[nextpage title=”Introduction”]

The Olympus SP-570UZ (Ultra Zoom) is an unusual breed in the camera lineup. Because it doesn’t have interchangeability of lenses like a SLR (single lens reflex) camera, it is technically a point-and-shoot camera. Yet it offers many features that are commonly found in more expensive digital SLR cameras. We set out to find out whether a half-breed of this type would be valuable.

The camera itself, as shown in Figure 1, is not a point-and-shoot that will fit in your shirt pocket. Although slightly smaller than most digital SLRs, it is still large and chunky.  Weighing in at almost a pound (15.7oz, 445g) without batteries or memory card, it is no feather-weight.  However, its heft and built-in hand grip give it a good, substantial, and steady feel in your hand.  For some, that will overcome the inconvenience of having to hang the camera around your neck or carry a small camera case.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 1: The Olympus SP-570UZ.

As shown in Figure 2, included in the box is the camera, USB cable, manual in both English and Spanish, audio/video cable, neck strap, lens cap with cap string, 4 – AA batteries, warranty card, and Olympus software on CD. Although the 570 has 45MB of built-in memory, you will want to leave enough in your budget to purchase an xD-Picture card to augment the storage capacity.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 2: What’s in the box.

[nextpage title=”Lens & Modes”]

The most impressive feature of the Olympus 570UZ is the 20x wide-angle lens, which covers a 35mm equivalent range of 26-520 mm. The maximum aperture range is f2.8-f4.5.  As mentioned earlier, this camera does not allow you to change the lens, but the built-in lens offers plenty of power and versatility.

The wide-angle lens lets you capture the big picture, while the 20x optical zoom really lets you zero in on your subject. As shown in Figure 3, the zoom is controlled by a turn wheel. When the camera is turned off, the lens collapses and can be covered with the included lens cap. We have lost enough lens caps to be thankful that this one is attached to the camera with a small cord.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 3: The controls on the top of the camera.

This camera has some nice features. It has dual image stabilization which really helps to keep blurred pictures at bay. The face detection features automatically focuses on the subjects face and optimizes exposure for good portraits and people shots.

As a hybrid between a point-and-shoot and an SLR, the 570 offers automatic settings, but it also allows you to fiddle with all the setting yourself, just as you would on most digital SLRs. The controls on the top of the camera are shown in Figure 3.

On the top of the grip you will see the shutter release and the exposure compensation button. The Mode Dial has positions for: AUTO, Program AE, Aperture priority, Shutter-speed priority, Manual, MyMODE, Scene, Guide, Movie and Playback. At the bottom of the Mode Dial is the on/off switch. Next to the Mode Dial is a Control Dial which changes exposure values in the record mode and controls the magnify and index options when in the playback mode.

Most of the choices on the Mode Dial are the usual controls, but The Guide Mode is a bit unique. The Guide Mode brings up an on-screen helper that gives additional information, kind of like a mini user’s manual. It’s a good idea, but it needs better implementation. In our everyday use it failed to give us the information that we were looking for as often as it helped.

Also, the Scene Modes are unique, not in their availability, but rather in the choices. The modes include  the usual Snow, Beach, Fireworks, Night Scene, Indoors, Landscape, and Portrait, but there are also modes for:

  • Quick Shutter – To take pictures faster using Full-Time AF
  • Smile Shot-The camera automatically takes a picture when the subject smiles.
  • Shoot & Select which is for shooting constantly moving subjects in succession and saving only the images you like.
  • Auction which captures 3 pictures sequentially at different exposures in the appropriate size for ebay or other digital auctions.
  • Documents – The contrast between letters and background is increased for shooting documents.
  • Behind Glass – For shooting a subject through glass
  • Cuisine – Vivid reproduction of colors for still life like flowers, fruit, and food
  • Multi Fireworks – Takes sequential images of fireworks and automatically combines them into one image
  • Sunset – Produces a vivid reproduction of reds and yellows.
  • Available Light – For shooting sensitive subjects in lowlight conditions without a flash
  • Self Portrait – Lets you take a picture of yourself while holding the camera.
  • Candle – Reproduces warm colors for shooting under candlelight.
  • Night Portrait — For shooting main subject with illuminated background at night
  • Sport – For fast-moving action without blurring
  • Landscape & Portrait – For shooting main subject and background with vivid reproduction of blues and greens.

We found that most of these worked quite well, and you can have a lot of fun just trying them out.

