Camera Test: Olympus PEN E-PL8

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November 29, 2016 at 4:08 pm  •  Posted in Gear & Reviews, New Products, Review by  •  0 Comments

Olympus PEN E-PL8

Olympus PEN E-PL8

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 is a very stylish compact camera with a 16-MP Micro Four Thirds sensor. It has a lot of interesting features.

The Olympus E-PL8 reproduced the test-box scene with a crisp, clear look. The P-automatic system results in a slightly underexposed image; an exposure setting that was a 1/3 EV stop higher would be perfect.

The Olympus E-PL8 reproduced the test-box scene with a crisp, clear look. The P-automatic system results in a slightly underexposed image; an exposure setting that was a 1/3 EV stop higher would be perfect.

Comments on Image Quality
Colour: Most Olympus cameras tend to lower colour saturation, and the E-PL8 isn’t an exception. The GretagMacbeth chart was reproduced with a saturation of 93.3 percent, which is really low. Nevertheless, real-life images look natural. The portrait shot and the test-box shot have natural colours with a nice look. The camera’s white-balance system did a great job. It had a tendency toward cooler colours. Only the brightest neutral tones of the chart are shifted into the direction of the green and yellow area. Unlike most other cameras, the blue nuances don’t show a shift into the saturated and boosted darker blue areas (or even into the magenta/purple direction). Instead, they are shifted into the turquoise coloured area of the colour space. Skin tones are reproduced very naturally.

The new Olympus camera provides nice, natural colours that are a little under saturated. The look of the skin tones is excellent.

The new Olympus camera provides nice, natural colours that are a little under saturated. The look of the skin tones is excellent.

Sharpness: The new Olympus camera performed really well. The ISO12233 chart was reproduced with 3.242 of 3.456 lines per picture height, which is a very high result. But the camera uses intense sharpness filtering to additionally enhance sharpness. The extreme filtering seems to be used for very hard contrast lines. In real-life images, these filter effects are noticeable but more discreet. The fine structures of some elements in the standard test-box shot or the portrait shot look more natural but still very crisp. The very good colour differentiation enhances the impression of sharpness too.

Noise: The Olympus E-PL8 did excellently in our noise tests. Even though the camera uses a small Micro Four Thirds sensor, the luminance noise level is very low, especially in low ISO settings. It keeps this low level beneath 1.0 percent up to ISO 6400. In higher ISO speed settings, the anti-noise filtering effects become visible. Images are a little blurred/smoothed, and fine details get lost. In addition, in ISO 25600 mode, the colour saturation drops drastically.

The dynamic range results are very good too. The camera achieved a maximum of 11.6 f-stops and keeps a high level of 10-11 f-stops between ISO 200 and ISO 3200. In images taken with higher ISO speed settings, they drop drastically.

The E-PL is very small so Olympus offers a kit with the 14-42 “pancake” lens, which is also very compact.

The E-PL is very small so Olympus offers a kit with the 14-42 “pancake” lens, which is also very compact.

Comments on Handling
The new Olympus E-PL8 is the latest model in the PEN series. The PEN cameras are stylish compact systems with Micro Four Thirds sensors and lens mounts. The camera is available in different colours; we tested the brown version. Olympus offers a lot of accessories for the camera, also available in different colours.

Due to its retro design, the camera looks like analogue rangefinder camera, but the Olympus E-PL8 doesn’t have a viewfinder. The photographer has to use the 3-inch LCD on the back of the camera, which is an electronic viewfinder and control centre for menus and image parameters. Olympus offers an EVF system that can be mounted on the hot shoe of the E-PL8. The camera has a special interface (right below the accessory shoe) that can be used for several purposes (e.g., a microphone adapter to connect an external microphone with a 3.5 mm jack to the E-PL8).

The LCD on the back can be flipped up- and downward but doesn’t rotate to the side.

The LCD on the back can be flipped up- and downward but doesn’t rotate to the side.

The LCD screen of the camera can be flipped upward about 45 degrees so the photographer can use the monitor just like a waist-level finder of a medium-format camera. The LCD can also be flipped downward by 180 degrees. In this position, the screen can be viewed from the front and can be used to take selfies. This solution is a little unusual, though, since most cameras with selfie function tend to swivel the monitor to the top. It’s a little inconvenient when using the camera on a tripod or even on a selfie stick. The monitor is touch-sensitive, and you can use it to set up menu parameters or to choose the requested AF area, for example.

