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Olympus SP-570 UZ

>> Tuesday, February 3, 2009

At 4.7 inches wide by 3.3 inches tall by 3.4 inches deep and weighing 1 pound, 3 ounces, the 10 megapixel SP-570 UZ takes up a lot more space than the SP-560 UZ in fact, it's almost as big as Olympus' E-420 dSLR. (Much of the design hearkens back to the days before Olympus shortened "Ultra Zoom" to "UZ.") But all that room allows it to have a great, comfortable feeling grip, hot shoe, and a thumb wheel on top for adjusting shutter speed, aperture, and so on.

The 2.7 inch LCD also provides a minor step up from the SP-560's 2.5 inch display. That large grip accommodates the four AA batteries that power the camera. The menu navigation is typical Olympus, which means logically arranged with large, easy to read text and explanatory text that you pull up at the press of a button.

The help text is small and looks crammed into the left half of the screen, though, as if that part of the firmware were copied directly from another camera with a smaller display.

As is becoming common on dSLRs, you can press a button that calls up a grid of the camera's current settings and change them directly via the thumb wheel, which I really like.

However, Olympus forgoes a zoom switch in favor of a servo electronic manual zoom ring on the lens.

Unfortunately, the ring isn't nearly as responsive as it needs to be, and I found it inaccurate and hard to use, making for a frustrating shooting experience. (For more comments on the design, click through to the slide show.) The camera has all the manual and semi manual features you'd expect from an enthusiast model as well as a host of automatic modes targeted at less experienced shooters.

(You can find a complete feature list by downloading the PDF manual.) Naturally, it includes mechanical (sensor shift) image stabilization, without which the 20x lens would be pretty useless. Among the more notable features are Guide mode, which offers task centric, step by step instructions for various shooting scenarios. And I've always been a fan of Olympus' My Mode, which in the SP-570 UZ allows you to store up to four sets of custom settings.

As with the SP-560 UZ, this model also supports wireless flash, which can come in quite handy, and it's quite easy to configure the SP-570 UZ also adds a hot shoe. And it can focus as close as 0.4 inch in Supermacro mode. The camera can capture typical, OK looking 30fps VGA movies, but you can't zoom while capturing, which seems a waste of that lens.

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