Olympus SP-600UZ Review
To see how the SP-600UZ stacks up as an affordable superzoom, read on.
Olympus SP-600UZ Key Features
- 12 Megapixels
- 15x Optical Zoom (28-420mm equivalent)
- 2.7″ LCD
- 720p HD Video Capture
- ISO 100-1600
- Sensor Shift Image Stabilization
Olympus SP-600UZ Overview
The Olympus SP-600UZ fits in a class of budget-friendly superzoom cameras with the likes of the Nikon L110 and Fuji S1800. All of these cameras run in the neighborhood of $200 to $250 and offer similar zoom ranges. As a result, I will reference the Nikon and Fuji cameras when comparing features with the SP-600UZ.
The SP-600UZ has a fairly simple layout with its controls and operations. The top of the camera offers only a power button, shutter release and a zoom rocker that is wrapped around the shutter button. Like the Nikon L110, the pop-up flash must be manually flipped up in order to use it.
The rear of the SP-600UZ features a nice 2.7″ LCD for image composition and shot preview. To the right of the screen, you will find the controls for digging into the menu system of the SP-600UZ. Unlike the Nikon L110′s 4-way control dial, the SP-600UZ features a scroll wheel on the rear of the body, which lets you navigate the menu system by scrolling the wheel around. Additionally, you can click each side of the wheel to treat is like a 4-way control dial. Both methods work fairly intuitively.
As you can see from the image above, you have other basic controls like a menu button, preview button, and a dedicated video record button. The Nikon L110 also features a dedicated video record button; however, you won’t find one on the Fuji S1800. If you use video capture on your point and shoot camera often, this is a nice feature to have.
Using the menu system in the SP-600UZ is very intuitive. I think Olympus may have the best idea for navigating basic menu functions. The basic menu options appear on screen as an overlay on the right side of the screen. From there, you can scroll up and down the settings and then make changes to each setting by moving side to side. It works really well, and you can find just about everything you are looking for without having to read the manual.
The SP-600UZ has a rather bulky grip due to the 4 AA batteries inside of it. However, I really like the way it feels in my hand. There’s a nice little contour on the inside of the grip where your fingers rest nicely and help the grip feel like part of your hand.
And, since I harped on the other cameras about the memory card slot, I’ll go ahead an knock the Olympus SP-600UZ as well. As was the case with the Nikon L110 and Fuji S1800, the memory card slot is in the under the same door that holds in the AA batteries at the bottom of the grip. As a result, you have to make sure to hold the camera upside down and not turn it beyond 90 degrees from that point while adding or removing the SD card – else you’ll loose a battery . . . or four.
Video operation is another frustrating feature on the SP-600UZ. It just doesn’t make sense to have a camera with a 15x zoom lens that you can’t zoom when shooting video. When it comes time to recording video, you are stuck with whatever focal length the camera is at when you hit the record button. While you can zoom in between takes, it almost defeats the purpose of using the 720p video capture on the SP-600UZ.
Even if the zoom motor is going to be noisy and loud, I would rather have the option of recording a zoom movement and maybe using music with the video, than being stuck at the same focal length. That said, if you already have a video camera, or it’s just not that important to you, then you won’t really miss this feature.
Olympus SP-600UZ Image Quality
Like its competitors, the SP-600UZ is no barn burner in terms of overall image quality. However, for a target audience that will mostly use images as 4 x 6 prints, or share online through Facebook, the SP-600UZ will fare ok. Shots at ISO 1600 look pretty rough though, so I would recommend making ISO 800 my absolute max sensitivity setting on the SP-600UZ.
I’ll also point out that the SP-600UZ does a couple things that help it stand out. For a few years now, Olympus has been putting Art Filters or Magic Filters into its cameras. Essentially, these are popular post-processing effects that let you preview a shot with the effect applied and there’s nothing required of you to get that effect other than turning a dial. For those of you intimidated by photo processing programs, this can be a fun way to add a little more of a unique look to your images. Some of these effects are cooler than others, and some folks will love them while others hate them. I’ve sprinkled a few of these shots in with the sample photos in this post to give you an idea of what these effects look like.
Below you will find a sample of images captured across the ISO range from the Olympus SP-600UZ, along with a number of images captured in various settings and environments during my review of the SP-600UZ. I have noted the basic shot info below each image, including the approximate 35mm format equivalent focal lengths in some cases. Feel free to download any of these sample images for your personal inspection (not for republication). You can get the original files by right-clicking on any of the images and choosing “Save link as…”
Olympus SP-600UZ Accessories
Rechargeable AA Batteries – The SP-600UZ uses 4 AA batteries, which are required to power the camera. If you don’t have any, it would be a good idea to pick up some rechargeable batteries to help out your wallet and the environment. Otherwise, you’ll be shelling out a lot of money on alkalines.
Memory cards – I’ve used several different kinds of SD cards with the SP-600UZ, including the basic Kingston SD cards, which worked just fine. No need to go all out on fast memory cards with the SP-600UZ. Cheap cards from reputable brands will work just fine. The SP-600UZ is compatible with all SD and SDHC cards – but not SDXC cards.
Memory card reader – If you don’t own a memory card reader, they make transferring images to your computer a world faster. I highly recommend picking one up with the SP-600UZ. They’re cheap and big time saver. Lexar makes a good card reader for about $15.
Like other superzoom cameras in this price range, the SP-600UZ has its positive and negative points. On the negative side, there’s no ability to zoom while shooting video – even if it is 720p that you’re capturing. While I can understand Olympus’ desire to keep the experience clean and not introducing a loud zoom motor to video recorders, I would prefer the option to enable/disable it myself. I also wish the image quality was a little better, particularly at high ISO settings; however, I have to give Olympus a little bit of credit for stopping at ISO 1600 and not pushing it beyond what’s obviously usable for real world photos.
Positives for me with the SP-600UZ are found in the design. I love the grip, scroll wheel and menu system. I think the menus provide quick access to most of the settings that most users will ever need. Additionally, I enjoy the Magic Filters. While I could do without the Fisheye Magic Filters, the others are a lot of fun with the right scenes. While you can get these looks out of many photo editing programs, there’s something to be said for the efficiency of getting the look in camera.
The SP-600UZ surprised me with how fun it was to use. It’s a nice little camera with a lot of reach from the lens. While it has its limitations, if you have made it this far in the review, you probably know whether you would like it or not. I can certainly recommend it for casual users looking for a well-designed camera, but who don’t necessarily need large prints.
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