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The OLy SP Series

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  • The OLy SP Series

    I'd like to make a report on the SP 560 UZ, which I've had for a few weeks now.

    The 560 seems to be a reincarnation of the late-lamented C 2100 UZ. It has everything that camera had, plus. When Olympus first came out with that camera, it was a dream: an AF focus light, a 10x built-in zoom and IS. The only thing that it lacked was megapixel power: only 2.1 or so MP. Even so, it caught on and was so wildly popular that it became a cult classic. As late as January 2006, I used it as my "serious" camera on a cruise to Hawaii and back that my wife and I took. Even John Isaac has commented on the pix he'd taken with his that were of publishable quality.

    As Olympus went forward however, its successors were a series of flops (at least to me) because of the tradeoffs. Basically, it was the more MP, the fewer the features. No more IS. Small display, no AF focus light, etc. Meantime, I worked my way up through the C 700, the C 770, and left the C series for the E series: first the 500 and now the 510.

    Then the SP 550 came out, and I got one for my wife, who loves it. Then the 560 came out, which, as I said, seemed to be the "new improved" C 2100, what with its 18x zoom, IS, and ISO settings all the way to 6400!

    Alas, I must caution you: even at ISO 400, there's a bit of noise and haloing. I took it to a low-light venue holiday party and, not knowing the camera well enough yet, set the thing to ISO 3200, because that's the setting that gave me a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action. (ASIDE: I love to use available light whenever possible to keep the ambiance of the venue.) HOWEVER the NOISE was so bad that even with its noise reduction feature turned on plus Photoshop's noise reduction filter, roughly half the pictures were simply unusable. All the edges of objects were blotchy and smeared. So if you have one of these beauties, be warned.

    On the plus side: it sports eight megapixels (as many as the E-500!), and the colors are gorgeous. I took it to another party during daylight hours, and set the WB and the ISO settings on automatic (sometimes I manually set the ISO to 400 for inside shots) and got wonderful pictures! (What's interesting is, even though the ISO settings are straight multiples 100, 200, 400, 800, etc., when on automatic, the camera will choose a shutter speed, aperture, and fractional ISO value: 50, 125, etc., that can't be chosen by hand. And at the next party coming up in a few days, I'll try the "candlelight" setting to see how that goes.)

    The flash is adequate: very good for fill flash, and can fill the average room with light when used as the main source at night. There will be some redeye under certain circumstances, but with the flash so close to the lens, that's to be expected. It has a red-eye correction feature, but I use Photoshop to fix redeye.

    Anyway, bottom line: it's a great little party/fun camera. You can hang it around your neck and party on! I'd be very cautious about using ISO settings past 400, although 800 can be useful. Beyond that: "Here there be dragons."


    PS: I hadn't intended to begin this thread under the E Series posts. Perhaps a mod can put it in its own category?