 electronic viewfinder is an excellent add-on, easily stowed in a side-compartment of your bag, making this "lack" not such a big deal to me, especially given how sleek the camera is without it (not to mention how versatile the swiveling VF-4 is, and more on that in just a bit).
My biggest gripe with the appearance of the E-PL8 is the way the rear LCD sort of juts out the back. I can understand why they had to do this, in order to give it tilting functionality, but it does interfere somewhat with the camera's otherwise gorgeous aesthetic. Ah well, one can't have everything, although perhaps Olympus can find a sleeker way to build it into their next PEN lite model.
The top deck: Sporting much the same simple design on the top as seen from the front, there's certainly an understated elegance in this model's appearance. The LCD as seen from this top view though is still a bit "clunky" in comparison to the rest of the design, likely as a result of its tilt functionality.
Of course, one additional drawback to this model compared to the E-M10 II is that it only sports one control dial. Two is much more versatile in making adjustments on-the-fly, but again this line is known for its sleek design and appearance, so as with any model, there are always trade-offs to be made. It's easy enough getting adjusted to using the rear 4-way controller instead as your second dial, just not quite as streamlined in terms of quick working adjustments while out in the field.
My last real complaint is the lack of an electronic shutter mode as found on most higher-end Olympus models, but yet again you can't have everything in a compact and affordable package. Still, the addition of an electronic shutter would seem an easy upgrade path for future models in the line that I assume wouldn't add much to the overall cost of the product, so please consider this my official request! But gripes aside, this camera really feels good in the hands and is quite the capable performer for its economical price and size, and one that I would love to add to my camera arsenal.
Olympus E-PL8 Gallery Selections
Now let's turn to the gallery. Below is a varied sampling of the type images you can achieve with the Olympus E-PL8 in combination with both the kit lens as well as a number of additional M.Zuiko prime lenses across a variety of focal lengths. (Seven primes total!) I'll even throw in a few images pairing the E-PL8 with an older Four Thirds lens, the very capable (yet rather heavy) Zuiko 150mm f/2 telephoto prime.
1/500s / f/11 / ISO 200 / 24mm eq. / M.Zuiko 12mm f/2 lens
And then, of course, there's always the classic use of a "landscape" lens as well.
[Images have been resized to fit this page, cropped and/or edited as needed, primarily to balance shadows and highlights. Click any image for access to the full resolution, unedited version as delivered by the E-PL8. Please also see our E-PL8 gallery for more images as well as access to RAW files (where available) and EXIF data.]
1/2000s / f/1.8 / ISO 200 / 34mm eq. / M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 lens
1/125s / f/1.8 / ISO 200 / 50mm eq. / M.Zuiko 25mm f/1.8 lens
1/100s / f/1.8 / ISO 1000 / 90mm eq. / M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 lens
Olympus E-PL8: Dressing It Up
Because the E-PL8 is so sleek and compact, and since the VF-4 electronic viewfinder can sneak into any nook or cranny in your bag, you're certainly freed up for space in the bag to carry larger lenses along for the ride if you desire. My three personal favorite Olympus lenses are put to use below, including one of the best portrait lenses ever made, the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8. Together with the VF-4 they quickly transform the E-PL8 from the lean street machine seen above with the diminutive 17mm f/1.8 into a very powerful portrait rig. For my taste, the VF-4 beats any permanently attached EVF for versatility across a wide array of shot types.
Morpheus: The VF-4 electronic viewfinder in combination with the M.Zuiko 75mm f/1.8 lens quickly transform the Olympus E-PL8 into a very capable portrait-shooting rig.
And now for even more dress-up fun, we'll dust off an old favorite lens from the Four Thirds days, the exceptional Zuiko 150mm f/2.
