In the recent review of the more expensive Olympus Pen-F, we mentioned that we hated it at first. Well, we are going to start this Olympus Pen E-PL8 review with the fact that we actually liked it from the start.
It’s cheaper, but it’s also so much better in many instances while being much cheaper even though it lacks certain features. But this Olympus Pen E-PL8 review isn’t a comparison between the Pen-F, it’s a review to determine whether such a budget camera provides enough.
And with this review, pay attention to the poor features, as is has plenty of great things, but the things it lacks might be the reason you don’t buy this camera and go for something else.
Not a big deal? Try taking pictures in the strong sun with just a screen. It just doesn’t work. You won’t see enough. You might miss out on whether the picture is overexposed or perhaps not capture someone correctly.
Anyone serious at photography knows the value of a viewfinder. It’s fine when the weather is not great, but once there’s some sunshine, you will struggle.
You can get an optional viewfinder, but nobody has time for carrying extras.
Ultra Small Though
The lack of the viewfinder can be somewhat forgiven based on how small this camera is. This is the smallest camera I’ve ever used that can interchangeable lenses. It fits in my Ministry of Supply jacket. It even fits in the pockets of my shorts.
And when traveling and tight on space, being able to put something into a pocket is a very good feature.
A feature I loved in the Olympus Pen-F was the fact that the screen could flip out to a point you can see yourself. Something that Sony fails to deliver on, over and over again. This camera? It also has a flip-out screen.
It also still goes into a selfie mode which is crucial for vlogging, except, it’s very badly designed as if you want to see yourself, that screen is a the bottom of the camera meaning that you can forget about attaching a tripod.
Oh, and flipping it out will make you forever scared you are breaking the screen. It just doesn’t seem right. It’s not a smooth experience at all.
The good news is that you do get that rotatable screen the bad news is that it’s not that convenient.
It is, however, a touchscreen but the quality of the previews could be so much better!
Fantastic Battery Life
When checking this Olympus Pen E-PL8 review, this is most likely what you are most interested in.
Just like the Pen-F, this Olympus has superior battery life! Sony sucks ridicously when it comes to battery life. Olympus have it mastered though. It’s actually possible to go out for a full day and still have some battery life left. We do not recommend having just one battery ever but having a battery that lasts longer sure helps, and well, with the previous usage during the day. I went to my girlfriend’s match and recorded pretty much 90 minutes of it as I wasn’t taking risks in terms of missing content, and guess what? The camera survived. Just barely, but remember I was using it throughout the day prior. Sony A6000 wouldn’t make it through the first half of the match on one battery.
One of the most annoying things about the Olympus cameras is that they are a bit weird when it comes to ports. While most companies are moving towards USB-C, this Pen E-PL8 along with the Pen-F fail to deliver a micro-USB port which would have been the standard back in 2016.
Instead, you need to have a very rare cable with you. And when you have the likes of the new XPS 13 without an SD slot, that makes your life hard.
Pretty Great Stabilization
If you are looking for a camera that has everything you need and that is €200 cheaper than a different model with stabilization, do not get it! Stabilization is one of the most important features that a camera can have! Pixels are great, lens specs matter, but stabilization needs to be there. Otherwise, no matter how good a picture or a video can look, if you move too much, it will be ruined. And that, you can’t fix.
This is the feature that the A6000 that’s slightly more expensive than this Pen E-PL8 doesn’t have.
Just having stabilization is not enough though. Not all stabilization is great.
The Pen-F stabilization worked great without too drastic movement and stabilized those little shakes great, but anything more than small movement resulted in very badly looking stretching of the footage when shooting videos. And gosh, it looked awful! I’d almost prefer no stabilization than that.
This cheaper Pen E-PL8 perhaps is cheaper but has proper stabilization that actually helps make your content look better! Without any weird stretching 90% of the time.
They Also Did Not Follow in the Steps of Their Pen-F Button Mistake
One of the reasons I hated the Pen-F at the start was the fact that the power button and function keys were located on two different sides of the camera.
Now, the Pen-F wasn’t a big camera either, bigger than this one but not too big, meaning it could and can be used one-handed. Except, what Olympus did with the buttons on that camera made it a two-handed camera as it was impossible to operate it with one hand.
With the E-PL8 they did not make that mistake. In fact, the power button on this camera makes one-handed usage even easier as you just press it t to turn the camera on.
The Image Quality
Of course, everybody cares about the image quality.
