Olympus SP-810UZ Review
The Olympus SP-810UZ is a new ultra-zoom digital compact camera with a large 36x optical zoom, 24mm wide-angle view and 14 megapixel resolution. Other features include a 3 inch LCD screen, 720p HD video, 3D shooting mode, SDXC card compatibility, AF Tracking, in-camera panorama stitching and a range of Magic Filter effects. The Olympus SP-810UZ is available in black or silver for £229.99 / $329.99.
Ease of Use
The first thing that struck us about the design of the Olympus SP-810UZ was how attractive it is. From the oversized lens barrel to the shiny plastic bits, the camera is good looking enough to attract admiring glances. Apart from the sharp angled grip and integrated flash that droops over the lens barrel, the large lens and smaller body design reminds us of the Sony NEX compact system cameras.
The design is reflective of previous models but the SP-810UZ looks a little more sleek and snazzy with its flush screen. The pop-up flash also sits slightly higher thanks to a redesign that incorporates the entire unit. The body is a little small to hold effectively with both hands and we had to curl our fingers underneath to hold the lens and not interfere with our right hand.
The increased zoom range takes the SP-810UZ from 30x to 36x, or 24-864mm in 35mm terms. That's enough to make even the wariest of wildlife feel uneasy. This eye-watering optical zoom is supported in a number of different ways. Firstly, Olympus have fitted ED glass and the camera houses two image stabilising methods to ensure the chances of a sharp picture. Obviously the more the zoom is used, the lower the angle of view and so less light can get into the lens.
More emphasis has been placed on the camera's handiness for travelling photographers. The lens plays an important role in this marketing strategy because it will be more likely to capture something without the inconvenience of actually having to walk there, useful if you're on the go. The dedicated video button ensures you can get instant video recording if required.
The camera is SDXC compatible which is great for ultra high storage, although the highest capacity so far is 64Gb. You could also look at Eye-Fi cards as the SP-810UZ is Eye-Fi compatible and it's a memory card that will automatically transmit its contents when it finds a free-of-charge wi-fi area.
The Olympus SP-810UZ feels very well built. There's a heaviness to it that feels nice when it's held and there are no bendy or flexible parts. There's practically no play in the lens whatsoever - which is nice - but it does pop out an uncomfortable amount adding length to an already protruding lens.
There are only a few buttons on the back of the SP-810UZ. At first we thought it was touch-screen and maybe we'd missed the blurb. It's not. Olympus have just been clever in the working of the menu system. To enter the function menu which is situated down the right side of the screen, simply turn the wheel and it will scroll through the options that the yellow arrow is hovered over. To move through the options, use the wheel as a navigation pad pressing up, down, left and right to move through.
The top option is also the mode menu and you can choose from program, intelligent auto, traditional scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports and 13 others), Panorama, 3D (needs a 3D TV or viewer to see the pictures) and Magic! Magic mode sounds wonderful but in reality it's a similar menu to the digital effects or filters that other manufacturers already use. There are some interesting new ones such as Punk, Sparkle, Watercolour and Reflection. The resolution drops to around 5 megapixels and some of them aren't available in video mode but the camera will at least tell you if it isn't an option.
The menu has been revamped to a modern black, grey and white style with highlighted lettering in yellow. Surprisingly, normally important modes such as resolution and focusing are in the main menu instead of the function menu for easier access.
The white-balance mode is interesting. Instead of a small icon to illustrate which option you've selected with the cast correction showing in the background, Olympus have opted to scroll through thumbnails of the background with the wording of the white-balance over it. If you're used to the icons, they're still used on the function menu task bar on the right side of the screen.
There are four burst modes on the Olympus SP-810UZ. They're categorised as burst mode, Hi1, Hi2 and Hi3. All four modes take sequential images but as you move through the numbers, the resolution gets lower which in turn increases the frame rate that the camera can shoot in. At full resolution, we managed to achieve an average frames per second of 1.6fps. In reality, the camera shoots three pictures in succession then has to stop to unload the buffer. The annoying thing about this is that if you want to continue shooting, you have to release the shutter button, refocus and carry on taking pictures. Start-up time is decent. We managed to start the camera up, focus and take a picture in just under three seconds.
|Memory Card Slot||Battery Compartment|
Shutter lag appears to be slower than other digital compact cameras available. Normal results are around 0.15 seconds which - when you put it in perspective - is still good at just over a tenth of a second. But we've had results at 0.08 second from other cameras which is nearly half that speed. We did get that result once in the test but the most frequent results we got were at the slower speed. Focusing is thankfully pretty fast, it finds subjects without too much hunting.
In playback, you can zoom in and out to get a better view either closing in to check focusing or zooming out to see a collection of the pictures you've taken that day. Hitting the menu button opens up the same menu system as found in the shooting mode but the camera jumps straight to the playback options.
There's the option to perform basic editing on the pictures during playback. It's in the menu and you can crop pictures and use Beauty Fix which removes red-eye, smooths skin, makes eyes sparkle and adds drama to the eyes. You can choose these options individually or employ all of them. It's possible to increase the dynamic range using shadow adjust. It creates more detail in dark areas, makes exposures more even and essentially removes contrast.
