By Josh Fate
Timing Test Results
|The SP-800UZ is one of the most versatile cameras on the market today thanks to the 30x wide optical zoom lens. Combining the lens with its other features, performance and image quality make this an excellent ultra-zoom option. |
Pick This Up If...
|You are looking for a camera that will get as close or closer than any other camera, while still having a very good wide end. |
Although it is not a compact camera, it is much smaller than a dSLR and much more affordable. Especially when you consider the cost of the lenses that it would take to match the range of this Olympus. The large grip and simple controls on the right side of the camera allow for easy shooting, video recording and all other camera operations with just one hand. A second hand will definitely help when using the telephoto end of the zoom, as any shake in your hands will be increased dramatically with this lens. Also helping keep things stable is the dual image stabilization system, which includes digital and sensor-shift optical stabilization technologies. Framing and viewing your images is accomplished with its 3.0-inch, 230,000 dot extra-wide LCD screen. This display was easy to see in all lighting conditions thanks to the brightness adjustment options.
Looking at our outdoor image samples, you can see that the overall image quality is very good, producing excellent exposures and sharp images with good color in both Program and iAuto shooting modes. We did see some chromatic aberrations in high contrast areas, and when using the full telephoto zoom you will get some slightly out of focus images, even with the dual image stabilization working as shown in our Full Telephoto sample. This is because the telephoto end is so great the smallest movements become huge to the camera. We highly recommend you use some sort of camera support when using the telephoto extreme range of this camera. At the 28mm wide end you will see some barrel distortion as well, which is normal for a wide lens.
Our indoor images show accurate exposures and crisp images from side to side. At the lower ISO settings, you can see a great deal of detail throughout the image, all the way down to the threads in the flag. Even at ISO 400 and 800, you will get a usable image that will produce good prints, as long as they are not large posters. At these settings though, you will not see as many of the finer details in the image. Anything above 800 does not produce acceptable prints and shouldn't be used unless you have no other choice. Assisting with your low-light and indoor photography is the camera's built-in pop-up flash. Olympus does not list the effective flash range but it did very well in our sample shot, easily lighting our scene from 5ft. away at ISO 50. It should also have no problem lighting a medium sized room when using ISO Auto or one of the higher settings.
Portrait photography is very easy when the face detection function is turned on. This allows the camera to quickly detect and follow faces as they movie within the frame of the camera. The camera will then set the exposure, focus and white balance to ensure the best image possible based on the face. Our sample shows a great exposure and lifelike skin tones. With the help of the red-eye reduction flash, there was no redness at all in or around the area of the eye.
If you would ever run into a situation where a picture just isn't enough, the Olympus SP-800UZ is always ready to capture 720p HD movies with just one touch of the dedicated Video Recording button. This button works at any time, no matter what mode the camera is currently in. Although it can be set before hand, the 30x optical zoom is not available while you have recording movies. The video plays back fairly well, its smooth but it gets blurry with faster motions. There is also some visible noise within the video, especially in the darker areas of the image.
With just a built-in mono microphone, you will not get top-quality sound in your movies, but this mic is very sensitive and will pick up all sounds from around the camera. This is something to remember when you are recording something that is a good distance from you. This mic will also pick up a lot background noises, most of which you will not notice while you are recording. To avoid this be aware of your surroundings and try to stay out of the wind and away from A/C units and furnaces if they are running.
Powering the Sp-800UZ is a 3.7V, 925mAh rechargeable Li-Ion battery. This battery allowed us to easily complete all of our tests, capturing approx. 150 images on a single charge. This is pretty accurate with the 200 images that Olympus claims you can get from a charge. Although 200 images is descent for this sized camera and battery, you will definitely want to have a spare battery charged and on hand at all times. Thanks to the included quick charger, this is a very easy thing to do.
Bottom Line - Olympus's SP-800UZ is an Ultra-Zoom digicam featuring a mammoth 30x wide optical zoom lens. With a 14-Megapixel imaging sensor, iAuto shooting mode, 720p HD video capture and face detection, the zoom is not the only exciting feature. With very good image quality and performance, this camera is perfect for anyone looking for an easy to use digicam with as much versatility as possible. With a MSRP of US $349.99, this is a good deal for the amount of zoom range you are receiving.
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