Mega-Zoom Camera Offers Substantial Rewards

Thin is all the rage these days in digital cameras. If a shutterbox can’t fit in the pocket of a pair of designer jeans, some consumers will just turn their nose up at it. I’m not one of them.

Thin has its merits, but so does substantial. Among these merits are more muscular zoom lenses — 10x or more.

Oh, I know Kodak makes a thinnie, the EasyShare V610 with a 10x zoom, but it can’t beat the photo quality of something like the Olympus SP-510UZ.

This latest Olympus entry into the mega-zoom category is a compact silver package — it measures 4.2-by-2.8-by-3 inches — that’s nicely balanced, and while it’s a heavyweight compared to thinner offerings, its 11.5 ounces feel substantial without feeling leaden in the hands.

One-handed shooting with the 7.1 megapixel camera, which sells for US$284 to $329, is comfortable when you hold it by its grip on the right side of the unit.

Convenient Controls

Controls on the 510UZ are logically placed and easy to reach.

On top of the camera are the power and PictBridge buttons. PictBridge allows you to print photos directly from the unit by connecting it to the USB capture port of a printer.

Flanking those buttons are the mode dial and the shutter release, the latter of which is embedded in a zoom control ring. Some camera makers have tinkered with the relationship between the shutter release and zoom control, but I’ve found this design to be the most convenient and intuitive to use.

On the back of the unit is a bright 2.5-inch color display. Although slightly washed out when shooting in bright sunlight, there was plenty of resolution on the screen for framing shots.

Above the display are buttons for flipping up the unit’s flash and turning off its display. With the display off, shots can be framed in the camera’s electronic viewfinder.

Double Duty

To the right of the display are the snapbox’s main cluster of controls. There are buttons for displaying shot composition information, turning on the self timer and trashing unwanted photos.

In addition, there’s a control dial for navigating through system menus.

The navigation buttons on the dial serve double duty. Not only do they allow you to go left, right, up and down through menus, but they give you quick access to macro mode, compensation exposure, flash modes and a quick view of photos you’ve taken.

In macro mode, the 510UZ can shoot objects as close as three centimeters.

With compensation exposure, you can under- or over-expose a photo up to an exposure value (EV) of two, in increments of one-third.

Good Indoor Shots

The pop-up flash has five modes: auto, red eye, fill, fill with red eye and slow. Flash pictures taken with the camera were very good. They looked more natural than those I’ve seen from other cameras. They’re exposed evenly and don’t have the high contrast and color saturation that can give some photos that “shot with a flash” look.

Outdoor pictures were also excellent. Colors were true, exposure was good and sharpness was excellent.

When using the camera outside, shutter lag — the time between the shutter button’s activation and the camera’s capture of the desired image — was barely noticeable. Inside, however, with the flash activated, there was a considerable lag.

The 510UZ runs on four AA batteries, and it starts up very quickly.

Big Beautiful Camera

With the unit’s 10x optical zoom — it has a 5x digital zoom, too — you can get up close and personal with your subjects without having to get in their face. Additionally, with the camera’s digital image stabilization, you don’t have to worry about “the shakes.”

The lens has an aperture of F/2.8 – 3.7 and the zoom’s 35mm equivalent is 38 – 380.

In addition to stills, the camera can shoot video with sound. The video, which is stored in QuickTime format, is about YouTube quality.

Photos shot with the camera are in JPG format, but it also supports RAW shots.

If thin is your thing, then the 510UZ isn’t your camera. However, if you’re looking for a camera that feels substantial, can get you in the thick of the action from afar and is chock full of features to stimulate your creativity, then this Olympus offering may be for you.

Leave a Comment

Please sign in to post or reply to a comment. New users create a free account.

More by John P. Mello Jr.
More in Reviews

Technewsworld Channels