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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus SP-560 UZ


   

Olympus SP-560 UZ Review

Review Date: Dec 3, 2007

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Olympus SP-560 UZ

HANDLING & FEEL

The Olympus SP-560 UZ is medium compact in size and has a handsome black-finish body. The finish is a mixture of non-slip texturized rubber covering the handgrip and smooth black hard polycarbonate plastic for the rest of the body, plus silver/chrome accents to tie it all together into a very good looking camera. The result is a tightly built body with excellent construction and balance. The handgrip feels comfortably secure with all my fingers finding a resting place, except for the protruding eyelet for the shoulder strap.

The zoom goes from a satisfying wide-angle 27mm to a tele reach of 486mm (focal lengths throughout this review are expressed in 35mm equivalent). A CCD-shift image stabilization helps stabilize hand holding the 18x optical zoom.

With the camera powered on, the lens extends approx. 26mm (1 in.) and takes approx. 2.5 sec. to do so. At full zoom, the lens extends approx. an additional 37mm (@1.5 in.) and takes approx. 3 sec. to do so. A lens cap sits on top of the lens barrel and is just loose enough that the extruding lens will not jam but will safely push it off the lens barrel should you turn on the camera and forget to remove the lens cap first. A retaining string ensures you do not lose the lens cap.

The camera is ready to go (lens extended, LCD on) in about 3 sec. Shot to shot time is about 3 sec. with most of that time apparently taken with writing the image to the xD-Picture Card. In low-light, AF time is fast at wide-angle and can take up to 3 sec. at full tele. When you turn off the camera, it remembers where the tele setting was and zooms back to it on power on.

The SP-560 UZ sports a large 2.5-in. LCD screen with a high 230,000 pixels resolution. The EVF is excellent with a smooth display and the image appears bright (without hurting my eyes), clear and crisp letting you know when focus lock is achieved. There is a diopter adjustment that works very well. I can see the whole viewfinder display even with glasses on. As with other EVFs, exposure data and a framing grid or histogram can be superimposed.

STYLE
- Colours: overall black with silver and chrome accents
- Looks: SLR-style, handsome
   
FEEL
- Comfortable grip
- Controls spaced well
   
DIMENSIONS & WEIGHT
- Medium Compact: best carried hung around the neck or shoulder
- Dimensions: 116 x 78.5 x 78 mm /
4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in.
- Weight: 365g / 12.9 oz. without batteries and media card
- Takes 4 AA batteries
   
SPEED OF OPERATION
- Startup with lens extending about 26 mm (1 in.) and LCD turning on in about 3 sec.
- Shot to shot time about 3 sec.
- AF is fast at wide-angle but can take up to 3 sec. at full tele in low-light
- No practical shutter lag at wide-angle in good or low-light, 3 sec. AF lag at full tele
   

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

Controls

Olympus SP-560 UZ Top View

The top of the camera has the Power Button, the Stabilizer button (customizable), the Shutter Release Button, the Zoom Lever around the shutter release button, and the Mode Dial. The Mode Dial has AUTO, P, A, S, M, My Mode (4 available), SCN (Scene Modes), GUIDE, Movie and Playback. The molded shape of the excellent handgrip is clearly visible from this angle.

The SP-560 UZ has full exposure flexibility, with PASM, plus Scene Modes. In addition, there is a GUIDE setting on the Mode Dial that attempts to answer the most common questions beginners ask by providing various solutions to a "problem." For example, if you take a picture and it turns out too dark, the GUIDE offers two ways that you can brighten it: 1) Dial in an exposure compensation (+1.0EV), or 2) Use fill-in flash (you need to pop up the flash up first, of course). You select the option you want and it's set! It's really helpful for beginners as a learning tool. There are 15 subjects covered in the GUIDE:

1 Shoot w/ effects preview
2 Brightening subject
3 Shooting into backlight
4 Set particular lighting
5 Blurring background
6 Adjusting area in focus
7 Shooting subject in motion
8 Targeting with assistance
9 Close up photo
10 Super close up photo
11 Shooting at night
12 Reducing blur
13 Hi-speed sequential shots
14 Don't miss the shot
15 Reducing red-eye
16 Adjusting image quality

The flash is of the pop-up kind (button on the left side) 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 happy they have full control over when the flash fires. The flash can be set to fire front curtain or rear curtain (set in Camera Menu), allowing you to take those streaking car light special effects.

The Zoom Lever is around the Shutter Button and it takes about 3 sec. to zoom from wide to tele. The zooming is very smooth and I counted about 28 intermediate steps.

