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You are hereHome > Digital Camera Reviews > Olympus SP-590UZ


Olympus SP-590UZ Review

Review Date: Apr 20, 2009

Category: Beginner to Serious Amateur

Olympus SP-590UZ


The Olympus SP-590UZ 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 SP-590UZ has excellent construction and balance but it is put together in a way that makes it a bit large and chunky. The handgrip feels comfortably secure with all my fingers finding a resting place. There is thankfully no protruding eyelet for the right shoulder strap.

Startup time is fast at about 1.5 sec., shot to shot times about 2.5 sec. (4 shots in 10 sec.), and there is no practical shutter lag in good lighting. Autofocus is fast and precise in good lighting, even at long focal lengths (with usual slight AF lag). In low-light, AF is about 1 sec. at wide-angle (3 sec. at full tele) and locks precisely even with low contrast subjects.

At 12M Fine, you'll be able to save about 3 images in Internal memory and 174 images on a 1GB xD-Picture Card. Shooting video 640x480 @ 30fps, you can record about 12s in Internal memory and up to 9m27s on a 1GB xD-Picture card. I recommend you use a 2GB SD Memory Card or a higher capacity one, depending on how many pictures and videos you usually take in one outing.

- Colors: black with white letterings; blue and orange icons; and, silver and chrome accents
- Looks: DSLR-type, very handsome design
- Deep comfortable grip
- Controls are recessed and may be a bit difficult to access if you have big fingers
- 'Big' Compact: best carried hung around the neck or shoulder
- Dimensions: 110 x 89 x 98 mm /
4.3 x 3.5 x 3.9 in.
- Weight: 435g / 15.3oz without batteries and media card
- Takes 4 AA batteries
- Startup with lens extending about 16 mm (0.6 in.) and LCD turning on and ready in about 1.5 sec.
- Shot to shot time about 2.5 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.

The Flash Pop-Up button is on the left side of the flash. The flash opens up quietly enough but snaps loudly back when closed.

The flash is powerful and can reach up to 6.4 m (21 ft) on ISO Auto. You need to manually pop it up before it can be used -- the type I prefer. When closed, you won't be surprised by the flash suddenly popping up and firing when you don't want it to. Press a small button and it pops up; you can then use the RIGHT ARROW to select 5 flash options: Auto, Red-eye reduction, Fill In, Red-eye + Fill In, Off, Slow Sync, Red-Eye Slow Sync, and Slow-Curtain Sync. To turn the flash off, simply close it.

Though there is no hot shoe for the attachment of an external flash, you can use an external wireless flash compatible with the Olympus Wireless RC Flash System. This enables multi-flash photography using multiple flash units compatible with this system. The camera’s built-in flash is used for communication between the camera and flash. You can also use a slave flash that is synchronized with the camera flash.

The camera rests naturally in the palm of your left hand, with the fingers of that hand wrapped securely around the lens barrel which juts out from the body at about 48 mm (1.9 in.). When the camera is turned ON, the lens extends an extra 16 mm (0.6 in.) at Wide-angle and 62 mm (2.4 in.) at full Tele.

A bridge extends from the underside of the body almost three quarters of the lens barrel to add further stability to the camera when it is placed on a flat surface.

The top of the camera has the Shutter Release Button with the Zoom Lever around the collar, the Power ON/OFF button, and the Mode Dial with AUTO, PASM modes, My mode (4 available), SCN (Scene Modes), Beauty Mode, Movie and Playback (there is also a Playback button on the back).

The lens is not threaded but the lens barrel will accept the TCON-17 (1.7x) Telephoto Converter lens which will bring your tele reach to a whopping 1149.2mm reach! To use the teleconverter, you must also purchase the Lens Adapter Tube (CLA-11).

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.

It only takes a quick 2 sec. to zoom all the way from wide-angle to 26x telephoto. I counted about 28 intermediate steps. The zooming is smooth and it's easy enough to stop right where you want to.

Olympus SP-590UZ Back View

The LCD is large, clear and bright at 2.7 inch with 230K dots resolution. [It seems to me that at 230K dots resolution, 2.7-in. may be the maximum LCD size to display a clear image; anything larger and the display becomes grainy.] The electronic viewfinder has a Diopter adjustment dial on the left side that works well. You press the Monitor button to switch between the viewfinder and LCD display. You can display a Framing Grid for easier composition. There is a Live Histogram. You can also view a Histogram in Playback.

As I mentioned, there is a Playback setting on the Mode Dial as well as a Playback button on the back of the camera. You cannot press and hold the Playback button to go directly into Playback without having to turn on the camera; you unfortunately have to power on the camera first (and extend the lens, remove the lens cap and waste precious battery power).

The Connector compartment is on the left side of the camera (viewed from the back) with a hinged plastic cover that slides and opens wide to permit easy access to the connectors.

There is no Manual Focus.

The Sensor-shift image stabilization is selected from the Menu (Camera Menu - Image Stabilizer - ON/OFF) and is available for both still and movie shooting. [According to the manual, shooting a movie for an extended period of time with the Image Stabilizer turned ON may result in the camera heating up and the protective circuit automatically shutting off the power.]

FUNCTIONS ACCESSIBLE BY CONTROL BUTTONS (clockwise starting from the Monitor button)
- The Monitor button toggles between the EVF and LCD. EVF has diopter adjustment which works quite well.
- Custom button allows one button access to a frequently used function. Typically used for the AE Lock / AF Lock functions.
- MENU button calls up Menu/Setup/Panorama
- Review/Playback
- Arrow Pad: UP (Exposure Compensation), RIGHT (Flash), DOWN (Self-timer 12s, 2s), LEFT (Macro, SuperMacro)
- OK/FUNC (Drive, WB, ISO, Metering, Image Size, Compression)
- 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 is accessed with the UP ARROW
- 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.)
- Normal Mode:
Wide: 3.9” (0.1m)
Tele: 66.9” (1.7m)

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

- Super Macro:
0.39” (1cm)
- Note: Macro/Super Macro stays selected even when you turn the camera off and on again.
- 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: F5.0 - F8.0


S: 4 (NR on), 1/2 - 1/1,000 sec.
W: F2.8 - F8.0
T: F5.0 - F8.0


M: 15 - 1/1,000 sec. (F2.8 - F8.0); Bulb: up to 8 min. (at ISO 64)
W: F2.8 - F8.0
T: F5.0 - F8.0


It would have been good if the full range of shutter speeds were made available in P mode.

At the bottom of the camera, the tripod mount thread is plastic and more or less smack in the middle of the body though not inline with the lens. The Battery Compartment door has a lock to prevent accidental opening (accepts 4 AA batteries). You won't be able to change battery or card when the camera is on a tripod. The SP-590UZ uses the xD-Picture Card; a microSD Attachment is provided to enable you to use microSD and microSDHC card.

The Olympus SP-590UZ has very good build and construction, and an excellent deep handgrip. It has lots of useful features, a very good EVF and LCD monitor that gains up well in low-light situations. Performance is very good in both good and low lighting.

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