Olympus has led the charge for all-in-one cameras with gargantuan zooms. This latest 30x optical model in black or titanium silver offers the furthest reach yet, at a 35mm equivalent 28-840mm. The Olympus SP-800UZ's maximum stills resolution is also generous; at 14Mp. It's got a reasonable price and, despite the class-leading spec, it's a pretty small camera.
That said, the Olympus SP-800UZ won't win any style awards, lacking the curves of its dSLR-based competitors. Buttons and controls are pared down to the minimum, making the camera easier to use if you don't intend to swap settings too often.
A subject-recognising i-Auto mode also provides point-and-shoot simplicity.
Unusually, the Olympus SP-800UZ boasts a 2GB internal memory – and an expansion slot for SD/SDHC cards takes things up even further.
To achieve its smaller form factor, the viewfinder is omitted, meaning users are reliant on the fixed 16:9 widescreen 3in, 230k LCD. Thankfully, visibility is good and well suited to shooting and reviewing 720p movie clips. A one-touch record button is provided, with HDMI output at the side for hooking the Olympus SP-800UZ camera up to an HDTV or monitor. If taking still photographs, the widescreen is cropped with black bands left and right, which are overlaid with shooting info.
The Olympus SP-800UZ disappoints, however, in that the relatively quiet optical zoom can only be utilised when shooting video if you've first switched off audio capture. The fact that you can't have the zoom and sound recording at the same time seems a real waste, given that the longer lens is the selling point and not many (if any) of us will wish to shoot silent movies. Note that there's no RAW photo format option; just standard compressed Jpeg.
Thanks to Olympus' built-in Shadow Adjustment technology, detail is preserved in dark areas of the Olympus SP-800UZ's images, exposures are even, while colours are naturalistic rather than overly saturated. We could achieve adequate sharpness throughout the focal range but, like the Fuji, results were no match for a dSLR. Yet the Olympus is worth seeking out if you're looking for a decent compromise between large zoom and small form factor.
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