[nextpage title=”Capabilities & Controls”]

This Olympus has a built-in flash, shown in Figure 4. The flash will not go off unless you press the Up button to engage it. While some will complain about this feature, we felt that it gave more control over the functionality.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 4: The built-in flash in the on position.

This Olympus has some features that are not found in other cameras of this caliber. The first of these is the hot shoe for an external flash, shown in Figure 5. This is again, a benefit for those who want better control of their pictures.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 5: The hot shoe on top of the camera.

The second feature that the 570 offers that is not usually found in other point-and-shoot cameras is the ability to take pictures in the RAW format. In fact, you can take JPEGs, RAW, and/or both at the same time. Taking pictures in the RAW format gives you the ability to edit every aspect of the photo with your computer’s photo editing software. If you are really into producing high-quality photographs, the ability to shoot in RAW is of paramount importance. Often that capability is only found in expensive digital SLR cameras.

Although this camera does not have a view finder in the strictest sense of the word, it does have an electronic viewfinder which displays the same data that you see on the larger LCD screen (except for informational screens). You engage the viewfinder by pressing the monitor button which is shown in Figure 6, next to the viewfinder. This button toggles the display between the viewfinder and the screen. Also shown in Figure 6 is the crisp and clean high resolution 2.7-inch color LCD. Although the LCD performs fairly well in bright sunlight, there will be times that you will be thankful for the viewfinder.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 6: The back of the camera.

Other controls on the back of the camera are shown in Figure 6 and include the AEL/AFL (Auto Exposure Lock/AutoFocus Lock) button, next to the monitor button. Along the left are the Play button, Shadow Adjustment  (which is the erase button when in playback mode) and the MENU, and Display buttons. The Display button shows and/or hides the overlay information on the screen and also enables the display of a histogram.

A 4-way round control button is seen in Figure 6 to the right of the screen. This is used to navigate menus and select playback images and movies. It also controls the macro settings, self-times, and flash controls.

The controls are all large and easy-to-access. As with any camera with extensive capabilities, the more you investigate the capabilities, the more useful the camera becomes. We recommend reading the manual to get as much as you can from this camera.

[nextpage title=”Using the Camera”]

The 570 performs well in almost all circumstances. The 10-megapixel CCD produces highly detailed photos with little noise. The camera excels outdoors so it makes a perfect “vacation” camera. While indoor performance is also good, we found that we needed to tweak a few of the settings to get the photos we wanted.

Taking movies with the 570 was easy and also produced good results. You can zoom in and out while in the movie mode which makes creating movies more fun. One caveat, the mono sound is turned off by default, so you must enable it before you start the movie. It would be better if the sound were enabled by default.

A small door on the side of the camera, shown in Figure 7, has a DC-In for an external power supply on the top and an AV output and USB 2 port which is used to connect the camera to the computer. The camera is also Pictbridge compatible and can be hooked up directly to a Pictbridge printer without using a computer.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 7: Side of the camera.

The opposite side of the camera, shown in Figure 8, has a door that opens to reveal the memory card slot. The SP570 uses xD-Picture Cards, which currently are available in sizes up to 2GB. We would have liked to see the camera use the SDHC memory which is available in capacities up to 16GB. Also note that in order to use the camera’s built-in Panorama function, you must use an Olympus brand xD card.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 8: The memory card slot.

When you open the door on the bottom of the camera, you may be surprised to see that this camera uses ordinary AA batteries (Shown in Figure 9). In these days when most cameras of this type use rechargeable batteries, this is an option that some will find useful. The type of batteries is really a matter of choice. Using batteries that can be purchased in many stores in almost all countries  can be a big plus for travelers. Many users like the fact that they can have backup batteries available at all times.

We were able to take over 130 shots and 20 short movies on the first set of batteries. That included testing the various settings and keeping the camera on more than usual to do that. Using the viewfinder in a regular SLR will save battery life. In this camera, the electronic viewfinder will still use battery power. Even that, however, gave us enough battery power to be satisfied with the length of time that the batteries lasted.

In Figure 9, you can also see that the bottom of the camera has a tripod mount.

Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera ReviewFigure 9: The bottom of the camera.

The 570 is not the fastest camera in the world. It takes about 3 seconds before you can take your first shot. There is a slight shutter lag, which you won’t find in SLRs, but it didn’t interfere with our use of the camera. The camera comes with the Olympus software which is capable of handling all your editing needs.

