Olympus Stylus SP-100 ultra zoom review

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Compact camera market is in decline for a few years already, and as a result Olympus stopped producing compact cameras some time ago. Luckily, they are still into ultra zoom market and the SP-100 is the latest top model. It sports 50x optical zoom (24-1200 mm), 16 megapixels sensor and full HD video recording. Beside all that it has a unique “Dot-sight” finder that will help you to locate your subject with the lens zoomed all the way to telephoto.

GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS

  • Announced: 2014.
  • Type: ultra zoom
  • Dimensions: 122 x 91 x 133 mm (4.8 x 3.6 x 5.25″)
  • Weight: 594g (with battery)
  • Sensor: 1/2.3″ (6.17 x 4.55 mm)16 MP (4608 x 3456 pixels)
  • Lens: 24-1200mm (35mm eq.), F/2.9-6.5
  • Image stabilization: Yes (in the lens)
  • Dust and moisture protection: No
  • Flash: Built-in pop-up flash
  • Continuous shooting: 7 fps
  • LCD screen: 3″, 460,000 dots
  • Memory card: SD, SDHC, SDXC
  • Battery: Li-Ion LI-92B
  • Video: 1920 x 1080 @ 60p/30p, 1280 x 720 @ 60p, 640 x 480 @ 30p
  • Connectors: USB 2.0, micro HDMI

CONSTRUCTION AND HANDLING

Build quality is quite decent. Body materials are a mix of good looking plastic and rubber on the grip. The thumb rest on the back side is particularly good; its protruding shape allows a very secure grip on the camera. In spite good build quality, the camera is not very heavy. Around 600 grams with the battery is not that much when you consider how big it is and the size of optical zoom. The tripod mount on the bottom of the camera is placed right beside the battery compartment – this is bad choice since it is impossible to change the battery or memory card when on tripod.

There are not many of direct external controls but those that exist are placed in logical order. My guess is that most users will keep this camera in pure AUTO mode so it doesn’t matter how well the manual controls are though out. For the occasions when you want to take control over the settings, most of them are available in the quick menu. The right dial at the top of the camera is customizable depending on shooting mode you are currently using.

OLYMPUS STYLUS SP-100 LENS

50x optical zoom is not the largest on the market: Panasonic and Nikon have 60x but such small difference is irrelevant in real life. In 35mm terms, this Olympus covers from 24 – 1200 mm what is enormous range. Lens quality is generally good. As is the case with many modern cameras with non-detachable lens, sensor is the main limiting factor when it comes to image quality. Here’s a demonstration of what the lens can do: image to the left is on maxiumum wide angle and the next two are zoomed in. The last one is not even on maximum zoom; there was still some zoom left.

AUTOFOCUS

Auto focus is a good example of what is actually possible with enough effort in camera development. Many ultra zoom cameras have problems focusing on maximum telephoto, but SP-100 is an exception. SP-100 can acquire focus both in good and low light no matter the zoom position and it doesn’t take more than 2-3 seconds in the worst case scenario. This is the best AF performance in ultra zoom class on the market and alone can be the only reason to buy this camera. Just look at this video comparing AF speed between Nikon P600 and Olympus SP-100:

OLYMPUS STYLUS SP-100 SENSOR AND IMAGE QUALITY

A small (1/2.3″, 6 x 4 mm) sensor has 16 megapixels. It is plagued by the usual problem  – overly aggressive noise reduction. Fine details are blurred because of it and this is visible at any ISO setting. Still, it is not the worst I’ve seen. If you use images only for printing normal family photos and do not crop aggressively all of the time, you probably won’t notice something’s wrong.

Automatic white balance also has some problems; it has a tendency to create to cold-looking images with slight greenish cast even in good light when it should produce perfect results This can be countered by setting white balance manually or with a little post processing on PC. Also, in street night shooting conditions, SP-100 produced overly orange photos.

The good thing about SP-100 is the ability to get usable shots in high dynamic range scenarios. The example on the left clearly illustrates it: the building is well exposed, there are visible details on the tree and the sky with coluds still looks normal. Most cameras would either expose to get the sky right and everything else would be way to dark or the exact opposite: properly exposed building and overblown sky.

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4 thoughts on “Olympus Stylus SP-100 ultra zoom review

    • SP-100 is good for beginners but is nowhere near the image quality Canon 100D can deliver. Go for Canon

  1. Do you know how much video can be recorded with the included batteries fully charged?

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