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Sony A7 versus Olympus E-PL8

The Sony Alpha A7 and the Olympus PEN E-PL8 are two digital cameras that were officially introduced, respectively, in October 2013 and September 2016. Both the A7 and the E-PL8 are mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras that are based on a full frame (A7) and a Four Thirds (E-PL8) sensor. The Sony has a resolution of 24 megapixel, whereas the Olympus provides 15.9 MP. Read on to find out how these two cameras compare with respect to their size, their sensors, their features, and their reception by expert reviewers.

Body comparison: Sony A7 vs Olympus E-PL8

An illustration of the physical size and weight of the Sony A7 and the Olympus E-PL8 is provided in the side-by-side display below. The two cameras are presented according to their relative size. Three consecutive views from the front, the top, and the rear side are shown. All width, height and depth measures are rounded to the nearest millimeter. If you prefer, you can also use the toggle button to switch to a comparison in percentage terms (in this case, the camera on the left side – the A7 – represents the basis for the calculations across all the size and weight measures).

Compare Sony A7 vs Olympus E-PL8
Compare A7 versus E-PL8 top
Compare A7 and E-PL8 rear

If the front view area (width x height) of the cameras is taken as an aggregate measure of their size, the Olympus E-PL8 is considerably smaller (35 percent) than the Sony A7. Moreover, the E-PL8 is markedly lighter (25 percent) than the A7. It is worth mentioning in this context that the A7 is splash and dust resistant, while the E-PL8 does not feature any corresponding weather-sealing.

The above size and weight comparisons are to some extent incomplete since they do not consider the interchangeable lenses that both of these cameras require. A larger imaging sensor will tend to go along with bigger and heavier lenses, although exceptions exist. You can find an overview of optics for the two cameras in the Sony FE Lens Catalog (A7) and the Micro Four Thirds Lens Catalog (E-PL8). Mirrorless cameras, such as the two under consideration, have the additional advantage of having a short flange to focal plane distance, which makes it possible to mount many lenses from other systems onto the camera via adapters.

Concerning battery life, the A7 gets 340 shots out of its NP-FW50 battery, while the E-PL8 can take 350 images on a single charge of its BLS-50 power pack.

The adjacent table lists the principal physical characteristics of the two cameras alongside a wider set of alternatives. If you want to switch the focus of the display and review another camera pair, just select a new right or left comparator from among the camera models in the table. Alternatively, you can also move across to the CAM-parator tool and choose from the broad selection of possible camera comparisons there.

Camera Body Specifications
  Camera
Model
Camera
Width
Camera
Height
Camera
Depth
Camera
Weight
Battery
Life
(CIPA)
Weather
Sealing
(yes/no)
Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7» 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.7 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Olympus E-PL8« 4.5 in 2.6 in 1.5 in 12.6 oz 350 n Sep 2016 549- i Olympus E-PL8
Nikon D610« » 5.6 in 4.4 in 3.2 in 30.0 oz 900 Y Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Olympus E-PL9« » 4.6 in 2.7 in 1.5 in 13.4 oz 350 n Feb 2018 549 i i Olympus E-PL9
Olympus E-M10 III« » 4.8 in 3.3 in 2.0 in 14.5 oz 330 n Aug 2017 649 i i Olympus E-M10 III
Olympus E-M10 II« » 4.7 in 3.3 in 1.9 in 13.8 oz 320 n Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-PL7« » 4.5 in 2.6 in 1.5 in 12.6 oz 350 n Aug 2014 599- i Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-PL6« » 4.4 in 2.5 in 1.5 in 11.5 oz 360 n May 2013 599- i Olympus E-PL6
Panasonic GH4« » 5.2 in 3.7 in 3.3 in 19.8 oz 500 Y Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Sony A7 III« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.9 in 22.9 oz 610 Y Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A6300« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 1.9 in 14.3 oz 400 Y Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A6500« » 4.7 in 2.6 in 2.1 in 16.0 oz 350 Y Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Sony A7 II« » 5.0 in 3.8 in 2.4 in 21.1 oz 350 Y Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 17.2 oz 380 Y Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R« » 5.0 in 3.7 in 1.9 in 16.4 oz 340 Y Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A3000« » 5.0 in 3.6 in 3.3 in 14.5 oz 470 n Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony RX1R« » 4.4 in 2.6 in 2.8 in 17.0 oz 270 n Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R

