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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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Barrie Smith
Barrie Smith

is an experienced writer/photographer currently published in Australian Macworld, Auscam and other magazines in Australia and overseas.

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