Thursday, July 21, 2011

We've Been Down This Path Before

Camedia C-8080 circa 2004
With all the sturm und drang expressed over the release of the E-P3 and it's two lesser siblings, you'd think this was all new with regards to Olympus. Not exactly.

Olympus has been in the camera business a long, long time, stretching back to the early 20th century. They have a habit, and a good habit, of dipping back into their past for inspiration. They've done this twice already with the Pens, first with the film Pens for the OM film series and more directly for the digital Pens which include the E-P3.

But in between the hallowed OM series and the controversial digital Pens, there were a series of all-in-one cameras that Olympus made, the Camedia series.

Olympus E-1 with 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 zoom circa 2003
The one to the top right, the C-8080, was introduced at PMA 2004. Keep in mind that the Olympus E-1, the first FourThirds camera in the E-Volt line, was introduced September 2003. It's hard to say who influenced whom, but you can certainly see the family lines in both camera's designs.

You can also see from the photos that the C-8080 fits easily into the same hand that is required to hold the E-1 by its grip. I'm not complaining about the size of the E-1; I love the way it fits in my hands. I'm just saying that Olympus knows how to build rugged small cameras that can easily fit all in one hand like the C-8080.

What makes the C-8080 interesting are its pro-level features:

  • Magnesium allow body
  • 5-to-1 fast zoom 7.1-35.6mm 1:2.4-3.5
  • Auto-focus and A/F assist lamp
  • Multiple metering modes
  • Shutter speeds up to 1/4000s
  • Electronic viewfinder
  • Uses the BLM-1 battery (same as E-5x0, E-1, E-3x0, E-3, E-30, and E-5)

The C-8080 sensor was a Sony 2/3" CCD model that accommodated ISOs from 50 to 400 and provided 8mp images. It also recorded simple video of 640 x 480 and 320 x 240 resolution at 15fps. Not quite HDMI, but it was a nice, rugged, hi-res stills and video camera with one of the best zooms on the market at the time it was released. Even the fixed zoom lens was top shelf. The equivalent FourThirds lens would have been from 14-70mm. The two closest FourThird zooms that Olympus has manufactured are the HG 14-54mm 1:2.8-3.5 and the HG 12-60mm 1:2.8-4.

Why would I care about the old C-8080? Because of the promise of a pro-spec µFourThirds body sometime in the not-to-distant future. I've heard a lot of talk about bringing the E-1 up to spec for the regular FourThirds. In the same vein I'd like to see the C-8080 brought up to µFourThirds spec.

The C-8080 body is deep enough to allow the inclusion of the FourThirds sensor and the µFourThirds lens mount. I would love a pro-spec digital Pen built along the same lines as the C-8080 with a magnesium body and a grip large enough to hold a BLM-1 for longer shooting. The C-8080 shows that Olympus is more than capable of delivering such a form-factor camera. I'd buy a camera built this way in a cold New Your minute, a damn sight faster than the E-P3. Even if they manufactured a C-8080 class µFourThirds camera with an equivalent fixed-mount 14-70mm 1:2.8-3.5 zoom, I'd still be eager to buy it.

Now all Olympus has to do is execute. While I wait and wonder.

1 comment:

  1. I had a C-5050. It served me well for many years. I even spent some time diving with it. I've since passed it on to another diver.

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