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Olympus SP-800UZ First Look
by Andy Stanton -  8/4/2010

The Olympus SP-800UZ proves that looks can be deceiving. While on the surface it appears to be an unassuming, simple camera with few buttons and dials, it packs a mighty punch in the form of a 28mm to 840mm lens (35mm equivalent), or 30x optical zoom!

Olympus SP800UZ

The only other camera with as much optical zoom, the Fujifilm FinePix HS10, reaches "only" to 720mm at the long end of the zoom, which is significantly less than the SP-800UZ. I was excited about having the opportunity to use all this zoom power. You see something in the far distance that piques your interest? Zoom in close and you can make out every detail. That's pretty neat.

Olympus SP800 Sample Image
28mm
Olympus SP800 Sample Image
126mm
Olympus SP800 Sample Image
840mm

Until the release of the SP-800UZ (and its sibling, the SP-600UZ), Olympus's ultrazoom cameras looked like small DSLRs - black, with a viewfinder at the rear, a mode dial at the top and full manual exposure controls. The SP-800UZ deviates from that tradition in that it comes in silver only (in the USA), lacks a viewfinder and mode dial and does not permit manual control over shutter speed and aperture. In short, the SP-800UZ is geared towards someone who desires the simplicity of a point and shoot camera but wants the versatility of a huge zoom lens.

Olympus SP800UZ

The SP-800UZ is relatively small for an ultrazoom, with dimensions of only 4.2x2.9x3.3-inches, and a weight of 14.7 ounces (416g), excluding battery and memory card. It has a resolution of 14 megapixels and dual optical image stabilization (mechanical and electronic) to keep camera shake to a minimum, which is very important in any camera with a long zoom lens. It comes with an Intelligent Auto mode, a macro mode that can get as close as 1cm to the subject, many scene modes and Olympus's ubiquitous art filters, which include Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye and Drawing. The camera has HD movie capability of 1280x720 at 30 frames per second as well as a standard movie mode of 640x480 at 30 frames per second. Its suggested retail price is $349.99, though its street price is substantially less.

Olympus SP800UZ

The body of the SP-800UZ is mostly metal and seems well-constructed. There is a comfortable grip on the right side, a flip-up flash at the top and a dedicated movie button at the rear. The LCD monitor measures 3.0-inches, has 230,000 dots and is shaped in a 16:9 configuration that's geared towards watching HD movies. The monitor is sharp and clear and, unlike many LCD monitors, does not get washed out in bright sunshine. The camera comes with a lithium-ion battery that's rated for 200 shots, which is relatively low.

During the three days I've spent with the SP-800UZ I've greatly enjoyed having a 30x zoom lens at my disposal. I've been pleased with the camera's ergonomics, build quality and menus. The camera's performance appears to be good in most respects, though I found its shot-to-shot time to be a relatively slow 3-4 seconds. The quality of the camera's lens and images seem generally good, but I noticed some problems with chromatic aberration. I will be taking lots of pictures over the next week and a half to thoroughly examine all aspects of this interesting camera. A full review will follow thereafter.

Additional Sample Images

Olympus SP800 Sample Image Olympus SP800 Sample Image
Olympus SP800 Sample Image Olympus SP800 Sample Image