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Olympus SP-510UZ

7.1-megapixel camera with 10X optical zoom
(by Carol Cotton Walker)

More years ago than I care to admit, I took my first photography classes while I was in college. I was studying Graphic Design, but I really wanted to get into photography. At that time the University didn't have much to offer in Photography. So, life got in the way, and even though I would always take one of my many cameras with me on trips, I never pursued the idea again. But that passion was recently rekindled when my editor put this sexy little camera in my hands and told me to go enjoy! Since that time I have taken literally thousands of photographs. Some good, some not so good. Nonetheless, it has once again been a learning experience.

First Impressions

The box arrived with the shiny little Olympus SP-510UZ inside, along with a few gadgets, a manual, and a lot of faith. Faith that the new owner would take care of this little image preserving machine ... Faith that the owner would learn how to use the camera properly. ... and lastly, faith that the little camera would please its new owner and put a smile on her face.

I looked the box over to make sure it wasn't obviously damaged in shipping. Then I opened the box and took everything out, laying it all out to take a proper inventory. Everything was included, so it was time to explore the contents. Camera? Check. Strap? Check. Battery? Check. Manual? Check. And the list went on and on.

Before even reading the manual, I decided to do what all too many people do when they acquire a new piece of electronic gadgetry. I fumbled through putting the batteries in, turned it on, and took a picture. That's what you do when you buy a camera, isn't it?

Not so quick, there, slugger! Yes, you could do that, but getting a general idea of the functions and what to expect from your new camera is the best option.

My first general impression of this camera was that it was nicely packaged and presented, was small and light-weight, and boasted lots of nice features. What I discovered was that the camera wasn't initially as new-user friendly as I thought it might be. Looking over the manual was a necessity. A necessity, perhaps, but well worth the time and effort!

Appearance

Small, light weight, sturdy, and convenient is how I'd describe the Olympus SP-510UZ. It has a very nice appearance; one you'd expect of a more expensive camera. All of the features are accessible by buttons, switches, and toggles that are all well marked and nicely positioned.

Cost

A mere song for what you're getting with this camera. At a suggested retail price of $299.99, this camera is worth it.

Features

This little package is loaded with features!

And now, what matters most about the camera ...

  • Power: 4 AA batteries (I got 600+ photos on ONE set of batteries!)
  • Image Formats: JPEG & RAW
  • Image Storage Media: xD Card
  • Exposure Modes: Auto, Program, Shutter priority, Aperture priority, and full Manual. It's easy to get creative with this camera!
  • Resolution: 7.1 megapixels
  • Viewfinders: Electronic Viewfinder and 2.5" TFT color LCD
  • Lens: f2.8-f3.7/6.3-63mm (35 mm equivalent would be 38 - 380 mm)
  • Zoom: 10X Optical, 5X digital zoom.
  • Flash: Built in multi mode: Auto, Auto with Red-Eye reduction, Fill flash, Fill flash with Red - Eye reduction, and Off.

    Performance:

    I decided the most fair way to review the performance of cameras is to use them all in similar settings. I chose nature, sports, environmental, and portrait photography as my standards. I believe those areas are where most consumers spend their effort capturing images.

    Nature:

    Capturing images of animals has always been a passion of mine. Living so close the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been a bonus. I often have the opportunity to shoot photos of deer, occasionally bears, elk, wildflowers, and exceptional landscapes. Taking the Olympus along quickly became standard procedure for me.


    A river along the way to Bald River Falls, Tellico Plains, TN

    Sports:

    Being a season ticket holder to the Knoxville Ice Bears hockey games, I chose hockey, for obvious reasons. Even through water spots on scratched plexi-glass, the photographs I have taken as exceptionally clear. Occasionally, focusing has been an issue, but the larger problem has been shutter lag.


    Knoxville Ice Bears hockey game

    Environmental:

    Sunrises. Sunsets. Bright sunny days. Rainy days. Night. I've used this camera through it all. And with much success.


