The Search For The Perfect Camera...

on August 20, 2017
And I hope I never find it... No, don't be discouraged - the subject of the review for the next couple of days is coming pretty close to the mark for a number of reasons. Bear in mind that it is me setting that mark, and you may have different ideas about what you need. But read along and see if this Olympus will help you, too. I choose cameras from the Camera Electronic warehouse for review based upon speculation and advice - recently I was steered onto the new Nikon D7500 by one of the other sales staff and it proved to be a good one. I'm not above saying that I can sometimes pick out a product for those other than myself. In the case of the Olympus E-PL8 I chose it as a package deal that a domestic traveller or family shooter might select. An all-rounder with nifty features. I was not disappointed. The camera itself is in the micro 4/3 system and shares the MFT mount with a number of Olympus, Sigma, Panasonic, and other lens makers. It is viewfinder-free, but uses the tilting LCD screen for target acquisition. The screen is a mega-tilter - from minor tips to fully flat as a WL finder, to 180º around under the body for selfies. There is a standard hot shoe and a separate flash is provided in the kit. The lens that they start you out with is the 14-42mm f:3.5-5.6 EZ - a remarkable piece of good optics that tucks away and then opens itself automatically when the camera is switched on. It reverses the process at switch off. The kit has all the usual suspects - charger, medium-sized lithium-ion battery, small flash, cables, software, and strap. They are wise enough to include a small lens cap. For the inveterate fiddler, there are a number of Olympus special effects - you've seen them with the EM series of cameras. I should reserve them for rainy Sundays in the hostel when you can't be bothered to go out and don't have a computer handy - you can just sit there and revamp your jpegs. For the communicator, there is an effective WiFi system to connect to your smart devices, and you can stack multiple shots into photo stories before you send them. Again, a fireside activity. For the pop portraitist, a skin softener option that will blur imperfections while leaving the rest of the image alone. I thought of trying it for the heading image but decided against it - there is only so much credulity I can expect from the readers of this column. And for the actionista, the LCD screen set to the touch mode is damn near unbeatable. 8.5 fps and you just touch where you want to focus and fire. As your eye will not be anywhere near the screen, you have a better chance of getting what you want instead of what your nose hits. And for me...the MFT sensor - being smaller than the APS-C by a little - means the equivalent focal lengths will be a little shorter and the depth of field a little deeper. I can get the 1:18th models in focus more easily.
The detail and dynamic range are as good as the standard mirror-less camera system I use, and the results are very good indeed. The touch-sensitive screen can be switched to focus-only which means finding the optimal point of focus on the car - generally just at the front door hinge - is a lot easier than pushing an AF button then trying to horse a point round the screen without moving the camera. Yes, the '47 Cadillac is in focus in the on-the-table shot, and this is very good indeed for a standard lens. Even better when you consider that it can go down to f:22 as well. Okay, there is a bit of diffraction there, but the whole thing is very workable. And yes, I did try the selfie feature. I didn't realise that you could poke the screen to fire it but at least I did not do it in the bathroom making a duck face. And finally - the standard hot shoe worked very well with the studio trigger - no complex instructions needed to program it. I daresay the little kit flash would work as well, but I should not try to illuminate the moon with it. Anybody's moon.