- Review Date: 10/16/2012
- Bottom line: The Olympus SP-620UZ is an affordable, compact (but not pocket size) superzoom camera with a 21x zoom lens. It's affordably priced, but not as refined as its pricier competition.
- Pros: Inexpensive. Relatively compact. Sharp lens. Strong performance. 21x zoom lens.
- Cons: Image quality suffers at high ISOs. Cannot adjust zoom while recording video. Video limited to 720p. Low-res rear LCD.
In many ways, the SP-620UZ ($199.99 direct) is similar to another Olympus superzoom, the 24x SZ-12. Both cameras produce solid images at lower ISO settings, suffer at higher settings, and are limited to 720p video capture. The SZ-12 is a bit smaller, and is a slightly better camera overall, but fans of AA batteries, and the flexibility they can bring, will want to opt for the SP-620UZ. Neither camera can compete with our Editors' Choice superzoom, the Nikon Coolpix P510, but that camera costs more than twice as much.
Design and Features
The SP-620UZ is just 2.9 by 4.3 by 2.9 inches (HWD), but is pretty heavy for its size at 15.3 ounces. It's not pocketable, but is tiny compared with some other superzoom models like the huge Fujifilm X-S1. That SLR-sized shooter packs a slightly more ambitious 26x zoom lens, but comes in at 4.2 by 5.3 by 5.9 inches in size and weighs 2.1 pounds.
The 21x zoom lens covers a 25-525mm field of view, an impressive feat for a camera of this size. Zoom is controlled electronically, and the action is quick and smooth. You'll use the rear LCD to frame and review images, and it's one of the weaker spots of the camera. It's big at 3 inches, but the low 230k-dot resolution makes it difficult to get a good idea of what your photos will look like. The pop-up flash is controlled manually—just flip it up with your finger when you want to use it, and close it when you don't.
The camera itself has a deep grip that accommodates the four AA batteries that power it. It doesn't extend out from the body quite as much as the lens. Controls are fairly minimal—there's a Power button on the top plate, situated a bit behind the zoom rocker and shutter control. There are only a couple buttons around back—Record, Play, Menu, OK, and Help. A four-way controller surrounds the OK button; it's used to navigate through the on-screen menu that gives you access to shooting controls.
Advanced shooters won't want to consider this camera, as there are no Manual, Aperture Priority, or Shutter Priority modes available. There is a Program mode, in addition to iAuto and Scene Modes. You can adjust Exposure Compensation and White Balance in Program, but not much else. There are also the standard Sports, Fireworks, Cuisine, Portrait, Landscape, and similar scene modes. Perhaps in an attempt to keep up with the latest Internet pet photo trends, Olympus has added separate settings for dog and cat face detection—satisifying cat lovers and dog shamers alike. There are also in-camera art filters, a panorama mode, and the now-standard 3D capture mode
An on-screen Guide mode helps casual photographers get the best photos possible. You can page through common questions, like "Why are my pictures blurry?" and the camera will adjust settings to address the issue.
Performance and Conclusions
The SP-620UZ performs quite admirably, especially considering its low price. It starts and shoots in 1.9 seconds and records a short 0.2-second shutter lag. Its shot-to-shot time is 1.3 seconds at full resolution, but it can capture 5-megapixel images at about 4.6 frames per second, and 3-megapixel shots at an impressive 14.9fps. It's actually a better performer than our Editors' Choice compact superzoom Sony Cyber-shot DSC-HX30V, which takes 2.3 seconds to start and notches a 0.3-second shutter lag, and its 10fps full-resolution capture mode is limited to a burst of 10 shots.
I used Imatest to check the sharpness of the SP-620UZ's lens. The results were impressive—it manages 2,365 lines per picture height, which is well in excess of the 1,800-line score that denotes a sharp photo. It didn't fare as well in terms of image noise—its CCD sensor could only keep noise below 1.5 percent through ISO 400, and even at that setting the detail of photos was noticeably degraded. It does a much better job at noise control than another AA-battery-powered CCD superzoom, the Canon PowerShot SX150 IS —its photos are noisy at ISO 100.
Video recording is a weak point. The quality is limited to 720p30 in MP4 format, and the camera is incapable of zooming in or out while recording footage. You'll need to set the desired focal length prior to hitting the record button. The camera does a good job refocusing during recording, but the footage itself has a grainy look—even under bright studio lights. There is a micro HDMI port to connect to an HDTV, as well as a proprietary USB port. Standard SD, SDHC, and SDXC memory cards are supported.
The Olympus SP-620UZ is a mixed bag. Image quality in good light is great for a point-and-shoot camera. Its speed and long zoom range add value, but it lacks many of the advanced features found in more expensive competitors. If you're looking for a superzoom, but don't want to spend a ton of money—and you prefer a camera that uses AA batteries—it's a solid choice. If you prefer a rechargeable battery, the Olympus SZ-12 sells for around the same price, and is a slightly more capable camera that will slide into your pocket.
This review is in partnership with PCMag.com.