Olympus SP-590UZ digital camera

The Olympus SP-590UZ is equipped with a massive 26x zoom

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Olympus SP-590UZ
  • Olympus SP-590UZ
  • Olympus SP-590UZ
  • Olympus SP-590UZ

Pros

  • Incredible 26x zoom is versatile, good macro and super-macro modes

Cons

  • Lens has some imperfections, shots at ISO 800 and above suffer from noise

Bottom Line

Olympus’s SP-590UZ does a good job of delivering some of the advantages of a larger SLR camera without an interchangeable lens system. Shots taken with the massive 26x zoom lens are almost always crisp and clear, and it comes equipped with a 12-megapixel sensor.

Would you buy this?

The Olympus SP-590UZ is an advanced compact digital camera with a 12-megapixel sensor and a 26x zoom lens — the largest of any compact camera on the market. A 26mm wide-angle means it’s good for landscape and party shots, although the lens is not consistently sharp and clear. Higher ISO ranges are also practically unusable.

You can tell the Olympus SP-590UZ digital camera means business at first glance. The rugged plastic body with a rubberised grip is chunky and solid, weighing 460g without its batteries. It’s well suited to wearing on a strap around your neck, but it won't fit in your pocket. The camera uses xD media cards rather than the more common SD/SDHC format.

The controls are intuitive, with the regular complement of compact digital camera buttons and dials. The shutter button and zoom rocker stand out in terms of quality, being well weighted and feeling great. The menu system has a complicated and unintuitive interface. Plenty of settings are there for avid photographers, making the Olympus SP-590UZ a good choice if you want to get the best custom shots possible.

The My Mode memory bank stores groups of settings, while the standard program, aperture, manual, shutter and scene modes on the camera’s dial make shooting an easy task. A novel Beauty Mode smooths wrinkles and blemishes in your portraits, cutting out the need to use Photoshop on your burst-mode MySpace shots.

Like the older Olympus SP-570UZ, the Olympus SP-590UZ takes shots that are acceptable for printing at A3 or below. Our shots were sharp throughout most of the zoom range, though a maximum aperture of f/5.0 at full zoom means it’s near-impossible to capture a blur-free image when holding the camera. Image stabilisation helps shaky users, speeding up the lens’ response by two full aperture stops.

We were able to notice a higher than average amount of chromatic aberration in our sample photographs, with minor haloing and purple fringing visible in high-contrast areas. This is standard fare for ultra-zoom cameras though, so don’t be discouraged.

Up to ISO 400 produced shots that were fine at all magnification levels, but ISO 800 and above introduced significant graininess. This camera is great for shots if you’ve got a steady hand, but in low light you may find it less than perfect. We found shots at ISO 800 on a gloomy day acceptable for A4 prints.

Colour performance was quite accurate, with reds and greens as vibrant as we expected. Blues were slightly undersaturated for our liking, but overall pictures look natural and well balanced.

The camera’s zoom is quiet but it was slightly slow. Operation is on par with other advanced compact cameras we’ve tested, with shots taken quickly and an impressive 10 frames per second in the continuous shot mode in our testing. Interestingly, we did notice a faint but constant rhythmic ticking sound while the Olympus SP-590UZ was on — thankfully the camera didn’t explode.

The Olympus SP-590UZ is a capable advanced compact digital camera with a big zoom. The massive zoom means it’s equally good for party shots or bird watching, while the 12-megapixel sensor captures detailed shots for producing prints up to A3 size.

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