Olympus SP-720UZ Review

December 6, 2012 | Matt Grayson | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Olympus recently reshaped the structure of their digital cameras to make it easier to understand. The SP-720UZ now falls under the Traveller range of cameras. This type of camera is a high zoom all-in-one model with easy functionality and lots of fun things to try out while you're exploring the world. Featuring a 14 megapixel resolution, 26x optical zoom and 1080p FullHD video, the Olympus SP-720UZ is priced at around £150 and is available in black or silver.

Ease of Use

Superzooms can be a bit of an awkward camera to use. The problem that they have is that they're blocky and cumbersome. They're not very good for nights out as they can't fit into a pocket and they don't have the same manual features seen on a Bridge camera. So what is the point in them? Who buys a superzoom? Well someone does otherwise they'd die out. The ideal person to use this type of camera is someone who likes to travel - either in the UK or abroad and wants to take as many pictures of various things as they can. However, they either don't want or don't care for the intricacies of a DSLR. They want point and shoot simplicity.

The Olympus SP-720UZ seems perfect for this because it's packed with features suitable for the photographer on the go. The 14 megapixel sensor is a CMOS which isn't as sharp as a CCD but is certainly more efficient - ideal for long journeys without chance of charging the battery. To add to the list of benefits for people with itchy feet, the SP-720UZ also sports a 26x optical zoom. At it's widest, the lens gives you a view of 26mm in 35mm terms. The full zoom will push that up to a hefty 676mm. To get that kind of pull in a DSLR, you're looking at paying around £10,000.

Olympus SP-720UZ Olympus SP-720UZ
Front Rear

To house this large zoom, the camera has had to be made that bit bigger. It's more square so the design resembles more of a DSLR than a compact camera. To add to this, Olympus have added a large grip on the right which makes it easier to hold. The correct position to place the other hand is under the lens and give it support. The built-in flash flops over the lens barrel and is a hand operated version. To the right of the flash is a large command dial with seven options on it. This has a replaced the more frequently seen on-screen version. It's firm to operate, but not difficult. The dial slots into place and won't budge easily. A small power button is situated next to the dial and the shutter release - which sports a wrap around zoom switch - is found at the far end of the grip.

On the back of the Olympus SP-720UZ, the large screen occupies most of the available space. A small video button sits in the top right shoulder. A small thumb rest is next to it. Because of the aforementioned command dial, there's only two buttons joining the navigation pad. The top button accesses the playback screen while the bottom one accesses the Main menu. There's still a quick access menu which can be found by pressing the OK button in the centre of the navigation pad.

Olympus SP-720UZ Olympus SP-720UZ
Top Front

The seven shooting modes on the command dial include Program (P), Beauty, Magic (digital filters), Panorama, 3D, Scenes (SCN) and iAuto. The latter is an intelligent auto mode that will analyse the scene and select the appropriate mode for what it sees. The Magic mode has 12 separate filters to make your pictures look prettier. For example, there's the typical Miniature, Pop Art, Pin Hole (usually called Toy Camera), Soft Focus and Watercolour. But the SP-720UZ has a couple of different ones called Fragmented and Dramatic. Fragmented mode takes the photograph and divides it up into smaller rectangles. It gives the appearance that someone has taken lots of individual photos of the scene, printed them up and put them all together. Dramatic mode uses what looks like HDR inspired effects to create a cartoonish high contrast and gritty effect. It has strong colours and halo effects so use it sparingly.

The Olympus SP-720UZ appears to be well made. The body is solid and free from shakes and flexing.  The lens has a slight movement to it at full zoom but that's to be expected and it's considerably less than what we've seen in other big zooms that we've been satisfied with. The doors on the camera let it down a bit. The cover for the HDMI and USB port is a flimsy plastic door that flaps around when not in place. The battery door hasn't got a lock on it and while it seems to have a lot of movement on the hinge, the actual door seems solid enough. On the back, the buttons are firm and responsive. The menu is fast to react until you're in the Magic mode then it all slows down. It's as though the amount of data is too much for the processor to work with. Scrolling through the options is painfully slow - as though it's buffering.

