DigitalCameraReview.com
Olympus SP-565 UZ Review
by Theano Nikitas -  3/23/2009

Olympus is no stranger to ultrazooms, with three models in its current line-up: the 10 megapixel/20x zoom 565UZ and 570UZ, and the new 12 megapixel/26x zoom 590UZ. The smallest and lightest of the three, the Olympus SP-565UZ represents a minor update to its sibling, the 570UZ. Users of the latter camera won't gain much by upgrading to the 565UZ since both cameras offer the same 10 megapixel sensor, 20x optical zoom, and an almost carbon-copy list of features.

Olympus SP-565UZ


New features include Shadow Adjustment technology and enhanced Face Detection, which can now recognize up to 16 faces. On the other hand, the camera's smaller size reduces the LCD to 2.5 inches versus the 570's 2.7 inch display. But the 565UZ is affordably priced for its class and doesn't skimp on features for advanced amateurs and snapshooters who want the reach of a superzoom camera.

FEATURES OVERVIEW
FORM, FIT, AND FEEL
PERFORMANCE
IMAGE QUALITY
CONCLUSIONS
SPECIFICATIONS

FEATURES OVERVIEW
The 10 megapixel 565UZ's big attraction is, of course, its 20x optical zoom lens, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 26-520mm. Sensor shift image-stabilization is available-a must-have for a lens with that much telephoto reach.

With a total of 33 shooting modes, including full manual and auto/program exposure modes, the 565UZ is versatile enough to please a wide range of photographers. Here's a look at some of the camera's shooting modes and special features:

Program, Priority, and Manual Modes:

Automatic and Scene Modes:

Other Features
New to the 565UZ is Shadow Adjustment Technology, which helps maintain shadow details and is especially useful for backlit and other high contrast situations. Face Detection can now recognize up to 16 faces, for better focus and exposure for people pictures. The camera also offers Smile Shot-a function that captures three images when the subject smiles, increasing the odds that in at least one of those shots, you'll get a full-on smile.

Other features that are especially useful to less experienced photographers are the on-board user guide and the Perfect Shot Preview. The former provides advice about common photo issues and actually guides the user to the proper settings for the shooting situation. The Perfect Shot Preview calls up a series of small windows on the LCD so you can see what the photo will look like with, for example, different white balance settings (or metering, exposure compensation settings, etc.). This is quite useful when faced with tricky lighting or exposure situations.

Multiple metering modes, manual flash intensity adjustment, panorama shooting (and automatic stitching with the supplied software), bracketing and interval shooting, are among this fully-equipped camera's other notable features.

For a detailed listing of specifications and features, please refer to the specifications table found at the bottom of the review.


FORM, FIT, AND FEEL

Styling and Build Quality
Like many megazooms on the market, the 565UZ resembles a digital SLR in design.

Olympus SP-565UZ

And although the 565UZ is the smallest and lightest of Olympus's ultrazoom cameras – and one of the smallest and lightest on the market – you won't be able to fit the camera in your pocket. The camera measures 4.6 x 3.3 x 3.2 inches and weighs 13.2 ounces without batteries and media card.

Ergonomics and Interface
The camera feels solidly built and has a relatively low-profile but comfortable grip. There's not much room on the left hand side to hold the camera but, as with most cameras, the best technique is to balance the lens with your left hand.

Olympus SP-565UZ

External controls are within easy reach and are of sufficient size for photographers with larger hands to operate easily. An angled shutter button/zoom lever and mode dial are positioned along the top of the camera, with most of the remaining controls arranged on the camera's rear real estate.

Olympus SP-565UZ

On the back of the camera you'll find an LCD/EVF (electronic viewfinder) switch, AE Lock, Menu Review, Display, and Shadow Adjustment buttons. There's also a standard four-way controller for direct access to exposure compensation and flash modes. The center Set/Function button calls up an easy-access menu to choose from continuous shooting speeds, bracketing, white balance, ISO, metering mode, file size, and compression options.

