The SP-570UZ comes from a long line of Olympus products offering large zoom capacities which started their life as the SP-510 then progressed onto the SP-550, SP-560 and finally onto the SP-570. The newest of the family offers a huge 20x optical zoom which is an improvement on the 18x of it's predecessors. The SP-570 comes in black with a stippled effect on its body apart from the grip which has a rubber coating for better handling.
On appearance the SP-570 looks the part and resembles a compact DSLR sharing the weight of one too, so the handling is pretty positive. It's very comfortable to hold and the feature buttons have been placed nicely where the user can find them while looking through the viewfinder. The specs of this camera are pretty good for the money you pay which can be between £270 - £330 depending where you go.
The camera is a 10Mpl which is 2Mp on the previous model. It has a 2.7in Hyper Crystal LCD display which is very clear and precise, full P A S M settings besides a Scene mode that offers about 20 different functions. You can also use the full Auto and the MY setting which is handy for using those saved manual settings.
The zoom now comes in the form of a ring on the lens rather than the thumb control of the earlier models. There's a manual focus function, pop of flash, and the camera does take video with sound. You'll also find a two mode timer, an excellent Macro facility and a hotshoe for external flash. My first impressions on using the camera were positive because of the easy to learn menu system, which now has a function wheel to alter settings the same as DSLRs. This makes altering shutter speeds and apertures very easy while looking through the viewfinder.
You can take pictures either by looking through the viewfinder or at the LCD display, I prefer the former because it brings the camera much closer into the body for steady handling. Using the camera on Auto I proceeded to take pictures for the first time.
Focus is by means of bracketing and in Auto it selects your target for you when the shutter button is half pressed. When in focus the brackets turn green and you are ready for the shot. This type of focus is ok for general use such as portraits, landscapes and medium range shots.
If you are trying to be more precise for wildlife or sports it is better to select the spot focus from the menu which stops the brackets jumping about and focus's where you point it but this is not available in Auto.
The zoom although on a ring is still electronically controlled via a motor and being honest can appear a little jerky but does the job. I took 250 pictures in Auto mode using the zoom at various focal lengths and in 10Mp. The results were very good while there was good light available.
In poor light especially on cloudy days the camera struggled to get enough light onto the sensor which resulted in very slow shutter speeds sometimes down to one 1/25sec. Although the camera is equipped with dual image stabilization the low shutter speeds did result in some blur on images.
On that thought I proceeded to use the manual settings for another days shooting. The weather was poor, being very cloudy and dull for most of the day. Firstly I selected the 'M' setting and a manual ISO, which range from 64-6400. I selected ISO 400 because I had noticed when on auto ISO the camera had been selecting very low ISO in bad light.
I also selected 10Mp for the days shooting and a combination of Shutter-Priority, Aperture-priority and Spot-Focus. The results were completely different from using the camera in Auto. Although the aperture is very limited (f/2.8 to 8) I managed to get some very good DOF shots with shutter speeds on one 1/125sec to one 1/600sec. I toggled between ISO200 and ISO400 having read that any larger settings can result in lots of noise. The results were very good on wildlife, landscapes and medium range shots on all focal lengths between 28-500mm.
Olympus SP-570: Verdict
The camera loves good light and will take stunning pictures at 10Mp in both Auto and Manual at full zoom. In bad light the camera has to be worked to find that manual setting which suits it the best.
I feel if Olympus had put a bigger CCD sensor in this model it would have been stunning but the sensor is about 30% smaller than you would find in a average modern DSLR. This makes for difficult photography in poor light, although it can be much improved by the use of the manual settings.
There are so many features in this camera it is impossible to list them all here but the main ones such as image stabilisation and the 20x optical zoom are the ones that work particularly well.
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