Check out an examination of photo quality from the 14-megapixel Olympus SP-800UZ, the company's 30x wide-angle full-size megazoom.
The SP-800UZ's photo quality is typical of low-end point-and-shoots: it takes OK photos when it has a lot of light and you can keep the ISO setting at or below ISO 200. However, photos even at these settings look very soft and lack fine detail when viewed at anything but small sizes (close-ups are the exception). Basically, if you shoot in full daylight, photos will look decent--just don't do a lot of cropping or enlarging or viewing at full size. You probably don't want to use it indoors or with fast-moving subjects, either.
The top photo is a 100 percent crop of the bottom photo. Taken at ISO 100 with the lens fully extended, this is about the best fine detail you'll get at 840mm without a tripod. Even with a tripod it doesn't get much better. It's not bad at small sizes, but chances are good you'll need to use higher ISOs to help keep the shutter speed fast. Plus, the farther you are from the subject, the less detail you'll be able to resolve.
If you're considering the 800UZ for shooting sports, it does have three high-speed burst options. However, they do not capture at full resolution. For example, this photo (the top is a 100 percent crop of the bottom) was taken using the HS 1 mode, which captures 5-megapixel images at 7.7 frames per second. The photos are noisy and soft and lack detail, making them best suited for Web use or very small prints with no cropping or enlarging. The same goes for the other burst options, which capture 3- and 2-megapixel images at 10.2fps and 15.2fps, respectively.
The 800UZ has two macro settings for taking close-ups. This was taken using the regular Macro setting that can focus as close as 3.9 inches from a subject. If you're after sharp, fine detail, this is the best you're going to do with this camera.
In Super Macro mode, the 800UZ can focus at 0.4 inch from a subject, but at 100 percent, the results are noticeably soft and fuzzy, and sharpening only helps if you keep the photo small. This is likely because the camera extends the lens some to focus closer. For the best fine detail, you'll want to stick with the regular Macro setting, which doesn't use the zoom lens.
The lens of the 800UZ has an incredible range for its price, going from a wide-angle 28mm to 840mm (35mm equivalent). Without an electronic viewfinder, the camera is very difficult to hold still when the lens is fully extended. Its image stabilization isn't great, either, so using the 800UZ's 30x zoom without a tripod is somewhat frustrating, especially with moving subjects.
Olympus doesn't do any in-camera correction for barrel distortion at the wide end of the lens (top). Pincushioning when the lens is extended is not a problem, though (bottom). Center sharpness is not good; the lens gets visibly softer out to the sides, especially the left side and corners, where subjects can look downright smeary.
Color from the 800UZ is generally good, at least at the lower ISOs before noise starts to cause shifting. The white balance isn't very good indoors; the auto leans toward warm, while the presets are cool. On the upside, the Olympus' live view system lets you easily see how the white-balance settings will look before you shoot. You can then just pick the one that looks the best to you. There is no manual white balance.
Olympus includes four of its Magic Filters on the 600UZ that let you get a little creative with your photos. You can't apply these after you've shot, though you can apply one of four color filters in Playback. (Clockwise from top left: Drawing, Pop Art, Fish Eye, and Pin Hole.)
The 800UZ has a Shadow Adjustment setting that can automatically process photos to help bring out details lost in shadows. The left photo is with it off, the right with it on. It's not as good as similar processing I've seen from other manufacturers, but it helps. You can apply it while you're shooting or in playback.
The Panorama mode is a highlight. You press the shutter release with the camera aimed where you'd like to start your panorama shot, and then it puts a circle and a target on the screen. Put the circle in the center of the target by moving the camera to the right and it'll take the next shot when it's centered. Do that once more and it'll take your three shots and stitch them together in camera into a single 2-megapixel photo. If you want to shoot your panorama vertically or from right to left, the camera has manual panorama shooting options.
I don't usually bother to discuss included software because it's typically pretty bad. However, Olympus embedded software on the 2GB of in-camera memory and it's actually decent for organizing and editing. It's from software developer Cyberlink, but skinned for Olympus.