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Olympus SP-510 UZ
I really liked the size and the build of the Olympus SP-510 UZ. It's smaller than your average superzoom and fits perfectly in an average sized adult-hands. The plastic body is sturdy enough for tough use and sports a rubber grip to avoid any slip-n-fall kind of accidents.
The front of the camera is overwhelmed by the SP-510 UZ's colossal retractable lens. The flash is almost completely hidden and pops only out when needed.
The large 2.5 inch 115,000 pixel LCD screen takes up most of the back section with the essential functionality-related buttons on the right-hand side. As in most superzooms you also have an electronic view-finder for times when the sunlight makes it impossible to see anything on the LCD.
On the top you have the mode selection jog dial along with the power butting and the zoom. There's also a button for turning on the image stabilization but more on tht functionality in a bit.
Overall the camera build makes it easy for single handed operation, which can be very useful under certain circumstances. The only thing I didn't like about its looks was its shiny silver finish, which I personally don't like much on a superzoom. But, no points deducted for that, as its only a personal preference and there are no real faults on the silver finish.
Considering its a superzoom camera, the first feature that it boasts about is its high zoom level, which is 10x optical (38-380mm). The problem is that most superzoom cameras these days come with a standard 12x optical zoom (36-432mm), which has become like a minimum requirement in the category. With slim cameras like the Kodak Easyshare V610 and the Nikon Coolpix S10 achieving 10x optical zoom in their tiny bodies, it isn't a bit draw on a camera of this build.
Every camera with a high zoom level requires good image stabilization so that shots at maximum zoom levels don't get affected by a great deal by slight hand jitters. The Olympus SP-510 UZ does have image stabilization but digital instead of optical.
Besides these two drawbacks, the SP-510 UZ is a very easy to use camera. The menu, as always, is simplified with user-friendly icons, and all the options are pretty much self-explained. There's also is a guide mode, like in the previous two Olympus cameras I reviewed, that acts like a digital guide that tells you what settings you need to use to achieve a particular type of shot.
It features ISO sensitivity levels of up to 4000, which makes it easier to take pictures in the dark, but also tends to fill the image up with digital noise in these lower end cameras. To me, the ISO level 4000 is nothing more than just a gimmick, which should be rarely used. More on that in the performance section.
One great feature that the Olympus SP-510 UZ offers is its support for the RAW format. Veteran photographers and anyone else who'd rather process the image themselves will surely appreciate this.
To begin with, all the test shots I took in bright daylight came out great. The images were crisp and sharp, and the colors were spot on.
The 10x optical zoom may not be that big a deal these days (especially for a superzoom), but as you can see from the example below, that it's still sufficient for most casual uses.
Macro mode works extremely well. With the super-macro mode on I didn't have trouble focusing on objects that were only an inch away from the lens. The colors of the flowers were pretty accurately represented too.
The problems start when the light levels get a bit less than accurate and you're shooting in auto mode. To compensate for the lack of light, the camera by itself switches to a higher ISO level, which results in an image with tremendous digital noise. I would suggest you switch over to manual mode where you can set the ISO level to less than 400 (after which the images start getting digital noise), and set the camera to a higher shutter speed instead to compensate. Or, stick to using the flash.
But the noise is not the only problem I noticed under low-light conditions. Though the images were evenly sharp under good lighting, when things got a bit cloudy, I noticed the image getting blurry towards the edges. Not a good sign!
The digital image stabilization may be a cheap way out, as it's best used in video cameras instead of still cameras. As a result, it was a feature that only looks good on paper but doesn't help much practically.
Looking at its great street price of Rs. 19,000 I think the SP-150 UZ makes a pretty good option as a budget superzoom. Sure it has some negatives, but none that can't be overcome with a little manual setting. If you're going for a superzoom, you should be open to trying out manual exposure, and this camera gives you the perfect opportunity to try it out.
But if you can afford to spend a little more then the like of Canon Powershot S3IS and the Panasonic Lumix FZ7 definitely out-do the Olympus SP-510 UZ in every aspect.
Olympus SP-510 UZ
|Storage||Internal/xD Picture Card|
4 x AA
|LCD Type||2.5", 115,000 px|
|Effective Pixels||7.1 Megapixels|
|ISO Sensitivity||Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, (2500 / 4000 with limitations)|
|Shutter Speed||15-1/1000 sec|
|Aperture||F2.8 - F3.7|
|Scene Modes||Snow, Beach, Candle, Indoor, Museum, Sunset, Auction, Cuisine, Document, Fireworks, Landscape, Night scene, Sports mode, Behind glass, Portrait mode, Self-portrait, Night portrait, Landscape-portrait, Available light portrait |
|White Balance||5 positions, plus manual|
|Flash||Auto, Red-Eye, Forced, Off, Slow 1&2, External|
|Self Timer||12 secs|
|Video Resolution||640x480 @ 30fps|
|QuickTime Motion JPEG|