The Olympus Camedia C-8080 Wide Zoom is the latest in a raft of new 8Mp (megapixel) digital cameras. Like its 8Mp rivals from Canon, Nikon, Sony and Konica Minolta, it captures enough detail to make great looking inkjet prints up to A3 size - a considerable leap from what's possible with 5Mp models.
Unlike Nikon and Konica Minolta, which have, in essence, put a new sensor in an old body, Olympus has come up with a fresh design. The body is well built, with a tough magnesium alloy shell that sits comfortably in the hand.
Along with a new body comes a new lens. But unlike its rivals with 7x or even 8x zooms, the C-8080 is equipped with a shorter 5x range - equivalent to 28-140mm on a 35mm camera. This shorter range has allowed Olympus to maximise the quality while boasting a bright focal ratio of f2.4-3.5. There are two macro modes, the closest one locking the zoom to deliver 36mm across the frame with relatively low distortion. While the lens extends slightly when powering up, the
C-8080 does it with incredible swiftness and a lens hood is also supplied.
Composition is via either an electronic viewfinder or the 1.8in "sunshine" direct-sunlight friendly LCD that, as its name suggests, works well even under direct sunlight. Like earlier Olympus cameras, the monitor can be tilted down by 20 degrees then flipped up to a 90-degree position - handy, but not as flexible as the fully flip-out-and-twist monitors of Nikon and Canon.
Olympus has fitted slots for xD or CompactFlash media and the latter will accommodate a Microdrive. There's three levels of JPEG compression or the choice of uncompressed TIFF or RAW modes. The top SHQ mode offers mild compression and results are almost indistinguishable from TIFFs. In SHQ mode JPEGs measure around 3MB, so you'll get about 10 on the supplied 32MB xD-Picture card.
There's program, manual, shutter and aperture priority modes, along with four scene presets, one custom mode and a movie option that records unlimited 640x480 video with sound - although this is at 15fps rather than the smoother 30fps of some rivals. Shutter speeds range from 1/4000th to 16 seconds, with an eight-minute bulb option. Sensitivity runs from 50 to 400 ISO, while burst mode captures up to five frames at a relatively modest 1.6fps.
The C-8080 feels solid, handles quickly and has a battery that lasts for absolutely ages. Optically it's a great performer with no colour fringing to speak of, plus a resolution to beat its rivals - and to match the superb $1999 Canon PowerShot Pro 1.
Ultimately the Canon PowerShot Pro 1's images look more natural, but the C-8080 costs $500 less.
Electronic noise may become obtrusive above 100 ISO but that's no different from its 8Mp rivals. Noise appears on images as random specks - most obviously across flat areas of colour such as blue skies - and becomes worse as ISO sensitivities are increased. To minimise the effect, select the least sensitive settings between 50 to 100 ISO and avoid anything higher.