Olympus SP-100 Review

 
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Basic Specifications
Full model name: Olympus Stylus SP-100
Resolution: 16.00 Megapixels
Sensor size: 1/2.3"
Lens: 50.00x zoom
(24-1,200mm eq.)
Viewfinder: EVF / LCD
ISO: 125-6400
Shutter: 30-1/1700
Max Aperture: 2.9
Dimensions: 4.8 x 3.6 x 5.2 in.
(121 x 91 x 133 mm)
Weight: 20.8 oz (589 g)
MSRP: $400
Availability: 03/2014
Manufacturer: Olympus
16.00
Megapixels
50.00x zoom
1/2.3"
size sensor
image of Olympus Stylus SP-100
Front side of Olympus Stylus SP-100 digital camera Back side of Olympus Stylus SP-100 digital camera Top side of Olympus Stylus SP-100 digital camera Left side of Olympus Stylus SP-100 digital camera Right side of Olympus Stylus SP-100 digital camera

Olympus SP-100 Review -- First Impressions

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Preview posted

Ultrazoom cameras bring the action right up close, just where you want it -- but only if you can keep track of your subject. Doing so can be a challenge. Look away from the screen or viewfinder even briefly, and you can easily lose track of the subject. Valuable time and shooting opportunities are then lost while you zoom out to find the subject, then back in again to frame tight once more. The Olympus SP-100 aims to solve the problem with an absolutely unique solution.

To give it its full name, it's technically the Olympus SP-100EE, with the suffix standing for "Eagle Eye". This hints at its one-of-a-kind feature, a clever dot-sight which can be found beneath the flash strobe when it is raised. (You can also raise the flash without raising the dot-sight, but not vice-versa.)

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If you're not familiar with dot-sights, don't worry -- nor were we. They're best-known in the hunting world, where they're used to help with aiming of guns. The way they work is rather clever in its simplicity. A red LED is bounced off a reflective, tilted spherical mirror. As you move your head, the reflection appears to retain its position over the center of the scene you're framing, no matter how you move your eye side-to-side or up-and-down. The theory is explained rather nicely in this Wikipedia article.

Since the position of the dot-sight always approximates whatever is at the center of the frame -- at least, as long as it's towards infinity; parallax may be an issue for nearer subjects -- it can help you to very quickly determine what you're aiming the camera at. Now, when you track off your subject by mistake, all you need do is place it under the red dot and you should be able to switch back to looking at the live view without all the zooming, fussing, and delay. Very cool, and the Olympus SP-100 is the world's first camera with the feature!

Beyond that, the Olympus SP100 is a relatively straightforward ultrazoom camera. At its heart sits a 1/2.3-inch type, 16-megapixel, backside-illuminated CMOS image sensor coupled to a TruePic VII. image processor. Together, the pairing allows sensitivities from ISO 125 to 6400 equivalents. Olympus also includes an Auto ISO function, and a High mode of unstated sensitivity. Full-resolution burst shooting is possible at a fast 7 frames per second, but with a buffer depth of only six images. For a much bigger buffer, you can reduce the capture rate to just 2.5 fps, and gain a burst depth of 200 images. There are also two much faster 20 and 60 fps rates, both with buffer depths of 60 images, but a reduced resolution of three megapixels.

In front of the sensor sits a newly developed 50x optical zoom lens which covers everything from a generous 24mm-equivalent wide angle to a very powerful 1,200mm-equivalent telephoto. Maximum aperture ranges from f/2.9 at wide angle to f/6.5 at telephoto. As you'd expect with that much reach, lens-shift optical image stabilization is included, and interestingly it continues to function even for the 1cm Super Macro mode.

Another unusual touch is a secondary zoom lever on the side of lens, useful for keeping a steady grip rather than using the zoom rocker around the shutter button. Even rarer on a fixed-lens camera is a focus limit button on the side of the lens barrel, handy for preventing the camera hunting through the entire focus range. You can also lock focus with the same button, and focus manually.

Images and movies are framed and reviewed either on 3.0-inch, 4:3 aspect LCD monitor with 460,000 dot resolution, or on an electronic viewfinder with 920,000 dot resolution.

Exposure modes on offer in the Olympus SP-100 include Intelligent Auto, Program Auto, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, Manual, Super Macro, Scene, Art Filter, and Panorama. As well as standard panoramas, the SP-100 can also shoot 360-degree panos. Scene modes include Portrait, e-Portrait, Landscape, Interval Shooting, Hand-held Starlight, Night Scene, Night + Portrait, Sport, Indoor, Self Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Cuisine, Documents, Beach & Snow, Super Macro, and Backlight HDR. Art filter types include Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Dramatic Tone, Fish Eye, Sparkle, Reflection, and Fragmented.

The Olympus SP-100's popup flash offers modes including Auto, Red Eye Reduction, Fill-in, and Off. In part because of the Eagle Eye dot-sight beneath it, it raises with a generous height that should minimize red-eye. Shutter speeds on offer range from 1/4 to 1/1,700 second, or a maximum of four seconds in the Night Scene mode, and 30 seconds in Manual mode.

As well as still images, the Olympus SP-100 can also shoot high definition videos at a resolution of up to 1,920 x 1,080 pixels (aka Full HD) with a rate of 60 frames per second. Here, too, you can trade off resolution to get greater speed -- either standard-def VGA (640 x 480 pixels) at a rate of 120 fps, or QVGA (320 x 240 pixels) at a whopping 240 fps. Movies are saved in a .MOV container with H.264 compression.

There's no in-camera Wi-Fi connectivity, but the Olympus SP-100 does support wireless transfer to a smart device running the company's Olympus Image Share smartphone app, using an optional Toshiba FlashAir SDHC card. Wired connectivity on offer includes a multi-terminal that provides for USB 2.0 High Speed data, standard-definition audio/video output, and DC input, as well as a Type-D Micro HDMI connector for high-def video output. Images and movies are stored on Secure Digital cards, including the higher-capacity SDHC and SDXC types, or on 37MB of built-in memory. Power comes from a proprietary LI-92B lithium-ion battery pack rated as good for 330 shots on a charge.

Priced at US$400, the Olympus SP-100 Eagle Eye ships in black only, and is available from March 2014.

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