Olympus SP-720UZ Olympus SP-720UZ
Pop-up Flash Side

The main menu of the SP-720UZ is split into several different sections. They're tabbed to the left so you can flick through them quickly. There's four sections for Shooting, Video, Playback and Set-up. In the Main menu, you can set more core features of the camera such as the metering mode, focus and image stabiliser systems. In the Set-up you can change the language, format the card (hard erase), Pixel map, and adjust the date & time. The menu has a black background with a futuristic black checked floor going off into the distance. The lettering is white with the highlight bar in yellow. Wherever you are, a small line of text will appear at the bottom to guide you in that particular menu.

From a cold start, the Olympus SP-720UZ takes around three seconds to get the lens out, focus and take a picture. That's slightly slower than the average of around 2.5 seconds. There are four continuous shooting modes: two Sequential and two Hi-Speed modes. The first mode (Sequential 1) takes three frames per second for the first two seconds. It then has to download those pictures which took us up to 13 seconds (in total). The second continuous mode (sequential 2) takes six pictures in around 2 seconds but has a delay of around a second. Olympus say that this is faster than Sequential 1 so why they bother with the first option is anyone's guess. Switching to the Hi-Speed modes increases the frame rate but at the cost of resolution. The camera drops res to around 5 megapixel and shoots about 60 frames in five seconds. The problem is that it takes another minute to download the information. The screen clears at around 45 seconds though. In Hi-Speed 2, the camera takes 40 pictures in three seconds and followed a similar pattern with opening up the camera screen before downloading had finished.

Olympus SP-720UZ Olympus SP-720UZ
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

Pressing the blue arrow button on the back of the Olympus SP-720UZ transports you to the playback screen. Here you can look at all the pictures you've already taken. By default, there'll be basic information about the photograph such as the date & time. Pressing the Info button will scroll through various viewing options. The best one if you want to improve your photographic knowledge shows the picture as a thumbnail and all picture information surrounding it such as shooting mode, ISO, white-balance, resolution, aperture and shutter speed. There's also a handy histogram to tell you if the picture is under, over or perfectly exposed. Hit the Main menu button and you automatically skip to the playback section. There's no separate menu like you'd find in other manufacturer's cameras. In the playback section, you can create a slide-show, edit the picture which includes basic tools such as resize and crop or beauty, shadow and red-eye fix. There's also provision to erase pictures, set up a Print Order, lock images to prevent them getting accidentally erased, rotate them and set an Upload Order.

In the box there's a lithium ion battery with provision to charge it, a neck strap and lens cap. There are appropriate cables such as USB and video as well as a quick start guide with the full manual on the provided CD. This CD also contains Olympus Viewer 2 - a viewing suite for your pictures if you currently have nothing like that on your computer.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 14 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 6.5Mb.


Noise performance on the Olympus SP-720UZ and - indeed - on many of the new digital compacts that the company have released seem to have a painted feeling about the pictures. This indicates an application of noise reduction, which is pretty worrying when it can be seen at ISO 100. Still, contrasting lines and edges are sharp with no degradation that you'd normally see if noise was being too much of a pest.

At ISO 200, there's definitely evidence of noise in darker areas although this can only really be seen at full magnification. Noise reduction starts to block the colour invasion by desaturating colour from the picture. Unfortunately this also means removing colour from the picture that needs to be there so the pictures start to look a little flat. At ISO 800, the camera gets a hold of the noise and the quality improves slightly. There's still plenty of JPEG artefacts in the image and some loss of colour.

However, at ISO 1600, the noise rages back into the pictures and edge definition starts to deteriorate. Coloured spots start to appear bigger and more colourful while colours that should be in the picture dissipate even further. By the final ISO 3200 shot, image quality is nearly gone. All types of noise aggressively attack the picture with blotches of green and blue all over. Saying that. It's not the worst case we've seen at this setting so it's not all doom and gloom.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)


ISO 400 (100% Crop)

ISO 800 (100% Crop)


ISO 1600 (100% Crop)

ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The focal length of the SP-720UZ is 4.66-121.2mm or, to put it a way we all understand: 26 - 676mm (in 35mm terms). Barrel distortion is evident at the widest setting, but that's to be expected.




The processor of the SP-720UZ sharpens the pictures to within an inch of their lives so we found that the pictures don't really need a boost.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


Chromatic Aberrations

We managed to find traces of chromatic aberration but only in high contrast areas. It's most noticeable in the branches of trees but don't get that mixed up with lens flare.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


There are two macro modes but only one that really needs to be addressed. The macro mode has a close focusing of just 30cm (the same distance if you leave it on normal focusing) but can get to 1cm in Supermacro. There's a lot of lens distortion at this setting if you have any straight lines in the shot. There's also a lot of image fall off with only the centre of the frame really being sharp.