Stabilizer Button Camera Menu

To turn the CCD-Shift Image Stabilizer on, all you need to do is press the Stabilizer button and select ON. However, since the Stabilizer button can be customized to some other function, you can also set Image Stabilizer on in the MENU.

   

There are a number of Continuous shooting options and it's all a bit confusing figuring out when options are available and when they are not. The Instruction Manual is no help here. For example, the Hi 1 and Hi 2 options are available only when ISO is set to AUTO or ISO 400 and above.

Video Storage Capacity
Internal 47MB
2GB
SHQ 640x480 30fps 26s 18m 56s or 15s
HQ 320x240 15fps 2m 26s 1h 43m 17s
SQ 160x120 15fps 10m 44s 7h 33m 06s

You can record movies with sound limited only by the size of your memory card. You can store approx. 26 sec. of SHQ movie in the Internal Memory, or approx. 18 min. 56 sec. on a 2GB xD-Picture Card.

Note that if you are not using a High Speed xD-Picture Card (Type H), you'll be able to store only 15 sec. of SHQ movie (the other Image Quality options do not seem to be affected).

If sound is set ON, you cannot use optical zoom (you can use digital zoom) during movie recording nor use the Image Stabilizer. If the sound is turned OFF, you can use the optical zoom and the Image Stabilizer (though with Image Stabilizer ON, Olympus warns that the camera will heat up and may stop recording, in which case you need to remove the battery and allow the camera to cool down). If Full Time AF is ON, the sound of the focusing will be recorded.

No xD-Picture Card comes with the camera but there is approx. 47MB of internal memory.

xD-Picture Card Storage Capacity (approx.)
Quality Pixels IN (47MB) 2GB
RAW 3264x2448 4 171
RAW + SHQ 3264x2448 3 128
RAW + HQ 3264x2448 3 146
RAW + SQ1 3264x2448 3 151
RAW + SQ2 3264x2448 4 166
SHQ 3264x2448 12 511
SHQ 3:2 3264x2176 13 571
HQ 3264x2448 23 999
HQ 3:2 3264x2176 26 1122
SQ1 2560x1920 High 19 820
2560x1920 Normal 37 1560
2304x1728 High 23 999
2304x1728 Normal 45 1811
2048x1536 High 29 1254
2048x1536 Normal 56 2369
SQ2 1600x1200 High 46 1938
1600x1200 Normal 86 3553
1280x960 High 68 2907
1280x96 Normal 121 4920
1024x768 High 101 4264
1024x768 Normal 168 7107
640x480 High 275 9999
640x480 Normal 505 9999
16:9 1920x1080 63 2665

Unlike some digital cameras that only give you a few image quality / image size options, the SP-560 UZ gives you a plethora of image quality / image sizes combinations. (However, we can't help wondering if all that is really necessary.)

RAW can be saved by itself or in combination with a JPEG mode. It takes about 11 sec. to save a RAW file, and 20 sec. to save a RAW + JPEG SHQ files. At JPEG SHQ, 128 images can be saved on a 2GB xD-Picture Card.

Olympus SP-560 UZ Back View

The back is well organized: there is a large 2.5 in. LCD monitor, and the controls are on the right side, adequately well spaced out. The thumb area slopes up to the right to provide a comfortable and sure hold.

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the EVF/LCD button)
- EVF/LCD toggles between the EVF and LCD. EVF has diopter adjustment.
- MENU
- Review/Playback
- Arrow Pad: UP (Exposure Compensation), RIGHT (Flash Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill-in, Red-eye fill-in, Slow, Off -- only if flash is popped up), DOWN (Self-timer 12s, 2s), LEFT (Macro, SuperMacro)
- OK/FUNC (WB, ISO, Drive, Metering)
- DISP: Info (Normal), No info (Simple), Info + Grid (Frame Assist), Info + Histogram
- Shadow Adjustment; ERASE only one image at a time in Playback
   
EXPOSURE COMPENSATION
- 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.)
   
MACRO
- Normal Mode:
Wide: 3.9” (0.1m) – infinity
Tele: 47.2” (1.2m) – infinity
-

Macro Mode:
Wide: 3.9” (0.1m)
Tele: 47.2” (1.2m)

- Super Macro:
0.4” (1cm)
- Note: Macro/Super Macro stays selected even when you turn the camera off and on again.
   
SHUTTER SPEED RANGES
- P: 1/2 - 1/2,000 sec. (no Program Shift)
-

A: 4 (NR on), 1/2 - 1/1,000 sec.