We aren’t getting into too many specs, but this camera shoots 16.1 MP which is the standard on any modern phone and something that does not matter too much unless cropping. It also comes with ISO of up to 25,600 and a Micro Four Thirds sensor.
Most, of non-full-frame sensors, caught up with full frame sensors as far as image quality is concerned. The ISO? People look at it as something of major value. Sure, at night shot it helps but 90% of the time you will not be using an ISO higher than 200. Although, that depends on your lens which is the department you should invest in when it comes to this camera. The kit lens is just not good enough. And at the end of the day, it’s the lens that influences the image quality the most as a good body is of no use with a mediocre lens.
The overall image quality is pretty good provided you have the right lighting.
The kit lens won’t produce too bright footage due to the f/3.5 lens, and sometimes that produced pretty dark footage.
Shots in the dark do look pretty good though with higher ISO although they aren’t of the quality of the Pen-F when it comes to how bright they can get while maintaining sharpness. You will capture decent quality that’s more than viewable and shareable but not it won’t be something that you will use on a photography page.
The reason we hate talking about the actual quality of the pictures a camera produces is that there are so many different factors that influence a picture. The lens, lighting, the object, the settings, the editing, it’s just extremely hard to post a picture and say that x camera is better than y.
In this Olympus Pen E-PL8 review, we can’t show differences in all of the factors but we will when it comes to editing.
Why? Let me give you an example of a picture from a trip to Greece.
Massive difference. Right? In real life, the picture would have been in the middle. It looked nicer than the original but not as beautiful either as there were some clouds present.
With some editing, the picture ended up looking fantastic. And that’s the reality of pictures, a lot goes down to editing.
That’s why we prefer to focus on thing such as focus and stabilization than just qualify as a good editor can make a picture look so much better than a camera produces.
That’s why we are attaching both edited and not edited pictures as examples.
Oh, and of course AF matters too. It’s not quite Sony when it comes to AF points but it still does a much better job than just about all Nikon cameras with 81 AF points. More than most people will need.
If there’s anything to complain about the images is that they aren’t exactly sharp in all areas.
For instance, in the picture of the coffee I had when in Gdansk in Poland on my way back from Russia was too soft in certain parts. And that was at f/3.5 and not any lower which softens images. That would make me scared about trying this camera out with the likes of f/1.8.
The quality is decent. The lens we had is mostly good for vlogging though. It’s hard to take spectacular pictures with it. But if you are on a budget, and upgrade your lens, you will be able to take some pretty decent pictures that are certainly better looking than a phone but not quite on the Pen-F quality and especially not of the quality of the Sony A6000.
Good stabilization makes the videos recorded on this camera so much better to watch, but the camera itself doesn’t record videos of too high quality. Yes, it’s full-HD, and the footage looks better than phone footage, but it’s just average. And the low bit-rate footage that reaches just around 1/3 of the bitrate on the A6000 makes a massive difference in quality. It’s noticeable. Especially when viewed afterward after a transfer to a computer.
The microphone jack is also not present making this camera a good option for video only if you have an external camera along with also a better than the kit lens, lens as most footage also looks too dark with the kit lens.
Oh, and this camera doesn’t record at 60 frames per second.
Noise Is Still Present Though
One thing that bothered me about the Pen-F is that it’s extremely noisy. Sometimes when you take a picture, the camera makes a lot of noise processing the image or such. This is also present here, although slightly less as the images itself aren’t as advanced as in the Pen-F.
The Other Weird Stuff
To finish this Olympus E-PL8 review, we need to mention the other little stuff the camera lacks NFC. A second dial that I didn’t initially think would be needed until I didn’t have it, and the confusing Olympus menu is here of course, although slightly less complicated due the fewer features present on the camera.
Is the E-PL8 Worth it?
The E-PL9 is out. Why not just go for the newer model? Well while you just read the Olympus Pen E-PL8 review, we haven’t reviewed the new model so I can’t speak about it yet but one thing is for sure, the E-PL8 will be much cheaper and will provide mostly the same flaws as the E-PL9. For instance, the screen will still be annoying, and there will still be no viewfinder present on this camera. But the E-PL9 does record in 4K for instance.
If you are looking for a very budget friendly camera, it’s one to consider for sure. It’s packed with features and is one of those devices that can be afforded by most! It’s not a device that will produce content that you will be proud to show to everybody unless you upgrade your lens at least, but at its current price point, you can’t really go wrong if you are just looking for some good looking pictures without too much effort.