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Olympus SP-550 UZ Review

March 2007 | By Simon Joinson

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)


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

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This article is Copyright 2007 Simon Joinson / dpreview.com and the review in part or in whole may NOT be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author. For information on reproducing any part of this review (or any images) please contact: Phil Askey

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