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Timing & Performance

In use the Olympus is a fairly pleasant camera to take photos with. As long as you avoid RAW mode (see below), it is acceptably brisk. Playback mode can get a bit bogged-down when trying to scroll through multiple images or, really, any action that involves reading from or writing to the xD card, but on the whole, it's a camera that you can use without the speed really getting in your way. The focus lag will rule out any quick 'grab shots,' but on the record side of things, the performance is within expected margins.

Timing Notes

All times calculated as an average of three operations. Unless otherwise stated all timings were made on a 3264 x 2448 Fine JPEG image (approx. 3,250 KB per image). The media used for these tests was a 512MB H-Type Olympus xD card.

Action Details
Time, secs
Power: Off to Record Ready to take first picture 2.7
Power: Off to Play Image displayed 2.8
Power: Record to Off All activity ceased 2.6
Power: Play to Off When buffer is empty ~0.2
Record Review Image displayed ~0.8
Mode: Record to Play   ~1.2
Mode: Play to Record   0.6
Play: Magnify To full magnification (10x) 8MP image 1.0
Play: Image to Image Time to display each saved image ~0.4
Play: Thumbnail view 3 x 3 thumbnails ~0.6

Action Details
Time, seconds
Zoom from Wide to Tele 2.4
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Wide angle ~0.8
Half-press Lag (0->S1) Telephoto ~0.8-1.5 *1
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) EVF live view ~0.2
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2) LCD live view ~0.2
Full-press Lag (0->S2) LCD live view, wide angle ~1.1
Off to Shot Taken LCD live view ~3.3
Shot to Shot Flash off ~2.4-2.9*1
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction off) 2.5
Shot to Shot Flash on (with red eye reduction on) ~6.0
*1 The SP-560UZ tele focus speed varies, hence we're quoting a range rather than an average figure.

Lag Timing Definitions

Half-press Lag (0->S1)
Many digital camera users prime the AF and AE systems on their camera by half-pressing the shutter release. This is the amount of time between a half-press of the shutter release and the camera indicating an auto focus & auto exposure lock on the LCD monitor / viewfinder (ready to shoot).
 

(Prime AF/AE)
Half to Full-press Lag (S1->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (assuming you have already primed the camera with a half-press) to the image being taken.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE primed)
Full-press Lag (0->S2)
The amount of time it takes from a full depression of the shutter release button (without performing a half-press of the shutter release beforehand) to the image being taken. This is more representative of the use of the camera in a spur of the moment 'point and shoot' situation.
 

(Take shot, AF/AE not primed)

Continuous mode

The tables below show the results of our continuous shooting test, indicating the actual frame rate along with maximum number of frames and how long you would have to wait after taking the maximum number of frames before you could take another shot. The media used for these tests was a 512MB H-Type Olympus xD card. Shutter speed was kept above 1/200 sec during these tests.

Continuous drive mode

The Olympus has a variety of shooting modes, including a 15fps mode that is more like a movie mode than a conventional continuous shooting option. However, as soon as you engage one of the fast modes, the sensitivity defaults to a minimum of ISO 400 that, combined with low resolution, mean that the results are of little real use as photographs.

Image Type
Mode
Avg. frames
per sec
Frames in a burst *1
After
burst
*2
8MP JPEG Fine Continuous long period 1.1 fps ~17 ~12sec
8MP JPEG Normal Continuous long period 1.1 fps ~28 ~13sec
3.1MP JPEG Fine (ISO 400+) High speed 15 7 fps ~38 ~18 sec
1.2MP JPEG Fine (ISO 400+) Ultra high speed 15 15 fps 40 ~13 sec

*1 In a single "burst" (finger held down on shutter release).
*2 Once the buffer is full the SP-560UZ stops to for the images to be written to the card. You can shoot another shot after just a few seconds but need to wait longer to get another full burst
*3 The SP-560UZ refocuses between each shot in 'Long Period' continuous shooting mode, so this figure in an average - the actual frame rate will depend on how fast the camera can focus.

File Write / Display and Sizes

Timings shown below are the time taken for the camera to process and "flush" the image out to the storage card, the timer was started as soon as the shutter release was pressed and stopped when the activity indicator went out. This means the timings also include the camera's processing time and as such are more representative of the actual time to "complete the task". Again a 512MB H-Type Olympus xD card was used.

Image Type
Time to store
(secs)

Time to display
(secs)

File size *1
(approx.)
Images on a *2
512MB Card
8MP RAW (No JPEG) ~10.4 ~10.4 11,850 KB 43
8MP JPEG Super High Quality ~2.1 ~2.1 3,250 KB 127
8MP JPEG High Quality ~1.8 ~0.8 1,900 KB 249
5MP JPEG Standard Quality ~1.5 ~0.8 1,700 KB 204

*1 All file sizes are an average of three files. As is the case with JPEG it's difficult to predict the size of an image because it will vary a fair amount depending on the content of the image (detail and noise).
*2 Camera estimation.

Unfortunately, although the xD picture card was considered fast at its launch in 2000, it's now some way behind the competition. Unlike the most recent offerings from FujiFilm (Which co-developed xD with Olympus), the SP-560UZ cannot accept SD of SDHC cards. The side-effect of this dedication to an outdated standard is appalling write times. The SP-560UZ takes over 10 seconds to write a RAW file (Using the fastest available, H-Type xD card). This is still between four and five times longer than the Panasonic FZ-18 takes.

If you want to use RAW mode, get used to seeing this screen. You may find yourself looking at it, cursing, while interesting, photogenic things happen around you.

This is a great shame because compact cameras, which are more likely to have compromised lenses and limited processing power, arguably benefit more from RAW conversion than DSLRs. Unfortunately, the use of xD card makes the SP-560UZ's RAW mode slow to the point of being unusable. If you choose to shoot a full quality JPEG alongside your RAW file, you'll have to wait around 18 seconds before you can next shoot an image. This isn't quite long enough to go and make yourself a cup of tea but does give you time to reach the kitchen, fill the kettle and turn it on.

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