Olympus Stylus SP-100 review: Unique tracking system makes this megazoom stand out

Shutter lag -- the time it takes from pressing the shutter release to capture without prefocusing -- is very low at 0.2 second and only increases to 0.4 second in low light. However, it can take longer than that with the lens zoomed out, which is the case with most megazoom compacts.

The camera has two full-resolution burst modes available: one can shoot at up to 7fps but only for six frames (at which point you have to wait a few seconds before you can fire again), while the other can continuously shoot up to 200 frames at 2.5fps.

Design and features

As I mentioned earlier, Olympus had basically moved away from making higher-end full-size megazoom cameras, dropping things like electronic viewfinders and direct access to settings like shutter speed and aperture.

The SP-100 brings them back, though. The EVF is nice and extends back from the body more than most, making it comfortable to use without jamming your nose into the screen. Combined with the dot sight it really does make getting your subject back in frame easy at long focal lengths and a much better solution than zooming out and back in.

It's a comfortable camera to use, too, and a programmable function button as well as a thumb dial make it easy to change important settings without diving into menus too much.

Olympus also added a focus-limit button so the camera will focus only in a set range -- close or distant -- when turned on. A second zoom control on the lens barrel means you can keep your right finger ready to shoot while you adjust focal length with the left.

Key specs Olympus Stylus SP-100EE Fujifilm FinePix S1 Nikon Coolpix P600
Price (MSRP) $400 (£360, AU$450) $500 (£400) $500 (£360, AU$400)
Dimensions (WHD) 4.8x3.6x5.2 inches (121.2x91.3x133.2 mm) 5.2x3.6x4.3 inches (133.1x90.9x110.3 mm) 5x3.4x4.2 inches (125x85x106.5 mm)
Weight (with battery and media) 21.1 ounces (589g) 24 ounces (680 g) 19.9 ounces (565 g)
Megapixels, image sensor size, type 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS sensor 16 megapixels, 1/2.3-inch BSI CMOS
LCD size, resolution/viewfinder 3-inch LCD, 460K dots/Electronic 3-inch LCD, 920K dots/Electronic 3-inch LCD, 921K dots/Electronic
Lens (zoom, aperture, focal length) 50x, f2.9-6.5, 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent) 50x, f2.8-5.6, 24-1200mm (35mm equivalent) 60x, f3.3-6.5, 24-1440mm (35mm equivalent)
File format (still/video) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MOV) JPEG, raw (.RAF), raw+JPEG/MPEG-4 H.264/AVC (.MOV) JPEG/H.264 AAC (MOV)
Highest resolution size (still/video) 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080 at 60fps 4,608x3,456 pixels/1,920x1,080p at 30fps
Image stabilization type Optical and digital Optical and digital Optical and digital
Battery type, CIPA rated life Li ion rechargeable, 330 shots Li ion rechargeable, 350 shots Li ion rechargeable, 330 shots
Battery charged in camera Yes Yes Yes
Storage media SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC SD/SDHC/SDXC
Wi-Fi/GPS No (Eyefi, FlashAir card support)/No Yes/No (geotagging available via Wi-Fi) Yes/No (geotagging available via Wi-Fi)

The dot sight is no doubt a great feature to have, as are the extra controls. But looking at the competition, there are several things that the SP-100 just doesn't have. The LCD, for example, is lower resolution than most at this price point and it's fixed so it can't be tilted, swiveled, or rotated.

There's no hot shoe or mic input (though, to be fair, it would be in the way of the dot sight); no option for raw capture; no built-in Wi-Fi (a shame since Olympus has one of the best mobile apps for its cameras that do have wireless); and there's no built-in GPS for geotagging. Also, the battery is charged in-camera using Olympus' proprietary USB connector.

Plus, the plastic body makes it feel a bit cheaper. It's up to you whether any of these are deal breakers, obviously.

General shooting options Olympus Stylus SP-100EE
ISO sensitivity (full resolution) Auto, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400
White balance Auto, Sunny, Cloudy, Incandescent, Fluorescent, Flash, Custom, two one-touch
Recording modes Auto, Program, Aperture-priority, Shutter speed-priority, Manual, Art Filter, Scene, Panorama
Focus modes Face/iESP Auto, Spot AF, AF Tracking, Manual
Focus range 2.8 inches (7 cm) (Wide), 11.5 feet (350 cm) (Tele); 0.4 inch (1cm) in Super Macro
Metering modes ESP, spot
Burst mode shot limit (full resolution) Six shots

Although you won't find anything too terribly different in the shooting options, the SP-100 has everything I expect to find. That includes a reliable Auto mode; an easy pan-and-shoot panorama mode; an HDR mode; and a nice assortment of filters and effects.

The SP-100 also marks the return of manual and semimanual shooting modes to the SP series; the last several models were basically fully automatic cameras.

Conclusion

The Olympus Stylus SP-1oo is very good and it's definitely nice to see Olympus trying to improve the shooting experience for consumers instead of just churning out another megazoom camera. It doesn't have all the bells and whistles that its competitors have. But, its dot sight is an excellent addition and should excite those considering it for casual birding or outdoor sports shooting.

Shooting speed

Nikon Coolpix P600
0.3
1.3
1.3
2.1
Olympus Stylus SP-100EE
0.2
0.4
0.4
1.7
Fujifilm FinePix S1
0.1
0.3
0.6
1.3

Legend:

Shutter lag (typical)
Shutter lag (dim)
Typical shot-to-shot time
Time to first shot

Note:

Seconds (smaller is better)

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Quick Specifications See All

  • Optical Zoom 50 x
  • Optical Sensor Type BSI-CMOS
  • Sensor Resolution 16.0 Megapixel
  • Image Stabilizer optical
  • Optical Sensor Size 1/2.3"
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