Olympus' entry into the megazoom class delivers the greatest magnification rating of any camera we've seen. Using the Olympus SP-570 UZ at 20X, photos taken at a distance of up to 30ft from the subject looked as though the photographer had been right up close.
But Olympus' zoomy monster isn't a one-trick pony. The Olympus SP-570 UZ also features a servo-controlled zoom; 23 distinct scene modes; the ability to let you manually modify ISO, aperture, shutter, and focus settings; a "guide" mode that steps you through the photographic process; and intuitive controls.
The Olympus SP-570 UZ's controls are familiar to anyone who has some experience using a digital camera. Four buttons controlling basic functions line the left edge of the 2.7in screen, while five buttons arrayed like a directional pad serve double duty as controls for the flash, the self-timer, and the macro (close-up) mode.
You turn a ring on the lens to adjust the servo-controlled zoom, but a small motor actually moves the lens. It's intuitive, but the motion of the Olympus SP-570 UZ's motor-driven lens - which doesn't move precisely proportionally to your turning of the dial - took a little getting used to before it was no longer distracting.
We also had a bit of trouble getting the autofocus to lock on to targets in low light. The autofocus would scan from one end to the other trying to sharpen the image, and sometimes took up to 2 seconds to fully lock on to a focal point. In bright daylight, however, the Olympus SP-570 UZ's iESP targeting system (which the autofocus controls use to pick a spot to focus on) worked remarkably well, and produced clear shots even at the maximum zoom, aided by the image stabilisation system built into the lens.