the C8080 to the E400
(text and photos by Snaarman)
I have spent the last 40 years taking pictures with various SLRs, mostly Nikons. I switched from film to digits in 2003 and eventually bought the Olympus C8080 in 2005. I have used it to shoot two weddings and several holidays, and quite a few indoor music concerts.
I have never liked large, heavy, noisy DSLRs, and acoustic music concerts require a small quiet camera: Also I prefer an EVF as it suits my eyesight better, plus you can replay your shots in the viewfinder.
So - the Oly is a great camera, it just fits in my jacket pocket, 8 M Pixels is enough to get an A3 print. Its reasonably fast and friendly, compact and fairly quiet - but you know this already!
Lets fast forward to 2007.
I have bought an E400 and two lenses and spent a week in Provence with it. So - how does the 8080 compare to the E400?
The E400 is 10 M pixels and the C8080 is 8 M pixels. There is not much difference in results between the two cameras thanks to the excellent lens on the C8080. The SHQ and HQ JPEG options on the E400 seem to use lower compression than the C8080, so the results from the E400 are slightly better.
The E400 is sold with 2 lenses: The 14-42mm f3.5-f5.6 (equivalent = 28-84mm) and 40-150mm f4-f5.6 (equivalent = 80-300). You keep that 28mm wide angle but you gain a lot at the telephoto end. The 8080 has the aperture advantage at f2.4. However the larger sensor format and longer lenses of the 4/3rds system mean you can do those short depth of field tricks again. Watch out, both lenses extend physically quite a lot at the telephoto end.
However, because the 4/3rds system puts the lens mount nearer the sensor, there is room to fit an adapter to other manufacturers lenses and still have proper infinity focus.
I bought a low cost Nikon to 4/3rds adapter and here is the E400 with two different Nikkor lenses. It certainly looks good with that big 85mm f1.8 fitted - however I find even these non-zoom Nikkor lenses don't have enough resolution wide open to match the requirements of the sensor. The 85mm needs to go down to f2.8 or f4, and the 50mm needs to go down to f4 or f5.6 before you see the same contrast and resolution you get from the Olympus kit lenses. Next, you have to operate in preset aperture mode and focus manually. The E400 does not offer its focus confirmation led in this mode (shame!) and the small viewfinder makes judging the focus difficult. Both lenses seem to confuse the E400 metering system when used wide open with lots of light.
Conclusion? If you need a medium length telephoto with large aperture at low cost, then try this method, but it does have its disadvantages.
The C8080 starts faster because the E400 spends some time shaking the dust off its sensor, but the difference is only about a second. However by the time you have put the camera to your eye, adjusted zoom and got the focus, the E400 will be ready before the C8080. The E400 zoom speed is limited by your hand (!) and it has lightning auto focus, like most DSLRs.
Weight and size
The E400 is very small and light,
and feels more like a plastic version of an OM2 SLR. You need to use
both hands to hold it, but the overall package is easy to use. Its
about the same height as the 8080 and only a few mm wider. Yes, it does
still fit in my jacket pocket, but I have to put the spare lens in the
other pocket :-)
The E400 offers silent zoom and focus, then the usual click when you fire the shutter. The 8080 has a silent shutter, but focus, zoom and start-up all make those little motor noises that suddenly seem so loud in a quiet venue, so neither camera is perfect.
Both viewfinders offer a similar image size. The 8080 gives you a load more information and will show you your shot as it saves it. Very useful feature. The E400 viewfinder is optical so if you want to see how the shot turned out you have to look at the display.At that point I have to reach for my spectacles..
The E400 rear display (2.5 inches)
is much larger than the 8080s display. One of the 8080s clever tricks
is folding out the display and using that to frame your shot. This is a
good way to get candid pictures. The E400 can't do that.
Flash and other stuff
Both cameras work perfectly in Manual mode with my old Nikon SB28 flash on the hot shoe. (I admit, I have never used the internal flash). The E400 won't do movie mode. You can't fit fancy new lenses on the 8080. You don't get an infra-red remote control with the E400 but - the remote you got with your 8080 will fire the E400 shutter!
People have complained about the uncomfortable E400 strap lugs (they don't cause me a problem).
The E400 goes to ISO1600 which is 2 stops faster than the C8080. There is quite a lot of noise at 1600, but its quite usable at 800. The C8080 has a slight noise/mosaic problem in low light at ISO400, so all in all the E400 is a better camera for low light.
No - the cameras don't use the same batteries. The E400 battery seems to last about 150 pictures with no flash, but using the screen for image review. My impression is that the C8080 battery lasts longer. Yes, they do use the same memory cards. You can copy one card to the other with both cameras.
You drive the 8080 (mostly) by pressing a button and turning the controller dial. The E-400 is not so friendly, but you can (for instance) adjust ISO from the display using one button push, turn the dial, then press the shutter slightly to go back to shooting mode. Down in the E400 menus you will find lots of useful functions. Even if you know your C8080 inside out, and are a keen photographer, you still need to set aside an hour to read the E400 manual :-)
They are both well made cameras that cover the 28mm wide end. They are about the same size and weight. I think the lenses are probably similar quality. The 8080 magnesium alloy body feels slightly better than the E400 reinforced plastic body.
In use the E400 is much faster. You can shoot 3 frames per second indefinitely. Once shooting, it is louder than the C8080, so not good for quiet venues.
I think each camera has some unique features that the other one lacks: Sorry, but I think you might need them both :-)