New Olympus megazooms get rolled-back prices

In addition to a 30X zoom lens, Olympus new top-end megazoom gets a price significantly lower than its predecessor.

Lori Grunin Senior Editor / Advice
I've been reviewing hardware and software, devising testing methodology and handed out buying advice for what seems like forever; I'm currently absorbed by computers and gaming hardware, but previously spent many years concentrating on cameras. I've also volunteered with a cat rescue for over 15 years doing adoptions, designing marketing materials, managing volunteers and, of course, photographing cats.
Expertise Photography, PCs and laptops, gaming and gaming accessories
Lori Grunin
2 min read

The SP-800 UZ eschews an EVF in favor of a lower price. Olympus America

Perhaps the most notable thing about Olympus' two new megazoom cameras is the pricing: the top-end model spot, now occupied by the SP-800 UZ, drops to $349.99, while the new budget brother SP-600 UZ comes in at $249.99.

The SP-600 UZ's big grip houses two AA batteries. Olympus America

The SP-800 UZ introduces a paparazzi-friendly 30X zoom lens. (For what it's worth, Fujifilm beat Olympus to the announcement by an hour.) Despite the lens, the camera is significantly smaller and lighter than its predecessor, thanks to switching to a rechargeable lithium ion battery and, unfortunately, getting rid of the EVF. While I'm not a big fan of electronic viewfinders, they do at least make it possible to hold the camera in a steadier grip, and I wonder what the result will be of combining an even longer lens (complete with a concomitantly harder-to-steady view) with the arms-length LCD-inflicted stance .

At 14 megapixels, the SP-800 also becomes the highest-resolution megazoom available, but it uses a traditional CCD at a time when competitors are switching to more low-light-friendly, faster, back-illuminated CMOS chips. Both models definitely upgrade Olympus' video capture capabilities, though, up to 720p HD from VGA.

 Key comparative specs Olympus SP-590 UZ Olympus SP-600 UZ Olympus SP-800 UZ
Sensor 12-megapixel, 1/2.33-inch CCD 12-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD 14-megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD
Lens (35mm equivalent) 26x
Closest focus (inches) 0.4 0.4 0.4
Sensitivity range ISO 64 - ISO 6,400 ISO 50 - ISO 3,200 ISO 50 - ISO 3,200
EVF Yes No No
LCD 2.7-inch fixed; 230,000 dots 2.7-inch fixed; 230,000 dots 3.0-inch fixed 230,000 pixels
Video (highest-resolution mode) VGA 720p MP4 720p MP4
Optical zoom during movie capture Yes (no audio) n/a n/a
Image stabilization Sensor shift Sensor shift Sensor shift
Batteries (CIPA rating) 4 AA-size; 340 shots (alkalines) 2 AA-size; 340 shots (alkalines) Lithium ion; 200 shots
Body dimensions (WHD, inches) 4.3x3.5x3.6 4.3 x 2.8 x 3.0 4.2 x 2.9 x 3.3
Operating weight (ounces) 18.7 18.8 (est) 16.2 (est)
Mfr. Price and availability $449.99, now $249.99, March $349.99, March

Though the new models inspire a meh, there are a couple of interesting small new features in these cameras. The first is a Pet AF-tracking mode, which should theoretically improve autofocus performance when photographing animals. Fujifilm announced a similar capability, a variant of face detection for use with animals, but, as far as I can tell, it didn't put it in the new HS10 megazoom. The second cool trick is a Drawing Magic Filter; a Magic Filter is a point-and-shoot implementation of its Art Filters, but the Drawing filter, which converts photos to line drawings, is new to the 2010 models, and at least looked fun during the demonstration. These aren't reasons to choose the new SP models over a competitor, but I would like to see those features move up the food chain.