[nextpage title=”Specifications”]

Olympus SP-570UZ main specs include: 

  • Image Sensor: 10.0 Megapixels (effective), 1/2.33” CCD (1.1cm)
  • Focal Length/Lens Configuration: 4.60 – 92.0 mm (26 – 520 mm equivalent in 35mm photography),
  • 14 Lenses in 11 Groups, 4 Aspherical Lenses, 2 ED Lenses
  • Zoom: 0x Optical Zoom, 5x Digital Zoom (Seamless to 100x)
  • Aperture Range: Wide: F2.8-F8.0; Tele: F4.5-F8.0
  • Display: 2.7” LCD, approx. 230,000 pixels
  • 5 Steps Brightness Adjustment
  • Viewfinder: Electronic View Finder with Dioptic Correction
  • Focus System CCD Contrast Detection
  • Focus Range (from lens surface) in normal mode: Wide: 3.9” – infinity (0.1m – infinity), Tele: 47.2” – infinity (1.2m – infinity)
  • Focus Range (from lens surface) in macro mode: Wide: 3.9” – infinity (0.1m – infinity), Tele: 47.2” – infinity (1.2m – infinity)
  • Focus Range (from lens surface) in Super Macro mode: 0.4" – infinity (1cm – infinity)
  • Focus Mode – iESP Auto, Spot AF, Face Detection AF, Full-Time AF, Selective AF Target, AF Lock, Predictive AF, Manual
  • Shutter Speed Auto: 1/2000 sec. –1/2 sec. (up to 4 sec. in Night Scene mode); Manual: 1/2000 sec. – 15 sec; Bulb: up to 8 min.
  • ISO Sensitivity (SOS: Standard Output Sensitivity): Auto, High Auto, 64, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
  • Exposure Metering: Digital ESP Metering, Spot Metering, Center-Weighted Metering, Face Detection AE (when Face Detection AF is selected)
  • White Balance Control: iESP 2 Auto, One-Touch, Presets (Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, and 3 Fluorescents), White Balance Compensation
  • Exposure Compensation: ±2 EV steps in 1/3 EV steps
  • Image File Format: JPEG, RAW
  • Shooting Modes: 31 Shooting Modes;
  • Panorama: Up to 10 frames automatically stitchable with Olympus Master software when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card
  • Continuous Shooting: 13.5 frames per second, 30 frames (3MP)
  • Playback Edit Effects: Red-Eye Fix, Lighting Fix, Resize, Rotation, Black & White, Sepia, Frame, Label, Calendar, Layout, Expression Edit, Face Focus, RAW Edit, Cropping
  • Flash: Built-in, External Flash, Wireless Flash
  • Self-Timer: 12 Seconds
  • Memory: 45 MB Internal Memory
  • Removable Media Card: xD-Picture Card (1 GB, 2 GB)
  • Power Source: 4 AA Batteries, optional AC Adapter (C-7AU)
  • Battery Life (CIPA DC-002): Approximately 390 shots with 4 AA batteries (based on CIPA battery life measurement standards)
  • Dimension: 4.7" x 3.3" x 3.4" (118 mm x 84 mm x 87.5 mm) (W x H x D)
  • Weight: 15.7 oz (445 g) without batteries and memory card
  • More information: http://www.olympusamerica.com
  • Average Price in the US*: USD 438.00

* Researched at http://www.shopping.com on the day we published this review.

[nextpage title=”Conclusions”]

A digital SLR camera requires carrying a large camera case with multiple lenses and dealing with sometimes inconvenient lens swapping. The SP-570 offers a wide range of features that meet those of SLRs without the necessity for extra lenses and extra costs. In fact, this camera offers a lot for its mid-range price point.

The ability to shoot in RAW and to control all of the camera’s functionality will be great when you want to do some impressive photography. But you can also use this camera as a point-and-shoot when you just want to grab a quick shot.

Extra features like the wonderful zoom, great LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, face recognition, and image stabilization, make this camera very full featured. If you are looking to go beyond the capabilities of most point-and-shoot cameras, but you don’t want the expense of an SLR and don’t want to deal with multiple lenses, this camera may be for you.

Pros:

  • Great lens with 20x optical zoom
  • Excellent image stabilization
  • Easy to use controls
  • Good movie mode
  • Substantial feel in hand
  • Large selection of preset screen modes
  • Shoots in RAW format as well as JPEG
  • Hot shoe for flash

Cons:

  • xD-Picture Card provides storage only up to 2 GB
  • Big and chunky
  • Sound not on by default in movie mode