Olympus SP-820UZ Review

January 28, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star Half rating star


The Olympus SP-820UZ is the successor to last year's SP-810UZ camera. The Olympus SP-820UZ is an AA battery powered ultra-zoom digital compact camera with a 40x optical zoom, 22.4mm wide-angle view and a 14 megapixel CMOS sensor. Other standout features include a 3-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 460K dots, 1080p HD video with simultaneous photo and video capture, 240 frames per second slow-motion video mode, in-camera 360° panorama stitching, Backlight HDR mode and an extensive range of Magic Filter effects. The Olympus SP-820UZ is available in black or silver for £279.99 / €349.00 / $329.99.

Ease of Use

The Olympus SP-820UZ is very similar in design to the previous SP-810UZ model, so a lot of comments that we made about that camera apply equally to the SP-820UZ. The first thing that struck us about the design of the Olympus SP-820UZ 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-820UZ 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-820UZ from 36x to 40x, or 22.4-896mm 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.

Olympus SP-820UZ Olympus SP-820UZ
Front Rear

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 on the back 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-820UZ 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-820UZ 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.

Olympus SP-820UZ Olympus SP-820UZ
Pop-up Flash Side

There are only a few buttons on the back of the SP-820UZ. 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 press the Info button 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.

A new addition to the SP-820UZ is the shooting mode dial on top of the camera. You can choose from program, intelligent auto, traditional scene modes (portrait, landscape, sports and 13 others), Beauty, Panorama, Handheld Starlight, Photo with Movie Clip, 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 effects 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.

Olympus SP-820UZ Olympus SP-820UZ
Front Top

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-820UZ. 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 3fps. 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.

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 quickly without too much hunting or misses.

Olympus SP-820UZ Olympus SP-820UZ
Memory Card Slot Battery Compartment

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-820UZ. 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, and four AA batteries.

Image Quality

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

The Olympus SP-820UZ's handled noise pretty well. This camera produces noise-free JPEG images from ISO 80 to 400, with noise first appearing at ISO 800, not bad for a compact camera. The faster settings of 1600 and 3200 display a lot more noise and smearing of fine detail, with the fastest setting of 6400 best reserved for emergenices.

The SP-820UZ dealt with chromatic aberrations quite well, with purple fringing effects appearing only in high-contrast situations. The pop-up flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure. Macro performance is excellent, allowing you to fill the frame with a subject that is significantly smaller than a standard Compact Flash card.

The camera is not particularly well suited to night photography as you cannot dial in the necessary slow shutter speed yourself, but the Night Scene mode does its job in an urban setting. The range of Magic Filters are fun to use, while the Backlight HDR scene mode successfully combines several images taken at different exposures to increase the dynamic range.


The Olympus SP-820UZ offers 8 sensitivity settings at full resolution, ranging from ISO 50 to ISO 6400. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for each ISO setting:

ISO 80 (100% Crop)

ISO 100 (100% Crop)


ISO 200 (100% Crop)

ISO 400 (100% Crop)


ISO 800 (100% Crop)

ISO 1600 (100% Crop)


ISO 3200 (100% Crop)

ISO 6400 (100% Crop)

Focal Range

The Olympus SP-820UZ's 40x lens has an extremely versatile focal range of 22.4 - 896mm, as demonstrated by the examples below.




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are a little bit soft at the default sharpening setting, and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)


File Quality

The Olympus SP-820UZ 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 (5.48Mb) (100% Crop) 14M Normal (2.64Mb) (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations

The 40x zoom lens of the SP-820UZ handled chromatic aberrations pretty well for such a long zoom, but in some cases, coloured fringes were in evidence along contrasty edges.

Chromatic Aberrations 1 (100% Crop)

Chromatic Aberrations 2 (100% Crop)


The Olympus SP-820UZ has both a Macro and a Supermacro mode, albeit the zoom can only be used in the former. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)


The camera has a pop-up flash that has to be raised manually. The available flash settings include auto, redeye reduction, fill in, redeye + fill in and slow. In our test, the redeye effect was quite successfully removed through the use of the redeye removal function.

Flash Off - Wide Angle (22.5mm)

Flash On - Wide Angle (22.5mm)


Flash Off - Telephoto (896mm)

Flash On - Telephoto (896mm)

And here are some flash portraits. As you can see there's no red-eye in either mode.

Flash On

Flash On (100% Crop)

Red Eye Reduction

Red Eye Reduction (100% Crop)


The Olympus SP-820UZ is not very well suited to night photography, as you cannot use very slow shutter speeds. The photo below was taken in the Night Scene mode at a shutter speed of 1/2 second, aperture of f3 at ISO 200, with all parameters chosen by the camera at its own discretion. We've also included the same scene shot with the new Hand-held Starlight mode, which smears a lot of the fine detail, so try and use a tripod if at all possible


Night (100% Crop)


Hand-held Starlight

Hand-held Starlight (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation

The Olympus SP-820UZ has an Image Stabilisation mechanism built into the camera body, which allows you to take sharp photos at slower shutter speeds than other digital cameras. To test this, we took 2 handheld shots of the same subject with the same settings. The first shot was taken with Image Stabilisation turned off, the second with it turned on. As you can see, with Image Stabilisation turned on, the images are sharper than when it's turned off.

Shutter Speed / Focal Length

Image Stabilisation On (100% Crop)

Image Stabilisation Off (100% Crop)

1/5th / 22.4mm
1/4th / 896mm

Backlight HDR

The Backlight HDR scene mode combines several images taken at different exposures to increase the dynamic range.

Backlight HDR Off

Backlight HDR On

Magic Filters

The Olympus SP-820UZ has an extensive range of 12 Magic Filters. These examples demonstrate what each filter does.

Magic Filters Off

Pop Art

Pin Hole Fish Eye


Soft Focus

Punk Sparkle










The Olympus SP-820UZ offers two Panorama sizes, Standard and Wide, as shown below.

Panorama - Standard


Panorama - Wide

Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Olympus SP-820UZ 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 20 second movie is 46.3Mb in size.

Product Images

Olympus SP-820UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Front of the Camera / Turned On

Olympus SP-820UZ

Front of the Camera / Pop-up Flash

Olympus SP-820UZ

Isometric View

Olympus SP-820UZ

Isometric View

Olympus SP-820UZ

Isometric View

Olympus SP-820UZ

Isometric View

Olympus SP-820UZ

Rear of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Rear of the Camera / Image Displayed


Olympus SP-820UZ

Rear of the Camera / Turned On

Olympus SP-820UZ

Rear of the Camera / Info Menu

Olympus SP-820UZ

Rear of the Camera / Main Menu

Olympus SP-820UZ

Top of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Bottom of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Side of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Side of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Front of the Camera

Olympus SP-820UZ

Memory Card Slot

Olympus SP-820UZ

Battery Compartment


The Olympus SP-820UZ adds a lot of great features to a super-zoom camera that we already liked. This new model benefits from an even bigger 40x zoom lens, better image quality thanks to the new CMOS sensor, faster autofocusing, and more refined handling. The only fly-in-the-ointment is a signifcantly higher price tag on launch than its successor (at least in the UK), perhaps inevitable given all the new features, but still not very welcome at a time when compact camera prices are mainly falling.

The Olympus SP-820UZ's biggest selling point is obviously its zoom range - 40x is simply mind blowing in everyday use, although still not the biggest range in the super-zoom market. At 14 megapixels, the SP-820UZ doesn't sport the highest resolution but it's certainly high enough for most people's needs, and the CMOS sensor delivers much better images than the SP-810UZ's CCD sensor, with noise not rearing it's ugly head until ISO 800. This camera is also faster than its predecessor in most respects, with auto-focusing in particular feeling much quicker.

Despite it's increased feature-set and all-round snappier performance. the SP-820UZ still has a few important omissions that could put you off it altogether. There's still 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 other key missing feature is the complete lack of any manual shooting modes - the Program mode is as sophisticated as this camera gets, so more experienced users should look elsewhere.

The Olympus SP-820UZ is still a reasonably priced super-zoom camera at around the £250 / $300 mark, especially considering all the improvements. Best suited to the point-and-shoot user who wants one camera that can do it all in a straight-forward way, the new Olympus SP-820UZ certainly fits that description and comes Highly Recommended.

4.5 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4.5
Features 4.5
Ease-of-use 4.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 4

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Olympus SP-820UZ.

Canon PowerShot SX50 HS

The Canon PowerShot SX50 HS super-zoom camera has an astonishing 50x lens with a massive focal range of 24-1200mm. The Canon SX50 HS also offers a 12 megapixel back-illuminated CMOS sensor, 2.8 inch vari-angle LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, full manual controls, RAW format support, 10fps burst shooting and full 1080p HD movies. Read our detailed Canon PowerShot SX50 HS review complete with full-size JPEG, RAW and video samples to discover if it's the only camera you'll ever need...

Canon PowerShot SX500 IS

The Canon PowerShot SX500 IS is a pocket-friendly super-zoom camera with a remarkable 30x zoom lens. The Canon SX500 also offers 16 megapixels, a 3-inch LCD screen, full manual controls and 720p HD movies. Read our expert Canon PowerShot SX500 IS review to find out if it's the right camera for you.

Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR

The Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR is a bridge compact camera with a massive 30x zoom lens, full 1080p movies with stereo sound, 3 inch tilting LCD screen, 8fps burst shooting and a 16 megapixel back-illuminated EXR sensor with RAW support. Is this the only camera you'll ever need? Read our Fujifilm FinePix HS30EXR review to find out...

Fujifilm FinePix S4200

The new Fujifilm FinePix S4200 super-zoom camera boasts a 24x zoom lens, 14 megapixel sensor, 3 inch LCD screen and 720p movies, all for under under $150 / £150. Does the S4200 cut too many corners though? Find out by reading our in-depth Fujifilm FinePix S4200 review...

Nikon Coolpix P510

The Nikon Coolpix P510 is a new super-zoom compact camera that features an incredible 42x zoom lens with a massive focal range of 24-1000mm. The 16 megapixel bridge-style Nikon P510 can also capture full 1080p high-definition movies with stereo sound, has a back illuminated CMOS sensor, 3-inch 921K-dot tiltable LCD screen, built-in GPS, electronic viewfinder and fast 7fps burst shooting. Priced at £399.99 / $429.95, read our expert Nikon Coolpix P510 review to find out if that 1000mm zoom is too good to be true...

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ62

Panasonic have just introduced the DMC-FZ62 super-zoom camera (also known as the DMC-FZ60), successor to the FZ48 model and cheaper alternative to the range-topping FZ200. Key highlights of the FZ62 include a 24x zoom lens, 3 inch LCD screen, full 1080i HD movies, 10fps burst shooting, and a 16 megapixel MOS sensor. Read our in-depth Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ62 review now.

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V

The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V is a new premium super-zoom compact camera. A 30x, 27-810mm lens, built-in GPS tracking, 1920x1080 50p Full HD video with stereo sound, an 18.2 megapixel CMOS sensor, high-resolution tilting 3-inch screen, manual shooting mode, 10fps continuous shooting, 3D photos, and SD memory card support are all present and correct. Read our expert Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX200V review to find out if it's the right super-zoom bridge camera for you.

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Olympus SP-820UZ from around the web.

ephotozine.com »

Olympus have produced a number of super-zoom cameras, with this new SP-820UZ a replacement for the SP-810UZ, now with 40x optical zoom instead of 36x as found on the previous model. These super-zoom cameras tend to be great for those on a budget, but this new model carries an RRP of £279.00. The price is bound to fall on release, but will still be comfortably above the £200 mark. Let's take a look to see what Olympus have done to justify the extra money.
Read the full review »

digitalversus.com »

A camera with a 40x lens and a CMOS sensor for under £250? That's what you get with the Olympus SP-820 UZ. Then again, the firm has something of a history of making superzoom cameras with competitive price tags. The Stylus SP-820 UZ promises performance worthy of a high-end bridge at a rock-bottom price, but is it really such a bargain? Find out in our review.
Read the full review »


Image Sensor 14 Megapixels (effective), 1/2.3" CMOS
Focal Length/Lens Configuration 4.0 - 160.0mm (22.4– 896mm equivalent in 35mm photography)
Zoom 40x Optical Zoom + 4x Digital Zoom
Aperture Range f3.4 (W) / f5.7 (T)
Display 3.0-inch LCD
460,000 dots
Focus System CMOS contrast detection
Focus Range (from lens surface) Normal Mode: W: 0.1m?∞/T: 3.0m?∞
Macro Mode: W: 0.1m?∞/T: 3.0m?∞
Super Macro Mode: 0.01m?∞/f=5.73mm?focal length fixed)
Focus Mode iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF, AF Tracking
Shutter Speed 1/2000 sec. –1/4 sec. (up to 4 sec. in Night Scene mode)
ISO Sensitivity (SOS: Standard Output Sensitivity) ISO 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400, Auto, High
Exposure Metering ESP/Spot
Exposure Compensation ±2 EV steps in 1/3 EV steps
Image File Format Still Image: JPEG
Movie: MOV/H.264
Number of Recorded Pixels 14M (4288x3216)
8M (3264x2448)
5M (2560x1920)
3M (2048x1536)
2M (1600x1200)
1M (1280x960)
VGA (640x480)
16:9 L (4288x2416)
16:9 S (1920x1080)
Motion Blur Suppression Dual Image Stabilization
Shooting Modes Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Beauty Mode, Panorama, Hand-Held Starlight, Photo+Video Clip, Scene Modes (Portrait, Landscape, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Pet (Cat), Pet (Dog), Backligh HDR), HD Movie

Magic Filter: Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye, Drawing, Soft Focus, Punk, Sparkle, Watercolor, Reflection, Miniature, Fragmented, Dramatic
Panorama In-Camera Panorama (Smart Panorama),
PC Panorama (Up to 10 frames automatically stitchable with ib software)
Continuous Shooting Approx. 1.5 fps / 200 images(14M)
Approx. 3fps / 3 images(14M)
Approx. 10 fps / 34 images(3M)
Approx. 30 fps / 34 images(3M)
Shooting Assist Functions Histogram, Frame Assist, Voice Recording
Movie Mode 1080p, 720p, HS720 60fps, HSVGA 120fps, HSQVGA 240fps, VGA
Image Processing TruePic™ V
Noise Reduction Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Candle, Sunset and Fireworks
Playback Edit Effects Still Image: Beauty Fix, Resize, Cropping, Saturation
Flash Built-in
Flash Modes Auto (for low light and backlit conditions)
Red-Eye Reduction
Flash Working Range W: 0.2m - 15.0m (ISO 3200)
T: 3.0m - 8.9m (ISO 3200)
Self-Timer 12/2 Seconds/ Pet auto-shutter
Removable Media Card SD/SDHC/SDXC Card (not supported for UHSspeedclass)
Outer Connectors Multi-Terminal (USB Connector, Audio/Video Output)
Auto-Connect USB USB 2.0 High-Speed (USB Mass Storage)
System Requirements Auto-Connect USB: Windows® 2000/XP/VISTA/7 with USB port, Mac OS X 10.3 or later with USB port
Software: Windows® 2000PRO/XP/VISTA/7, Mac OS X 10.3 - 10.5
Weight 485 g
Wireless Transfer Wi-Fi compatible via optional Eye-Fi™ SD memory card
AF Illuminator Yes

Your Comments

Loading comments…