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Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review

The Olympus SP-810UZ is a compact digital camera with a massive 36x optical zoom. Available for less than £200, it appears at first glance to be quite a bargain, Daniel Bell finds out if it is.

| Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom in Compact Cameras

Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus SP-810UZ Lens Extended

The Olympus SP-810UZ was released in the Summer of 2011 as a replacement to the SP-800UZ, boosting the zoom from 30x to 36x. The SP-810UZ is available in black and silver for £189.00

Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus SP-810UZ Front

Olympus SP-810UZ Features

The Olympus SP-810UZ is quite an uncomplicated camera with just a few key features. It is an ideal compact camera for travelling, with its 36x optical zoom lens, a 35mm equivalent of 24 - 864mm, great for both landscapes and zoomed in close-ups. There is a 14 megapixel sensor with image stabilisation to keep images as blur free as possible. To make picture taking as easy as possible there is iAuto mode as well as a range of scene modes, 10 magic filters, panoramas, 3D shooting, super macro and 4 continuous shooting modes.

Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus SP-810UZ Top

Key Features

  • 36x wide optical zoom (35mm equiv: 24 - 864mm)
  • 720p HD movie recording with sound
  • 14 megapixel sensor
  • Dual Image Stabilisation
  • 3inch colour LCD screen in 16:9 format (230,000 dots)
  • Advanced Face Detection and Shadow Adjustment Technology
  • Beauty Mode
  • Intelligent Auto Mode (i-Auto)
  • AF Tracking
  • Pet Detection Mode
  • Scene Modes
  • 3D photo shooting mode for striking stills
  • Eye-Fi Card compatibility
  • 10 Magic Filters
  • In-camera Panorama
  • HDMI technology
  • SDHC and SDXC memory card compatible
  • Built-in flash
  • In-camera manual
  • USB charging
Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus SP-810UZ Rear

Olympus SP-810UZ Handling

The SP-810UZ is mostly made of plastic and has a very compact, light body considering the amount of zoom on offer, making it easy to carry around in a small camera bag, or even a large coat pocket. The flash doesn't rise automatically, you need to flip it up by hand when required. Olympus have made the camera really easy to grip, with a rubber grip for your right hand and a grooved area around the lens barrel for your left hand.

The camera doesn't have many buttons, with most of the settings changed via the menu system which appears down the right hand of the screen, as per most of Olympus' compact cameras. The menus system is easy to navigate, and makes it clear which settings can be changed dependent of which mode you are in. This will make it more time consuming than if you have a dedicated button on the camera body. The buttons which are on the camera include movie record, playback, menu, rotating dial, OK, shutter release and zoom rocker.

Olympus haven't provided a CIPA rating for the camera's battery but it was charged before testing and was not needed to be recharged. We tested the camera's performance at focusing, shutter response, shot-to-shot time, continuous shooting etc. and have posted the results below. To test this we took 6 or more shots and calculated the average.

Shutter Response   0.1 seconds
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response   0.55 seconds
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response   0.75 seconds
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo   2.1 seconds
Shot to Shot (without flash)   1.5 seconds
Shot to Shot with Flash   1.8 seconds
Sequential shooting
  0.7 fps
High-speed 1
  5 fps
High-speed 2
  16 fps
High-speed 3
  28.6 fps

Sequential shooting records at full-sized 14 megapixel resolution, with high-speed 1, 2 and 3 shooting a 5, 3 and 2 megapixels respectively. When using the lens towards its longest length, the camera does have a problem with focus hunting, meaning you can be waiting a little while for the camera to focus after having pressed the shutter.

Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Olympus SP-810UZ Battery And Memory Card

Olympus SP-810UZ Performance

Images produced have a good amount of detail whether shooting wide or with the lens at its longest, although they are softer in the corners. There is purple fringing from time to time, but apart from that, pictures are well exposed with pleasing colour reproduction. The camera can take a decent macro image, but the minimum focusing distance of 5cm makes it hard to get really close to your subject.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom Lens test images

Images at ISO 64 are unaffected by noise, with ISO 100 only having a slightest hint appearing. Noise steadily increases through ISO 200 and 400 with images remaining sharp. Again, noise increases at ISO 800 which is causing images to become softer, with ISO 1600 producing plenty of noise and reducing sharpness quite significantly. Even at the higher ISO settings, colour reproduction remains good.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom ISO test images

Landscape mode takes pictures with good blues and greens. Portraits are free of red-eye but skin colour does give a slight tanned look when using the flash. Sport mode has been used to gain a fast shutter speed to capture the movement of the water.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom Scene modes

The SP-810UZ takes a decent panorama picture, with good exposure throughout and very little signs of where images have been stitched together.