Olympus have kept the paperwork to a minimum in the box of the SP-810UZ. There's only a warranty card, Basic Manual and CD software which contains Olympus Viewer 2, registration help and full instruction manuals. The camera also comes with a lens cap, strap, lithium ion battery and charger.
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.
All sample images in this review were taken in the highest resolution and compression with the exception of the quality test. At the highest 14 megapixel resolution, the Olympus SP-810UZ pictures are around 6.5Mb. Knocking the compression down from high to normal, image output is around 3.5Mb. Detail is a little tighter on the highest setting but if you need memory card space and don't want to compromise on the pixel count, try it at normal compression instead of high.
The ISO range of the Olympus SP-810UZ starts at ISO 64 and goes up to an arguably mediocre ISO 1600. Pictures at the lowest setting are very sharp, smooth and have sublime edge definition. We zoomed into 100% magnification and could just about make out some faint colour noise in the dark areas but it's certainly nothing to worry about. This continues through to ISO 100.
Disappointingly, salt and pepper noise starts to creep in at ISO 200 which affects edge definition. Colour noise can also be seen in some areas of mid tone colour. The white flecks become more common as the camera rises through the settings. At ISO 800, the images take on a slight purple cast and areas that were sharp are more blurry. The final ISO 1600 setting explains why the settings stop there. Definition can be seen but mid tone greys turn purple giving the pictures a garish quality.
ISO 64 (100% Crop)
ISO 100 (100% Crop)
ISO 200 (100% Crop)
ISO 400 (100% Crop)
ISO 800 (100% Crop)
ISO 1600 (100% Crop)
The Olympus SP-810UZ's 36x lens has an extremely versatile focal range, as demonstrated by the examples below.
One area of the Olympus that we're impressed with is how sharp the pictures are. Sure, they can enjoy a boost in sharpening from Adobe Photoshop but the pictures are suitably sharp on their own.
Original (100% Crop)
Sharpened (100% Crop)
The Olympus SP-810UZ has two file quality settings, Fine and Normal. Here are a couple of 100% crops which show the quality of the two options.
|14M Fine (100% Crop)||14M Normal (100% Crop)|
Sadly, despite the sharp qualities of the lens on the Olympus SP-810UZ, we did find evidence of chromatic aberration. It sprouted up more prominently on hard edged high contrast images as purple fringing.
Example 1 (100% Crop)
There are two macro features on the Olympus SP-810UZ. Normal macro has a close focusing of around 30cm which is a bit poor in both getting close and showing detail. The Super Macro mode has a close focusing of 5cm which might make you wonder why they put the normal macro mode in at all? Well, in super macro, you can't use the zoom.
Macro isn't just about getting the lens as near to the subject as possible. We found that we could incorporate the zoom function for some macro shots. However, the camera will also focus on distant shots in normal focus mode. In fact, normal focusing has the same range as macro which – once again – opens up the question; Why bother? It's probably just put in there so consumers feel comfortable. After all, whoever heard of a digital camera that didn't have a macro mode? Even if it didn't need it?
Aside from these queries, the macro mode works well enough, just don't expect to marvel. We've seen much better results from other compacts in terms of getting in close.
The flash on the Olympus SP-810UZ is a flip up type. It sits over the lens barrel and is designed like modern DSLRs where the flash faces down when not in use. This ensures that as much height as possible is given to eradicate red-eye.
Light spread is even and no vignetting occurs with or without flash. Aside from the auto setting, there's also a red-eye reduction option, flash on and flash off.
|Flash On (100% Crop)|
Red Eye Reduction
Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)
We discovered that when shooting at night with the SP-810UZ, it's best to use the night scene mode, simply because the program mode doesn't allow long enough exposures to create a decent image. However, we think that the white-balance could be more balanced. Even with a yellow glow from the street lights, the orange cast produced was deeper than in real life. With a 2 second exposure, we had to use a tripod and the camera will be programmed to know this so knocking the ISO down to 100 instead of ISO 250 and using a longer shutter speed would be better for getting rid of the intrusive noise. It's a good result though and in night mode, the only thing you're allowed to change is the self timer meaning that we didn't have to touch the camera before it started exposing.
Night Shot (100% Crop)
This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus SP-810UZ 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
Front of the Camera
Rear of the Camera
Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed
Rear of the Camera / Turned On
Rear of the Camera / Info Menu
Rear of the Camera / Main Menu
Top of the Camera
Bottom of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Side of the Camera
Memory Card Slot
Olympus have produced a really nice camera in the SP-810UZ. The user interface is easy to understand and navigate, the LCD screen is clear and bright and the menu system isn't too exhausting. On the build side, it's not sparkling - it looks nice and has a lot of shiny plastic but that soon starts to wear.
