First Look: Olympus SP-550 UZ

The first digital camera to boast an 18x optical zoom, the Olympus SP-550 UZ ($499 MSRP) looks like a very impressive EVF.

First-Look-Olympus-SP-550-UZ

First-Look-Olympus-SP-550-UZ

The just-announced 7.1 megapixel Olympus SP-550 UZ (MSRP: $499.00) is certain to get people talking long before it hits the shelves. Why? Because its lens is long, but not just long -- loooooooooong is more like it. The Olympus SP-550 UZ (UZ=Ultra Zoom) is the first digital camera to boast an 18x optical zoom, which seamlessly covers a respectably wide 28mm to an impressive 504mm at the long end (35mm equivalents). It also close focuses to 1cm in super macro mode.

It covers this huge focal range with a very respectable maximum aperture range of f/2.8 at wide to f/4.5 fully extended -- not too slow to severely limit the usefulness of the tele's reach.

Combine this lens' reach and apertures with mechanical sensor-shift shake reduction, and this is starting to look like a very impressive EVF.

Add in full manual controls and RAW capture, and the specs keep getting better and better.

We were lucky enough to get a chance to spend an afternoon with a pre-production sample, and upon our initial inspection, this camera appears to merit its price. The lens barrel is well-damped and glides smoothly while it extends more than you'd think possible. The buttons and overall build feel solid. It's not quite as rock-solid feeling as the mostly metal Canon PowerShot G7, but feels exceptionally solid for a composite body. The only exception to the overall feeling of build quality is the battery cover, which felt stiff and didn't open and shut as smoothly as we'd like -- but this being a pre-prod, its possible that this battery cover issue will be resolved before the unit ships.

Interestingly, this camera will appeal to both beginners and advanced photographers. Aside from the full manual controls, 1/3 stop increments, RAW capture, histogram preview and other advanced-user features, the UZ also includes GUIDE mode, which helpfully offers suggestions for a particular shooting situation, and navigates the user straight from the guide to the settings adjustment for that situation. Add in-camera editing options, a wealth of scene modes and an assortment of accessory lenses, and it's an appealing all-in-one for the beginner who isn't quite ready to jump up to a DSLR.

The 18x lens and mechanical stabilization ensure that this is a notable camera, so ignore the unnecessary marketing hype surrounding the SP-550. The camera's press release includes a number of other impressive-sounding features and specs that require asterisks and explanations: capture at up to 15 frames per second (at a measly 1.2 megapixels), extremely high sensitivity range including ISOs 3200 and 5000 (at 3 megapixels), and 100x total zoom (5.6x digital zoom combined with the optical 18x).

These pseudo- or semi-features do not change the actual full-resolution specifications of this camera, so take them with a grain of salt. Olympus isn't alone in this type of marketing hype, but really, we're most impressed with full-resolution, non-asterisked specs and features, and we think our readers are, too.

We are eager to test a production unit in the Pop Photo labs, and we will post our certified test results as soon as possible. This is a significant-sounding camera on paper, but the image quality and performance are what matter most. Check back soon for a full camera test.

Press Release:
OLYMPUS LAUNCHES WORLD'S FIRST 18X OPTICAL ZOOM DIGITAL CAMERA: THE SP-550 UZ

All-in-One Ultra Zoom Offers Power and Versatility for Superior Images Far and Wide

CENTER VALLEY, Pa, January 25, 2007 - The new Olympus SP-550 UZ Ultra Zoom offers the ultimate in power and versatility with a compact, best-in-class 18x optical zoom lens (28-504mm equivalent in 35mm photography), which gives users the ability to shoot telephoto, wide-angle and macro (as close as 1cm) all in one. Crisp, clear images can be captured far and wide with Dual Image Stabilization and the broadest focal range available on any digital point-and-shoot. The camera's full manual exposure control provides professionals and photo-enthusiasts with unlimited creativity, while its automatic settings and Built-in Help Guides will put novice users at ease.

This revolutionary ultra zoom is equipped with several unique features to deliver near-DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) performance in a compact size, including:

* Dual Image Stabilization combines the benefits of Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization and Digital Image Stabilization to ensure beautiful, blur-free images in any situation;
* High-Speed Sequential Shooting records multiple images in rapid succession (up to 15 frames per second) - perfect for shooting action and capturing the exact moment you want; and
* Pre-Capture compensates for slow reaction times by capturing images (five frames) even before the shutter button is fully pressed to ensure you catch the perfect shot.