Olympus SP-810UZ Compact Digital Camera Review: Panorama | 1/800 sec | f/7.4 | 4.3 mm | ISO 500
Panorama | 1/800 sec | f/7.4 | 4.3 mm | ISO 500

Below there are a couple more test images using large amounts of optical zoom.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom Sample Photos

When using the auto white-balance (AWB) setting under both the fluorescent and incandescent lights there is a green cast in the image. Under the incandescent lighting the preset performs well, with the fluorescent preset giving a magenta cast under the fluorescent lighting.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom White-balance test images

The SP-810UZ has a number of magic filters, some of which can be used during video recording.

Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom Digital filters

Video Mode

Below is a test video shot at 720p HD. During recording the SP-810UZ allows the use of optical zoom during recording, an example of which can be seen on the ePHOTOzine YouTube Channel.

Value For Money

The Olympus SP-810UZ is currently priced at £189.00. Other cameras with similar levels of optical zoom are the Nikon Coolpix P500 (36x) at £229.98 and Canon PowerShot SX40 HS (35x) at £359.00. The P500 has now been updated to the P510, which has 42x optical zoom and is priced at £399.00. With slightly less zoom are the Fujifilm FinePix HS20 EXR (30x) at £234.95, Sony DSC-HX100V (30x) at £339.00 and Fujifilm FinePix S4500 (30x) at £199.00.

Olympus SP-810UZ Verdict

If you are in the market for a compact camera with a large amount of zoom, the SP-810UZ is one of only a few options available. Where this camera beats the competition is its price. Yes, it means that you aren't going to get the same image quality as you will from the more expensive options, but even so, the SP-810UZ does take a pretty decent shot. Overall, the Olympus SP-810UZ is a versatile camera, easy to carry and is a good choice for those on a budget.

Olympus SP-810UZ Pros

Good value for money
Decent image quality
Massive optical zoom range
Fast hi-speed shooting

Olympus SP-810UZ Cons

Minimum focus distance of just 5cm
AWB wayward under our studio lights
Focusing can be a little slugglish when using lots of optical zoom


Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom Specifications

Max Aperturef/2.9 - f/5.7
35mm equivalent24mm - 864mm
Optical Zoom36x
Image Sensor
Pixels14Mp (Megapixels)
Pixels (W)4288
Pixels (H)3216
Sensor TypeCCD
Sensor SizeNo Data
Sensor Size (width)No Data
Sensor Size (height)No Data
Aspect Ratio
  • 4:3
  • 16:9
LCD Monitor
LCD Monitor3in
Screen resolution230,000 dots
Touch ScreenNo
Min Focus5cm
Focusing modes
  • Autofocus
  • Spot
  • Face Detection
  • AF Tracking
Exposure Control
Shutter speeds shortest1/850sec
Shutter speeds longest4sec
Bulb modeNo
Exp modes
  • Program
  • A
  • Spot
  • ESP Light Metering
ISO sensitivity80 - 3200
White balance
  • Auto
  • Manual
  • Outdoors/Daylight
  • Cloudy
  • Incandescent
  • Fluorescent
Exposure Comp+/-2
Shooting Options
Continuous shootingNo Data
Movie modeYes
Video Resolution
  • 1280x720 HD 720p
  • 640x480 VGA
  • 320x240 QVGA
Video FPSNo Data
Stereo SoundNo
Optical Zoom with VideoYes
Other Features
Image StabilisationYes
Card Type
  • SD
  • SDHC
  • SDXC
File Type
  • JPG
Power Source
Battery TypeLI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery
Battery Life (CIPA rating)No Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsLI-50B Lithium-Ion Battery, F-2AC AC Adapter, CB-USB6 USB Cable, CB-AVC3 Audio/Video cable, Hand Strap, Instruction Manual, World Wide Warranty Card, [ib] Image Management Software

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Photographs taken using the Olympus SP-810UZ Ultra Zoom

Tyne Glowing in the SunA pair of SeagullsBamburghKielder WaterSt Marys islandSt Marys islandDragonflyMoonRed AdmiralBusy beeRed AdmiralHover flyresting timejust before mating...Stare

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