Announced just before PMA in January 2007 the SP-550UZ is the first serious attempt by Olympus to take back some ground in the super zoom sector, a sector it almost single-handedly created back in 2000 with the legendary C-2100UZ, but has since struggled to make a mark in. The SP-550UZ is a significant step up from the previous models in the 'SP' range (including the current SP-510UZ), offering 7MP resolution, image stabilization (CCD-shift) and an astounding 28-500mm (equiv.) 18x optical zoom range. The 'super zoom' market is an increasingly crowded and competitive one, and the SP-550UZ goes head to head with popular and well-regarded models such as the Sony H5, Canon S3 IS and Panasonic FZ8. Rarely has a camera caused so much interest based on its specification alone... so can the SP-550UZ live up to the hype? Let's find out, starting as ever with the headline specifications:

  • 18x wide optical zoom (equivalent to 28-504mm on a 35mm camera) 1:2.8-4.5
  • Dual Image Stabilization
  • 7.1 Megapixels
  • 6.4cm/2.5” LCD with 230,000 pixels
  • High burst rate (up to 15fps in 1.2 Megapixel mode )
  • Super Macro mode (from as close as 1cm)
  • P/A/S/M exposure modes
  • RAW mode
  • BrightCapture Technology for better low light photography – also available in movie mode
  • 23 scene modes (including Portrait, Sports, Night Scene)
  • 25 languages on board
  • Internal memory plus xD-Picture Card slot
  • Supplied with Olympus Master software and four AA batteries

Side by side

Although not a small camera the SP-550UZ is very similar in size and weight to the Canon S3 IS and Panasonic Lumix FZ8 (also the Sony H2/H5, not shown). In fact the only cameras in this class that are significantly different in size are the considerably larger Fujifilm S6000 and the Panasonic FZ50 (not shown).

Olympus SP-550UZ specifications

Street Price • US: $490
• UK: £300
Body Material Metal and plastic
Sensor

• 1/2.5" Primary color filter (RGB) Type CCD
• 7.4 million pixels total
• 7.1 million effective pixels

Image sizes • 3072 x 2304
• 3072 x 2048 (3:2)
• 2560 x 1920
• 2304 x 1728
• 2048 x 1536
• 1600 x 1200
• 1280 x 960
• 1024 x 768
• 640 x 480
Movie clips • 640 x 480 30fps
• 320 x 240 30fps
• Up to capacity of card (H cards only)
File formats • Still: JPEG (EXIF 2.21), RAW
• Movie: Quicktime Motion JPEG (AVI)
• Sound:Wave format
Lens • 4.7-84.2mm (28-504 35 mm equiv)
• 14 Lenses / 11 groups
• Four Aspherical glass elements
• 18x optical zoom
• F2.8-4.5
Image stabilization Yes (CCD Shift)
Conversion lenses Yes (with CLA-10 adaptor)
Digital zoom Up to 5.6x
Focus • TTL iESP auto focus with contrast detection
• Predictive AF
AF area modes • iESP multi-pattern
• 143 area selectable spot
• Manual focus
AF assist lamp Yes
Focus distance • 0.1m-∞ (wide), 1.2-∞ (tele)
• 1cm closest focus (super macro)
Metering • ESP multi-pattern
• Center-weighted
• Spot
ISO sensitivity • Auto ISO
• ISO 50
• ISO 100
• ISO 200
• ISO 400
• ISO 800
• ISO 1600
• ISO 3200 (2048 x 1536 max)
• ISO 5000 (2048 x 1536 max)
Exposure compensation • +/- 2EV
• 1/3 EV steps
Exposure bracketing • +/- 5EV
• 1/3 EV steps
Shutter speed • 15-1/2000 sec (dependent on mode)
• Bulb (max 8 minutes)
Aperture F2.8 - 8 (wide) F3.1 - 8 (tele)
Modes

• Auto
• Program
• Aperture priority
• Shutter priority
• MyModes
• Movie

Scene modes • Portrait
• Landscape
• Landscape with portrait
• Night scene
• Night scene with portrait
• Sports
• Indoor
• Candle
• Self portrait
• Available light portrait
• Sunset
• Fireworks
• Cuisine
• Behind glass
• Documents
• Auction
• Shoot & select 1
• Shoot & select 2
• Snow
• Beach
• Underwater wide 1
• Underwater wide 2
• Underwater macro
White balance • Auto
• Sunlight
• Overcast
• Tungsten
• Fluorescent 1
• Fluorescent 2
• Fluorescent 3
• Custom white balance
White balance fine tune -7 Red - +7 Blue
Self timer 2 or 12sec
Continuous shooting • 1.2fps/7 frames (Full image size)
• 7fps/15 frames (3MP)
• 15fps /20 frames (1.2MP )
Image parameters • Black & White
• Sepia
• Brightness correction
• Saturation correction
Flash • Built in pop-up
• Red-eye reduction
• Fill-in
• Fill-in with red-eye reduction
• Slow sync
• Working range 0.3-4.5m
Viewfinder Electronic viewfinder
LCD monitor • 2.5-inch Polycrystalline TFT
• 207,000 pixels
Connectivity • DC in
• AV out
• USB
Print compliance

• PictBridge
• PIM III
• DPOF

Storage • xD-Picture Card
• 20 MB built-in memory
Power • 4x AA batteries (alkaline included)
• Optional NiMHs and charger
Other features • RAW data edit
• In camera editing / effects
• Panorama function (with optional Olympus xD-Picture card)
• Digital image stabilizer for movie capture
Weight (no batt) 365g (12.9 oz)
Dimensions 116 x 78.5 x 78 mm (4.6 x 3.1 x 3.1 in)