"The SP-550 UZ is the ultimate all-in-one digital camera and a perfect example of Olympus' innovative optics," said Michael Barnett, product manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc. "This new ultra zoom enables users of all levels to capture beautiful images in any shooting situation. Its powerful zoom, incredible speed and compact size will provide consumers an unprecedented level of performance and convenience."

18x Wide-Angle Ultra Zoom Lens Provides Power and Versatility

Featuring the world's most powerful zoom lens, the SP-550 UZ offers maximum shooting versatility for travel, sports and day-to-day use. The 18x super telephoto zoom gets you closer to the action than any compact digital camera on the market. At the same time, the wide-angle lens gets more into your frame - perfect for shooting indoors, landscapes and group shots. The super macro mode is ideal for capturing the most subtle details from as close as one centimeter. The compact, precision-crafted lens combines high-refractive, aspherical and extra-dispersion (ED) lens elements to deliver edge-to-edge sharpness and clarity. The bright, f/2.8-4.5 lens provides the equivalent of 28-504mm focal length with 100x total seamless zoom (5.6x digital zoom).

Dual Image Stabilization

Dual Image Stabilization technology enables users to take crisp, clear pictures in virtually any shooting situation - adjusting for camera shake and a moving subject. Olympus' Sensor-Shift Image Stabilization keeps images sharp by adjusting the CCD to compensate for camera shake, which often occurs when zooming in on your subject and in low-light conditions when shutter speeds are slower. Digital Image Stabilization freezes the action with high ISO sensitivity and fast shutter speeds that prevent blur caused by a moving subject.

High-Speed Sequential Shooting & Pre-Capture

Capable of capturing images at an incredible 15 frames per second, the SP-550 UZ offers the highest burst rate of any compact digital camera. The inclusion of Pre-Capture technology, which works in conjunction with High-Speed Sequential Shooting, enables users to capture the action before and after fully pressing the shutter button. Pre-Capture begins working as soon as the focus is locked, automatically archiving five frames in the camera's buffer memory prior to the shutter release - virtually guaranteeing that none of the action will be missed even if the user's reaction time is slow. Perfect for situations where timing is essential, such as photographing a tennis player serving, children playing or a whale breaching.

Full Manual & Automatic Control

The Manual, Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes give users versatility and control for optimal performance in any situation. Users can express their creative vision - adjusting the f-stop for detailed portraits with softened backgrounds, or slowing the exposure speed to create the blurred effect of motion, or just sit back and let the camera do the work with the automatic settings. Full manual and automatic control options allow advanced users to maintain creative control and novices to point-and-shoot their way to beautiful images.

30 Shooting Modes Including TV-Quality Video with Sound

The SP-550 UZ makes it easy to take great photos in a variety of scenarios and lighting situations with 30 shooting modes, including television-quality video with sound (640x480/30fps) up to the capacity of your xD card. Simply select the desired mode for portraits, landscapes, night scenes, fast-action, macro and more.

7.1-Megapixel Image Sensor

The 7.1-megapixel CCD image sensor delivers superior image quality for consistently capturing sharp, vivid details even in large-format or cropped prints. The SP-550 UZ records in both JPEG and RAW file formats and is perfectly suited for a wide range of users - from new photographers to advanced users who require maximum creative control.

High-Resolution 2.5-Inch LCD & Electronic Viewfinder

Compose and display incredible images on the camera's bright 230,000-pixel LCD. The high-resolution screen enables you to review pictures, scroll through menu options and treat friends and family to a digital slide show with ease. The SP-550 UZ also features an electronic viewfinder with dioptic correction.

Bright Capture Technology

There are times when you want to photograph subjects in low light without having to use a flash - such as when trying to capture the softness and warmth of a candlelit dinner or natural skin tones in subdued lighting. Even when it's too dark to see clearly, Olympus' revolutionary Bright Capture Technology makes it possible to preview your shot on the LCD, quickly lock the focus and capture your subjects despite limited available light. The SP-550 UZ offers the highest ISO sensitivity of any ultra zoom (ISO 5000).

In-camera Editing

Enjoy in-camera editing features such as Red-Eye Fix and the ability to add frames and titles, crop, adjust brightness and more - all without using a computer and editing software. Also, the exclusive Lighting Fix feature corrects the underexposed areas in your pictures to reveal the details hidden in the shadows.

