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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus SP-550 UZ


Olympus SP-550 UZ Review

Review Date: May 7, 2007

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Olympus SP-550 UZ


The Olympus SP-550 UZ is a digital camera targeted to serious amateur photographers. It has 7.1 effective megapixels resolution on a 1/2.5 in. image sensor. The Olympus lens is a 28-504 mm (35mm format equivalent) F2.8(W)-F4.5(T), 18x optical zoom with CCD-shift image stabilization.

We find the overall image quality of the Olympus SP-550 UZ to be very good at ISO 50 with good image detail.

18x Optical Zoom
Wide-angle 28 mm Tele 504 mm
Wide-angle 4.68mm
(28mm, 35mm equivalent)
Telephoto 84.24mm
(504mm, 35mm equivalent)

The Olympus SP-550 UZ has an impressive 18x wide-angle optical zoom lens with a new CCD-shift Image Stabilization which helps to reduce camera shake. In the above pictures, we show the coverage for 28mm and 504mm. We love the 28mm wide-angle coverage as well as the incredible tele reach!

Super Macro
Super Macro
9.8mm [58.9mm], Program Auto, ESP metering
1/13 sec., F3.5, ISO 50, Tripod used

The Olympus SP-550 UZ can focus in Super Macro mode to as close as 0.98 cm (0.39 in.). I recommend you use AF Mode = Area so you can position the AF frame to where you want the focus to lock.

AF is not partifularly fast. Note that, as is most often the case with ultra zoom digital cameras, in low-light, it will be difficult to use Super Macro even with AF-assist since the AF assist light cannot reach the subject due to the long lens barrel.

There are three metering modes: ESP Multi-Pattern, Spot Metering, Center-Weighted Metering. Using ESP most of the time, images are well exposed when shooting shady scenes. Scenes with bright highlights (e.g. including the sky) turn out to be more under-exposed than we'd like.

Auto White Balance Indoors
AWB One Touch WB
AWB One Touch WB

As the above two pictures show, the Auto White Balance (AWB) is not quite accurate indoors under artificial lighting [I have two ordinary household tungsten light bulbs on the ceiling]. Fortunately, the SP-550 UZ allows WB to also be set manually -- though it does not work consistently. AWB works very well in natural light.

ISO Comparisons
ISO 50
ISO 50
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 100 ISO 200
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 400 ISO 800
ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 1600 ISO 3200
ISO 5000  
ISO 5000  

You can set the ISO on the Olympus SP-550 UZ from 50 to 5000. The 100% crops above (area delimited by the white square) demonstrate that noise at ISO 50 and ISO 100 is under control. Noise starts to be more visible at ISO 200 but is still usable. At ISO 400 to 5000, the presence of noise is clearly visible at full image size and with loss of image detail.

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
4.7mm [28mm], Manual mode, Spot, 15 sec., F5.0 ISO 100
One Touch WB, Macro, Self-Timer (2 sec.), Tripod Used

The Olympus SP-550 UZ 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 15 sec. at F5.0. To eliminate camera shake, I place the camera on a tripod and use the 2 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 SP-550 UZ LCD gains up very nicely in low-light and the display is smooth (no grain).

The pictures in the Olympus SP-550 UZ 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 3072 x 2304 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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