I make no apologies: this is a dead match for the Nikon P80 to be reviewed in Australian Macworld August. Both share — or nearly share! — some remarkable specs, not least of which is the Olympus’ lengthy zoom range, a 20x optical zoom. Yes, I know the Nikon has an 18x zoom, but you get the message.
As a dSLR in appearance but with a fixed lens, the zoom range is phenomenal and, put up against a 35mm SLR, compares to a focal length stretch of 26 to 520mm. Of course, such a camera would be impossible to use at full zoom its CCD shift arrangement saves the day. The CCD captures 10 million pixels; a maximum image size of 3648×2736 pixels will lead to a 41×31 cm print at 225 dpi. If you’re into wide-screen shooting to show on the home tele, there’s also a 1920×1080 pixel option. The downside is that there’s no HDMI or component output for a High Def TV so you can’t enjoy the full quality. More bad news: you can only shoot 640×480 pixel movies.
It’s not slim, measuring about 90mm deep, extending another 20mm when the lens is powered up; then you manually extend it further into 520 mm-land!
You must view your shooting with the help of a low-res, turret-mounted LCD screen or via the rear and higher quality 6.9cm screen.
A major attraction is a 13.5 fps shooting rate, capturing up to ten shots. You can tap into exposure options such as auto, Program AE, shutter and aperture priority plus manual. These take you as far as a compact digicam can into the full control territory of a digital reflex camera. The less than photographically adept can fall back on 23 scene modes when it comes time to shoot shots like candle lit subjects, available light, fireworks, sunsets etc.
Auto focus can be set to detect faces. You can also set it to detect a more general area of focus — and there’s spot focus. The AF target area can be moved within the frame; AF can be left in full time mode or can be set to chase a subject that moves to and from the camera. If you feel the onboard flash is insufficient you can mount another (Olympus FL) unit on the camera’s hot shoe — or use an external (non-Olympus) unit slaved to the camera.
Australian Macworld’s buying advice. I found there was quite a bit of barrel distortion when the zoom was set to wide angle and some pincushion distortion at the telephoto end. The good news is that the camera will write image files in RAW as well as JPEG — a camera for the expert.
Online traders are selling these cameras for more than $150 off the list price.