Olympus SP-565UZ

Display/Viewfinder
One of the compromises Olympus made in order to shave some millimeters and ounces from the 565UZ was shrinking the LCD. Like the 570UZ, it's still high resolution at 230,000 pixels and works well under most lighting conditions, but the monitor is now 2.5 inches rather than 2.7 inches. That's not a huge loss but enough of a difference to be noticeable. Still, the camera's smaller and lighter body may well be worth the trade-off when you're carrying the camera around your neck for a full day of shooting.

Olympus SP-565UZ

Like all megazoom cameras, the 565UZ is equipped with an electronic viewfinder, which is useful when the ambient light overwhelms the LCD (this rarely happened, though). More importantly, holding the camera to your eye using the EVF provides an additional method of steadying the camera when shooting at telephoto.

The EVF is small, but usable. And, fortunately for those of us who wear glasses, has a dioptric adjustment.


PERFORMANCE

Timings and Shutter Lag
Overall, the 565UZ delivered pretty good performance with minimal shutter lag and relatively speedy autofocus. AF did, however, slow down when the lens was extended to full telephoto, as the lens did a hunt-and-search for a focus target.

Shutter Lag (press-to-capture, pre-focused)

Camera Time (seconds)
Casio Exilim FH20 0.02
Olympus SP-565 UZ 0.03
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
0.04
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
0.05
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
0.08

AF Acquisition (press-to-capture, no pre-focus)

Camera Time (seconds)
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
0.31
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
0.56
Casio Exilim FH20 0.59
Olympus SP-565 UZ 0.62
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
1.25*

* Note: The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28 was measured at 1.25 seconds in its default multi-area AF mode, but was able to achieve a very fast 0.16 seconds in this test in its single-area high speed mode.

Continuous Shooting

Camera Frames* Framerate*
Casio Exilim FH20 40 30 fps†
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28
3 3.5 fps
Fujifilm FinePix S100FS
7 3.0 fps
Canon PowerShot SX10 IS
1.4 fps
Olympus SP-565 UZ
4 1.2 fps

* Note: Continuous shooting framerates are based on the camera's fastest full-resolution JPEG continuous shooting mode, using the fastest media type available (300x CF, SDHC, etc.). "Frames" notes the number of captures recorded per burst before the camera stops/slows to clear the buffer.

Note: The Casio Exilim FH20 has no continuous shooting capabilities at full resolution (9 megapixels). It is, however, capable of shooting at 30 fps at a slightly reduced 8 megapixels. Given this relatively high resolution, we have included the FH20's continuous shooting numbers in our comparison.

Continuous shooting performance, at 1.2 frames per second, was disappointing, though. But if you're willing to settle for a 3 megapixel image, the camera will pick up the speed (Olympus rates it at 13.5 fps for 30 frames).

When capturing RAW or RAW+JPEG files, the 565UZ's shot-to-shot time was pretty slow. Considering this is "only" a 10 megapixel camera, I expected the camera to deliver better performance when writing data to the card.

Auto Focus
In addition to Manual Focus, multiple AF modes are available including iESP Auto, Spot, Face Detection, Full-Time AF, Selective AF Target, Predictive, and AF Lock. Full-Time AF continuously focuses on the subject without having to press the shutter button and while it's supposed to speed up AF, it's sometimes annoying to use since the lens is constantly moving to keep up with the subject. Predictive AF, which requires pressing and holding the shutter button halfway, is slightly more useful (and less annoying) for tracking moving subjects.

Perhaps the most efficient and accurate AF option for stationary subjects is the Selective AF Target option. This function allows you to move the focus point to your subject.

Lens and Zoom
These days, a 20x optical zoom is fairly standard for megazoom cameras, and Olympus has upped the ante to 26x with its 590UZ model. But the 565UZ's 20x optical zoom, with a 35mm-equivalent focal range of 26-520mm provides more than enough to cover pretty much every contingency.