We'll end this series by getting really crazy and mounting the award-winning Olympus 300mm f/4 lens onto the E-PL8. This is, of course, far removed from your typical pairing, as the 300mm f/4 is very much designed to sit comfortable on the higher-end OM-D bodies, given the stout grip, the superb C-AF algorithms and the dual image stabilization potential. But hey, there was nobody out in the field to stop me, and when I saw this gorgeous horse in the snow I wrestled the lens from the E-M1 Mark II and mounted it to the E-PL8 before anyone took notice of my obvious foible! (Fortunately, the horse didn't seem to mind, and was paid an apple for her services after the shooting was complete.)
1/3200s / f/4 / ISO 200 / 600mm eq. / M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 lens
Reaching out: The M.Zuiko 300mm f/4 lens won our Best Telephoto Prime Lens of 2016 for good reason, and is a very capable and enjoyable lens to use. Again, it's primary purpose is to be paired with a capable OM-D body like the E-M1 Mark II, but can obviously serve just fine on the mid-level MFT bodies as well.
Olympus E-PL8 Gallery Supplement Conclusion
The E-PM line, which was Olympus' "mini" version of this E-PL "lite" line, appears to now be a thing of the past, leaving this as the last of the sleeker, simpler PEN lines here in the digital era. Given the style, attractive form factor and precision feel of the E-PL8, I very much hope this line endures the encroachment of smartphones and continues to find its way into the hands of photographers who realize that its potential vastly outshines any smartphone currently out there.
The Olympus E-PL8 is a beautiful camera to look at, and one that's also capable of capturing beautiful photos. And while it may not be a big step up internally from the E-PL7, the refined appearance and precise controls make this a camera worth considering, whether as a step-up model from your smartphone days or as a capable yet compact back-up living in your bag alongside your primary OM-D or PEN-F camera. I, for one, would love to own one. (Tan version, please!)
1/60s / f/5 / ISO 400 / 28mm eq. / M.Zuiko 14-42mm Mark II kit lens
See many more images in our Olympus E-PL8 Gallery!
Olympus PEN E-PL8 Review -- Overview
by Jeremy Gray
Preview posted: 09/21/2016
There's a new entry-level mirrorless camera in Olympus' Micro Four Thirds lineup, the PEN E-PL8. Compared to its predecessor, the E-PL7, much of the E-PL8's changes are in form rather than function, but that doesn't mean the camera is just a pretty face.
Stylish Olympus E-PL8 is quite the looker
While much of the new model's functionality is unchanged from the E-PL7, the E-PL8 has a different, more premium look than its predecessor. The front and top of the camera have received streamlining. Looking at the front of the E-PL8, the grip has shrunk and there is more color coordination present, with the ‘Olympus PEN’ moniker and lens release button matching the camera's accent color. In addition to a smoother body, the finish has gone from glossy to more of a matte metal. On the top of the camera, the top plate is just a bit cleaner with a slightly different shape, but still includes a mode dial, shutter release (surrounded by a control dial) and power button. The mode dial has iAuto (a fully-automatic shooting mode), P (program), A (aperture priority), S (shutter speed priority), and M (manual) shooting modes in addition to movie and creative shooting modes.
The rear of the Olympus E-PL8 is essentially unchanged, including utilizing the same tilting 3-inch touchscreen LCD. The display has 1,036,800 dots and can tilt 180 degrees downward and up to 80 degrees upward, making it just as selfie-friendly as the E-PL7's. To the right of the display are a relatively small selection of buttons including a four-way directional pad and movie record button.
The Olympus E-PL8 remains quite compact with dimensions of 4.6 x 2.7 x 1.5 inches (117 x 68 x 38 millimeters). The E-PL8 is just slightly larger than the E-PL7 (it's about 0.1 inches wider and taller) and 0.6 ounces (17g) heavier, weighing in at 13.2 ounces (374 grams) versus the 12.6-ounce (357g) weight of the E-PL7, with battery and card.
Like its predecessor, the Olympus PEN E-PL8 has a Super Sonic Wave Filter dust reduction system to help reduce dust that gets on the sensor when changing lenses. Also like the E-PL7, the E-PL8 does not include a built-in electronic viewfinder. However, you can purchase an optional VF-4 electronic viewfinder that mounts in the hot shoe and plugs into the accessory port just below it.
Overall, the biggest changes made to the camera body are aesthetic. In that regard, the Olympus E-PL8 in my view is an improvement over the E-PL7 with a much more stylish and cleaner look. That is, of course, an opinion and one that will vary from person to person. But what is not as subjective is that inside, the camera is basically the same one that was released two years ago. But that isn't necessarily a bad thing, considering just how good the E-PL7 was.
Olympus E-PL8 image sensor and processor are unchanged
Photographers hoping that Olympus would up the ante in the sensor and processor department are sure to be disappointed, but the 16-megapixel Live MOS Four Thirds sensor and TruePic VII image processor found in the E-PL8 (and E-PL7) perform well, even if they're not new. We found that despite producing somewhat muted default colors, the E-PL7 produced very good image quality for its class. Granted, that camera launched in the fall of 2014, so it will be interesting to see if Olympus has tweaked image processing since then, and how it stacks up against current competition. The native ISO range of 200-25,600 remains with an expanded low ISO option of 100 also available.
The TruePic VII processor gives the Olympus PEN E-PL8 great performance for its class. When shooting at its highest speed -- with image stabilization off -- the camera is rated to shoot both JPEG and RAW images at around 8.5 frames per second. That's 0.5 fps faster than its predecessor's rating, but we found the E-PL7 was actually a bit faster than that, testing at close to 8.7 fps in our lab. Regardless, 8.5 fps is quite good for the price, and the JPEG buffer is a reported 64 frames which is excellent. When shooting RAW files the buffer depth drops to 16 frames, which while not exceptional, is pretty good for an entry-level interchangeable lens camera. We will have to verify this performance in the lab, of course, once we receive a production unit to test. The stated buffer performance gets better for continuous shooting in the much slower 3.7 fps sequential shooting mode, allowing for unlimited JPEGs and up to 20 RAW frames in a burst.
E-PL8 is user- and selfie-friendly, but specs and features are essentially unchanged
Shooting features and modes are mostly unchanged (I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here) but it still looks to be a worthy camera nonetheless. For photographers looking to add a creative touch to their images, there are a wide variety of both scene and art filters you can utilize.
For scene modes, there are over 20 to choose from, including Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Night, Macro, Sunset, Candle and many more. There are also Art Filters, which come in 14 varieties, such as Pop Art, Soft Focus, Cross Process and more. In addition to scene and art filter shooting modes, the E-PL8 also offers gradation, multiple exposure (2 frames) and HDR shooting modes.
There is also a Photo Story mode which lets you shoot a scene from multiple viewpoints and combine the images into a single frame, and there are various Photo Story formats available to choose from. The PEN E-PL8 also includes Olympus' Live Bulb and Live Composite shooting modes. These distinct modes provide bright area prioritization, allowing you to shoot multiple frames in low light while the camera overlays bright areas and keeps the dark areas constant. These modes are particularly well-suited for subjects like fireworks or doing light painting.
The Olympus E-PL8 has in-camera image stabilization, helping users capture sharper shots at slower shutter speeds, regardless which lens is used. While not packing in the impressive 5-axis stabilization of some of its more expensive siblings, the PEN E-PL8 does include 3-axis sensor shift image stabilization which is stated to provide up to 3.5 stops of vibration reduction.
There are numerous ways to utilize the E-PL8's touchscreen display when shooting. Touch control includes shutter release, focus point selection, Super Control Panel, Art Filter and Scene mode selection and more. Being a selfie-friendly camera, the E-PL8 has a mirrored display when it is flipped downward for self-portraits, and Olympus says the new narrower grip is more comfortable when taking selfies.
Metering is provided by the same system found in the E-PL7, offering Digital ESP Metering (with 324-area multi pattern metering), center-weighted average, spot metering, spot metering with highlight control, and spot metering with shadow control. There is +/-5 EV of exposure compensation available and the metering system is rated to operate from -2 to 20 EV.
Autofocus is still performed by a high-speed contrast-detect autofocus system with 81-area multiple AF, all target, group target area (9-area), single target (normal/small), and eye detection focus modes.
Olympus E-PL8 video: Specs are nothing to write home about
The Olympus PEN E-PL8 shares the same video specs with the E-PL7. It can record Full HD (1920 x 1080) video at 30p in MOV (MPEG-4AVC/H.264) and AVI (Motion JPEG) file formats at 24 or 16 Mbps bitrates with stereo audio. When recording at normal quality, you can record up to 29 minute clips. Fine quality recording reduces the maximum clip length to a still good 22 minutes. HD (720p) and SD (480p) resolutions are also available, but also at 30 fps.
There's no 4K video recording to be found here, nor even 60 fps 1080p recording, which is more disappointing today for video aficionados than it was when the E-PL7 released in 2014.Battery life, ports and bundled flash
The PEN E-PL8 uses a proprietary BLS-50 lithium-ion battery pack which provides up to 350 still images or 90 minutes of video recording per charge, which is not bad for a mirrorless camera of its size. A dedicated battery charger is included in the bundle, and in-camera charging is not supported.
Recording files to an SD/SDHC/SDXC card, the E-PL8 includes support for UHS-I cards, but not UHS-II support. The camera has a USB 2.0 High Speed interface, Micro HDMI (Type-D) port, a combined AV/USB/Remote connector and an Accessory Port 2. The E-PL8 also has built-in Wi-Fi for image sharing, geotagging via smartphone GPS, as well as for wireless remote control.
While it doesn't have a built-in flash, the E-PL8 does come bundled with an FL-LM1 flash which has a guide number of 7 meters at ISO 100 and 10 meters at ISO 200. The camera's max flash sync is 1/250s with the bundled flash, but x-sync speed depends on the flash unit used, falling as low as 1/180s. While there is certainly an appeal to a built-in flash, particularly for beginners, the included external flash is a good compromise.
Concluding thoughts on the Olympus PEN E-PL8
Don't let its good looks and compact size fool you, because underneath is a very capable interchangeable lens camera, at least on paper. While there may not be many changes included in the E-PL8 compared to the E-PL7 beyond the updated exterior, it should still be an excellent entry-level camera and one that should appeal to a fairly broad spectrum of users. For those looking to get their feet wet with perhaps their first interchangeable lens camera, the Olympus PEN E-PL8 looks to be a great choice. And more experienced shooters looking to travel light will appreciate the amount of performance, image quality and manual control offered in such a compact, stylish design. However, its lack of a new sensor and somewhat underwhelming video specs may make it less appealing to those who are looking for the latest tech. Still, with its stylish good looks and solid performance specs, we think the E-PL8 will prove to be another very popular camera for Olympus. Stay tuned for more coverage of the E-PL8 as we approach its release.Pricing and availability information for the Olympus PEN E-PL8
Speaking of its release, you'll be able to get your hands on the Olympus PEN E-PL8 in the US starting from mid-October 2016. The camera will come in black, light brown and white color options and lists for US$550 body-only, or in a kit with the M.Zuiko 14-24mm f/3.5-5.6 IIR lens for US$650. Both configurations will come with a FL-LM1 flash, BLS-50 Li-ion battery pack, BCS-5 battery charger, USB cable, shoulder strap, and an OLYMPUS Viewer 3 CD-ROM.
Genuine Leather Body Jacket, CS-45B (Black / Light Brown / Brown / White)
Genuine Leather Lens Cover, LC-60.5GL (Black / Light Brown / Brown / White)
Multi-Purpose Case, CS-50SF (Black / Beige)
Olympus has also announced a number of new accessories alongside the E-PL8, including a CS-45B genuine leather body jacket available in black, brown, light brown or white for about $60, an LC-60.5GL genuine leather lens cover for about $45 and available in the same colors, and a CS-50SF multi-purpose case for $30 available in black or beige (which is probably a bit too big for the E-PL8).
Buy the Olympus E-PL8
$499.00 (20% more)
24.2 MP (33% more)
Also lacks viewfinder