W: F2.8 - F8.0
T: F4.5 - F8.0

-

S: 4 (NR on), 1/2 - 1/1,000 sec.

W: F2.8 - F8.0
T: F4.5 - F8.0

-

M: 15 - 1/1,000 sec. (F2.8 - F4.0) - 1/2000 (F4.5 - F8.0)

W: F2.8 - F8.0
T: F4.5 - F8.0

-

BULB: Up to 8 min. with ISO 50, 100 or 200

   

The USB connector is covered by a 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.

LCD & Menus

There is an electronic viewfinder (EVF) and a large 2.5 in. LCD monitor with a high 230,000 pixels resolution. The EVF is bright, clear and crisp -- without hurting my eyes as most high resolution EVFs tend to do.

The LCD has a fast enough refresh rate for a very smooth display. The LCD monitor's brightness can be adjusted in MENU/SETUP. The LCD gains up very well in low-light (even extreme low-light, though grainy).

There is a very effective AF-assist which makes auto focus to be 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 has improved but is still quite hierarchical. Hierarchical is nice for PCs, and keeps everything well organized, but on a digital camera, it makes for lots of button presses and frustratingly slow navigation. For example, from SHQ mode, I need to do 8 button presses just to switch to RAW+JPEG SHQ mode. Changing shutter speed or aperture is also painfully slow. Olympus is known for lots of innovation, but its menu structure isn't one of them. I am not necessarily asking for an à-la-iPhone user interface (though it's good to bear in mind that a new generation of younger photographers will expect and demand that) but whoever is the Gatekeeper (and I think there is someone) to this menu structure needs to realize the world has changed already. I believe it is pretty obvious that this menu structure is well past its glory days and has to go. I also believe the Gatekeeper can give us a better menu structure. [Sorry, been watching too many Matrix reruns ;o).]

There are a number of interesting features that bears mentioning:

  • AF Predict (for subject moving toward or away from camera)
  • Front Curtain, Rear Curtain flash sync
  • Timelapse (2-99 pictures at 1-99 min interval); wish the interval could be shorter, down to 2 secs if necessary
  • Area (13 horizontal x 11 vertical = 143 areas, pretty much up to the screen edges)
  • Live Histogram (Graph or Direct)
  • AEB +/- 0.3, +/- 0.7, +/- 1.0, 3 or 5 shots
  • Grid Assist (Horizontal/Vertical or Diagonals)
  • Silent Mode
  • Face Detection, Smile Shot scene mode

CAMERA MENU

CAMERA MENU 1 of 5

- WB
- ISO
- Drive
- Fine Zoom
- Digital Zoom

CAMERA MENU 2 of 5

- Metering
- AF Mode
- Focus Mode
- Fulltime AF
- AF Predict (for subject moving toward or away from camera)

CAMERA MENU 3 of 5

- AF Illuminator
- Image Stabilizer
- Flash Compensation
- Flash Syncro (SYNC1 = Front Curtain, SYNC2 = Rear Curtain)
- Flash (IN, SLAVE)

CAMERA MENU 4 of 5

- Voice memo
- Panorama
- WB Adjust
- Sharpness
- Contrast

CAMERA MENU 5 of 5

- Saturation
- Noise Reduction
- Timelapse (2-99 pictures at 1-99 min interval)
- Conversion Lens

WHITE BALANCE

- Auto
- Preset
- One-touch WB

WHITE BALANCE - PRESET

- Sunny day
- Cloudy day
- Tungsten light
- Fluorescent lamp 1 (home daylight fluorescent)

WHITE BALANCE 3 of 4

- Fluorescent lamp 2 (desk lamps neutral white fluorescent)
- Fluorescent lamp 3 (office white fluorescent)

WHITE BALANCE - ONE TOUCH WB

 

ISO 1 of 3

- Auto
- High ISO Auto
- 50
- 100

ISO 2 of 3

- 200
- 400
- 800
- 1600

ISO 3 of 3

- 3200
- 6400 (SQ1 2048x1536)

DRIVE 1 of 2

- Normal
- Sequential (SHQ 3264x2448)
- Hi Speed 1 (SQ1 2048x1536 H)
- Hi Speed 2 (SQ2 1280x960 N)

DRIVE 2 of 2

- AF (SHQ 3264x2448)
- AEB (SHQ 3264x2448)

METERING

- ESP (Multi-Pattern)
- Spot (Center)
- Center-weighted average

AF MODE

- Face Detect
- iESP (Pattern)
- Spot
- Area (13 horizontal x 11 vertical = 143 areas, pretty much up to the screen edges)

