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Olympus SP-800UZ review

Olympus SP-800UZ
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £319
inc VAT

It may have a massive 30x zoom, but basic controls and poor results at telephoto zoom settings mean the SP-800UZ is one to avoid.


1/2.33in 14.0-megapixel sensor, 30.0x zoom (28-840mm equivalent), 418g

A promotional sticker left a sticky residue when we removed it from the SP-800UZ, literally taking the shine off what is otherwise an extremely smart-looking camera. Aside from its handgrip and hulking great lens, it’s surprisingly slim. This means there’s only room for a slim battery, which lasts for just 200 shots.

Its 3in widescreen LCD dominates the back of the camera, and that means there’s little room for physical controls. Other than a dedicated video record button, this camera feels more like a budget compact than an enthusiasts’ ultra-zoom camera. There are a few advanced features such as the ability to move the autofocus point, but without manual exposure or focus options, this is really just a point-and-shoot camera with a very big zoom.

Admittedly, 30x is as big as zoom lenses currently come, with only the Fujifilm FinePix HS10 for company. Bizarrely, though, the HS10’s 24-720mm zoom range produced not only wider wide-angle shots but also more tightly cropped telephoto shots than the SP-800UZ’s 28-840mm lens. Regardless, this is a well-specified lens that shows promise.

Sadly, the SP-800UZ failed to deliver. Focus was extremely poor at the telephoto end of the zoom, and we’d pretty much written this off as an inherent limitation when we spotted the occasional sharp telephoto shot. The autofocus system is to blame, yielding slightly out-of-focus results in around 90 per cent of telephoto shots.

It also took repeated attempts to focus at all in dim lighting. When it did lock on, the combination of under-performing stabilisation and vast amounts of noise at ISO 800 and above meant it was impossible to produce clean, sharp results in anything but bright sunlight.

On a more positive note, the 14-megapixel sensor helped to deliver incredibly sharp photos at other focal lengths, and the ISO 50 setting produced clean colours. There’s little point in an ultra-zoom point-and-shoot camera that only excels at conservative focal lengths, though, and Panasonic’s FZ38 is the better choice for most people.

Basic Specifications

Rating **
CCD effective megapixels 14.0 megapixels
CCD size 1/2.33in
Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
LCD screen size 3.0in
LCD screen resolution 230,000 pixels
Articulated screen No
Live view Yes
Optical zoom 30.0x
Zoom 35mm equivalent 28-840mm
Image stabilisation optical, lens based
Maximum image resolution 4,288×3,216
Maximum movie resolution 1280×720
Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
File formats JPEG; MP4 (AVC)


Memory slot SDHC
Mermory supplied 1.8GB internal
Battery type Li-ion
Battery Life (tested) 200 shots
Connectivity USB, AV, micro HDMI
HDMI output resolution 1080i
Body material plastic
Lens mount N/A
Focal length multiplier N/A
Kit lens model name N/A
Accessories USB and AV cables
Weight 418g
Size 73x107x85mm

Buying Information

Warranty one-year RTB
Price £319

Camera Controls

Exposure modes auto
Shutter speed 4 to 1/2,000 seconds
Aperture range f/2.8 (wide), f/5.6 (tele)
ISO range (at full resolution) 50 to 1600
Exposure compensation +/-2 EV
White balance auto, 6 presets
Additional image controls shadow adjust, noise reduction
Manual focus No
Closest macro focus 1cm
Auto-focus modes multi, centre, tracking, face detect
Metering modes multi, centre-weighted, centre, face detect
Flash auto, forced, suppressed, slow synchro, red-eye reduction
Drive modes single, continuous, self-timer, AE bracket, time lapse

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