Olympus SP-565UZ

Starting at a very respectable 26mm, the 565UZ's lens works well for landscapes and group shots as well as for zooming in to capture distant objects and subjects and everything in between. For extreme reach, consider Olympus' 1.7x teleconverter (you'll need the conversion lens adapter, too).

Olympus SP-565UZ

The 565UZ does a good job with macro, too, focusing as close as 0.4 inches in Super Macro mode.

Lens distortion is visible at extreme wide angle and telephoto so you might want to be especially careful when shooting buildings or other objects with straight edges. Adjusting the zoom – even just a little – helps avoid noticeable curved edges.

At f/2.8 at wide angle to f/4.5 at telephoto, the lens is relatively fast. And with the camera's sensor-shift stabilization, the camera can handle slower shutter speeds under average conditions. If in doubt – or for special shooting conditions – put the 565UZ on a tripod and shoot with the optional remote cable release.

Flash
An on-board flash provides a good range for most shooting conditions. At wide angle, the flash covers a range from 0.98 feet to 21 feet (at ISO 400). Naturally, coverage drops for telephoto flash shooting to 3.9 feet to 13.1 feet (at ISO 400).

Olympus SP-565UZ

Although the 565UZ doesn't have a hotshoe, flash options include the ability to adjust the flash intensity, which is a bonus especially when shooting close up. Better yet, the camera supports Wireless TTL with Olympus' FL-50R and FL-36R external flash units.

Image Stabilization
Olympus touts the 565UZ's "dual" image stabilization, which is a combination of sensor-shift IS and high ISO capabilities. Sensor-shift is, of course, the preferred technology to help prevent high ISO image noise.

The camera's IS is activated via a menu setting, with only On/Off options. It works pretty well, although the gain was only one or two stops. Granted, I have relatively shaky hands (even without drinking a lot of caffeine) so photographers with steadier hands may see more of a benefit.

Keep in mind, though, that if IS is turned on when shooting movies "for an extended period of time" (according to Olympus), the camera may overheat and shut down. Still, having IS in movie mode is a very good thing.

Battery
Powered by four AA batteries, the camera comes with a set of AA alkalines to get started. While alkalines are good in a pinch, they deliver about 410 shots while a set of rechargeable NiMH AA's will last for about 590 shots.

Olympus SP-565UZ

Rechargeables are better for the environment, of course, so consider picking up a couple of sets of NiMH and a charger and use the alkalines for less power-hungry electronics.


IMAGE QUALITY
Overall, the Olympus 565UZ does a good job delivering pleasing, albeit not great, images. The camera has a few shortcomings, however, so read on to find out what the 565UZ's strengths and weaknesses are.

Exposure, Processing, and Color
At its default settings, the 565UZ's images are nicely saturated, with natural-looking colors. Although a Vivid option is available, its effects are minor – which is a good thing if you're not looking for super-saturated, overly bright photos.

Olympus SP-565UZ
Standard

Olympus SP-565UZ
Vivid

It's also a good thing that the 565UZ has multiple metering options since the camera has a tendency to overexpose images. With extremely high contrast images and clipped highlights, even the otherwise-effective Shadow Adjustment Technology can't balance the scene. High contrast edges also exhibit purple fringing, which most likely won't show up in prints but are quite visible when the image is enlarged to 100 percent on a computer monitor.

Under more common, less contrasty conditions, the 565UZ does a good job of maintaining highlights and shadow detail. Activate Shadow Adjustment and images get even better.

With options to shoot RAW and RAW+JPEG, photographers have the option to more effectively tweak images in post-processing. But if you don't want to mess with RAW, the 565UZ provides several capture and playback adjustments that can help improve your images. In fact, you can "process" RAW images in-camera by adjusting image quality, white balance, picture mode, sharpness, contrast and saturation and saving a separate file as a JPEG. In-camera processing sort of negates the full benefits of shooting RAW since you're limited to the camera's settings, while Adobe Camera Raw, for example, provides a wider range of adjustments and far more control.

