Not to be outdone in the quest for more range by Kodak's 24x optical zoom foray, Olympus has upped the ultrazoom bar yet again this week with the announcement of the Olympus SP-590 UZ.
If you thought Kodak's 24x, 26mm wide-angle Schneider-Kreuznach glass was excessive, brace yourself: the SP-590 UZ (for "ultra zoom") comes packing what is, to our knowledge, the most wide-ranging single lens currently available in a point-and-shoot. The camera's 26x (!) optic covers the equivalent of 26-676mm, and does so with quick maximum apertures of f/2.8-5.0.
After that bombshell, all other specs for this camera may well be secondary, but Olympus has done a respectable job of outfitting the rest of the SP-590 all the same. The 12 megapixel SP uses a 2.7 inch HyperCrystal II LCD for shot composition duties, and offers Olympus's trademark Shadow Adjustment Technology as well. Other features include face detection, compatibility with Olympus's range of wireless-ready external flash units, and a high-speed TruePic III processor that claims to provide faster sequential shooting and better high ISO performance.
In addition to its generous flash control options, the SP-590 should appeal to advanced and advancing photographers with a full complement of manual exposure controls that includes aperture and shutter priority modes. Twenty-nine total shooting modes also encompass several "artistic" scene modes inspired by the Olympus E-30, including a multiple exposure mode (for compositing two or more shots into a single frame) and a setting for softening backgrounds.
Of course, Dual Image Stabilization (using both mechanical and ISO boost methods) is essentially a must for a camera with this kind of zoom range.
All things considered, while Olympus is unquestionably a masterful builder of zoom lenses, the SP-590's lens does raise some obvious questions about performance and image quality. Built around 14 lenses in 11 groups – including 4 aspherical lenses and 3 ED elements – the lens's compact design will no doubt appeal to space-saving shooters. But with nearly 700mm of reach at the long end and an extremely wide 26mm at the other, the optical compromises are almost certain to manifest themselves in the images to some degree. Just how much, though, is the open question at this point.
We're hoping to get our hands on one of these before the day is over, and maybe even sneak in some shooting. Stay tuned...
Pricing and availability
The Olympus SP-590 UZ is slated for retail release in March, with an estimated street price of around $450.
Olympus SP-590 UZ Specifications
|Sensor||12.0 megapixel (effective), 1/2.33" CCD|
|Zoom||26x (26-676mm) zoom, f/2.8-5.0|
|LCD/Viewfinder||2.7", 230K-pixel HyperCrystal LCD with five steps of brightness adjustment
|Shutter Speed||15-1/2000 seconds|
|Shooting Modes||Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, My Mode, Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization, Beauty Mode, Scene, Movie|
|Scene Presets||Portrait, Landscape, Sport, Night Scene, Night Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Sunset, Fireworks, Multi-Firework, Cuisine, Documents, Smile Shot, Beach & Snow, Bird Watching, Pre-Capture Movie, Quick Shutter, Soft Background
|White Balance Settings||iESP 2 Auto, One-Touch, Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, White Balance Compensation
|Metering Modes||Digital ESP, Spot, Center-Weighted, Face Detection AE|
|Focus Modes||iESP Auto, Spot AF, Selective AF Target, Face Detection AF, Full-Time AF, Predictive AF, AF Lock, Manual Focus|
|Drive Modes||Not Specified
|Flash Modes||Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill-in, Fill-in + Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro 1, Slow Synchro 1 + Red-Eye Reduction, Slow Synchro 2, Off
|Self Timer Settings
|Memory Formats||xD-Picture Card, MicroSD
|File Formats||JPEG, AVI
|Max. Image Size||3968x2976|
|Max. Video Size
||640x480, 30 fps
|Zoom During Video||Not Specified
|Battery||4 AA batteries|
|Connections||Multi-Terminal (USB, A/V out), DC in, HD out
|Additional Features||Dual Image Stabilization, TruePic III processor, Face Detection, Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology|