Olympus has had a very successful 2011, wherein they introduced some really 'head turning' cameras. The PEN range of Micro Four Thirds and a one-of-its-kind, the SZ-30MR, a travel compact in an extremely slim frame camera, from their camera line-up, last year were among the those, which stood out in the crowd. The brand also introduced the SP-810UZ, which is a follow-up to the SP-800UZ. The present generation model features some improvements over its predecessor and the most notable of these is the 36x optical zoom found here.
The lens is predominant here
Last year, we reviewed the Nikon P500, which performed really well and had the same zoom capabilities as the SP-810UZ. Let’s take a look and see if this Olympus camera can match up to them and other super zoom cameras available in the market, these days.
On video: Olympus SP-810UZ
Design and Build Quality
At first glance, one may mistake the Olympus SP-810UZ for a DSLR, mainly due to the large lens found on it. But this can only last up to the first look, as upon closer inspection, one will notice how slim the body of the camera actually is, barring the large lens and hand grip, of course. When we say slim, we do not refer to those attractively slim handsets, like the ones from Sony’s T range of cameras, but to standard travel compacts found in the market, such as the Panasonic TZ series of cameras. This camera is available in two colour options – silver and black. The one, which we received in our labs was of the black variant and apart from the hand grip and lens, the rest of the body was finished in gloss. Though the body has an overall black finish, it has hints of silver on it mainly featured as a strip at the side, the rim of the lens and the buttons.
The rear of the SP-810UZ features the 3-inch display that is flushed against the body. The rear features a few buttons and though there are no options for the regular camera features, such as flash, macro, timer, etc., there is a scroll wheel, which can toggle through all the options that are found on the screen. The other buttons located here, include a designated video recording button, a playback option and a menu control. The top of the camera features two buttons – one power button and a shutter release button that is located next to the zoom rocker. The upper portion also features up a pop-up flash. But this is unlike the pop-up flashes found on most cameras on the market, these days. The flash on this camera needs to be physically opened and there is no button to deploy it.
The large hand grip assists in the handling
Connectivity options found at the side, include proprietary USB and HDMI connectors. The flap for this connectivity bay, flushes neatly against the body of the camera. There are eyelet on either sides, to which one can attach the bundled-up strap. The battery bay for the camera is located under the hand grip and one can add the memory card, too to this. The flap for the bay is sturdy and due to the push/ slide unlock mechanism, it remains secure, negating the fear of the battery accidentally popping out.
Overall, this is a stylish looking camera, which suitable for most occasions. Though it is on the compact side, it cannot fit into a pocket. It is also a bit heavy, weighing in at around 413g. As for the build quality, it looks and feels sturdy and appears that it could sustain a few accidental drops.
The Olympus SP-810UZ is not one of those cameras that have a ton of features loaded. The features that it does posses, however, helps it excel in those departments. Looking at this camera, one does not need to guess too hard, as to what its primary characteristic will be. The large 36x optical zoom lens speaks for itself. This lens features a focal length of 4.3 – 154.8 mm and on a 35mm lens translates to 24 – 864 mm. With this, one can get up close to objects that are significantly far off and it will be ideal for those who are looking at capturing landscape or wildlife photos. The brand has added a 14 Megapixel CCD sensor on this camera with a sensor size of 1/2.3 inches. This sensor size is standard for most compact cameras. The brand has opted against shifting to using a CMOS sensor for this model, as they have done on the SZ-30MR camera. A CMOS sensor is usually considered for producing better quality images, as compared to CCD sensors. The aperture value on this camera ranges from F/2.9 – 5.7, so one can expect more light to reach the sensor.
The large 3-inch screen at the back
This camera does not feature manual or semi-manual shooting modes, but it does include a program auto mode, where one can play around with the most basic of settings, such as ISO sensitivity, white balance, etc. Speaking about ISO sensitivity, the range found on this camera is from 64 – 1600. The monitor featured here is a 3-inch TFT display with a resolution of approximately 2,30,000 dots. This is quite an average display, as many cameras available in the market feature a resolution of approximately 4,61,000 dots.
Besides this there are other features, such as720p video recording, 3D image capabilities, HD panorama mode, a scene mode and a magic mode, which has 10 filters that can be used to click creative photos. Though this camera is not so feature-rich, the optical zoom makes up for any of its shortcomings. Rounding up this section of the review, the Olympus SP-810UZ is a basic compact camera with really incredible zoom capabilities.
The camera features a large hand grip, making handling the Olympus SP-810UZ really easy. And, for the same reason does not need to attach a neck strap. Navigating through the controls with a single hand is easy and one need not take too much effort to click pictures using just one hand, as the buttons are well spaced and the positioning of the controls are good, too. The display found here is not the best. Olympus would have done better by adding a higher resolution monitor. The interface of the camera is extremely simple to use and all one has to do is merely tap the OK button to access the option, and then use the toggle wheel to navigate through the different modes. Clicking macro photos on the fly is a bit difficult, as there is no designated button for this feature, instead it has to be accessed through the program auto mode where this mode of shooting is divided up into macro and super macro modes.
ISO sensitivity test
ISO Sensitivity Test
During our ISO sensitivity test, we observed that at ISO ranging from 64 – 100, there was no noise seen, but at ISO 200, there was a slight amount of visible image noise. The noise levels keep on rising after that and at ISO 1600, the image becomes distorted and loses detail.
During the zoom test, the dual image stabilizer kicks in and one can expect almost blur free images, when capturing images at 36x zoom. This camera does well in the zoom test and there was a lot of detail noticed, but when viewed at its actual size on a PC, there was noise visible and details were not seen.
When outdoors, the camera captures colours accurately. Sunlight does not have a huge bearing on the images. The images on the camera’s monitor appeared accurately and sharp. However, when reviewing the same images on a PC, a lot of noise appeared in the shots and there was an overall blue tinge visible. During indoor shots, the camera fared better and was hardly any grain visible. Colours during indoor shots appeared natural as well and while shooting macro images, there was a lot of detail visible. However, there was some focusing issues noticed and it could not easily get locked on the object.
While recording HD videos at 720p, we noticed that there were slight transition issues, while panning from a dark area to a well lit one. But other than this the overall video quality was good. The flash of this camera is pretty good and it can light up area of around 12 feet. Olympus bundles up a 925mAh battery with the camera and the brand rates it at approximately 190 shots. However, one can quickly charge it using it’s USB plug and charge feature.
36x Optical zoom is the highlighted feature
The Olympus SP-810UZ is available in India at a market operating price of Rs.18,999. The camera does really well in the design and build quality departments and with a large lens of 36x zoom, this attribute cannot be ignored in the features part of the review as well. Performance-wise, the camera is not up to the mark and there are just too many issues, which cannot be ignored, such as the ability to not focus accurately, the colours in outdoor images appearing bluish, the amount of noise visible in shots and a few other issues. The price of the camera is another let down.
At an MOP of close to Rs.19,000, it comes across as being quite expensive and it lacks the ability to shoot in manual modes, which the Nikon P500 does. The latter camera is also available in India for just over Rs.18,000, making it a cheaper and a better option when considering a superzoom camera. However, if you want something that is not as bulky as the P500, but with the same optical zoom capabilities, then this camera is an ideal choice for you.
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