The Olympus SP-560 UZ improves on the SP-550 UZ with better AF and a wider starting focal length of 27mm (versus 28mm on the SP-550 UZ). It is still an 18x optical zoom camera which means that the longest focal length is now only 486mm (versus 504mm on the SP-550 UZ). This is a good thing really because at 504mm, I found it almost impossible to hand hold the camera and get a stable focus lock; at 486mm, I have not found this to be a problem.
Otherwise, it is basically the same camera with the same handsome body design and solid construction.
I believe all digital cameras should have Area
AF where the AF Frame can be moved about on the
screen for off-centre focusing. The SP-560 UZ
Area AF has 13 across x 11 down =
123 positions that go almost to the edge of the
screen! Once you've selected AF Mode = AREA in the
MENU, all you have to do to activate it is to
press and hold the OK/FUNC button for about 1
sec., then use the ARROW Keys to position it on
screen. Then press and hold the OK/FUNC button
for another 1 sec. to set it in its new position.
Easy and intuitive, though the 1 sec. holds slow
things down slightly.
A digital camera targeted to serious and advanced
photographers should have a Live Histogram. There
is nothing like a Live Histogram to help you determine
whether your image is correctly exposed. You cannot
rely on the LCD monitor no matter how clear and
detailed it is because today's LCD monitors tend
to adjust its display (usually, brighten) to present
a bright picture. So it's quite easy to mistake
an underexposed picture as correctly exposed on
such LCD monitors. The SP-560 UZ has 2 Live Histograms!
Besides the traditional
histogram with a distribution curve, you can
also opt for a display of bright and dark areas.
If reading the above gives you the impression
that the SP-560 UZ is brimming with features that
a knowledgeable photographer would like, you're
right. And the converse is also true: it takes a knowledgeable photographer to make the most of the
Concerning the AF issues that some encountered on the SP-550 UZ, the SP-560 UZ seems to have resolved them (especially with the shorter max. focal length). It can still be a problem to lock focus sometimes in low light at full tele, for example when trying to lock focus on the moon or buildings at night. An infinity focus lock would be much welcomed here.
Master 2 Software
The Olympus Master 2 software is very user-friendly
and an excellent upgrade from the previous offering. It displays all info on one screen, including
very complete EXIF info. You can do image editing,
resize, crop, insert text, brightness & contrast,
color balance, tone curve, gamma, auto tone correction,
hue & saturation, monochrome & sepia,
sharpness & blur, distortion correction and
It also processes RAW files: exposure compensation,
white balance, picture mode, contrast, sharpness,
saturation, B&W filter, picture tone, gradation,
noise filter and color space.
The Olympus SP-560 UZ is
a well designed and very good ultra zoom digital camera. It is enjoyable to use with an excellent wide-angle for large group and wide landscape shots and a tele that is more manageable than on the SP-550 UZ. The serious photographer will appreciate the extensive amount of control and customization available, the excellent metering and very good image quality at the low ISOs.