Olympus PEN E-PL8 Full Review

Preview posted 09/19/2016 by Michael Palmer
Review posted 03/29/2017 by Kyle Schurman

Quick Take
  • Fun camera to use that produces good images
  • Fast performing camera versus similarly priced mirrorless models
  • Good image quality versus other 16MP cameras
  • JPEG & RAW shooting
  • Image stabilization system is strong
  • Easy to use model
  • Good mix of automatic and manual control options
  • LCD screen can rotate 180 degrees for selfies
  • LCD has some touch capabilities
  • Huge collection of special effect and Art Filter shooting modes
  • Good battery life
  • No significant changes from predecessor
  • No 4K video recording option
  • Limited touch screen capabilities
  • Menu organization is poor
  • Control buttons on back of PL8 are too small to use comfortably
  • Almost too many art effect modes; can become overwhelming
  • Can end up stuck in a special effect mode without realizing it
  • PL8's lens has a locking structure that's a little odd
  • No popup flash unit; you'll have to attach the included external flash to the hot shoe
  • Introductory price is a bit high, considering how similar PL8 is to older PL7
Bottom Line
The Olympus PEN E-PL8 is a fun camera that's aimed at those migrating from smartphone cameras to a dedicated digital camera. With a host of special effect options and sub-options, you can create some really cool and unique photos. And when you want to shoot without effects, the PL8 is a fast performer that creates good looking images in a variety of shooting conditions. Unfortunately, it's nearly identical to the Olympus PL7, making it tough to justify the PL8's price tag. Read more in our Full Conclusion.
Here's the scenario. You're getting into photography. Actually, you kinda love expressing yourself in picture form. You have Instagram and EyeEm on your smartphone, but you're unsatisfied with the image quality. Or maybe you've been rocking a hand-me-down point and shoot, but it doesn't have the flexibility and controls you need.

It's time for you to step up to an interchangeable lens camera, or ILC.

Olympus has you covered with its new PEN E-PL8, a compact Micro Four Thirds camera system that will absolutely crush the picture of any cell phone or point-and-shoot. It's perfect for someone looking to have more flexibility and control without the heft and bulk of larger camera systems. A successor to the PEN E-PL7, the E-PL8 will be available in three colors, including black, brown, and white and features a more rounded design as well as more leatherette grip material than previous generations.
E-PL8-BRW_right_M14-42mmEZ-SLV.jpgThe E-PL8 also boasts a 16.1MP Live MOS image sensor mated to the Olympus TruePic VII image processor, both of which make this camera is fast, good with lower lighting scenarios, and stuffed with lots of features. Let's start with the display. This 3.0" Flipdown Touchscreen LCD (1037K dots) can tilt UP to 80 degrees or DOWN to 180 degrees, turning the E-PL8 into a selfie-machine with a dedicated countdown and/or interval timer. Also, the touchscreen interface has been improved to allow more access to many different controls as well as, for the first time, access Olympus' legendary Art Filters. Touchscreen controls include shutter release, magnification, AF area selection, AF area size adjustment, frame forward/backward, magnified playback, Live Guide, Super Control Panel, scene mode selection, Wi-Fi connection, clips, movie effect, movie teleconverter.

If you're new to the ILC ecosystem, you might be a little nervous stepping away from the Auto-heavy world of smartphones and point-and-shoots. To help relative novices, Olympus includes iAUTO with Guide Mode, so you can always let the camera selecting settings for you OR opt to have the interface instruct you so you can pick up a few tricks and gain some confidence. As you do that, you can explore various Picture Modes and the 14 Art Filters.

