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Olympus SP-560 UZ

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Body design was one of our favorite aspects of the SP-550UZ, so we were pleased to see that the new version looks and feels almost identical. Every design aspect is carried over, from the pop up flash to the comfortably large, flat buttons. It even weighs nearly the same, standing at a hefty but manageable 16.4 ounces with four AA batteries and an xD memory card.

A whopping big lens stands out as the SP-560UZ's most prominent feature, just like its predecessor.

The 27 to 486mm equivalent lens is slightly wider and shorter than the SP-550UZ's 28 to 504mm equivalent lens, but still offers the same f/2.8-4.5 range and 18x optical zoom.

I could easily frame the spire of the Empire State Building from Hoboken, N.J., thanks to the camera's long reach.

Sensor shift image stabilization helps reduce camera shake, a vital feature when pushing the camera to its full zoom without a tripod to stabilize it. Unfortunately, the SP-560UZ's biggest feature is also one of its greatest weaknesses. While its lens is long and wide, it simply isn't very sharp. Regardless of the lens position and focus, pictures taken on the SP-560UZ generally look soft.

Fine details, like text focused upon from a great distance, can appear fuzzy regardless of focus, shutter speed, or ISO sensitivity. Beyond the softness, significant noise further hurts the camera's pictures. Notable grain appears at ISO 200, and gets significantly worse as sensitivity gets higher. At ISO 400 and higher, noise consumes fine details, rendering textures muddled.


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