Reviews and Problems with Olympus SP-550 UltraZoom
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Olympus SP-550 UZ
26 October 2007
Conclusion: With a whopping 18X optical-zoom lens and image stabilization, there's a lot to like about the Olympus SP-550 UZ, but a few features need to be enhanced for it to become king of the superzooms.
Pros: Enormous zoom range, which starts with a true wide-angle view. Mechanical and digital image stabilization. Some innovative ISO and burst-mode functions. Helpful guide mode.
Cons: Some issues with video capabilities. Some controls could be better designed, especially the zoom level. No articulating LCD. Mediocre boot time. A bit pricey.
Conclusion: You have to be careful when reviewing cameras that you take a realistic view of how the typical buyer will actually use it, and what they can realistically expect it to do. I say this because the SP-550UZ gave us one of the most time-consuming, frustrating lab tests we've ever done. Why?
Pros: Amazing 18x zoom range, Truly versatile 28-504mm range, with real wideangle, Comprehensive and extensive feature set, Effective Image Stabilization system (good for two stops), Decent resolution, Good, though by no means class-leading results at lower ISO settings, Generally natural color rendition (slightly anemic reds aside), Raw mode (with JPEG duplicate options), Superb battery life, Excellent handling & build quality, Decent electronic viewfinder, Nice screen - g...
Cons: Images lack biting crispness, some loss of fine detail to noise reduction, Some corner softness at long end of zoom, Distortion throughout the zoom range, Focus slow at long end of zoom and in low light, Occasional focus errors (where the camera says it's in focus and it isn't), Full resolution burst mode unimpressive, Purple fringing and chromatic aberration (fairly mild, but visible), Slow file writing (xD-Picture Card), Poor artificial light Auto White Balance and ...
Summary: The Olympus SP-550 UZ shakes up the ultra zoom category with an 18x optical zoom that starts at a beautiful 28mm wide-angle coverage to the longest telephoto available so far at 504mm. No longer playing catch up to its competitors, the SP-550 UZ now includes CCD-shift image stabilization to help eliminate camera shake when using long focal lengths. This camera is packed with features
that should appeal to the serious amateur photographer.
Conclusion: Olympus is to be congratulated for taking the mega zoom category up a level to 18x—and it appears this will be the most powerful model in 2007. Where Olympus continues to fall short is beefing up its processing so its cameras can move quickly rather than forcing photographers to wait for it to save files.
Pros: 7.1-megapixel camera with potent 18x optical zoom; Dual Image Stabilization
Summary: The Olympus SP-550UZ is certainly a very impressive camera in many respects. Most obviously its massive 18x optical zoom range is quite remarkable to use in practice. Unlike the vast majority of super-zoom compacts, the ability to zoom-out to a decent wide-angle equivalent of 28mm could be enough to sell it to many people. But it’s when you start zooming in that the camera continues to surprise even after regular use: it just keeps getting closer and closer.
Pros: Massive 18x optical range with wide angle., Effective built-in image stabilisation., Great build quality and ergonomics., Closest focusing distance of just 1cm.
Cons: Some coloured fringing when zoomed-in., General softness throughout range., Quite leisurely startup and shutdown speed., Screen doesn't flip-out.
Summary: Olympus's super-zooms have come of age, with a stabilised 18x lens that's fast, sharp and stable. Image quality is still a step below a DSLR, but the combinatin of 7MP resolution, compact size and full manual controls makes the SP-550UZ a tempting propostion. I bought this camera a few months ago, but i'm quite satisfied with it. The super long zoom is really useful and the pictures it takes are not bad. However, the camera isn't really good in low lighting conditions.
Summary: The Olympus SP-550UZ is a great camera that will suit people after a little more zoom in their life. The images could have used some minor improvements, but the huge zoom and fantastic design make this a worthwhile choice for some buyers.
Pros: 18x optical zoom, Great design, Low chromatic aberration, ISO 5000
Cons: Pictures a little soft, Colour could use some improvement, Regular burst mode sluggish
Summary: A compact digicam with the longest zoom range on the market and some features to appeal to travellers and photo enthusiasts.When Olympus announced its SP550 UZ, the world's first 18x zoom digicam, in late January it attracted considerable attention worldwide but we had to wait until mid-May to get our hands on a review unit.