The E-PL8 has an improved High-speed Imager AutoFocus system consisting of 81 Contrast detect AF points and 37 Phase-difference detection AF points. You're going to be able to lock focus and track moving subjects quickly, which is perfect since you can shoot up to 8.5fps in Continuous Shooting. Full 1080p HD video recording (at 30p and 24Mbps) is included as well, where the 3-axis image stabilization should come in handy as well. By the way, that IS system is good enough for 3.5 EV Steps when shooting in low light.
E-PL8-BLK_front_tilt-lside_M14-42mmIIR-BLK.jpgOutside capturing videos and still images, the E-PL8 has two story modes: Clips assembles images and videos and automatically cuts them to music that comes pre-loaded on the camera (more tracks are available online), while Photo Story arranges comic book style panels from still images. If you're interested in trying Time-lapse photography, this camera also features Interval Shooting where you can take up to 999 still images 1 second to 24 hours apart. The resulting images can then be assembled in-camera using the Time-lapse Movies function, or using a computer.

No description of an Olympus camera is complete without mention of Live Time and Live Composite, which have trickled down from the premium OM-D series. For many years, the only way to shoot nightscapes or astrophotography was to use a camera's long shutter speeds or the manual Bulb Mode, which involved setting up the camera to run for extended period of time. The challenge was in calculating how long you needed for proper exposure. Live Time skips that process by allowing you to watch your photo develop in realtime on the LCD display. Live Composite is even more simple; it takes a base still image and then only adds movement and/or new light sources. In that sense, you can capture a starscape over a cityscape without risk of overexposing the bright city lights. It's an addicting feature every camera should have.

Wi-Fi is another must-have feature for 2016. The E-PL8 uses the O.I.Share App (free for Android and iOS) to connect with smartphones and tablets; from there it's easy to transfer files and share them online or to use your smart device as a remote control for the camera itself. It's a pretty great system.
E-PL8-BLK_top.jpgOlympus PEN E-PL8 Features

  • 16.1MP Live MOS image sensor
  • TruePic VII image processor
  • 3.0" Flipdown Touchscreen LCD (1037K dots)
    • Tilt up to 80 degrees; down to 180 degrees
  • 3-axis Image Stabilization (yaw/pitch/roll)
    • 3.5 EV Steps
  • ISO 100-25600
  • 8.5fps Burst Shooting (with Image Stabilization turned off)
  • 1/4000 Shutter Speed
  • Full 1080p HD Video Recording at up to 30p & 24Mbps
  • Digital ESP Metering
  • High-speed Imager AF
    • Single AF (S-AF)
    • Continuous AF (C-AF)
    • Manual Focus (MF)
    • S-AF + MF
    • AF tracking (C-AF + TR)
    • Face Detection
    • Eye Detection
  • iAuto with Guide Mode
  • Panorama
  • HDR
  • Bracketing
  • Picture Modes
  • 14 Art Filters
  • Clips (with music on the camera)
  • Photo Story
  • Interval Shooting
    • Time-lapse movies
    • 999 frames
    • 1-sec to 24-hours
  • Live View & Live Composite
  • Select from 23 functions to assign to buttons
  • Wi-Fi
  • O.I. Share App
  • GPS
  • SDHC, SDXC, UHS-I/II compatible, Eye-Fi Card compatible
  • JPEG + RAW (12-bit)
  • Micro HDMI out
  • Hot shoe
  • USB 2.0
  • BLS-50 Lion Battery
  • Dimensions: 4.6" (W) x 2.7" (H) x 1.5" (D)
  • Weight:11.5oz(0.72lbs)

Price & Availability

The Olympus PEN E-PL8 will be available -- brown, white, or black -- in October for $549.99 (body-only) or as part of a $649.99 kit that includes a 14-42mm (28-84mm equivalent) lens.
In The Box

Body-only OR Body + 14-42mm kit lens
Flash FL-LM1
Li-ion battery BLS-50
Li-ion battery charger BCS-5
USB cable
Shoulder strap
Instruction manual
Warranty card

Additional Product Images


Visitors of Steves can visit the stores below for real-time pricing and availability. You can also find hot, soon to expire online offers on a variety of cameras and accessories at our very own Camera Deals page.