Although not without its flaws, this 7.1MP EVF with 10x optical zoom is a
very likable camera.
The Olympus SP-510UZ is a 7.1 Megapixel EVF (Electronic ViewFinder) camera that has some big-time features typically found in much more expensive DSLR's, but with a street price of only $342. The real surprises for an EVF at this price is that it features a RAW file format, has the ability to make manual exposures and uses ED glass in two elements -- all features which are common in much more costly DSLRs.
The SP-510UZ employs a 10X optical zoom, giving you a 35mm equivalent 38-380mm range with a fast f/2.8-3.7 maximum aperture. The camera also features 28 exposure modes and in-camera editing features such as sepia toning images, NTSC quality Quicktime video (640x480 @ 29.9 fps), shutter speeds from 15 seconds to 1/1000th, digital image stabilization and an amazing sensitivity range of 50 to 4000 ISO, although at ISO 2500 and 4000 the images are made at a lower 3MP resolution. As if that weren't enough -- the SP-510UZ also has an incredible macro and super macro mode that works all the way down to 1.18 inches with a quality level that really shouldn't have surprised with the ED glass, but it did anyway.
The camera holds well in your hands and has a sleek, chrome finish that's inviting to the eyes and feels good to the touch. The ergonomic design lends itself to a comfortable fit and the function buttons are right where you'd expect them to be. The camera has a 2.5" LCD that's sharp and contrasty and viewable from just about any angle and light condition. The viewing also switches easily between the EVF and the LCD with the touch of a toggle button. The menu has large, block letters that are easy to read and is organized in a way that makes sense. Even if you've never picked the camera up before, navigating through the menu is effortless.
Another feature that's useful is the "Guide." This useful in-camera feature holds tips and tricks for making the most out of different photographic situations. The nicest feature in the Guide is its ability to switch directly to the mode that best suits the situation you're reading about. Since this camera is designed for beginners and advanced amateurs alike, this is a feature that will help beginners become advanced users. Another plus for the SP-510UZ is that it's powered by four "AA" batteries and only sips their power. Olympus says that these batteries should last a full 630 shots, but field observations show that this is a conservative estimate, especially in daylight without flash.
Olympus uses the xD card format. I found this to be both a blessing and a curse. The xD format is used by Fuji and Olympus for most of their cameras and a few other electronic devices that require memory expansion. The format is proprietary, but widely available. The price per megabyte is more than an SD or CF card, however, and you should expect to spend about $45 for a 1GB xD card. The xD format is also slower than SD and there are two different flavors of xD as well.
The "M" series card is older technology and holds a maximum of 2GB with a throughput of 4mb per second. The "H" series, although newer and faster, is limited to 1GB cards, but has a throughput of 15MB per second -- a full 3.5 times faster than the "M" series. The "H" cards are also able to perform special functions when used in conjunction with the full version of the Olympus Master software. The basic version is supplied with the camera and to do the panoramic and other specialty image functions requires the purchase of a full version of the Master software, which will stitch together up to 10 images stored on the xD card automatically. The added cost of this software is $19.95 plus tax from the Olympus website, but the actual software is Camedia Master Pro v4.1, which is available on the internet for $16.95. In using the xD stitching program, I could not find any real advantages to having it and could see similar results using Photoshop or other image stitching programs.