Olympus SP-800UZ Review

Olympus SP-800UZ Review


Now that cameras such as this are nearly commonplace, the decision whether to buy a digicam that shoots HD movies as well as pretty big stills or a camcorder that shoots HD video and stills is a tricky one. Pricewise, it’s also a close race.


Now we have the Olympus SP-800UZ with an enormous 30x optical zoom that equates to a 35 SLR range of 28-840mm and, note, the tele end enjoys an f5.6 aperture. Check out the difference – shooting at either end of the zooms range:

Balls Head 1 wide.jpg

Balls Head 1 tele.jpg

The camera has 14.0 megapixel capture that can shoot a maximum size image of 4288×3216 pixels, or enough to make a 36x27cm print.

In video it can record 1280×720 pixel resolution, viewed via the large 7.6cm LCD screen. The odd thing is that you cannot use the optical zoom whilst shooting… but you can preset the zoom position before you start to roll.

Olympus SP-800UZ rear.jpg

There is face detection for shots that contain up to 16 faces. An interesting Shadow Adjustment can be left on or off or even set in auto. Whilst the manual gives little info away about this function, it would appear to be able to control the brightness range in pictures.

The camera has four continuous speed settings: that range from about 1fps to 10fps that range in size from 4288×3216 to 2560×1920 — very handy when you need it.

Go to the LCD screen and you can choose from Program AE, iAuto, 14 scene modes; Magic filters; Panorama and Beauty to soften skin texture in portraits.

Added to this list is an HDMI output for HD viewing on tele and a whopping 2GB of internal memory.

Yachts 5.jpg

Olympus SP-800UZ ISO Tests

ISO 50 f3.9 1:8 sec.JPG
At ISO 50 a clean and sharp image.

ISO 800 f5.5 1:80 sec.JPG
The ISO 800 shot still shows a good performance

ISO 3200 f5.5 1:250 sec.JPG
Noise and artefacts apparent at ISO 3200 while sharpness is reduced; note also that camera shrinks the image size down to 2560×1920 pixels.


Barrel distortion is apparent at the zoom’s wide end, while the tele end shows only a small amount of pincushion distortion.

Startup Time

A slow performer, the SP-800UZ took four seconds before I could shoot the first shots; follow-ons were about three seconds apart.

MG clone 1.jpg


Quality: about average, not brilliant but OK; sun flare was a problem in some situations.
Why you would buy the SP-800UZ: you have hands steady enough to fully take advantage of the long zoom; you want a really compact, pocketable camera; you need a ripper continuous shooting feature.
Why you wouldn’t: you have the shakes; you need more exposure control in the form of shutter and aperture settings; the camera’s bulk does not deter you.

The SP-800UZ appears to share not only the CCD as well as many features with the more compact and far less optically powerful Mu 9010 Tough camera.

One sour note: the battery/memory card compartment is easily opened accidentally.

Olympus SP-800UZ Specifications

Image Sensor: 14.0 million effective pixels.
Metering: ESP and spot.
Sensor Size: 11mm CCD.
Lens: f2.8/4.9/4.9-147mm (28-840mm as 35 SLR equivalent).
< strong>Shutter Speed: 15 to 1/2000 second.
Memory: SD, SDHC cards plus 2GB internal memory.
Image Sizes (pixels): 4288×3216, 3264×2448, 2560×1920, 1920×1080, 1600×1200, 1280×960, 640×480.
Movies: 1280×720, 640×480, 320×240 at 15/30 fps.
LCD Screen: 7.6cm LCD (230,000 pixels).
File Formats: JPEG, WAV, Motion JPEG.
ISO Sensitivity: Auto, 64 to 3200.
Interface: USB 2.0, HDMI, AV.
Power: Rechargeable lithium ion battery, DC input.
Dimensions: 107.3×73.4×84.7 WHDmm.
Weight: 418 g (inc battery and card).
Price: Get a price on the Olympus SP-800UZ at Amazon.

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Olympus SP-800UZ
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Barrie Smith is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

Some Older Comments

  • WalksLikeWolf December 25, 2012 02:40 pm

    Many people gave this camera the thumbs down too quickly, even the, so called, 'professionals'. One person above did notice that it takes quite some time to become accustomed to the settings on this camera, and how to use them correctly to get the best picture quality. When you do spend the time, you get the results. Of course, like any other camera, it does have it's limitations. However, when comparing it to other cameras, let's not compare apples to oranges. For the price it's selling at, this is a real bargain and for those that are willing to spend the time to learn how to use it to it's full potential, they will have a very versatile camera indeed.

  • ron November 25, 2011 10:41 am

    not sure what you people are talking about. i tried out over 30 different camera and this camera is by far the best one i've used. The crystal clear zoomed in picture is wonderful. the others i tried when zoomed in where grainy. Not in digital zoom either, regular zoom. I will be getting one very soon. This is a sweet camera

  • Andrew July 20, 2011 09:52 pm

    I bought this camera when it first came out and although while at the beginning I hated the pictures I was getting with it, I've finally fine tuned the adjustments and they are turning out some pretty outstanding picture qualities for what I purchased. It takes some tinkering with in the settings and some steady hands, but if you got both down then the pictures will turn out very nice.

  • Jana March 3, 2011 12:12 am

    i just got one (yesterday) and i cryed from the idea i will be stuck with it for next 2 years--- my grandmother had this shity old olympus- tht like came in few difrent colors (tht is how good it is- sarcastic) and hers pics r better and sharper than this crap... i mean-- first pic i took looked like web cam xp
    im realy anoyed becoz i dont have alot of time to search what kind of cam is perfect--

    what wud u people sugest--
    --i trawel alot, and dont have perfectly steady hand- like to take fast pictures not sit and adjust for half an h... and zoom- cristal pic- and pretty colors hahaha is what i need- plz help-- i need to return it quick..

    (sry for gram im from europe :)

  • ThatKidNiki72 December 10, 2010 04:29 am

    I'm getting this for Christmas, even if it does have its downs (like all camera's), it still seems beautiful! And much better than my old point and shooot

  • Recordo September 27, 2010 02:54 am

    Bottom line: this is a boutique camera definitely NOT for versatile outdoor use. The lack of a viewfinder makes it an indoor toy. The complex menu system required to adjust is not for someone who takes pictures. There should be a wheel selector: this is supposed to be a camera, not a smart phone. With all those megapixels, the resolution is a disappointment.

    There are better cameras. The zoom is impressive but you pay for it in reduced resolution.

  • Eileen Ludwig August 21, 2010 04:09 am

    I am loving using this camera and the quality I can get from a light weight small point and shoot. The zoom is terrific.

  • Norman August 16, 2010 10:24 am

    no way -- too slow for sure

  • Angel Bertolotti August 14, 2010 04:21 am

    Hi folks... I am looking for a superzoom camera to easly take surf pictures from the coast to 100m distance, probably in a windy environment... I need to decide the moment point and shoot quickly, without delays or image setting.
    Average quality is ok for me.
    My budget is around $ 300-400

    Should Olympus be my future camera?

  • Joe August 10, 2010 09:27 am

    Oh man what's with the horrible noise even in sunlit shots?

  • Calvin August 6, 2010 06:53 pm

    eduardo joachim: At 28mm, the lens is already suffering from vignetting and distortion. With current technologies, pushing it wider will kill the image as the pictures will turn out greatly distorted. In the future they might find a way to solve it though.

  • Eduardo Joachim August 5, 2010 09:33 pm

    I´m wondering for quite some time now why these superzoom cameras keep growing focal length towards the high end zoom but always keep the low range around the "boring" 28 mm (35 mm equivalent) wide angle length. I´d like to see some shorter distances here like the 17 and 21 mm (35 mm equivalents) for more dramatic effects. Is that an impossibility to achieve?

  • Calvin August 3, 2010 12:39 am

    One important thing - you did not state the sensor size. Is it a typical 1/2.23" CCD?

  • Bird August 1, 2010 09:11 pm

    I just start learning and playing how to take a photo well... I am choosing what camera is right for me as beginner. pls advise

  • Norman July 31, 2010 12:33 am

    I bought the 30X zoom from Costco and already took it back. Thought I could try getting along w/o the viewfinder -- was not so easy. The biggest thing for me was the lack of shutter and aperture control _ really? in todays world. Also was very slow as mentioned . Did not like the lack of a dial wheel as well. There were other quirks as well....Don't need the headache -- guess you get what you pay for as the price was right....

  • Marcia July 30, 2010 04:31 am

    This camera is a still @ Costco. $229 until August 6. But no viewfinder and the selection wheel for different modes only works when you turn on the camera b/c there's nothing printed on the wheel. For me that is a deal breaker. Panasonic is coming out w/two super zooms at the end of August. They will be a hybrid w/HD video and 24x optical zoom. Pannys have Leica lenses. Excellent image quality.

  • Danferno July 29, 2010 07:08 pm

    If you're looking for a compact camera, I don't anything can beat the Olympus E420 with a pancake lens on it. As seen here: http://www.dpreview.com/lensreviews/olympus_25_2p8_o20/page2.asp

    Make sure to check out multiple camera (brands) before buying one - the website I linked to above has some great reviews to get you started.

  • dining room tables July 29, 2010 04:37 pm

    I love this review. Now I can decide on what camera I should but. I think that Olympus camera is perfect for my needs. It is the one I have been looking for.

  • Gerri July 29, 2010 02:18 pm

    @Josh @Eric

    What are your thoughts on a Sony ? NEX-5 or NEX-3?

  • Eileen Ludwig July 29, 2010 09:52 am

    This camera is on sale at Costco for $80 off plus you get two year warranty - only place to buy electronics is Costco for peace of mind. I trying this out and have had it about two weeks.

    Go there and try it out. 90 days return policy. Good way not to get stuck with a lemon.

  • eric July 29, 2010 08:55 am


    Check out the Pentax K-x with a DA 40mm f/2.8 on it.

  • Gerri July 29, 2010 07:15 am

    @Josh, thanks a lot for that. The thought of 'lugging around' a dslr has crossed my mind. If I can get something nice and compact that would have a similar effect then I would go for that. I will do a bit more research. Once again, thanks!

  • Josh July 29, 2010 06:33 am

    @Gerri: i think you should look around more. with all the micro 4/3 cameras popping up, you still have options in the way of a more compact design with dslresque elements. i have a dslr and a compact megazoom and both have their time and place. do you want to ALWAYS be lugging around a dslr? maybe, but it's definitely more of a pain that a point-n-shoot with a long zoom. definitely do your research first.

  • Gerri July 29, 2010 05:47 am

    I am on the hunt for a new camera. I have been using a Sony DSC-p8 for the last 8 or so years and it is on its last legs. Will one like this do or should I be spending the money to get a nice and expensive DSLR?