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  DSLR Tips

Olympus SP 550 Ultra Zoom Gordon Laing, March 2007
Olympus SP-550UZ Gallery

The following images were taken with the Olympus SP-550UZ. Unless otherwise stated, each image was recorded using SHQ quality, Auto White Balance and ESP Metering, with sharpness, contrast and saturation set to their default zero positions. Noise reduction for long exposures is enabled by default on the SP-550UZ, so that’s what we’ve used here; we have however included samples with and without noise reduction in our results pages. The individual file size, exposure mode, shutter speed, aperture, ISO and lens details are listed for each image.

The crops are taken from the original files, reproduced at 100% and saved in Adobe Photoshop CS2 as JPEGs with the default Very High quality preset, while the resized full images were made in Photoshop CS2 and saved with the default High quality preset. The three crops are typically taken from far left, central and far right portions of each image.

Landscape: 3.33MB, Program, 1/800, f5, ISO 100, 4.7-84.2mm at 4.7mm (equivalent to 28mm)

  This shot was taken with the SP-550UZ zoomed-out to its widest focal length, and anyone familiar with Cameralabs galleries will see straightaway it's a wider result than most super-zooms manage. See the Panasonic FZ50 gallery for comparison.

At 100 ISO, there's virtually no noise as you'd hope, but in the corners there's a little coloured fringing. This becomes a bigger issue with the camera zoomed-in.

Portrait: 3.22MB, Program, 1/500, f6.3, ISO 200, 4.7-84.2mm at 21mm (equivalent to 126mm)

  For this portrait shot we zoomed-in to around 5x, and it's fun to think how you'd now be at the limit of many cameras, but the SP-550UZ is less than one third of the way through its range.

The longer focal length has thrown the background slightly out of focus as desired, although with an increased sensitivity of 200 ISO, a little texture through noise is visible.

Town: 3.55MB, Program, 1/640, f5, ISO 200, 4.7-84.2mm at 84.2mm (equivalent to 504mm)

    This shot was taken from the same spot as our coverage examples, and it illustrates just how far you can zoom-in with the SP-550UZ. Bright conditions allowed a quick enough shutter to eliminate any camera shake, but the built-in stabilisation greatly helped with the composition.

The crops however exhibit quite obvious coloured fringing, and this would appear to be the compromise with such a long zoom range. As in the previous crop, some noise is visible at 200 ISO.

Wildlife: 3.67MB, Program, 1/500, f4.5, ISO 200, 4.7-84.2mm at 84.2mm (equivalent to 504mm)

  The SP-550UZ's massive optical zoom is equally useful for shooting subjects at closer range - this duck was only a few meters away, but we were able to fill the frame with it.

Like many super-zooms, the SP-550UZ isn't exactly a quick performer, so shooting animals can be frustrating, but the result here is good with detailed crops and none of the fringing seen above. At 200 ISO though there is some noise visible.

Indoor: 4.00MB, Program, 1/80, f2.8, ISO 400, 4.7-84.2mm at 4.7mm (equivalent to 28mm)

  Switching back to wide angle we headed indoors to test the SP-550UZ's high ISO capabilities.

First up is this shot, taken with 400 ISO, and the noise levels have visibly increased from the earlier samples, although there's still plenty of detail. Images taken with the SP-550UZ at 400 ISO look fine printed out.

Indoor: 3.48MB, Program, 1/13, f2.8, ISO 800, 4.7-84.2mm at 4.7mm (equivalent to 28mm)

    Here we've increased the sensitivity to 800 ISO and this time there's a much bigger jump in noise and noise reduction levels. The quality is acceptable for smaller prints, but increase the ISO any further and the quality plummets - see our outdoor noise results page for samples taken up to 5000 ISO.

We should finally mention this shot was taken under fully automatic settings and the camera's done a great job judging the exposure and white balance.

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All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2017 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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