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.
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 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.
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
Intelligent Auto Mode (i-Auto)
Pet Detection Mode
3D photo shooting mode for striking stills
Eye-Fi Card compatibility
10 Magic Filters
SDHC and SDXC memory card compatible
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.
Wide - Focus / Shutter Response
Full zoom - Focus / Shutter Response
Switch on Time to Taking a Photo
Shot to Shot (without flash)
Shot to Shot with Flash
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 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.
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
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.
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
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