- With AREA, press and hold OK button down to activate and set it

FOCUS MODE

- AF
- MF

 

SETUP MENU

SETUP 1 of 5

- Format
- Backup
- Language
- Power on Setup (Screen, Sound)
- Beep

SETUP 2 of 5

- Warnings
- Shutter Sound
- Volume
- Rec View
- Menu Display

SETUP 3 of 5

- File Name
- Pixel Mapping
- LCD Monitor Brightness
- Clock
- Dual Time

SETUP 4 of 5

- Alarm Clock
- Video Out
- Frame Assist
- Histogram
- My Mode Setup

SETUP 5 of 5

- m/ft
- Custom Button

LANGUAGE

- English
- French
- Spanish
- Portuguese

FRAME ASSIST

- Off
- Grid
- Diagonals (to obtain absolute center of screen)

HISTOGRAM

- Off
- Live Histogram
- Direct (Black and white areas)

CUSTOM 1 of 4

- Image Stabilizer
- AE Lock
- AF Lock
- AF Lock + AE Lock

CUSTOM 2 of 4

- Image Quality
- Fine Zoom
- Digital Zoom
- AF Mode

CUSTOM 3 of 4

- Focus Mode
- Fulltime AF
- AF Predict
- Syncro

CUSTOM 4 of 4

- Flash
- Voice Memo
- Noise Reduction

 

SCENE MODE MENU

 

SCENE MODE 1 of 5

- Portrait
- Landscape
- Landscape + Portrait
- Sport
- Night Scene

SCENE MODE 2 of 5

- Night+Portrait
- Indoor
- Candle
- Self-Portrait
- Available Light

SCENE MODE 3 of 5

- Sunset
- Fireworks
- Cuisine
- Behind Glass
- Documents

SCENE MODE 4 of 5

- Auction
- Shoot & Select 1
- Shoot & Select 2
- Smile Shot
- Beach

SCENE MODE 5 of 5

- Snow
- Underwater Wide 1
- Underwater Wide 2
- Underwater Macro
- Quick Shutter

SCENE MODE HELP

- After approx. 4 sec. a help screen appears for the selected Scene Mode

 

FUNC - White Balance 1 of 2

- AWB, Sunny day, Cloudy day, Tungsten light, Fluorescent lamp 1 (daylight / home), Fluorescent lamp 2 (neutral white - desk lamps), Fluorescent lamp 3 (white - offices)

FUNC - White Balance 2 of 2

- One Touch WB

FUNC - ISO 1 of 2

- Auto, High ISO Auto, 50, 100, 200, 400

FUNC -ISO 2 of 2

- 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

FUNC - DRIVE 1 of 2

- Normal, Sequential, HI 1, HI 2, HI 2 Pre-capture

FUNC - DRIVE 2 of 2

- AF, AEB

FUNC - METERING

- ESP (Multi-Pattern), Spot, Center-weighted average

 

IMAGE QUALITY

IMAGE QUALITY 1 of 2

- RAW
- SHQ
- HQ
- SQ1

IMAGE QUALITY 2 of 2

- SQ2
- 16:9

RAW + JPEG 1 of 2

- OFF
- SHQ
- HQ
- SQ1

RAW + JPEG 2 of 2

- SQ2

SILENT MODE

- Turns off operational sound (warning beeps, shutter sounds, etc.)

 

PLAYBACK MENU

PLAYBACK MENU OPTIONS

- Protect
- Rotate
- Voice Memo (4 sec.)

ERASE MENU

ERASE - ALL

ERASE - ALL Confirm

- It takes 7 button presses to earse all images

 

 

PROGRAM

- Program, 1/15 sec. shutter speed, F3.5 aperture, +0.3EV exposure compensation
- Shadow Adjustment ON, 2s self-timer, Flash OFF
- Image Stabilizer
- One Touch WB
- ISO 800, Super Macro
- Sequential, xD-Picture Card
- Image Quality SHQ, Image Size 3264x2448, Space left for 510 images
- Frame assist displayed

PROGRAM

- Note that the info on the left side of the screen has disappeared after a few seconds

LIVE HISTOGRAM

- Cannot display both grid and histogram at the same time

The Olympus SP-560 UZ has very good build and construction, an excellent handgrip, and well spaced controls. It has lots of useful features, a very good EVF and LCD monitor that gains up very well in low-light situations. Olympus fans will also be glad to hear that the SP-560 UZ has improved the AF over the SP-550 UZ, is fast at wide-angle, a bit on the slow side at full tele in low light, but it locks precisely.

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