    Gay Street Bridge, Knoxville, Tennessee

    Portrait:

    Capturing personalities and moods in photographs isn't always easy to do. As a matter of fact, it's rather difficult. All too often, people don't care for having their photograph taken, but with a powerful zoom, such as this 10X zoom, it's much easier to capture good candid shots. One afternoon as I was leaving my parents' home, I asked them if they minded if I snapped a couple of pictures of us, and they agreed to it. So I switched the camera into Self-Portrait mode, got in close with each of my parents, we smiled and images were captured for evermore. Those images are very precious to me.


    Carol and mom, Thanksgiving Day, 2006

    Macro:

    Sometimes we see the whole picture, but fail to see the little stuff. While photographing a beautiful spot in the river during a photo safari, I was the only person who saw these little guys. I keep waiting for a Gnome to peek out from under one of those mushrooms!


    Mushrooms using the Macro setting. Taken during a photo safari.

    10X Zoom:

    I was able to use this camera's lens at full advantage during a photography field trip to Bald River Falls, near Tellico Plains, TN. Without a tripod, I was able to capture the full range of optical power. This is a powerful, beautiful waterfall.


    Wide Angle - Bald River Falls, Tellico Plains, TN


    5X Zoom


    10X Zoom

    Wildlife:

    During a visit to a section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where I had never been before, we were fortunate to encounter a herd of elk. Elk have been absent from the park for many years, but have recently been reintroduced. Notice the tags in her ears, and the radio collar around her neck. Their offspring are not tagged. I took this photo at dusk without a tripod. I think it turned out rather well!


    Elk, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina

    Image Quality:

    So far, I have been more impressed with the actual quality of the printed images than what I have seen on the camera's screen. It's important to download your photographs before you decide to delete any that seem to be of lesser quality.

    Timing/Shutter Lag:

    I see this as a problem when shooting action shots or nature. Sometimes capturing the moment gets lost. With this camera I have explored using a wide array of different settings for shooting motion photography; some successfully, some not.

    Conclusion:

    All in all, I like the Olympus SP-510UZ. I'd quite likely put it in my purse and take it everywhere I go. After studying the manual, and an hour or so of learning the functions of this camera, beginners and advanced photographers can easily operate this camera!
  • Specifications Olympus SP-510UZ
    Status Added 12/2006
    Camera Type Ultra-compact
    Size 3.6 x 2.3 x 0.9
    Weight (oz.) 6.0 with battery and SD Card
    Effective Pixels 10.1 mp
    CCD Type 1/1.8
    Max pixel size 3648 x 2736
    File formats JPEG, AVI, WAV
    Compression fine, normal, economy
    Movie recording (best) til full, with audio @ 25 fps
    Max movie pixels 640 x 480 (zoom)
    Voice recording Yes + 30 second audio snaps
    Lens 7 lenses, 5 groups
    Focal length 7.9-23.7mm (38-114mm)
    Zoom (optical/digital) 3X/4X
    Aperture f/2.8 - f/5.4
    Focus modes Auto, manual, macro
    Focus minimum/macro 2.4 inches, 1.3 feet
    Shutter speed 1/2000 to 4 sec
    Sensitivity (ISO) auto/50/100/200/400 (also 800/1600/3200 in anti shake and high sensitivity modes)
    Autofocus system contrast type: spot/multi/center; AF assist light
    Metering multi-pattern, center-weight and spot
    White-balance modes auto, A/S/M, 6 presets
    Shooting modes auto, 36 scenes
    Exposure compensation +/-2EV in 1/3 steps
    Viewfinder Type none
    LCD size 2.8" LCD (230k) (960x240)
    LCD type outdoor viewable
    LCD construction fixed
    Flash type built-in
    Flash range up to 12 feet
    Flash modes 5 (auto, on, off, soft, red-eye reduction)
    Camera internal memory 8.0MB
    Storage Medium SD/MMC
    I/O USB "B" + AV via cradle
    Battery type NP40 Li-Ion (3.7V, 1300mAH)
    CIPA Battery life (LCD/off) 360 images
    "Estimated Price" US$349.99
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