The camera doesn’t offer a viewfinder system. However, there’s an electronic viewfinder system that can be mounted on the accessory shoe available as an option. The standard version of the camera uses a 3-inch LCD on the back as viewfinder.

The camera doesn’t offer a viewfinder system. However, there’s an electronic viewfinder system that can be mounted on the accessory shoe available as an option. The standard version of the camera uses a 3-inch LCD on the back as viewfinder.

With a magnesium-alloy body, the camera is robust and solid. The function elements also have a premium look and metal finish. The camera’s mode dial on the top has the standard exposure modes (iAUTO, P, S, A, M) and pre-set modes for a lot of different scenes (including high- and low-key photography). In addition it offers an Art mode with special-effect filters (pop art filters, HDR-like images and more). Most of the Art modes offer additional parameters that can be changed by the photographer.

There are two set-up dials on the top. The dial near the centre offers exposure and scene modes as well as Art filters and a special video recording mode. The dial between the mode dial and the On/Off switch is to change image parameters and exposure settings.

There are two set-up dials on the top. The dial near the centre offers exposure and scene modes as well as Art filters and a special video recording mode. The dial between the mode dial and the On/Off switch is to change image parameters and exposure settings.

Photographers can use the set-up dial on the top to change image parameters like shutter speed. This dial encircles the shutter-release button and can also be used for menu navigation. The E-PL8 offers a 4-way control field on the back to change menu items and to offer direct access to 4 functions: EV compensation (by +/- 5 EV stops), focus-area setting (out of 81 areas that nearly cover the whole image), flash-mode setting, and the drive setting (single shot, burst mode, self timer).

The camera has a Wi-Fi module that can be used for remote control (including live preview on a smart device) and for image data transfer to a mobile device. When using the “Olympus Image Share” app in remote control mode, the user can change exposure parameters manually (including the ISO speed setting).

Pros
+ very compact, stylish camera
+ no viewfinder (EVF is offered as an option)
+ swivel LCD
+ Wi-Fi system for remote control and data transfer

Cons
– No GPS system (Wi-Fi connection and GPS data received by the phone are used for geotagging)
– No microphone jack


This review is based on precise lab tests conducted by BetterNet GmbH and provided by the Technical Imaging Press Association (TIPA). TIPA is the largest family of independent photo and imaging magazines worldwide.
Photo Life is an active member of TIPA.

SPEC SHEET: Olympus E-PL8
BASIC TECHNICAL DATA:
Resolution 4608 x 3456
Resolution CCD 0.0
Colour depth (in bits) 36
TAKING PICTURES:
Start-up time (in sec) 0.21
Shutter delay without pre-focusing (in sec) 0.13
Shutter delay with pre-focusing (in sec) 0.01
Continuous Shooting Speed (frames per second) 8.5
Max. burst during continuous shooting speed 999.0
Fastest shutter speed (in sec) 1/4000
Long-time exposure/shutter speed (in sec) 60
Self-timer yes
Exposure settings:
Aperture pre-setting, shutter speed pre-setting, manual-exposure settings,
automatic bracketing, time-lapse photography
Exposure programs 25
White balance
Auto yes
White-balance settings 7
Individual white balance yes
ISO:
ISO min 200
ISO max 25600
ISO steps 22
Manual ISO control yes
FLASH:
Integrated flash no
Guide Number (at ISO 100; in m): 3.0
Flash mode:
On, off, automatic flash, slow sync, anti-red-eye
External flash:
X-sync no
Accessory shoe yes
FILE FORMATS:
Standard file formats:
JPEG, Raw, DCF
JPEG-compression grades 3
LCD AND PREVIEW:
Size (in inches) 3.0
Resolution of LCD (in pixels)
Zoom-Mode during preview yes
Index during preview yes
Slideshow during preview yes
POWER SOURCE:
Rechargeable battery yes
Battery type Li-Ion
Battery charger included yes
Power connector no
Power supply unit no
STORAGE SYSTEM:
Supported memory cards SD card
PC CONNECTION:
PC connection USB
TV out PAL/NTSC + HDMI
DIMENSIONS:
Dimensions (width x height x depth; in mm) 117 x 68 x 38
Weight (body without battery and memory card; in g) 374
ACCESSORIES:
Docking station no
Printed manual yes
Manual on CD yes
Bag no
Remote control no

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