The camera’s price is obviously a critical decision-making factor. The retail prices at the time of the camera’s release place the model in the market relative to other models in the producer’s line-up and the competition. The E-PL8 was launched at a markedly lower price (by 68 percent) than the A7, which puts it into a different market segment. Usually, retail prices stay at first close to the launch price, but after several months, discounts become available. Later in the product cycle and, in particular, when the replacement model is about to appear, further discounting and stock clearance sales often push the camera price considerably down. Then, after the new model is out, very good deals can frequently be found on the pre-owned market.

 

Sensor comparison: Sony A7 vs Olympus E-PL8

The size of the imaging sensor is a crucial determinant of image quality. A large sensor will generally have larger individual pixels that offer better low-light sensitivity, provide wider dynamic range, and have richer color-depth than smaller pixels in a sensor of the same technological generation. Furthermore, a large sensor camera will give the photographer more possibilities to use shallow depth-of-field in order to isolate a subject from the background. On the downside, larger sensors tend to be associated with larger, more expensive camera bodies and lenses.

Of the two cameras under consideration, the Sony A7 features a full frame sensor and the Olympus E-PL8 a Four Thirds sensor. The sensor area in the E-PL8 is 74 percent smaller. As a result of these sensor size differences, the cameras have a format factor of, respectively, 1.0 and 2.0. The sensor in the A7 has a native 3:2 aspect ratio, while the one in the E-PL8 offers a 4:3 aspect.

Sony A7 and Olympus E-PL8 sensor measures

With 24MP, the A7 offers a higher resolution than the E-PL8 (15.9MP), but the A7 nevertheless has larger individual pixels (pixel pitch of 5.97μm versus 3.76μm for the E-PL8) due to its larger sensor. However, the E-PL8 is a somewhat more recent model (by 2 years and 11 months) than the A7, and its sensor might have benefitted from technological advances during this time that further enhance the light gathering capacity of its pixels.

A7 versus E-PL8 MP

Since 2007, DXO Mark has published sensor performance measurements that have been derived using a consistent methodology. This service is based on lab testing and assigns an overall score to each camera sensor, as well as ratings for dynamic range ("DXO Landscape"), color depth ("DXO Portrait"), and low-light sensitivity ("DXO Sports"). The table below summarizes the physical sensor characteristics and sensor quality findings and compares them across a set of similar cameras.

Sensor Characteristics
  Camera
Model
Sensor
Class
Resolution
(MP)
Horiz.
Pixels
Vert.
Pixels
Video
Format
DXO
Portrait
DXO
Landscape
DXO
Sports
DXO
Overall
Camera
Model
Sony A7» Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.814.2224890Sony A7
Olympus E-PL8« Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p----Olympus E-PL8
Nikon D610« » Full Frame 24.2 6016 40161080/30p25.114.4292594Nikon D610
Olympus E-PL9« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p----Olympus E-PL9
Olympus E-M10 III« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p----Olympus E-M10 III
Olympus E-M10 II« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/60p23.112.584273Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-PL7« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p22.712.487372Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-PL6« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34561080/30p----Olympus E-PL6
Panasonic GH4« » Four Thirds 15.9 4608 34564K/30p23.212.879174Panasonic GH4
Sony A7 III« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40004K/30p25.014.7373096Sony A7 III
Sony A6300« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.413.7143785Sony A6300
Sony A6500« » APS-C 24.0 6000 40004K/30p24.513.7140585Sony A6500
Sony A7 II« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p24.913.6244990Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« » Full Frame 12.0 4240 28321080/60p23.913.2370287Sony A7S
Sony A7R« » Full Frame 36.2 7360 49121080/60p25.614.1274695Sony A7R
Sony A3000« » APS-C 19.8 5456 36321080/60i23.712.8106878Sony A3000
Sony RX1R« » Full Frame 24.0 6000 40001080/60p25.013.6253791Sony RX1R

Many modern cameras are not only capable of taking still images, but can also record movies. Both cameras under consideration have a sensor with sufficiently fast read-out times for moving pictures, but the A7 provides a higher frame rate than the E-PL8. It can shoot video footage at 1080/60p, while the Olympus is limited to 1080/30p.