Macro (100% Crop)


Adding flash to pictures these days doesn't tend to show because of the progression in technology has made them more intelligent. On the SP-720UZ it is possible to see that the flash has been used. However, the camera doesn't seem to suffer from vignetting even without the flash.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (26mm)

Flash Off - Telephoto (676mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (676mm)

We didn't get any issues with red-eye either but there's a red-eye reduction flash option if you decide you want to use it. The red-eye system uses a strobing flash to reduce the size of the pupil and reduce the amount of red-eye in the picture. The remaining colour can be removed in post processing if desired.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Night scene mode has produced a nice shot that's sharp, well exposed and has a decent colour cast to it. In Night mode, the camera extends the shutter speed to allow for longer exposures. Program mode doesn't have that luxury so the picture looks a lot darker.

Night Program

Night Program (100% Crop)


Night Scene

Night Scene (100% Crop)

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus SP-720UZ camera, which were all taken using the 14 megapixel Fine JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the highest quality setting of 1920x1080 pixels at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 43 second movie is 98.1Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Pop-up Flash

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera


Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Top of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Side of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Side of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-720UZ

Memory Card Slot

Olympus SP-720UZ

Battery Compartment



The Olympus SP-720UZ is a camera aimed squarely at the traveller who wants that little bit more out of their picture taking machine without all the hullabulloo of understanding shutter speeds and apertures. It offers point and shoot simplicity with the large zoom of a bridge camera and all the associated interesting remarks from passers by.

We enjoyed using the camera, we liked the fact that we took it straight out of the bag and it was ready to go. It's a little slow at focusing so we didn't get the exact bird shots we wanted as the birds were too fast for us. However, we love the colours that it produces and the sharpness from the processor. The metering seems to work well as the camera coped with complex light. We did find that from time to time we had to cheat and take a meter reading from the horizon to get a mixture of well exposed sky and land. Still, the end justifies the means. The end in this case being a decent set of photographs.

The SP-720UZ is built as well as you'd expect from a camera in this classification. It's a plastic body with some elements of metal in the framework but it's still allergic to being dropped. The lithium ion battery is more useful for long journeys out as it will last a good couple of days of heavy use.

For £150, you can't really go wrong with the Olympus SP-720UZ. Other than if you think you'll need more out of your camera but in that case you need to spend more anyway. For that price, you can take it abroad, put it through its paces and not have to worry too much. The filters will keep you entertained while you flick through them and see which will be the best to apply to that picture.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 3.5
Features 4
Ease-of-use 4
Image quality 4
Value for money 4

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus SP-720UZ from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

The SP-720UZ has a 14 megapixel CMOS sensor and 26x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 26-676mm, with Dual Image Stabilisation to help keep images as sharp and blur free as possible.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor

  • Effective pixels

    14 Megapixels

  • Filter array

    Primary colour filter (RGB)

  • Full resolution

    14.4 Megapixels

  • Type

    1/2.3'' CMOS


  • Optical zoom

    26x (WIDE)

  • Focal length

    4.7 - 121.2mm

  • Focal length (equiv. 35mm)

    26 - 676mm

  • Maximum aperture

    3.2 - 5.6

  • Structure

    14 lenses / 10 groups

  • Aspherical glass elements


  • ED glass elements


Digital Zoom

  • Enlargement factor

    4x / 104x combined with optical zoom


  • Resolution

    460000 dots

  • Monitor size

    7.6cm / 3.0''

  • Monitor type


  • Frame assistance


  • Brightness adjustment

    +/- 2 levels

  • Protection panel


Focusing System

  • Method

    TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection

  • Modes

    • iESP
    • Face Detection AF
    • Spot
    • AF Tracking
  • Standard mode

    0.3m - ∞ (wide) / 2.2m - ∞ (tele)

  • Macro mode

    0.3m - ∞ (wide) / 2.2m - ∞ (tele)

  • Super Macro Mode

    Closest focusing distance: 1cm

  • AF illuminator


Light Metering

  • Modes

    • ESP light metering
    • Spot metering
  • Histogram in shooting mode


Exposure System

  • Modes

    • i-Auto
    • Programme automatic
    • Scene Modes
    • Magic Filter
    • Panorama
    • Movie
    • 3D Photos
    • Beauty & Make-up
  • Shutter speed