White Balance
Auto white balance worked very well outdoors, with bright whites and accurate colors. Take the camera indoors, however, and – like most cameras – you'll need to become familiar with white balance presets and custom WB.

Olympus SP-565UZ
Auto White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

Olympus SP-565UZ
Incandescent White Balance, 3200K incandescent light

Shooting on auto WB under incandescent light, not surprisingly, produced very warm images. Custom WB provided a better balance, as expected, while the incandescent preset produced brighter highlights but with a slightly cool (bluish) cast.

Sensitivity and Noise
ISO can be manually set from 64 to1600, with the option to expand light sensitivity to 3200 and 6400 (the 570UZ was capable of setting the higher ISOs manually). With a starting ISO of 64, the 565UZ has an edge over other cameras with a higher base ISO, which is great under bright lighting conditions. If you have enough light, ISO 64 is the preferred setting since images are very clean – you'd have to look very, very close in shadow areas to find any hint of image noise.

Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 64
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 64, 100% crop
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 100
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 100, 100% crop
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 200
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 200, 100% crop
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 400
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 400, 100% crop
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 800
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 800, 100% crop
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 1600
Olympus SP-565UZ
ISO 1600, 100% crop

Going up the ISO ladder, of course, increases image noise. Visible shadow noise becomes evident at about ISO 200 but even the amount of image noise at ISO 400 will deliver very nice prints. At ISO 800 and 1600, you should keep prints at snapshot size since otherwise fine and crisp details turn mushy.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus SP-565UZ Olympus SP-565UZ
Olympus SP-565UZ Olympus SP-565UZ
Olympus SP-565UZ Olympus SP-565UZ


CONCLUSIONS
The Olympus 565UZ, despite a few flaws, is a capable ultrazoom camera given the right conditions (lots of light being one of them). Its 20x optical zoom lens provides more than enough focal range to cover pretty much every situation that photographers will encounter and a full feature set will meet the needs of enthusiasts and advanced amateurs, without forgetting about snapshooters who want an easy to use megazoom.


The megazoom arena provides some stiff competition, though, but at its sub-$400 price point, the 565UZ represents good value for photographers who are on a budget.

Pros:

Cons:


SPECIFICATIONS

Sensor 10.0 megapixel, 1/2.33" CCD
Zoom 20x (26-520mm) zoom, f/2.8-4.5
LCD/Viewfinder 2.5", 230K-pixel HyperCrystal LCD
Sensitivity ISO 64-6400 (ISO 3200-6400 at reduced resolution)
Shutter Speed 15-1/2000 seconds
Shooting Modes Auto, Program, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, My Mode, Scene, Movie
Scene Presets Portrait, Landscape, Landscape with Portrait, Night Scene, Night Scene with Portrait, Sports, Indoor, Candle, Self-Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Cuisine, Behind Glass, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach and Snow, Pre-Capturing Movie, Underwater Snapshot, Snow, Smile Shot
White Balance Settings iESP 2 Auto, One-Touch, Daylight, Overcast, Fluorescent 1, Fluorescent 2, Fluorescent 3, Incandescent, White Balance Compensation
Metering Modes Digital ESP, Spot, Center-Weighted
Focus Modes iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF, Full-Time AF, Selective AF, Target AF, AF Lock, Predictive AF, Manual, Macro, Super Macro
Drive Modes Single Shot, Continuous, Self Timer
Flash Modes Auto, Red-Eye Reduction, Fill, Forced Off
Self Timer Settings
12 seconds, Off
Memory Formats xD-Picture Card (microSD with included adapter)
Internal Memory
48 MB
File Formats JPEG, RAW, AVI
Max. Image Size 3648x2736
Max. Video Size
640x480, 30 fps
Zoom During Video No
Battery 4 AA batteries
Connections USB 2.0, AV output, DC input
Additional Features Dual Image Stabilization, TruePic III processor, Face Detection, Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology