DigitalCameraReview.com
Olympus goes big with 26x zoom SP-590 UZ
by David Rasnake -  1/6/2009

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.

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.

Olympus SP-590 UZ

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.

Olympus SP-590 UZ

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
Sensitivity ISO 80-1600
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
Not Specified
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card, MicroSD
Internal Memory
Not Specified
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