BUILD AND DESIGN
The SP-800UZ is relatively small for an ultrazoom, with dimensions of only 4.2×2.9×3.3-inches and a weight of 14.7 ounces (416g), excluding battery and memory card. It has a 1/2.3-inch, 14 megapixel CCD sensor. Its list price is $349.99 but it can usually be found for considerably less.
The camera comes with a USB cable and charger, an audio/video cable, a lithium-ion battery, a neck strap, a cord for attaching the lens cap, and a quick start guide. Olympus does not provide a printed manual or a CD containing the photo management software but they are built into the camera’s internal memory and can be downloaded to your computer when you attach the camera prior to installing a memory card.
The SP-800UZ is an attractive camera. The body seems solid, with a combination of metal and plastic construction. There is a comfortable grip on the right side and space on the left to use another hand to steady the camera. It has a somewhat spartan appearance, with fewer buttons and dials than most ultrazooms but those it does have are well-marked (except for the dedicated movie button, which bears no markings but is colored red) and operate smoothly.
Ergonomics and Controls
The front of the camera contains the huge 30x optical zoom lens, an AF illuminator lamp for acquiring focus in dark areas, which also doubles as a timer lamp, and holes for the speaker and the microphone (monaural only). The camera comes with a lens cap that fits on the lens without locking. This is a good thing in that it will pop off, with no harm to the camera, if the camera starts up and the cap has been inadvertently left on. However, the lens cap does have a tendency to come off when the camera is not in use.
The top of the camera contains the shutter button, with an encircling zoom lever, an on/off button and the camera’s flash, which needs to be manually raised. I prefer a flash that pops up at the press of a button, but the simpler system of the SP-800UZ works fine. The camera’s top also contains eyelets for the neck strap.
One side of the camera is completely bare, the other side contains ports for a USB cable and AV cable or HDMI cable, covered by a tethered plastic plate.
The bottom of the camera contains only two items of significance – the tripod mount and battery/memory card compartment. The tripod mount is found way off to the side of the camera, which is not ideal for a camera the weight of the SP-800UZ, as the camera could become unbalanced while on the tripod. Further, the tripod mount is plastic, which will have a shorter life span than one made of metal. The memory card compartment is covered by a sturdy, sliding plastic cover, which works well.
The camera’s rear consists mainly of the 3.0-inch LCD monitor, which is in a 16:9 configuration. The rear also contains a large, red movie button, below which is a panel with a circular, rotating controller with an OK button in the middle.
Menus and Modes
Pressing the menu button displays the camera’s menu, which permits you to select from several shooting modes – IAuto, Scene, Program Auto, Beauty, Panorama and Magic – and gives access to the setup menu. Depending on the shooting mode selected, you will also get access to various selections from the camera’s function menu. The SP-800UZ also has playback and movie modes. The menu button brings up different functions when the camera is put into playback mode. The menu is logically laid out and each option is accompanied by a helpful explanation.
Here are the various modes:
- IAuto: The camera automatically selects a scene mode from portrait, landscape, night portrait, macro, or sport, and automatically adjusts the settings to obtain what it considers to be the optimal result. The only functions that can be adjusted in IAuto mode are the flash and the self-timer.
- Scene: The user can select from among the camera’s 17 scene modes, including portrait, landscape, sport, night scene, night portrait, indoor, candle, sunset, fireworks, multi-fireworks, multiple exposure, cuisine, documents, beach and snow, bird watching, soft background, and pet. Multi-fireworks and multiple exposure permit you to take two successive photos of a scene and overlay one on the other. Bird watching utilizes the long end of the camera’s zoom lens. In soft background mode, the camera will blur the background while focusing on an object in the foreground.
- Program Auto: In this mode the user has access to all camera functions, except shutter speed and aperture, and can change them or leave them on auto. Among these functions are ISO (Auto, High Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200), white balance (Auto, daylight, overcast, tungsten, daylight fluorescent, neutral fluorescent and office fluorescent).
- Beauty: Works with the face detection function, automatically smoothing skin texture and suppressing blemishes.
- Panorama: Allows the user to shoot a three frame panorama by taking a photo, moving the camera in the direction of an arrow and taking subsequent shots when prompted by the camera. I found this to be very easy and enjoyable to do.
- Magic: Allows access to several Art Filters used by many Olympus cameras: Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye and Drawing.
- Playback: In addition to displaying images, playback mode permits the user to activate Beauty Fix, which enables effects including clear skin, sparkle eye and dramatic eye.
- Movie: The SP-800UZ can shoot MPEG-4 movies with monaural sound at 30 frames per second at various resolutions: 1280×720, 640×480, and 320×240.
The SP-800UZ has a powerful flash that can illuminate up to 10.2 meters at wide angle. There are four flash modes including auto red-eye reduction (camera makes several pre-flashes), fill-in and off.
The SP-800UZ does not have a viewfinder, unlike most SLR-like ultrazooms. I regretted not having the viewfinder, not only because it is sometimes useful in certain lighting conditions but also when using a long zoom lens, holding the camera against one’s eye helps to steady the camera and get a sharp picture.
The LCD measures 3.0-inches with 230,000-dots of resolution in a 16:9 configuration. The monitor has five levels of brightness. It is sharp and fluid, with good color. Olympus says the monitor uses “anti-glare technology” which appears to work well as the monitor did not tend to get washed out in bright sunshine, as is often the case with LCD monitors.