Olympus SP-565UZ
10.0MP | 26-520mm (20X) ZOOM | $300/£250

The Olympus SP-565UZ is the latest in a long and distinguished line of big-zoom cameras that dates right back to 2000's C-2100UZ with its 10x zoom; however the genetic connection is much clearer to 2005's SP-500UZ, which saw Olympus return to the super zoom market after a brief sojourn. The SP-565UZ sits below the SP-570UZ (which itself replaced the 560UZ we reviewed in late 2007), but shares its 20x zoom lens, offering a remarkable 26-520mm equivalent.

We're delighted to see that, when increasing the zoom range (compared to the 28-486mm equiv. of its predecessor and some rivals), Olympus has chosen to extend the wide-angle end of the zoom, as well as the telephoto end. Those 2mm at the wide end of things will make a more noticeable difference to the experience than the 34mm at the other end.

  • 10 effective Megapixels
  • 26-520mm equiv lens with 20x optical zoom and up to 5x Digital Zoom
  • 2.5-inch LCD with 230,000 dots resolution
  • Dual Image Stabilizer
  • Electronic Viewfinder with 100% Field of View
  • ISO sensitivity up to 6400
  • Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Modes
  • Perfect Shot Preview, Shadow Adjustment Technology, In-camera Panorama
  • Advanced Face Detection of up to 16 persons
  • 25 Scene modes
  • Program, Shutter-Priority, Aperture-Priority and Manual Exposure Modes
  • In-camera Image Retouching
  • Wireless control for external flashguns
  • Optional accessories available
  • Battery life: Alkaline 410 shots, NiMH 590 shots

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The SP-565UZ is a good-looking camera, especially with its lens retracted. The design is consistent and well-proportioned, rather than looking like bits of several cameras that have been lumped together. This consistency and attention-to-detail extends to the handling of the camera, which has been well worked-out. There's not a lot to distinguish between the SP-565UZ, the Fujis and the Nikon, but Olympus has done a good job of making it a little different. The greater zoom range as well as the styling is a definite bonus, but the use of a relatively slow, obscure and expensive memory format is slightly less welcome.

We've had to say this in the previous group tests, but we have found the Olympus interface to be one of the less immediately usable of the current crop of cameras. In part this is because the SP-565UZ has so many features, but to our eyes, some odd choices have been made about which functions are easiest to access. In its favor, though, the Olympus is one of the only cameras in this test to have a customizable function button, which can have one of 16 functions assigned to it. There's also a well-chosen sub-menu (accessed by pressing the OK/Func button) that has very well chosen image options, meaning you rarely have to use the main camera menu.

Key Features

As with the SP-560UZ before it, the 565 is a comfortable camera to hold, with a rubber lump rather than the elongated grips on some of the other cameras here. Like the Nikon P80 and Fuji S8100 which have similar lenses, the length of the SP-565UZ extends considerably when the zoom gets going.
It's all pretty familiar from the side, with a long, thin, two-stage zoom essentially doubling the depth of the camera.
As well as the four-way controller and display buttons we're used to seeing, there's a user-definable function button, which is a very welcome addition on a camera such as this.
The mode dial is kept nice and simple, with just the key features (including a simple, results-orientated photography guide), readily available. Despite their proximity, there is no clash between the positioning of the shutter and zoom lever, and the mode dial. The height of these two controls helps to shield the power button, meaning it shouldn't be accidentally pressed.
That's right, it's a 20x optical zoom. It's hard to argue with the flexibility offered by a lens that starts at 26mm equivalent (one of the widest on the market), and extends to an impressive 520mm equivalent.
We're not huge fans of the icon screen that you hit when you press the menu button. Rather than gaining access to the settings you might want to change, you are confronted with an oddly-selected set of options (we're not convinced that 'silent mode' is one of the most frequently changed settings, for example). The existence of this screen makes all other settings changes slightly more long-winded than they need to be.
In its defense, the SP-565UZ is a camera with a great many options because it is has a lot of features and an impressive level of customization. All set-and-forget options are kept in the setup menu, including the ability to set up the four custom modes and define the behavior of the custom button.

Image quality and performance

In terms of speed and performance there is not an awful lot between the cameras in this comparison, but while the Olympus SP-565UZ performs perfectly well it is still one of the slower cameras in this test. At 2.8 sec it has the slowest shot-to-shot time; this increases to 3.1 sec when using flash, and and a very long 8.25 sec when using the anti-red-eye pre-flash (with our set of rechargeable AAs). This is all due to the flash taking its time to recycle, so use the best AA batteries you can find to minimize this.

The SP-565UZ takes approximately 2.7 sec to take a first picture after switching the camera on, again at the slower end of the spectrum. The shutter lag however is hardly noticeable, and on a par with the rest of the bunch. While image review is a little slower then the competition (mainly due to a 'flip-over' transition effect between frames), magnification is very quick.

The image quality of the Olympus is very similar to that of the Nikon P80 and Fujifilm S8100fd: generally good but with the drawbacks you'd expect from such a small sensor mounted behind such a long lens. There's the same impression of images being very slightly soft, mainly because of fine detail being smeared away by noise reduction, but never to an extent that would really spoil a print. The long end of the lens also appears rather soft but free from the focusing worries that trouble the Nikon we tested. As with almost all these cameras, there's chromatic aberration but not to a particularly damaging extent. The biggest issue is that the image stabilization system doesn't work that well (it seems that 520mm equivalent is pushing the capabilities of sensor-shift IS), meaning the long end of the zoom needs either a lot of light or a solid camera support if you want totally sharp results.

On the plus side, the metering is dependable when outdoors and the color rendition is very good (The rendering of blues that has almost become Olympus's signature will tend to make any image with a blue sky in the frame more attractive). High ISO performance isn't great - the noise reduction is very high, meaning images look soft and blotchy even in small prints. Flash shots tended to be a little over exposed, producing rather unflattering washed out faces.

Like most of the cameras in this test, the Olympus is only able to record video at VGA (640x480) resolution and 30fps. The video is stored in the Motion JPEG format which means a the files consume a rather large 1.6 MB/sec. The quality is reasonable, though by no means exceptional. The camera allows you to zoom during recording, with the speed dropped both to ensure smooth zooming and allow the focus to keep pace with the change in focal length. If the camera does move such that it has to refocus, it tends to take around two seconds to find focus again.

The SP-565 UZ's images - like most of the cameras here - look a bit unpleasant up close (at 100%) thanks to a lack of critical sharpness and some obvious noise reduction artifacts (with the resultant loss of fine, low contrast detail), but at normal print sizes they are generally very good. Color is excellent, bright and vivid without being unnatural, white balance and metering very reliable, and focus - even at the long end of the zoom - rarely fails. The sensor does clip highlights very harshly and there is some color fringing, but you do at least get the option of shooting in RAW mode.

The big challenge is getting sharp hand-held images at the longest zoom setting in anything but the best light; the image stabilization system doesn't help a great deal and the lightweight body lacks stability.


The Olympus SP-565UZ is a nicely designed, nicely built, easy to use and incredibly well specified super zoom camera that offers decent (though far from class-leading) image quality in good light. It's not so impressive at higher ISO settings or when shooting with flash, and the image stabilizer struggles to keep things sharp at the long end of the zoom, but there's no denying the sheer versatility offered by the 26-520mm range.

  • We like: Great feature set, nice design and build, very compact, raw mode, price, decent image quality in good light

  • We don't like: Image stabilizer doesn't help a lot at the long end of the zoom, high ISO performance poor, flash exposures a bit harsh, clipping, smearing of low contrast detail and fringing