    1/2 - 1/1400s / < 4s (Night scene)

  • Exposure compensation

    +/- 2EV / 1/3 steps

  • Enhancement function

    Mechanical Image Stabiliser

  • Advanced Face Detection Technology

  • Advanced Face Detection Technology

  • Pet Detection

Scene Modes

  • Number of scene modes


  • Modes

    • Portrait
    • Landscape
    • Night Scene
    • Night Scene with portrait
    • Sports
    • Indoor
    • Candle
    • Self-portrait
    • Sunset
    • Fireworks
    • Cuisine
    • Documents
    • Beach and Snow
    • Pet (cat)
    • Pet (dog)
    • Backlight HDR

Magic Filter

  • Types

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Drawing
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Sparkle
    • Water color
    • Reflection
    • Miniature
    • Fragmented
    • Dramatic


  • Auto

    AUTO / High AUTO

  • Manual

    ISO 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200

White Balance

  • AUTO WB system


  • One-touch white balance

    2 custom settings can be registered

  • Preset values

    • Overcast
    • Sunlight
    • Tungsten
    • Flourescent 1

Internal Flash

  • Modes

    • AUTO
    • Red-eye reduction
    • Fill-in
    • Off
  • Working range (wide)

    0.5 - 6.0m (ISO 1000)

  • Working range (tele)

    2.2 - 5.0m (ISO 1000)

Sequence Shooting

  • Sequential shooting mode (high speed)

    30fps / 40 frames (in 5MP mode)

  • 10fps / 40 frames (in 5MP mode)

  • 5fps / 6 frames (Full Image Size)

  • Sequential shooting mode

    2.0fps / 6 frames (Full Image Size)

Image Processing

  • Noise reduction


  • Pixel mapping


  • Engine

    TruePic III+

  • Shading compensation


  • Distortion compensation


Image Editing

  • Resize


  • Trimming


  • Correction of saturation


  • Beauty Fix


  • Red-eye reduction


  • Shadow Adjustment


View Images

  • Modes

    • Single
    • Index
    • Zoom
    • Slide show
    • Event
  • Index

    5 x 4 frames

  • Zoom

    1.1 - 10x

  • Auto rotation


  • Image protect mode


  • Histogram in playback mode


View Movie

  • Modes

    • Frame by frame
    • Fast forward
    • Reverse playback

Still Image Recording

  • DCF


  • RAW


  • EXIF


  • PIM


  • DPS


  • DPOF


Movie Recording System

  • Recording format

    QuickTime Motion JPEG®

  • Image Stabilisation Mode

    Sensor shift

  • HD Movie quality

    1080P Recording time: 29min.

  • 720P Recording time: 29min.

  • Movie quality

    VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity

  • Note: maximum file size 4GB

  • When shooting 1080P/720P movies, use SDHC / SDXC class 6 or higher.

  • Magic Filter

    • Pop Art
    • Pin Hole
    • Fisheye
    • Drawing
    • Soft Focus
    • Punk
    • Water color
    • Reflection
    • Miniature

Sound Recording System

  • Voice playback


  • Sound recording

    Yes , format: PCM

  • Image footage


  • Speaker



  • Removable Media

    SD / SDHC / SDXC (UHS speed class not supported)

  • Eye-Fi Card compatible


  • Internal memory


Image Size

  • 14M

    4288 x 3216

  • 8M

    3264 x 2448

  • 5M

    2560 x 1920

  • 3M

    2048 x 1536

  • 2M

    1600 x 1200

  • 1M

    1280 x 960

  • VGA

    640 x 480

  • 16:9

    4288 x 2416

  • 1920 x 1088


  • Menu languages in camera


Other Features

  • Self timer

    2 / 12s Pet auto shutter

  • Perfect Shot Preview


  • Menu guide


  • 3D Photo Shooting Mode


  • Panorama function

    In-Camera Panorama

  • Date imprint


Power Supply

  • Battery

    LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery

  • Internal Charging



  • SNS upload


  • DC input


  • Combined A/V & USB output


  • USB 2.0 High Speed


  • HDMI™

    Yes Micro connector (Type D) *

  • * "HDMI", the HDMI logo and "High-Definition Multimedia Interface" are trademarks or registered trademarks of HDMI Licensing LLC.


  • Dimensions (W x H x D)

    102.7 x 69.2 x 70.3mm

  • Weight


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