Compact digital camera with 18x wide-angle zoom.
The 8-megapixel Olympus SP-560 UZ includes a remarkable 18x optical zoom lens, which is the 35mm film camera equivalent of 27-486mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.8-4.5. The zoom extends and retracts smoothly, stops on a dime, and, unlike many other point-and-shoot cameras, works in movie mode. Backing up the zoom is an effective optical image stabilization feature that works by shifting the sensor to compensate for camera movement.
Unlike its predecessor (the SP-550), the SP-560 UZ is fitted with a new, larger sensor and uses an image processor that supports face detection and shadow adjustment; however, the SP-560 also uses the less-desirable, ISO-boosting digital stabilization.
You can toggle between viewing your image on the 2.5″ LCD (that unfortunately washes out in bright light) and using the Electronic View Finder (EVF), which at times distorts color. The SP-560 has the usual Manual, Aperture, Shutter, Program, and Auto shooting modes plus one for customizing settings and 25 presets. Fortunately, you can access many features, such as macro, flash options etc., directly from labeled buttons on the camera body. Additionally, pressing the OK button opens a screen panel for quick access to change ISO, metering, and white balance. Most features, however, are accessed by scrolling frustratingly long menu screens.
The SP-560's RAW format is supported by the latest version of Adobe Camera Raw; however the shutter lag time is 8 seconds, making RAW shooting impractical (I shot mostly in JPEG format). Image quality at ISO 50-200 is quite good, makes quality 16×20″ prints but above that, noise and fringing from long focal lengths is a factor. Bottom line: the SP-560 UZ is a solidly constructed, well balanced, and flexible camera.