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Review: Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom

Olympus SP-550 Ultra Zoom [LINK]
Olympus [LINK]
Reviewed by
Kevin L. Kitchens
Review Publication Date
March 19, 2007

Olympus promises much with the
new SP-550. Do they deliver?
In January 2007 Olympus formally announced their new SP-550 Ultra Zoom digital camera. Sporting an impressive 18x optical zoom, the SP-550 included image stabilization as well as a host of other features that had the digital camera world buzzing. Did Olympus deliver on their claims? Will the SP-550 be a must-have for digital photographers? We have been using the camera for the past several weeks and hope to answer these questions in this review.

Physical Characteristics

The SP-550 is solidly built and is a very comfortable camera to hold. The body is made of sturdy plastic, with texturized rubber areas on the grip, thumb rest, and the lens barrel. It is medium sized as far as prosumer cameras go, not as large as the Panasonic FZ series, but not so small as the current trend of long zoom pocket cameras.

The top of the camera features a mode dial, zoom control, power button and I.S./custom button. On the left side is the popup flash release button and on the back are the EVF/LCD toggle, menu, review, help/display, and delete buttons in addition to the scroll pad/functions disc. These buttons are of standard make and respond well. However the play button is very close to the thumb rest and I would sometimes hit it with the side of my thumb while preparing for a shot.

The LCD is
large and
The LCD is large and bright (2.5”, approximately 230,000 pixels), though it is in a fixed position with no cover to protect it when using the EVF, so expect a lot of wiping and cleaning the screen. The LCD and EVF also have a tendency to flare out in bright light situations. Pressing the shutter 1/2 way to lock the focus would result in the left half of the screen getting very bright, split right down the center. The resulting photo was fine, but this flaring was a concern.

The LCD does include several display options, including an excellent live view histogram. The extreme highlights and shadows are outlined with red and blue boxes to give you an instant visual cue if your exposure is in danger.

Memory access is via a hinged plastic door on the right side which is well attached and opens and closes well. USB/Video Out (cables included) and external power (not included) jacks are on the left under the usual rubber cover. On the bottom is the locking compartment for four AA batteries and the tripod thread (not lens centered). As a side note, it's ironic that the batteries included with our SP-550 were from competitor Panasonic (they lasted for several hundred shots).

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