Product Type: Olympus digital cameras
Newest Review: ... are good by default, and the lens is of a high enough quality to ensure that any optical defects are kept to a minimum. With its ran... more
Little grey box of tricks
Member Name: JJJJ
Date: 04/01/12, updated on 05/01/12 (113 review reads)
Advantages: Good selection of manual options, often available cheaply on eBay
Disadvantages: Battery life with alkaline AAs is limited, now dated, only 3x zoom
When it comes to buying a digital camera, Olympus is a brand that I trust. I've owned two or three Olympus cameras over the years, the first of which took the form of the seven megapixel SP-320. Now it is a few years old, i've recently seen the SP-320 selling for under £40 on eBay - a price that is very respectable considering that the product had a RRP of £229 back in 2007.
Design & Appearance
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Predominantly constructed from grey plastic, the SP-320 is an interesting looking shooter with a separate grip section protruding from the camera's right hand side - this allows the user to obtain a solid (and comfortable) grip during use. The camera is by no means small at just under ten centimetres on its longest side, but neither is it massive and will just about fit (or I should say 'squeeze') into a pocket. The build quality isn't of the highest quality that i've seen, but it's rugged enough for day to day use, and should last providing it isn't dropped. The camera's screen takes the form of a 2.5 inch LCD which reproduces colours with vibrancy and clarity. It's important to point out that there's an optical viewfinder present, which is a godsend for those who hate to use LCD screens in outdoor conditions where reflections can make viewing difficult.
Features & Battery life
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Let's start with the zoom - and the SP-320 has a modest 3x optical range (38 - 114mm) which doesn't provide a great deal of versatility. What does provide versatility however, is the camera's wide range of manual options, which allow you to get caught up in the details and have a good old fashioned tinker. Fear not, If you're the sort of photographer who likes to have the hard work done for you, then there are twenty-five preset scene modes, which are tailored to all manner of situations. The main settings can be selected via the dial on top of the camera, whilst specific options are navigated through via the intuitive menu system.
The camera's macro mode allows you to focus as close as two centimetres from the subject, whereas the flash is quick to recharge and has a decent range.
In terms of the power consumption, you'll find the SP-320 instantly disappointing if you rely on alkaline AAs, which really don't provide much mileage for frequent snappers - luckily Ni-MH recharcheables are much more respectable, and will literally double the amount of shots that can be taken. The storage media is the now dated XD variety of memory card, although there's a token offering of twenty-five meg internal storage.
Image Quality & Final Word
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In terms of the image quality, the SP-320 produces very respectable results. A good amount of detail is captured without too much smearing, and image noise is better than average for a 2006 / 2007 mid-price compact. The ISO range starts out at ISO 64, and there's only significant degradation at the opposite end at ISO 800. Colours are nicely reproduced, if a little yellowy in indoor settings - however fiddling with the white balance can sort that out, and outdoor shots in bright light are very impressive. The overall sharpness levels are good by default, and the lens is of a high enough quality to ensure that any optical defects are kept to a minimum.
With its range of manual options, the Olympus SP-320 is a good camera for those who want to experiment with the creative side of photography without spending vast amounts of money on a DSLR. Yes the camera is a little dated, but if you can find one for under £40 then you may well be on to a bargain. In terms of the downsides, the camera isn't the quickest out there - especially during start-up, and the 3x zoom is limiting for those who like to take their camera to festivals etc - but overall it's a respectable model.
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Dimensions: 99.6 x 65 x 35mm
Memory Storage: XD
Shutter Speeds: 15-1 / 2000sec
Zoom: 3x Optical, 5x Digital
Batteries 2 x AA (Ni-MH preferable)
Summary: Respectable yet dated compact camera
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