TruePic TURBO™ for High-Speed Response

Olympus' exclusive TruePic TURBO™ Image Processor delivers incredible image quality for more true-to-life colors and skin tones as well as faster overall processing speeds for rapid start-up, shutter release and playback. TruePic TURBO ensures a high-speed response so you can capture the shot you want and instantly be ready to shoot again.

Underwater Housing and Accessory Lenses for Expanded Capabilities

An underwater housing (PT-037) is designed specifically for the SP-550 UZ, enabling great images to be captured in the pool and ocean. Using the PT-037, scuba divers can venture with the camera to depths of approximately 130 feet (40 meters) beneath the surface. The SP-550 UZ also features a threaded lens barrel, which enables easy attachment of add-on wide-angle or telephoto conversion lenses for even more creative control. Compatible accessory lenses include the WCON-07 Wide-Angle Conversion Lens (for 19.6mm equivalent) and the TCON-17 Telephoto Conversion Lens (for more than 30x optical zoom).

OLYMPUS Master™ Software

OLYMPUS Master™ software provides the ultimate in digital imaging management. An intuitive user interface makes downloading to your computer quick and simple, and images are easily organized by folders or albums. And with one-click editing tools, such as red-eye removal, images can be touched up before printing or e-mailing. Online support, templates, firmware upgrades and other user services are just a mouse-click away. Use the optional muveeä Theater Pack to create professional quality slide shows and DVDs from your pictures using any of several built-in templates.

Availability

The SP-550 UZ will be available in March 2007. It will also include: Neck Strap, WIN/Mac USB Cable, Audio/Video Cable, four AA Batteries, Instruction Manual, Warranty Card and OLYMPUS Master Software CD-ROM.

U.S. Pricing

SP-550 UZ Estimated Street Price: $499.99 (U.S.)

For more information, review units, product specifications and high-resolution images of the SP-550 UZ, contact Sara Nazzaro, Mullen Public Relations, 978-468-8970, sara.nazzaro@mullen.com or Jennifer Lyons, public relations manager, Olympus Imaging America Inc., 484-896-5350, jennifer.lyons@olympus.com, Olympus Imaging America Inc., 3500 Corporate Parkway, Center Valley, Pennsylvania 18034 or the Olympus Web site: http://www.olympusamerica.com.
ABOUT OLYMPUS IMAGING AMERICA INC.

Olympus Imaging America Inc. is a precision technology leader, designing and delivering award-winning products for consumer and professional markets.
Olympus Imaging America Inc. works collaboratively with its customers and its ultimate parent company, Olympus Corporation, to develop breakthrough technologies with revolutionary product design and functionality that enhances peoples' lives every day. These include:

• Digital and film cameras
• Professional SLR Imaging Systems
• Digital and Microcassette recorders
• Personal Photo Printers
• Digital Media
• Binoculars

Olympus Imaging America Inc. is responsible for sales in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. For more information, visit: www.olympusamerica.com.

Specifications: SP-550 UZ

Imager: 7.1-megapixel (effective), 7.4 megapixel gross, 1/2.5" CCD

Lens: 4.68-84.24mm (28-504mm equivalent in 35mm photography), 14 lenses in 11 groups, 4 aspherical lenses, 2 ED lenses

Zoom: Seamless to 100x (18x optical and 5.6x digital)

Aperture Range: f2.8- f4.5 (adjustable in 1/3 EV step)

LCD: 2.5" (6.4cm) LCD, approx. 230,000 pixels

Viewfinder: Electronic viewfinder (with dioptic correction)

Focus System: CCD Contrast Detection

Focus Ranges:

Normal Mode: Wide: 3.94" (0.1m) - infinity
Tele: 47.24" (1.2m) - infinity

Macro Mode: Wide: 3.94" (0.1m)
Tele: 47.24" (1.2m)

Super Macro: 0.39" (0.98cm) - infinity

Focus Mode: iESP, Auto, Spot AF, Selective AF Target, Manual

Shutter Speed: 1/2000 sec. -15 sec., Bulb

ISO: Auto/High ISO Auto/50/100/200/400/800/1600/3200*/5000* (*approx. 3MP)

Metering Mode: Digital iESP Auto Multi-Pattern TTL, Spot Metering, Center-Weighted Metering

