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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus SP-500 UZ


   


Olympus SP-500 UZ Review

Review Date: Jan 23, 2006

Category: Beginner to Serious

Olympus SP-500 UZ

HANDLING & FEEL

The Olympus SP-500 UZ is a medium compact 10x ultra zoom digital camera in a handsome all-black finish. It sports an extra large 2.5-in. LCD screen. Startup and shot-to-shot times are average at about 2 sec. Autofocus is pretty fast and precise at wide-angle even in low-light situations; at the long end of the telephoto, it takes about 2 sec. to lock focus. Optional wide-angle and telephoto lenses can be attached to increase the reach even more.

STYLE
- Colours: overall black with silver and chrome accents
- Looks: modern, solid
   
FEEL
- Comfortable grip
- Controls spaced well
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Medium Compact: because of its thickness, best carried hung around the neck or shoulder
- Dimensions: 105.5W x 74.5H x 71D mm /
4.15W x 2.93H x 2.8D in.
- Weight: 285g / 10.05 oz. without battery and media card
- Takes 4 AA Alkaline batteries
   
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Average startup with lens extending about 22 mm (0.9 in.) and LCD turning on in about 2 sec.
- Shot to shot time in about 2 sec. or more depending on light level and focal length
   

Included in the box are 4 AA Alkaline batteries. We recommend that you purchase 4 AA NiMH rechargeable batteries and a battery charger.

Controls

The top of the camera has the Power Button and the Shutter Release Button, the Zoom Lever around the shutter release button, the AE Lock button (customizable), and the Mode Dial. All the other controls are found on the back.

The flash is of the pop-up kind and needs to be manually popped up. Beginners who rely on the camera to fire the flash automatically will need to remember to pop up the flash first; every one else will be so happy they have full control over when the flash fires. The flash power is excellent and even has a smart feature that increases the shutter speed in tandem with the focal length so as to provide a shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake.

The back is well organized: there is an extra large 2.5 in. LCD monitor, and the controls are on the right side, adequately well spaced out. There is enough space for the thumb to rest and hold the camera firmly. The handling is comfortable and secure.

You can record movies with sound at HQ (320 x 240) at 30fps, limited only by the size of your memory card. You'll be able to store approx. 15 sec. of movie in the Internal Memory, or approx. 3 min. 10 sec. on a 128MB xD-Picture Card. If sound is set ON, you cannot zoom during movie recording; if sound is OFF, you can zoom during movie recording. A Movement Compensation ("Anti-Blur") feature helps reduce camera shake during movie recording.

No xD-Picture Card comes with the camera but there is 10MB of internal memory.

xD-Picture Card Storage Capacity (approx.)
Quality Pixels IN (10MB) 256MB
RAW 2816x2112 1 24
SHQ 2816x2112 2 63
HQ 2816x2112 7 173
SQ1 1600x1200 Normal 21 515
SQ2 640x480 Normal 109 2663
HQ 320x240 movie 30fps 15s 6m 27s
SQ 320x240 movie 15fps 31s 12m 54s

As the above table shows, at SHQ, only 63 images can be saved on a 256MB xD-Picture Card. We recomend that you purchase either a 512MB or 1GB card, depending on the number of images you normally shoot in one session.



FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the EVF/LCD button)
- EVF/LCD
- DISP./GUIDE (Info, Grid, Histogram, Off / displays a short help in MENU)
- QUICK VIEW (press shutter release button to instantly return to Shooting Mode)
- Flash (Off, On only when flash is manually popped up) / Also the Erase button in Playback/Quick View
- 4 Way Arrows
- OK/MENU
   
SEQUENTIAL SHOOTING
-

Normal: Focus, exposure and white balance are locked at the first frame.
1.2 frames per second up to 13-15 frames in HQ mode or 5-8 frames in SHQ mode (the sequential shooting speed varies depending on the record mode setting).

- HI: Pictures can be taken at a faster speed than normal sequential shooting.
1.75 frames per second up to 3 frames.
- AF: Adjusts the focus 1 frame at a time. The shooting speed is slower than for normal sequential shooting.
-

BKT: Takes pictures sequentially while changing the exposure for each frame. The focus and white balance are locked at the first frame.

+/-0.3EV, +/-0.7EV, +/- 1EV, 1/3EV steps; 3 or 5 frames

- You select a Sequential Shooting mode on the Camera tab of the Mode Menu, but only if Noise Reduction is OFF.
   
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION / HISTOGRAM
- Exposure compensation is always ON and is directly dialed in by using the LEFT/RIGHT ARROW key in PAS modes.
- A live Histogram can be displayed on screen in shooting mode by repeatedly pressing the DISP button until the Histogram displays. You can also display the Histogram in Playback mode.
- Once set, the Exposure Compensation Indicator conveniently stays displayed on screen until it is reset to "0"
- Range: -2 EV to +2 EV (13 steps in 1/3 EV increments)
- The screen brightness will increase or decrease to reflect the value you use
- Note: the exposure compensation value selected is retained even when the camera is turned off (so remember to reset to "0" after using it or the next time you turn the camera on, your shots may be over- or under-exposed.)
   

The USB connector is covered by a small square rubber flap. The bottom of the camera has a plastic tripod socket and the battery compartment has a safety lock to prevent accidental opening of the compartment.


