Initially released in the fall of 2016, Olympus’ EPL-8 replaces the previously released ELP-7, released two years prior, and marks another installment into the company’s backbone PEN series. The PEN lineup is acclaimed for stylish design-forward cameras based on the compact Micro Four Thirds mount. While the EPL-8 looks like an analog rangefinder-style camera, it’s a modern powerhouse. Sure, it’s an entry-level camera.
But, one that tucks away Olympus’ seasoned 16.1 Live MOS sensor, into a newly updated sleek body. Redesigned with cleaner lines and details, it’s undoubtedly one to turn heads. And coming at an affordable price tag, it’s a camera Olympus aims directly at enthusiasts and vloggers, looking for a compact travel companion. Or, for casual photographers looking for impressive expandability. It’s also a camera they aim to compete with Canon’s G7X Mark II, EOS M3, Panasonic’s GX80, and Sony’s a6000. In today’s post, we address it’s strengths, weaknesses, and answer whether or not it’s still a relevant contender today.
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- What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Olympus E-PL8?
- Image Quality
- Video Quality
- Low Light Performance
- Focusing Performance
- Battery Performance
- Display & Viewfinder
- User Interface
- Physical Layout & Ergonomics
- Niche Features/Extras
- Video Capabilities
- Lacking Features
- Is this a good beginner camera?
- Is this a good camera for you?
What are some of the goods, bads, and uglies of the Olympus E-PL8?
It features a 16.1MP Live MOS sensor and the TruePic VII image processor, the same processor as the flagship E-M1. Overall, image quality is on a high level, despite its smaller Micro Four-Thirds size. Images are sharp, and its 12-bit RAW files provide natural color rendition, particularly for pleasing skin tones. The camera also offers an excellent dynamic range of 11 stops. Plus, its white balance system does an excellent job analyzing scenes to determine the correct white balance. Overall, quite impressive.
It offers continuous shootings speeds of up to 8.5 fps without AF or 3.7 fps with AF and tracking, respectable for the class. The buffer depth is also quite strong. The camera provides 16 RAW images or 64 JPEG in it’s higher 8.5 fps setting or unlimited JPEGs at its lower 3.7 fps setting. With this performance, it’s suitable for slow to moderate action or sports.
It shoots video at 1080p full HD at 30 fps or 720p HD at 30 fps both to the MOV format using the MPEG-4 codec. And the camera supplies the IPB compression method for a data rate of 26 Mbps. Overall, video quality is good. The footage is reasonably sharp, with ample dynamic range, and offers the same natural color rendering as stills.
It also supports filming with any of the Art Filters and Movie Effects, allowing users to create more stylish videos, in-camera.
Like many cameras in this class, video recordings limit to 29 minutes and 59 seconds.
The camera supports capturing still images during video recording.
Low Light Performance
Low light performance is excellent. It features a native ISO range from ISO 200 to 25,600. And the camera can provide usable results images up to ISO 6,400, without much need for post-processing, or videos up to ISO 1,600.
It uses an 81-area High-speed Imager AF autofocusing system. This system also brings along both Face and Eye detection AF, which prioritizes either the nearest eye or the dominant eye as desired. Overall, autofocusing performance across the board is excellent. The camera locks on quickly across a variety of lighting conditions and is quite accurate.
For those who prefer manually focusing, it also supports manual focusing aids such as focus magnification and focus peaking.
Battery life is also excellent. It uses the BLS-50 lithium-ion battery, which Olympus rates for 350 shots per charge and 90 minutes of video recording.
Display & Viewfinder
It features a 3.0-inch tilting touchscreen LCD with a resolution of 1.04M dots. This screen flips upwards approx 80º, helpful when shooting flat lays or low level shots. And it also flips down 180º, for high angle shots, or front-facing selfies and video recording. Overall, the screen is sharp and offers enough brightness for composing outdoors. Since it’s a touchscreen, it also supports a variety of helpful touch gestures. In this case, it supports: touch focus, touch tracking, touch shutter, swiping between images in playback, and exposure compensation changes.
The user interface and menus on this camera are well-organized, simple, and easy to master. They follow the standard logic Olympus uses. And both beginners and seasoned users will find them intuitive.
The camera offers intuitive point & shoot scene modes as well as the fully automatic iAuto mode for beginners. However, it does also provide full manual control for more advanced users. And it offers extensive customization over the physical layout. You can assign four presets to the Mode Dial and 23 functions to several of its other buttons, including the dedicated Fn button.
