The Olympus SP-800UZ is a 14MP superzoom camera that features a 30x optical zoom lens. The lens zoom range works out to a 28-840mm equivalent on a full frame camera. To help out with keeping the camera steady, the SP-800UZ offers Olympus’ Dual Image Stabilization, which combines sensor-shift stabilization with high ISO and faster shutter speeds to reduce blur.
The SP-800UZ can also capture 720p HD video, which is easy to activate thanks to a dedicated one-touch video record button on the rear in easy reach of the thumb.
Notably, the SP-800UZ comes packed with 2GB of internal memory, along with an SD card slot for expanding up to 32GB with SDHC cards.
Compared to its 15x zoom sibling, the SP-600UZ, the SP-800UZ actually feels a little smaller in the hand. While the SP-800UZ’s lens protrudes further out than the SP-600UZ, the body and grip of the SP-800UZ feels much thinner. This is, in large part, due to the SP-800UZ’s use of a lithium-ion rechargeable battery in place of the AA batteries for the SP-600UZ, which require the grip to be significantly larger.
As a result, the SP-800UZ feels surprisingly compact for a 30x zoom camera.
The SP-800UZ features a 3-inch widescreen rear LCD, which is a bit of a different animal from the typical more 4:3 format found on digital cameras. This widescreen display doesn’t allow still images to fill the display in the full 14MP resolution image mode; however, the 16:9 format of 720p movies fills the display nicely.
The LCD is very bright and I found it to be surprisingly clear for a 230k dot resolution screen. It just looked sharper than other 230k dot screens I’ve used. So, kudos to Olympus for getting the most out of the this lower resolution display.
As noted above, the Olympus SP-800UZ feels pretty compact to pack such a big zoom inside. It feels much smaller than Fuji’s HS10 superzoom camera, and also edges out the Nikon P100 in the size department.
The SP-800UZ’s zoom switch is well-placed around the shutter with the typical left-right rocker switch. Zoom is relatively quick for a 30x zoom camera. The reach of these superzoom cameras still boggles my mind. I really can’t believe that we’re at a zoom range on the telephoto end that is equivalent to 840mm on a 35mm format camera.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t allowed to bring back photos taken with the pre-production camera, although they looked pretty good on the camera’s LCD. The SP-800UZ covers a sensitivity range of ISO 64-3200 at full resolution, and can push to ISO 6400 and ISO 10,000 at 3MP. I can say that the focus was quick for a contrast detection AF system, and was happy with its overall speed and accuracy during my short time with the camera.
The SP-800UZ’s controls are very minimal in terms of external buttons and switches. It keeps it simple in favor of full auto shooting, whereas the Fuji HS10 (and Nikon P100 to an extent) offer much deeper customization from the external controls.
The menus aren’t necessarily complicated; however, to change up what would seem like common settings to more advanced users, a trip to the menu dialog is required. As a further signal to the SP-800UZ’s target toward to the entry-level user, even when you dig into the menu system, the total control over exposure that you find in the HS10 and P100 is absent in favor of a number of scene, auto and “Magic Filter” modes.
The Magic Filter modes provide you with pre-processed effects as found in Olympus Micro Four Thirds cameras like the E-PL1. In the SP-800UZ features Pop Art, Pinhole, Fisheye and Drawing filters to choose from.
Additionally, you can shoot in-camera panoramas with the SP-800UZ. The camera will stitch together up to 3 shots while you pan the camera from side to side. If you want more images to make up your panoramic image, the included software will allow you to automatically stitch together up to 10 shots.
Another cool feature that I like about the SP-800UZ is the macro and super macro modes. The super macro mode lets you get ridiculously close (less than a half inch) for macro photography. I know a lot of point and shoot cameras have these cool macro modes; however, I never stop having fun with them, and it’s a feature worth looking at if you like to have fun creating unique macro shots around your house or yard with a camera.
While I don’t have any image to share from the Olympus SP-800UZ due to the fact that this was a pre-production model, it looks to be a promising consumer camera. While advanced shooters who desire more customization from the external buttons and switches may be better served by the Fuji HS10 or the Nikon P100, the Olympus SP-800UZ will likely do well with users who just want to shoot in full auto mode regardless available options.