RIGHT SIDE (looking from back of camera)
- DC IN
- Memroy Card Compartment
   
LEFT SIDE (looking from back of camera)
-

USB / AV OUT

- Speaker
   

LCD & Menus

There is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and an extra large 2.5 in. LCD monitor with a standard 115,000 pixels resolution.

There is a very effective AF-assist which makes auto focus to be quite fast and precise even in low-light situations. [Except in situations where the AF light cannot reach a subject that is too close to the lens, as in Super Macro mode.]

The Menu structure is the traditional Olympus "wheel" structure with a Mode Menu and 3 customizable Shortcut Menus, which means that all functions are accessed thru the Menu. There is a short help available when the DISP./GUIDE button is depressed but it would also be very helpful if text were displayed with the icons.

Exposure Compensation is always ON -- just use the LEFT and RIGHT arrows. Grid lines and Histogram are available at the press of the DISP. button. There are lots of advanced features (AF continuous shooting, Timelapse shooting, Selective AF Target, etc.) so a reading of the Advanced Manual (on the CD) is highly recommended.

Advanced photographers will be glad to know that they can save images in the RAW file format and takes 3 frames at approx. 1.7fps. It takes about 8 sec. to save a RAW image, about 13 sec. to save a RAW+SHQ, and about 11 sec. to save RAW+HQ. A Histogram can also be displayed in Shooting mode.

MENU

- Standard Olympus "Wheel" Structure Menu: Mode Menu and 3 customizable Shortcut Menus

SETUP: SHORT CUT

- The 3 Shortcut Menus you see when you press the MENU button can be customized in SETUP

MODE MENU: CAMERA 1 of 4

- Light Metering (ESP, Spot, Center-weighted Average)
- Macro (Off, Macro, Super Macro)
- Drive (not available when Noise Reduction is ON)
- ISO (Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400)
- Self-timer (Off, On 12 sec.)

MODE MENU: CAMERA 2 of 4

- Flash Intensity Control (-2.0 - +2.0)
- Flash Syncro (Sync1, Sync2)
- Flash (IN, Slave)
- Digital Zoom (On, Off)
- Noise Reduction (On, Off)

MODE MENU: CAMERA 3 of 4

- AF Mode (iESP, Spot, Area)
- Focus Mode (AF, MF)
- Fulltime AF (On, Off)
- Panorama
- Sound with still image (On - 4 sec. of sound for every image, Off)

MODE MENU: CAMERA 4 of 4

- Timelapse (On, Off)
- AF Predict (On, Off)

MODE MENU: CAMERA 1 of 4: ISO

- Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400

MODE MENU: PICTURE 1 of 2

- Image Quality (RAW, SHQ, HQ, SQ1, SQ2)
- WB: Auto, Preset (Sunlight, Overcast, Evening sun, Tungsten, 3 Fluorescents), One-touch
- WB Compensation +/–7
- Sharpness +/–5
- Contrast +/–5

MODE MENU: PICTURE 2 of 2

- Saturation +/–5

MODE MENU: PICTURE 1 of 2: Image Quality

- Ships from factory set to HQ (2816x2112)

MODE MENU: CARD

- Format
- Backup (copies from INternal memory to xD-Picture Card)

MODE MENU: SETUP 1 of 5

- RESET
- Language (English, Français, Español, Portugues)
- Power ON using SCENE Button (Yes, No)
- Power ON Setup (pic & sound to display on Power ON)
- Power OFF Setup (pic & sound to display on Power OFF)
- Record View (displays picture just taken for about 2 sec.)

MODE MENU: SETUP 2 of 5

- Warning Sound (Off, Low, High)
- Beep (Off, 1 low/high, 2 low/high)
- Shutter Sound (Off, 1 low/high, 2 low/high)
- My Mode
- File Name (Auto, Reset)

MODE MENU: SETUP 3 of 5

- Pixel Mapping
- LCD MOnitor Brightness
- Date / Time
- Dual Time Setup (for those who travel frequently across time zones)
- meter / feet

MODE MENU: SETUP 4 of 5

- Video Out (NTSC, PAL)
- AF Illuminator (On, Off)
- Shortcut (on Main Menu screen)
- Histogram (On, Off, Direct)
- Frame Assist (None, Horizontal/Vertical Grid, Diagonal Grid)

MODE MENU: SETUP 5 of 5

- Custom Button: customize the AEL button on the top (AE Lock, AF Lock, ESP, Macro, Drive, ISO, My Mode, Self-timer, Syncro, Flash, Digital Zoom, Noise Reduction, AF Mode, Focus Mode, Fulltime AF, Voice Memo, AF Predict, Image Quality, WB)

FRAME ASSIST

- Battery Indicator
- Program Auto shooting mode
- Shutter Speed 2 sec.
- Aperture F3.2
- +0.7 Exposure Compensation
- ISO 64
- xD-Picture Card used
- Space for 63 more pictures
- Image Quality: SHQ (2816x2112)
- Super Macro ON

HISTOGRAM

- You can display the Histogram in Recording and Playback modes
- Cannot display both Framing Guide and Histogram

The Olympus SP-500 UZ is overall a well-built and fun-to-use digital camera. The camera is relatively light and compact for an ultra zoom but you'll have to carry it slung over your shoulder or hung around your neck (or stashed in a backpack). Operations and shutter lag times are average. The large grip makes handling very comfortable.

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