After much research and reading of reviews, I bought this to replace a 5-year old Nikon Coolpix 5700 that had finally given up the ghost after being round the world and taking 10000 pictures. I was pleased with the results from the old Nikon, but the Olympus is, on first impression, far superior.
You are probably going to buy this Olympus because of the massive size of the zoom. It has double the resolution and 2.5 times the optical zoom of my old Nikon. The Olympus has a massive 20x zoom, and for a camera that is 5 years more advanced you would expect some huge improvements in performance. The zoom operates by a ring on the lens, like an SLR, which drives the motor. One reviewer I read suggested that this seems slow, but I am happy with it. It seems far more responsive and faster to zoom than the button operated Coolpix. (The ring turns the opposite way from the zoom on my old Olympus 35mm SLR, but that is just a case of getting familiar with it.)
The recording of pictures to the card is so much faster at high resolution. I could manage 2 photos a minute at maximum resolution on the old Nikon, this takes picture after picture and doesn't slow down. True multiple-image shots are only available in a lower 3MP resolution.
So far I have mostly used the camera in full auto mode where full frame portraits are spot on crystal clear. The flash works well indoors, much better than the one on my old Nikon. Landscapes are clearer when switched to landscape mode. In auto mode in lowish late-summer evening light it was taking pictures with a wide aperture so there was poor depth of field and it focuses mid field so the horizon and near ground was out of focus. This was much improved by switching to the dedicated landscape mode.
I snapped some shots of kittiwakes on the beach that were about 30-40 metres away. Even at 10 mega-pixels with a largish bird at that distance, the resolution was not good enough to enlarge the image to view just the bird on my laptop screen. However, at that distance the individual birds were a perfectly clear element in the picture of the flock. To get a good-close up image of a bird of that size you need to be closer, 10-15 metres. That is usually possible with time and patience. I'm intrigued to see what one of the tele-converters would do. Would this have been improved by a bigger CCD? Possibly.
The image stabilisation seems to work well. The wind was very blustery and I still managed some clear shots at full optical and digital zoom.
The response of the shutter seemed immediate compared with older digital cameras. I was able to photograph birds taking off.
I easily worked my way through the menus without reference to the manual. Many of the buttons and menus work similarly to the Nikon and felt familiar. The controls are easy to operate, even for someone with huge hands like me. (It also fits the Coolpix 5700's soft case perfectly.) The Olympus is comfortable to hold and easy to operate.
Movies are AVI files, that work on Windows Media Player... the Nikon would only take QuickTime movies.
The auto-focus is really quiet. The Nikon used to make a continuous clicking noise which could be heard on the movie recordings. The start-up and shutter sounds can be turned off and have been - I found them quite annoying.
It works on AA batteries and you can use either Alkaline or Ni-Cads. Fantastic! The manual says not to use various other types of rechargeable,
The screen on the back is big and clear, although I prefer to look through a view finder. The only problem is that, even when doing so, it reviews the image on the main screen and not on the viewfinder. I haven't yet seen if there is a way around it. The screen does seem a little vulnerable, although this isn't unique to just the Olympus. The old Nikon Coolpix 5700 screen (although much smaller) used to fold away, and allowed you to turn the screen by 90's - a great feature unavailable on the Olympus.
There are accessories available on the market for this camera including tele-converters, filters and it will take a generic hot-shoe flash - you are not stuck with buying the Olympus model. (The Nikon would only take a Nikon flash.) I think there are underwater cases for it too.
For under £230 including a 2 Gig memory XD card this camera is fantastic value. For a non-professional but keen photographer like me, it is just the job. If I were to buy a digital SLR with a similar range of lenses, it would set me back well over £1000. You have to shop about for offers - don't pay the prices that some retailers are selling it at. If one online dealer can offer the deal I got, so can others. I have seen it listed as much as £380, for example Olympus SP-570UZ Digital Camera XD Media 2.7in LCD 20x Optical 5x Digital Zoom 10.1 Mpxl Ref N3118092
- £140 more than I paid and I got a free 2GB memory card with it. On Amazon I just missed a 'refurbished' one (customer return) for £199.
The software package was disappointing - I would have expected at least Photoshop Elements to come free with it. I have not tried the Olympus image downloading software as I use a card reader
This camera looks and feels like an SLR and takes some really good pictures. It won't fit in your pocket like a compact and it doesn't have as big a CCD or as high performing buffer as a true digital SLR. However, the performance far outweighs any pocket digital and it is far, far cheaper than an SLR with the equivalent lens kit.
I'll write another review when I have had it longer than a day! This is the best offer on Amazon at the moment, but it should be cheaper :Olympus SP-570UZ Compact Digital Camera - Black ( 10.1 Million, 20x Zoom) 2.7" LCD