Olympus have produced a number of super-zoom cameras, with this new SP-820UZ a replacement for the SP-810UZ, now with 40x optical zoom instead of 36x as found on the previous model. These super-zoom cameras tend to be great for those on a budget, but this new model carries an RRP of £279.00. The price is bound to fall on release, but will still be comfortably above the £200 mark. Let's take a look to see what Olympus have done to justify the extra money.
Olympus SP-820UZ Features
The SP-820UZ has a 14 megapixel CMOS sensor with iHS Technology, designed to help you get fast reaction times, radiant colours, plus beautifully sharp images of fast-moving subjects and low-light, backlit scenes. The 40x optical zoom lens is a 35mm equivalent of 22.4-896mm, great for shooting landscapes or zooming in to distant objects, with dual image stabilisation to help keep images as sharp as possible.
To make picture taking as easy as possible there is iAuto mode as well as a range of scene modes, 12 magic filters, panoramas, beauty mode, hand-held starlight, super macro and 4 continuous shooting modes.
Movies are recorded in full 1080p HD, with multi-motion image stabilisation and HDMI control. You can use the optical zoom during video recording as well. When taking pictures the camera can record a short movie clip from 7 seconds before your picture to 3 seconds after.
14 megapixel CMOS sensor
40x optical zoom lens (35mm equiv: 22.4-896mm)
Dual Image Stabilisation
3 inch, 460k dot, LCD screen
12 magic filters
Full 1080p HD video recording
1cm minimum focusing distance
3 fps continuous shooting at full resolution
Olympus SP-820UZ Handling
The SP-820UZ 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. It's worth noting that you have to manually lock the battery cover in place, this got forgotten once of twice during testing which lead to the batteries falling on the floor.
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 menu 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, d-pad, OK, shutter release and zoom rocker. There is also a chunky mode dial on the top of the camera.
Olympus haven't provided a CIPA rating for the camera's battery but it was charged before testing and has 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
2.5 fps (max 3 shots)
10 fps (max 3mp)
30 fps (max 3mp)
The sequencial shooting modes record at full 14 megapixel resolution, with the sequential 2 limited to just 3 shots. The high-speed modes both record at a much lower resolution of 3 megapixels.
Olympus SP-820UZ Performance
Additional sample photos and product shots are available in the Equipment Database, where you can add your own review, photos and product ratings.
Olympus SP-820UZ Sample Photos
Sample Photos - Portraits have decent skin tones, but even with the flash it tended to use a fairly high ISO which reduces detail a little, although there is no sign of red-eye. Images are generally well exposed with very pleasant colour reproduction.
Olympus SP-820UZ Lens test images
Lens Performance - Detail is really good at both ends of the lens, with a slight softening in the corners. Purple fringing is evident, but only in small amounts in contrasting areas. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of just 1cm, allowing you to get really close to your subject for a well detailed macro shot.
Olympus SP-820UZ ISO test images
ISO Noise Performance - Noise is non-existent at ISO 80 and 100, with only a very slight amount noticeable at ISO 200 and 400. Again, noise isn't much of an issue at ISO 800, with ISO 1600 showing signs of a decrease in image quality. Noise causes the images to become soft at ISO 3200, at ISO 6400 images are very soft with significant amounts of detail lost.
Olympus SP-820UZ White-balance test images
White Balance Performance - Under the incandescent lights, the AWB preset gives a slight orange cast, with the incandescent preset performing much better. Under the fluorescent lights, the AWB setting does really well, with a magenta cast when using the fluorescent preset.
Panorama | 1/500 sec | f/3.4 | 4.0 mm | ISO 80
Panorama mode - Panoramas look great when resized for web use, when viewed full size, there is evidence of ghosting going on where they images haven't stitched together properly.
Zoom Example 1 | 1/1000 sec | f/5.7 | 160.0 mm | ISO 500
Zoom Example 2 | 1/1000 sec | f/5.7 | 160.0 mm | ISO 200
Low Light | 1/4 sec | f/4.4 | 15.1 mm | ISO 80
Documents | 1/50 sec | f/4.4 | 15.1 mm | ISO 250
The first two examples above show the image quality when using the zoom to its maximum. The third image has been taken with our studio lights turned down as low as they'll go.
Olympus SP-820UZ Digital filters
Digital Filters - Here are examples of the 12 magic filters available, nine of which can be used when recording videos.
Video - Videos are recording in full 1080p HD with optical zoom also available, an example of which can be found on the ePHOTOzine Youtube Page. Quality is good, with the focusing quickly adjusting when using the zoom.
Value For Money
The Olympus SP-820UZ is currently priced at £279.00. It's not a bad price for a camera with so much optical zoom. If you want the most optical zoom available, the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS currently leads the way with 50x.
This latest ultra-zoom camera from Olympus is certainly a much better performer than its predecessor, the SP-810UZ. Feature wise, there is more zoom, ISO up to 6400, 1cm minimum focusing distance and full HD video. It's an ideal travel camera, but it would be even more appealing to the globetrotting photographer if it had GPS.
Olympus haven't changed much with regards to the body, but image quality is much better, clearly an improved sensor has been used on this new model. Although it's a more expensive model than the SP-810UZ, the SP-820UZ is a camera we are happy to recommend.
The Olympus SP-820UZ packs loads of optical zoom with good image quality at a reasonable price.
Olympus SP-820UZ Pros
Good amount of optical zoom
Decent value for money
Body is small and light considering the amount of zoom
Image quality is good