Like most superzooms, the SP-560UZ targets experienced users, and so it is packed full of useful, advanced features. An electronic viewfinder offers a great alternative to the camera's 2.5-inch LCD screen for framing shots, especially when shooting in direct sunlight. The camera toggles between EVF and LCD screen, so you can't have both running at once. However, when shooting with the EVF, pictures still appear on the 2.5-inch LCD screen by default, so you have to take your face away from the viewfinder to review what you just shot. The SP-560UZ also includes a full selection of exposure controls, including Program/Aperture-priority/Shutter-priority, and Manual shooting modes.
While it didn't come loaded on our review sample, version 3.1 of the SP-560UZ firmware adds support for Olympus wireless flash units. If you install the optional firmware upgrade through the included Olympus Master 2 software (instructions can be found on Olympus' support site), the camera can be set to function on one of four different channels to wirelessly control Olympus' FL-50R or FL-36R flash units. This is the first time we've seen this feature on a non-SLR camera, and it can be useful for users who want to set up a small studio.
In our lab tests, the SP-560UZ far surpassed its slow predecessor but otherwise showed middling performance; it's responsive enough to shoot without much trouble, but it feels sluggish at times. After a 2.4-second wait from power-on to first shot, the camera could record a new JPEG every 2.1 seconds with the onboard flash turned off. With the flash enabled, that wait bumped up to 2.5 seconds between shots. RAW shooting was quite slow, capturing a single uncompressed picture every 13.5 seconds, though that's not abnormal for a non-SLR. RAW shooting is a welcome feature on any non-SLR camera, but the extra long shot-to-shot time definitely limits its usefulness. The shutter lagged a slightly sluggish 0.6 seconds with our high-contrast target, and 1.5 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, the camera captured 11 full-resolution JPEGs in 9.7 seconds for an average rate of 1.1 frames per second. The camera also features a high-speed burst mode that can shoot 15 still photos a second, though it can only record at 1280 x 960 or lower resolution, and doesn't refocus between shots.
If you want a camera with an extremely long lens for less than $500, the Olympus SP-560UZ is one of only a few choices available by retail. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 has a mere 15x optical zoom, but its slightly nicer pictures offset its slightly shorter lens. Otherwise, you'll need to invest in a digital SLR with a very long lens, and together they can cost a lot more.
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(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)