 

Feature comparison: Sony A7 vs Olympus E-PL8

Beyond body and sensor, cameras can and do differ across a range of features. For example, the A7 has an electronic viewfinder (2400k dots), which can be very helpful when shooting in bright sunlight. In contrast, the E-PL8 relies on live view and the rear LCD for framing. The following table reports on some other key feature differences and similarities of the Sony A7, the Olympus E-PL8, and comparable cameras. The full specs-sheets can be found in the camera manual or in the dpreview camera hub.

Core Features
  Camera
Model
Viewfinder
(Type or
'000 dots)
Control
Panel
(yes/no)
LCD
Size
(inch)
LCD
Resolution
('000 dots)
LCD
Attach-
ment
Touch
Screen
(yes/no)
Shutter
speed
(1/sec)
Shutter
flaps
(1/sec))
Build-in
Flash
(yes/no)
Build-in
Image
Stab
Camera
Model
Sony A7»2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7
Olympus E-PL8«- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL8
Nikon D610« »optical Y 3.2 921 fixed n 4000 6.0 Y n Nikon D610
Olympus E-PL9« »- n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.6 Y Y Olympus E-PL9
Olympus E-M10 III« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.6 Y Y Olympus E-M10 III
Olympus E-M10 II« »2360 n 3.0 1040 tilting Y 4000 8.0 Y Y Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-PL7« »- n 3.0 1037 tilting Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-PL6« »- n 3.0 460 tilting Y 4000 8.0 n Y Olympus E-PL6
Panasonic GH4« »2359 n 3.0 1036 swivel Y 8000 12.0 Y n Panasonic GH4
Sony A7 III« »2359 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 8000 10.0 n Y Sony A7 III
Sony A6300« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting n 4000 11.0 Y n Sony A6300
Sony A6500« »2300 n 3.0 922 tilting Y 4000 11.0 Y Y Sony A6500
Sony A7 II« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 5.0 n Y Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »2400 n 3.0 921 tilting n 8000 5.0 n n Sony A7S
Sony A7R« »2400 n 3.0 1230 tilting n 8000 4.0 n n Sony A7R
Sony A3000« »202 n 3.0 230 fixed n 4000 2.5 Y n Sony A3000
Sony RX1R« »- n 3.0 1229 fixed n 4000 5.0 Y n Sony RX1R

One differentiating feature between the two cameras concerns the touch sensitivity of the rear screen. The E-PL8 has a touchscreen, while the A7 has a conventional panel. Touch control can be particularly helpful, for example, for setting the focus point or for making menu selections.

Both the A7 and the E-PL8 have been discontinued, but can regularly be found used on eBay. The A7 was replaced by the Sony A7 II, while the E-PL8 was followed by the Olympus E-PL9.

Review summary: Sony A7 vs Olympus E-PL8

So what is the bottom line? Is the Sony A7 better than the Olympus E-PL8 or vice versa? Below is a summary of the relative strengths of each of the two contestants.

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Reasons to prefer the Sony Alpha A7:

  • More detail: Offers more megapixels (24 vs 15.9MP) with a 25% higher linear resolution.
  • Better low-light imaging: Features bigger pixels on a larger sensor for better high-ISO images.
  • Better video: Provides higher movie framerates (1080/60p versus 1080/30p).
  • Easier framing: Has an electronic viewfinder for image framing and settings control.
  • More detailed LCD: Has a higher resolution rear screen (1230k vs 1037k dots).
  • Faster shutter: Has higher mechanical shutter speed (8000/sec vs 4000/sec) to freeze action.
  • Better sealing: Is weather sealed to enable shooting in dusty or wet environments.
  • More heavily discounted: Has been available for much longer (launched in October 2013).