White Balance: iESP2 Auto, One-Touch, Preset (Daylight, Overcast, Tungsten, 3 Fluorescents)

Exposure Compensation: ± 2 EV steps in 1/3 EV steps

Recording Modes
Still Image: DCF Exif 2.21, JPEG, PIM 3
Movie Mode: AVI Motion JPEG

Adjustment Resolutions
3,072 x 2,304, RAW/SHQ/HQ
3,072 x 2,048, 3:2/SHQ/HQ
2,560 x 1,920, SQ1 High, Normal
2,304 x 1,728, SQ1 High, Normal
2,048 x 1,536, SQ1 High, Normal
1,600 x 1,200, SQ2 High, Normal
1,280 x 960, SQ2 High, Normal
1,024 x 768, SQ2 High, Normal
640 x 480, SQ2 High, Normal

Shooting Modes
30 Shooting Modes: Auto, Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, My Modes, GUIDE, Scene Presets (portrait, landscape, landscape + portrait, night scene, night + portrait, sport, indoor, candle, self-portrait, available light portrait, sunset, fireworks, cuisine, documents, auction, shoot & select1, shoot & select2, beach, snow, underwater wide 1, underwater wide 2, underwater macro), Movie

Panorama: Up to 10 frames automatically stitchable with OLYMPUS Master software when using Olympus brand xD-Picture Card™

Sequential Shooting
Hi-Speed2: 15 frames per second for 20 frames (1.2MP)
Hi-Speed1: 7 frames per second for 15 frames (3MP)
Normal speed: 1.2 frames per second for 7 frames (7MP)
Bracket: Exposure bracketing up to 5 frames
Interval Shooting

Shooting Assist Functions: Histogram, Frame assist

Movie Mode: AVI Movie with sound, 640x480/30fps, SHQ ; 640x480/15fps, HQ ; 320x240/30fps, SQ1 ; 320x240/15fps, SQ2

Image Processing: TruePic TURBOTM Image Processor

Pixel Mapping: Automatic Pixel Mapping (APM) available via menu setting

Noise Reduction: Set automatically at shutter speeds of 0.5 seconds or longer

Image Playback
Still image: Single, index, enlargement, slideshow, calendar, album, histogram, rotation
Movie: Normal, fast-forward, reverse, frame-by-frame

Playback Edit Effects
Still image: lighting fix, red-eye fix, black & white, sepia, crop, resize, rotate, brightness, saturation, frame, label, calendar, layout
Movie: frame edit, frame index, still image cropping

Direct Printing Options: PictBridge and DPOF

Flash: Built-in

Flash Modes
Auto (for low and backlit conditions)
Red-eye reduction
Fill-in
Fill-in + red-eye
Slow Sync
Off

Flash Working Range
Wide: 14.8ft (4.5m), Tele: 9.2ft. (2.8m) at ISO 200
Wide: 42.3ft (12.9m), Tele: 26.2ft. (8.0m) at ISO 1600

Flash Compensation: Flash intensity adjustment ±2 steps in 1/3 increments

Self-Timer: 12 seconds/2 seconds, AUTO

Settings Memorization: On (stores changes) / Off (restores default settings)

Date/Time Calendar: Automatically recorded with each image up to the year 2099

Memory: 20 MB (Internal)

Removable Media Card: xD-Picture Card™ (16, 32, 64, 128, 256, 512MB, 1GB or 2GB)

Outer Connectors: USB Connector, A/V Output, DC Input

Auto-Connect USB: USB 2.0 Full Speed

System Requirements: Auto-connect USB: Windows 98SE/ME/2000PRO/XP/Vista/Mac OS 9.0-9.2/OS X 10.1-10.4

Software: Windows 98SE/ME/2000PRO/XP/Vista/Mac OS 10.3 and higher

Operating Environment
Operation: 32 - 104˚F (0 - 40˚C) 30-90% humidity

Storage: -4 - 140˚F (-20 - 60˚C) 10-90% humidity

Power Supply: (4) AA batteries, AC Adapter (C-7AU)

Size: 4.6" W x 3.1" H x 3.1" D (116mm x 78.5mm x 78mm)

Weight: 12.9oz (365g) without battery and media card

*Specifications and design are subject to change without any notice or obligation on the part of the manufacturer.
All trademarks mentioned herein are the property of their respective holder.

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