Olympus SP-570 UZ Review
Topping Olympus' "SP" line is the new SP-570 UltraZoom. With a 10-megapixel imaging sensor, powerful 20x "wide" optical zoom lens, dual image stabilization, 2.7" LCD screen and Olympus TruePic III image processor, this is a full-featured "Prosumer" digicam. Offering fully automatic shooting as well as several scene and advanced modes, it gives you the freedom to be as creative as you want, while at the same time being easy enough for anyone to operate. There's also the ability to shoot using RAW format, which will allow you to capture the highest quality and detailed images possible, with complete editing control on the computer (as well as some in-camera options).
Similar to the SP-560 UZ from last year, the SP-570 has a very "well built" feeling to it. With all of the full manual settings, it gives you the control of a dSLR without the need for changing lenses. The zoom is controlled by turning the Zoom ring on the lens, which adds to its dSLR-like operation. Adjusting the zoom does take a little getting used to, however, as the zoom controls are a little touchy. There are also several ways to set the manual focus, including the lens ring control. Like past models, we found the menu system was very easy to navigate. The FUNC. menu gives you control over all the settings of the camera in one place, making it incredibly easy to make adjustments.
The new 2.7-inch HyperCrystal LCD screen was a great addition to the SP-570. This high contrast screen also has great color reproduction, giving you a better look at your images after you take them. The screen can easily be seen in any lighting condition, including direct sunlight. You also have the option of using the EVF (Electronic ViewFinder). It's not as impressive as the LCD screen, but it is easier to see in bright conditions. Just remember, this is a tiny LCD screen in the eyepiece, so it will not save battery power like an optical viewfinder would. We also found that both displays gain up nicely in low light situations, making framing much easier.
Performance from the SP-570 has not improved over the previous model. When turning the camera on, it took 3.2 seconds before the first image could be captured. The shutter lag was less that 1/10 of a second when prefocused, but took up to 7/10 of a second when allowing for autofocus. When shooting in single shot mode, I was able to capture 5 images in 9.2 seconds, which is barely under 2 seconds per image. When shooting with the flash, this time slowed slightly to 10.2 seconds for five images.
The camera es several burst modes. First is the continuous mode, that allowed the camera to capture 5 images in 4.6 seconds, a little faster than 1 per second without the flash and 5 images in 6.5 seconds with it. Next is Hi 1 mode, which changes the image size to 5M. Using it, I was able to capture 20 images is just 2.7 seconds. The last burst mode is Hi 2. This mode uses a 3M image size, but was able to capture 30 images in just 2.2 seconds. While these modes use a smaller image size setting, they offer great versatility when shooting things like your children's sporting events. Even the lowest 3M (Hi 2) setting can produce very usable 4x6-inch prints, while the 5M (Hi 1) setting should be able to create awesome 8x10s. All of these modes did fill the buffer at the listed amount of shots. The two high speed burst modes do not allow for use with the flash. All of our tests were completed using a Olympus H 1GB xD memory card, Program mode, ISO Auto, flash off and all other settings at the factory defaults unless otherwise noted. Results may vary depending on lighting conditions, battery power, memory card, camera settings, etc.
Image quality from the SP-570 is excellent indoors and out. Shooting outside produced clear and crisp images with very good exposures. The colors are sharp, vibrant and natural looking. Outdoor shooting can be a lot of fun with the powerful 20x optical zoom lens. It has a 35mm equivalent of 26-520mm, which provides a level of versatility that is not matched by many other cameras. The wide end is enough to fit even the largest landscape shots, while the zoom end can pick out a single object from that landscape. At the wide end you will see some barrel distortion as well as very slight edge softness throughout the zoom range. Chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) was controlled very well and not an issue in our samples.
When shooting indoors I did notice that there is a slight difference in the white balance if the flash is on or off. When it is off, the colors tend to be a little on the warm (yellow) side. This can be seen in our M&M man shots. The color was excellent, however, when the camera found faces. It then adjusts everything for the exposure and color of the face, allowing it to produce great portrait results. The built-in, pop-up flash, has a range of up to 21' at ISO 400, making it great for individual and group photography. It has enough power to illuminate close-up subject or allow you to shoot from across a mid-sized room. If this is not enough, there is a hot shoe on top that allows you to add a more powerful external flash unit; like the FL-36 we tested.
The SP-570 also takes very good videos. They show good exposure and color and run very smoothly when shooting at 30 fps. The sound is also crisp and clear with very little background noise. You can capture video at either 640x480 or 320x240 resolution with a frame rate of either 15 or 30 fps. There are also options for white balancing, metering, etc. The file sizes are a little large, so if you plan on taking a lot of videos, make sure you have plenty of available memory. One thing to remember, like the SP-560, the default setting for recording audio is off, you have to turn that on in the camera menu before you start.
Once again the SP-570 continues the use of four standard AA-type cells. This means you can use a variety of different batteries, and we highly recommend the use of NiMH cells. The best part about the use of AA-type batteries, however, is that in a bind you can pick up Alkaline cells just about anywhere. We found that the SP-570 is very good at conserving power, and allowed us to capture over 150 shots and several movies as well as conclude our other test on a single set of 2500mAh NiMH batteries.
Bottom Line - the Olympus SP-570 UZ is a very capable 10.1-megapixel Ultra-zoom camera that offers a variety of very nice features, including an awesome 20x Wide zoom lens. The image quality was excellent both indoors and out. The one disappointment is that its performance has not gotten any better from the previous model. With a street price of US$499 or less, this camera kit offers a decent deal when you consider the features and quality that you getting. It could also be a great choice for those who are not quite ready to take the leap into the dSLR world, but want plenty of options/controls. However, at this price range, you are getting real close to the cost of one of the several entry-level dSLR/lens kits on the market right now.
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