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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


The Olympus SP-500 is a digital camera targeted to beginner and serious amateur photographers. It has 6.0 effective megapixels resolution on a 1/2.5 in. image sensor. The Olympus lens is a 38-380 mm (35mm format equivalent) F2.8(W)-F3.7(T), 10x optical zoom.

We find the overall image quality of the Olympus SP-500 to be good to very good, though highlights tend to be blown.

10x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 38 mm Tele 380 mm
Wide-angle 6.3mm
(38mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 63mm
(380mm, 35mm equivalent)

In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 38mm and 380mm.

Super Macro
Super Macro
10.9mm [65.7mm], Program Auto, ESP, MWB
1/1.3 sec., F3.2, ISO 80, Super Macro
Tripod used, White Page 'Reflector'

The Olympus SP-500 can focus in Super Macro mode to as close as 3 cm (1.18 in.) but it has a hard time doing so in low-light, even with the AF-assist ON (in fact, the AF assist light cannot reach the subject due to the long lens barrel). For the picture above, the face is in slight shadows (light source is from the ceiling) and the AF cannot focus on the left eye (using Selective AF Frame to position the AF Frame). I therefore use a white paper (ordinary printer paper) as a 'reflector' to throw some light on the left side of the face. After a number of trials, I obtain an in-focus picture.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB Manual WB
AWB Manual WB

Automatic WB gives a pinkish cast, but One-touch WB (i.e. Manual WB) reproduces white very well. As expected, AWB works well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 80
ISO 80
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400
ISO 100 ISO 200 ISO 400

The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white rectangle) demonstrate the noise levels at ISO 80, 100, 200, and 400. Noise is low at ISO 80 and ISO 100. At ISO 200, noise becomes visible and at ISO 400, it is visible as splotches of colours, especially in the black areas. However, as the image samples in the Olympus SP-500 Photo Gallery show, images at ISO 400 display without trace of noise at 800x600 pixels.

Chromatic Aberrations

CA is visible in very strong highlights everyday situations. In the shot above, CA is visible at the red square in the centre of the picture (reproduced at 100% crop at bottom right).

Long Shutter Speed
Long Exposure
6.3mm [38mm], Manual mode, ESP, 13 sec., F8.0 ISO 80
Macro, Self-Timer (12 sec.), Tripod Used

The Olympus SP-500 provides a maximum long shutter speed of 15 sec. (plus Bulb) in Manual mode. Here I'm checking out the presence of noise at long exposure (noise usually increases the longer the shutter is left open). As usual, I place Bamm-Bamm under my office desk, in the shadows, to obtain a long exposure of 13 sec. at F8.0. To eliminate camera shake, I place the camera on a tripod and use the 12 sec. self-timer. Noise reduction (set in MENU: CAMERA Tab) kicks in whenever the shutter speed is slower than 1/2 sec., and doubles the time required to store the shot.

The pictures in the Olympus SP-500 Digital Photo Gallery page provide a good sample of what the camera is capable of. I have provided samples at 800x600 pixels (compressed to Quality 60/100 in Photoshop Elements) as well as the 2816 x 2112 pixels original size (click on the image for the original version).

You can safely assume that most macro shots and slow shutter speed shots required the use of a tripod. Any image that is adjusted for levels in Photoshop has "_adjusted" appended to the file name.

I have defaulted the image size to 800x600 pixels. For those who have their monitor resolution set to 1024x728 pixels, everything should snugly fit and you should not have to scroll to see the whole image. If your monitor is set to 800x600 pixels resolution, start the slide show and then scroll to the right to position the image within your screen width. Then, press F11 (if you are using Internet Explorer) to switch to full screen mode, and the image should fill your screen nicely. Press F11 again at any time to switch your monitor display back to normal mode.

To return to this page from the Photo Gallery, click on the animated graphics of the camera.

Please open and download the original size version only if you need to and only once to your hard drive -- and save me some precious bandwidth. Thanks!


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