Olympus SP-610UZ review

Sturdy compact digital camera with 22x zoom.
Photo of Olympus SP-610UZ
£159

Olympus has recently release a spate of new digital cameras. We recently investigated the VG-130, which is essentially an entry-level model for those new to compact digitals, giving them plenty of features for less than £100. The SP-610UZ shares many of the same specifications as its younger sibling, but offers one major advantage: a massive zoom.

Travel zoom
The Olympus SP and SZ series are part of Olympus’s Traveller family, aimed at sightseers who want to capture as much detail as possible from landscapes and outdoor sports events. For that reason, the SP-610UZ comes with a whopping 22x wide optical zoom lens which is the 35mm equivalent of 28-616mm.

At rest, the lens makes up about half of the camera’s 73mm depth. This swells to around 100mm in its fully extended state. The snapper’s overall dimensions remain very compact, though, at 107x73x73mm with a large hand grip at the front, which means there’s very little room for your left hand to grasp when steadying your shot.

Fortunately, this 14-megapixel camera comes with Dual Image Stabilisation – but surprisingly all of its other notable features are contained within the menu system, which means a fair bit of scrolling to set up your requirements. In this respect it’s almost identical to the VG-130, having the same minimalistic control layout of a video record button, playback, scroll wheel, menu and camera guide with no extra mode dials or exposure wheel.

Creative possibilities
The 3in LCD possesses the same 230,000-pixel resolution preview screen, but the one major structural difference is the addition of a pop-up flash which has to be manually positioned before you cycle through the menu options. The shutter and zoom ring are located at the top of the hand grip, and the ring operates extremely smoothly – however, the lozenge-shaped power button is a little too deeply recessed for easy activation.

When you enter the menus, you’ll see a number of very familiar Olympus traits, including the eight ‘Magic Filters’ (all but two of these can be applied to video shooting), 720p HD movies, 16 scene modes (including separate cat and dog recognition), Shadow Adjustment and the more recently introduced 3D photos.

Impressive value
There’s certainly plenty of room for creativity, then, with the addition of 1cm super macro photography – plus the ability to use an Eye-Fi card (not supplied) for automatic wireless transfer. Power is supplied by four AA batteries, so you can easily stock up for extended days out, and storage is via SD cards (a maximum of 4GB for each video clip).

AF is fast on this device – vital, if you’re to make the most of its lengthy zoom, especially for sports activities. Images taken under normal outdoor lighting conditions are crisp and well saturated. Indoor shots up to ISO400 reveal very little noise. As many rival super-zoom compacts cost between £180 and £200, the SP-610UZ undoubtedly offers impressive value for money.

Company: Olympus

Contact: 01923 831 201

Positives
  • Massive 22x optical zoom.
Negative
  • Too many controls are hidden in fiddly menus.

Verdict

If you're a seasoned explorer who's maybe not ready to own a complex DSLR, the Olympus SP-610UZ is relatively inexpensive, has an excellent 22x zoom and plenty of creative features, albeit mostly menu driven.