The Olympus SP-810UZ's biggest selling point is obviously its zoom range - 36x is simply mind boggling. Take a look at the zoom sample on Page 2, it's difficult to see the church spire in the wide angle shot. We're also impressed with how sharp the pictures are, even with noise in them. We zoomed fully out to get a shot of the moon and got a sharp image hand-held on a late January afternoon. Where the moon starts to go dark, all the craters on its pitted surface can be made out.
At 14 megapixels, the SP-810UZ doesn't sport the highest resolution but it's certainly high enough for most people's needs. Even at the highest setting, we still found that images are relatively small and on a 1Gb card, we had plenty of space, enough for a day out with the family.
We like the brightness of the LCD screen which is good because there's no viewfinder even though this is a superzoom and as such they usually have at least an electronic version. We find a viewfinder helps to focus on what's happening in the picture without any distractions in our peripheral vision. Still, even though we had our reservations, we managed to get plenty of sharp pictures even at full zoom and hand-held.
The Olympus SP-810UZ is a moderately priced camera at around the £200 / $300 mark. This brings it into the most popular price bracket for amateur and happy-snapper consumers. If you're looking for a new point and shoot digital compact camera with a typical £200-250 budget but you still want something out of the ordinary, then the Olympus SP-810UZ more than fits the bill.
|Ratings (out of 5)|
|Value for money||4.5|
|Effective pixels||14 Megapixels|
|Filter array||Primary colour filter (RGB)|
|Full resolution||14.5 Megapixels|
|Type||1/2.3 '' CCD sensor|
|Optical zoom||36 x (WIDE)|
|Focal length||4.3 - 154.8 mm|
|Focal length (equiv. 35mm)||24 - 864 mm|
|Maximum aperture||2.9 - 5.7|
|Structure||16 lenses / 14 groups|
|Aspherical glass elements||5|
|ED glass elements||3|
|Enlargement factor||4 x / 144 x combined with optical zoom|
|Monitor size||7.6 cm / 3.0 ''|
|Brightness adjustment||+/- 2 levels|
|Method||TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection|
|Modes||iESP, Face Detection AF, Spot, AF Tracking|
|Standard mode||0.3m - ∞ (wide) / 2.9m - ∞ (tele)|
|Makro mode||0.3m - ∞ (wide) / 2.9m - ∞ (tele)|
|Super Macro mode||Closest focusing distance: 5 cm|
|Modes||ESP light metering, Spot metering|
|Histogram in shooting mode||Yes|
|Modes||i-Auto, Programme automatic, Scene Modes, Magic Filter, Panorama, Movie, 3D Photos|
|Shutter speed||1/2 - 1/1400 s / < 4 s (Night scene)|
|Exposure compensation||+/- 2 EV / 1/3 steps|
|Enhancement function||Mechanical Image Stabiliser
Advanced Face Detection Technology
|Number of scene modes||16|
|Modes||Portrait, Beauty, Landscape, Night Scene, Night Scene with portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach and Snow, Pet (cat), Pet (dog)|
|Types||Pop Art, Pin Hole, Fisheye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, Water color, Reflection, Miniature|
|Auto||AUTO / High AUTO|
|Manual||ISO 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600|
|AUTO WB system||Yes|
|One-touch white balance||2 custom settings can be registered|
|Preset values||Overcast, Sunlight, Tungsten, Flourescent 1|
|Modes||AUTO, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Off|
|Working range (wide)||0.5 - 6.0 m (ISO 1000)|
|Working range (tele)||2.9 - 5.0 m (ISO 1000)|
|Sequential shooting mode (high speed)||30 fps / 60 frames (in 2MP mode)
18.2 fps / 36 frames (in 3MP mode)
4.7 fps / 27 frames (in 5MP mode)
|Sequential shooting mode||0.73 fps / 200 frames (Full Image Size)|
|Correction of saturation||Yes|
|Modes||Single, Index, Zoom, Slide show, Event|
|Index||4x3 / 6x5 frames|
|Zoom||1.1 - 10 x|
|Image protect mode||Yes|
|Histogram in playback mode||Yes|
|Modes||Frame by frame, Fast forward, Reverse playback|
|Still Image Recording|
|Movie Recording System|
|Image Stabilisation Mode||No|
|HD Movie quality||720P Recording time: 29min.|
|Movie quality||VGA Recording time: Up to card capacity
QVGA Recording time: Up to card capacity
Note: maximum file size 4GB
|Magic Filter||Pop Art, Pin Hole, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Water color, Reflection|
|Sound Recording System|
|Sound recording||Yes , format: AAC|
|Image footage||4 s|
|Removable Media||SD / SDHC / SDXC|
|Eye-Fi Card compatible||Yes|
|Internal memory||14 MB|
|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 1080
|Menu languages in camera||39|
|Self timer||2 / 12 s Pet auto shutter|
|Perfect Shot Preview||Yes|
|3D photo shooting mode||Yes|
|Panorama function||In-Camera Panorama|
|My Mode||4 settings storable|
|Battery||LI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery|
|Combined A/V & USB output||Yes|
|USB 2.0 High Speed||Yes|
|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)||105.9 x 75.9 x 73.5 mm|
|Weight||413 g (including battery and memory card)|