Olympus's new entry into the 'superzoom' bridge, or high-end compact category, offers advanced functionality and a complete photography system in one managable body. How does it compare to the Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd?
Olympus SP-560 UZ Review
There seems to be many running battles occurring in the digital photography market. Whether it is the megapixel race, the face-detection war or smile shot one-upmanship, manufacturers are constantly trying to trump each other in the hunt for sales.
The ‘bridge’ camera caters for this demand by allowing access to features such as full manual control and a massive zoom range in one compact package, thus eliminating the need to both spend more money and carry more accessories that investing in a DSLR system brings. After all, the prospect of carrying around enough kit to cover the full zoom range of a ‘superzoom’ does not appeal to everyone.
The SP-560 UZ, the Olympus’s new entry into the ‘superzoom’ bridge, or high-end compact category, offers advanced functionality and a complete photography system in one manageable body.
An 8MP, 1/2.3in CCD sensor is present and offers an impressive 18x optical zoom, f/2.8-4.5 (27-486mm equivalent) that will no doubt impress those looking for enhanced capabilities in their compact. It also possess an electronic viewfinder and each is powered by 4xAA batteries.
On the rear, the camera features a 2.5in LCD screen with a pixel resolution of 230,000. The Olympus boasts an ISO range of 50-3200 (and 6400 in reduced resolution) plus 24 scene modes – and a shutter speeds up to 30 seconds plus bulb.
The SP-560 UZ follows the conventional styling of previous bridge cameras, offering a handgrip and mode dials mounted atop the bodies. Its shell has a textured feel with rubberised handgrip, lens skirt and side panel, giving the body a feel of real quality. Sleek, smooth lines and a minimal handgrip result in the camera feeling not overly large, while small touches such as the metal mode dial exude quality.
The performance of the two cameras can be split into two categories – that of image capture and that of menu interface. With the former, it is hard to differentiate between the two, yet with the latter the differences are clear.
As is the case with most cameras offering ‘superzoom’ capabilities, the start-up time is nothing to write home about. Image capture and shot-to-shot speed is pretty much average as is the speed of moving through the zoom range. The SP-560UZ possesses a confusing interface with a multitude of keystrokes, and also doesn’t allow you to exit through the shutter button, instead needing several menu buttons to escape.
It must be said that the image stabilisation, featuring a combination of both sensor- and ISO-based stabilisation – performs very well, and is a must when operating at the extended telefocal lengths – otherwise, at the full 18x optical zoom, you’ll be looking at some very blurry images indeed. Although should the ISO-based stabilisation be employed, it’s worth bearing in mind the risk of noisier pictures, especially in low-light conditions.
The SP-560UZ produces images that are not as sharpened and more lifelike than others with regards to colour reproduction. This makes the images seem a lot flatter in comparison, yet not unpleasant. Noise is evident throughout the ISO range, with visible noise appearing from ISO 400 and getting progressively worse, with colours washing out from ISO 800 upwards. Detail is maintained right up to the corners of the frame and even in shadowy areas. The SP-560UZ is prone to the same issues associated with other ‘superzooms’ with fringing evident at both ends of the zoom range.
Value For Money
The Olympus began its shelf life slightly pricier than comparable cameras like the Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd though prices have dropped substantially since its release. You will, however, get more for your money. The SP -560UZ has a superior build quality and the feel of a camera willing to tackle the DSLR market. The LCD screen is clear, and advanced functionality, such as the 30 second and bulb exposure setting, broaden the options on offer.
When it comes to purchasing a bridge camera, there are several things that normally seal the deal. Lugging around a DSLR and a range of lenses is not always convenient or preferable, so DSLR functionality accompanied by a wide zoom range and combined in a compact body is, on paper, the perfect package – and that’s exactly what’s offered by this model.While there is very little to tell them apart with regards to their specification, the cameras are vastly different in design, use and imaging. If you’re willing to spend just a few more pounds, you will really notice the difference in build quality between the Olympus and the Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd. Where the Fujifilm has plastic body and trim, the Olympus has a more solid, rubberised shell and metal trim, and an overall better build quality than the S8000fd. This is not to say, however, that the Fujifilm FinePix S8000fd is a poor man’s version of the Olympus, and in certain areas it even outperfoms it. The muddling menu interface of the SP-560UZ, for example, can prove frustrating while the S8000fd simplifies. Images produced by the pair suffer from issues that are common in superzooms such as fringing and pincushion distortion and while the images are markedly different, with Olympus controlling fringing better and Fuji coping with noise better, it is more a case of personal preference when distinguishing between the two.If you’re watching the pennies then you won’t be getting a bad deal with the S8000fd, as it does offer a good range of features, but for only a few extra quid, the SP-560UZ will give you a superior body, better image quality and a better-looking model, making it the winner of this clash of the superzooms!