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Arguments in favor of the Olympus PEN E-PL8:

  • Fewer buttons to press: Has a touchscreen to facilitate handling and shooting adjustments.
  • Faster burst: Shoots at higher frequency (8 vs 5 flaps/sec) to capture the decisive moment.
  • More compact: Is smaller (115x67mm vs 127x94mm) and will fit more readily into a bag.
  • Less heavy: Has a lower weight (by 117g or 25 percent) and is thus easier to take along.
  • Sharper images: Has stabilization technology build-in to reduce the impact of hand-shake.
  • More affordable: Was introduced into a lower priced category (68 percent cheaper at launch).
  • More modern: Reflects 2 years and 11 months of technical progress since the A7 launch.

If the count of relative strengths (bullet points above) is taken as a measure, the A7 comes out slightly ahead of the E-PL8 (8 : 7 points). However, the relevance of individual strengths will vary across photographers, so that you might want to apply your own weighing scheme to the summary points when reflecting and deciding on a new camera.

A7 08:07 E-PL8

In any case, while the comparison of the spec-sheets of cameras can offer a general idea of their imaging potential, it says nothing about, for example, the handling, responsiveness, and overall imaging quality of the A7 and the E-PL8 in practical situations. User reviews that are available, for instance, at amazon can sometimes shed light on these issues, but such feedback is all too often partial, inconsistent, and inaccurate. This is why expert reviews are important. The adjacent table relays the overall verdicts of several of the most popular camera review sites (cameralabs, dpreview, ephotozine, imaging-resource, photographyblog). You can find the full text of the reviews by clicking on the site logo in the table header.

Review Scores
  Camera
Model
cameralabs dpreview ephotozine imaging-resource photographyblog Camera
Launch
(announced)
Launch
Price
(USD)
Street
Price
(USD)
Used
Price
(USD)
Camera
Model
Sony A7»HiRec80/1005/54.5/55/5 Oct 2013 1,699- i Sony A7
Olympus E-PL8«--4.5/5-4/5 Sep 2016 549- i Olympus E-PL8
Nikon D610« »HiRec87/1004.5/54.5/54.5/5 Oct 2013 1,999 i i Nikon D610
Olympus E-PL9« »Rec-4.5/5-4/5 Feb 2018 549 i i Olympus E-PL9
Olympus E-M10 III« »Rec80/1004.5/5-4.5/5 Aug 2017 649 i i Olympus E-M10 III
Olympus E-M10 II« »HiRec80/1005/55/55/5 Aug 2015 799- i Olympus E-M10 II
Olympus E-PL7« »Rec-5/54.5/54/5 Aug 2014 599- i Olympus E-PL7
Olympus E-PL6« »----- May 2013 599- i Olympus E-PL6
Panasonic GH4« »HiRec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2014 1,499- i Panasonic GH4
Sony A7 III« »HiRec89/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2018 1,999 i i Sony A7 III
Sony A6300« »Rec85/1005/55/55/5 Feb 2016 999- i Sony A6300
Sony A6500« »HiRec85/1004.5/55/54.5/5 Oct 2016 1,399 i i Sony A6500
Sony A7 II« »Rec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Nov 2014 1,999- i Sony A7 II
Sony A7S« »-86/1004.5/54.5/55/5 Apr 2014 2,499- i Sony A7S
Sony A7R« »HiRec82/1004.5/55/55/5 Oct 2013 2,299- i Sony A7R
Sony A3000« »Rec-4/54.5/54/5 Aug 2013 329- i Sony A3000
Sony RX1R« »--4/5rev4.5/5 Jun 2013 2,799- i Sony RX1R

The above review scores should be interpreted with care, though. The ratings are only valid when refering to cameras in the same category and of the same age. A score, therefore, has to be seen in close connection to the price and market introduction time of the camera, and comparisons of ratings among very different cameras or across long time periods have little meaning. It should also be noted that some of the review sites have over time altered the way they render their verdicts.

 

Other camera comparisons

Did this review help to inform your camera decision process? If you would like to see a different side-by-side camera review, just use the search menu below. There is also a set of direct links to comparison reviews that other users of the CAM-parator app explored. If you do not see the camera that you are looking for, kindly get in touch, and I will try to add information on that model to the database.

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