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On its release early in 2007, the Olympus SP-550UZ could boast the title of being the 'worlds first 18x optical zoom camera'.
In fact, not only can the camera zoom all the way to 504mm, but the zoom starts at a magnificently wide-angled 28mm - making it one of the most versatile consumer cameras on the market.
However, fitting so much technology into a fairly cheaply produced item will always result in some technical limitations, and that's certainly the case with the SP-550.
Let's get one thing straight, this is not a bad camera - but it does has a couple of annoying habits which let it down.
Firstly, the auto-focusing is quite sporadic - it will randomly not allow you to focus on an object in the distance. This is especially apparent in low-light, and when shooting through an even slightly dirty window.
Secondly, when you're taking shots outdoors in sunny conditions, and you half press the shutter button to lock the focus, the electronic viewfinder oddly changes to a blue hazy colour.
These two faults really ruin the enjoyment of using the camera - and with the second one especially, i'm sure this problem could have been ironed out before the release date.
Overall, the build quality is pretty good, and the image quality is respectable - but there is evidence of purple fringing on many of the longer telephoto shots.
Before owning this camera, I had the Canon Powershot S3 which featured a similar style and set of stats - albeit without the same zoom capabilities. The image quality, focusing and battery life were all better on that model - in fact it was a better camera all round.
If you need a camera with wide-ranging zoom capabilities, and aren't quite ready to step up to a SLR, then this might be the camera for you. However, the faults which I mentioned above stop this product from being great.
The technical stats are listed below:
Battery Type: 4x AA (LR6/MIGNON)
Chip Type: CCD
Digital Zoom (Ratio): 6
Effective Pixel (in Megapixel): 7.1
Image Stabiliser: Yes
LCD Monitor Size in Inch: 2.5
Shutter Speed: 1/2000s - 4s
Memory Type: Internal + External
Storage Card Type: XD Card
Movie / Voice Recording: Movie + Voice
Batteries: 4x AA
RAW Format: Yes
Range Finder Type: Optical / Electronic Viewfinder + LCD
Size of Internal Memory: 20mb
The camera costs £235 from Amazon.
N.B This review is an updated version of one I previously wrote on amazon.co.uk
Far and wide, the world's most powerful ultra zoom. Capture the moment, and capture the action, with the world's most powerful ultra zoom - the 7.1 megapixel SP-550 UZ. Its new 18x wide-angle super-telephoto zoom lens gets you closer to your subject than any other compact digital camera on the market. Dual Image Stabilization eliminates blur. And with high-speed sequential shooting and new Pre-Capture technology, you'll capture anything that moves. Even shoot in low light without a flash, thanks to Bright Capture Technology, and it's easy to preview, shoot and share with the large 2.5" high-resolution LCD.