Physical Layout & Ergonomics
At first glance, you’ll immediately notice this camera’s not only crafted for performance, but also for style. Aesthetically, it’s a very appealing and stylish option. It features glossed controls, a matte leatherette body, and an embossed Olympus logo. It has a clean and classy look, that’s for sure, with its brushed aluminum, textured dials, and gold finish. Nevertheless, Olympus has based the frame on a magnesium alloy, so the camera feels robust. But it remains compact and lightweight, weighing only 326 g body alone. And it offers a straightforward, simple control set, ideally suited towards the enthusiast crowd it aims. Ergonomically, it’s compact, but offers a reasonable amount of surface area to purchase.
It features 3-axis sensor-shift image stabilization, a big plus considering its size. Its stabilization system compensates for handshake for both stills and videos to ensure sharp results. And Olympus rates this system for upwards of 3.5 stops, allowing users to shoot at 1/30 second shutter speeds.
It features 14 art filters from Olympus’ large collection, which gives its photos and videos a distinct aesthetic appeal.
It has a dedicated selfie mode for photos and videos. When the camera detects the LCD is flipped down 180º, it enables the selfie mode automatically. In this mode, it displays all of the appropriate shooting settings on the rear LCD, making it easier to change settings without reach for them on the top of the camera.
It offers built-in Wi-Fi for wirelessly transferring images to a paired smartphone or tablet via the Olympus O.I. Share app. Once connected, you can wirelessly transfer images for immediate uploading and also remotely control the camera.
It offers the Movie Clips feature, which allows users to combine several short video clips that the camera combines automatically into a single seamless video. You can then share these videos online, all without the need of any software.
The camera offers in-camera image processing over both JPEG and RAW images. In this mode, you can add effects and resize images.
While the camera technically doesn’t have a built-in flash. It does come with the FL-LM1 flash in the package, which connects to the hot shoe and unlocks these capabilities.
It has built-in HDR.
It features a Time Lapse Movie mode, which creates a 720p 10 fps video of the resulting lapse in-camera.
It offers a 2x teleconverter.
It features the e-Portrait mode, which smooths skin tones and enhances them to capture flawless portraits without post-processing.
It inherits Olympus’ Live Bulb, Live Time, and Live Composite features. These modes allow the camera to create live exposures or composites and monitor them during shooting.
The camera lacks the 24 fps cinematic, and the more action-friendly 60 fps frame rates. It also doesn’t support 4K video.
The camera automatically segments video recordings into 4 G.B. chunks, which require combining in post-processing for seamless videos.
While the flip-down screen is beneficial when it comes to handheld shooting, it’s not the ideal configuration for these mediums, particularly when using a tripod and monopod. A flip up screen is preferred, but still second to a fully articulating side-hinged screen. This design becomes problematic when you lay flat the camera on a table, but want to see the display. And a flip-down screen is also more apparent to viewers that you aren’t looking into the lens.
The touchscreen doesn’t support navigating through the menus.
The camera lacks a built-in electronic viewfinder, unlike rivals. If you desire this feature, you can purchase a viewfinder that attaches to the hot shoe to unlock this functionality. And the camera is compatible with the more recent VF-4 electronic viewfinder.
As the camera is rather small, it doesn’t offer the most comfortable grip for those with larger hands.
It lacks USB charging.
It lacks a microphone input. However, you can add an external microphone using the accessory port through an adapter.
Is this a good beginner camera?
It makes an excellent choice for a beginner looking for a stylistic option. And since it features the necessary capabilities along with a subset of advanced features, beginners can surely progress with this camera long-term.
Is this a good camera for you?
For current E-PL7 users, and below, this camera is mostly the predecessor with an updated and fashion forward exterior. Otherwise, it inherits much of the same capabilities and functionality. So, it may not be entirely worthwhile to upgrade if performance is what you desire.
With its fast continuous shooting speeds and large buffer, it makes a reasonable choice for those looking for a retro rangefinder-style camera for moderate sports and action.
But, in the end, Olympus’ EPL-8 is designed for enthusiasts looking for a stylish camera. And it’s a camera that offers not only that but a fun shooting experience plus the feature set needed to attract new users to the Olympus ecosystem. It remains an excellent all-round option for photographers desiring a rangefinder styled control set but in a compact and affordable body. And with its stylish design and modern appeal, it’s the perfect fashion accessory and traveling companion.
The EPL-8 is indeed a fashion-forward release. While it inherits much of the predecessor’s proven strengths, it remains an excellent all-rounder and a real contender today.