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Digital Camera Review, Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Compact Super Zoom Digital Camera
A retro digital look back at the 6MP CCD Olympus SP-500UZ, a compact 10x superzoom digital camera launched by Olympus in 2005.

An interesting camera I am looking at for the 'Re-Living the CCD Sensor' series is a unit from the Olympus Ultra Zoom range, the 6MP CCD Olympus SP-500UZ, introduced by Olympus Corporation in 2005. The compact and lightweight camera features a 10x 6.3–63mm Olympus aspherical glass zoom lens, equivalent to 38-380mm in 35mm photography, a 201,600 pixels electronic viewfinder, a 115,000 pixels 2.5-inch LCD display, measures 106 x 75 x 71 mm, and weighs 285 grams.

The camera, looking more like an enlarged compact rather than a slimmed down DSLR camera, sports a comfortable handgrip/battery chamber, with a top plane control layout and shutter release button easily accessible with the index finger, and a thumb rests on the top back of the camera located beside the Monitor/Viewfinder toggle switch to its left, and the edge of the Mode Dial to its right. It has a manual pop-up flash and a lens that extends forward when switched on

Olympus SP-500UZ, Front

Unlike other long-zoom models, the SP-500UZ lens does not have in-built stabilization. Compensation for digital camera movement is available, however, in movie mode where the field of view is cropped. In terms of still shots, the camera has a wealth of features, controls, and other advanced options beyond what you see on the initial screen menu, with levels of customization that can be adjusted to your shooting style.

Olympus SP-500UZ, Top

A top-mounted Mode Dial carries settings for Auto, P, A, S, and M modes, a customizable My Mode setting, Scene selection, Movie, and Playback, with a further selection of twenty-one illustrated with text guide scene modes. Scenes include Portrait, Landscape, Landscape + Portrait, Night Scene, Sport, Night + Portrait, Indoor, Candle, Self Portrait, Available Light Portrait, Sunset, Fireworks, Museum, Behind Glass, Cuisine, Documents, Auction, Shoot & Select 1, Shoot & Select 2, Beach, and Snow.

To the right of the main power switch is a custom button marked AEL (for its default function) that can be assigned any shooting variable, including ISO or white balance.

Olympus SP-500UZ, Back

On the back is the 2.5-inch LCD with four display options - AF frame and battery status only; additional shooting data; shooting data plus grid screen; or shooting data plus histogram. Focusing options include ‘iESP’ and Spot autofocus plus Predictive AF for subjects moving towards or away from the camera. Located to the right of the LCD screen is the 4-way controller,  used to navigate menus, and above it, the flash, display, and quick view buttons.

Above the display is a rather small non-adjustable electronic viewfinder surrounded by hard plastic which reduces viewing comfort, especially if you wear glasses. This is coupled with a downside that the EV could be more sharp and color-accurate.

Olympus SP-500UZ, Bottom

The camera is powered by 4x AA (Ni-MH, Ni-Cd, alkaline, lithium) batteries, comes with a 10MB internal memory, and stores images on SD cards. External connectivity is accessible via a USB port enclosed on the left of the camera body.

Menus and Displays

The SP-500UZ is featured with an extensive array of features and controls, with many of the more advanced options well hidden within the menu system, something you can go through with the help of the instruction booklet. Basic information is displayed when you access the various shooting modes, and beyond that, the setting up of various options and specific parameters will have to be within the Menu options.

On initial Auto startup, the LCD screen will show the focus brackets, memory in use (internal or xD), live histogram, current file setting, and a 'memory gauge' (the gray line on the left) which turns green as the buffer fills. Setting the camera to Program mode will add aperture and shutter information and an AE compensation indicator on the top right of the screen. You can cycle the memory and other settings off (use the Disp/Guide button) if you prefer an uncluttered preview screen.

Pressing the menu button in the middle of the four-way controller will bring up the main menu selection. The top, left, and bottom 'shortcuts' can be assigned to almost any setting, and the right arrow takes you to the menu pages. The four tabs are for the camera, picture, card (formatting), and setup settings. The menus have options for virtually every shooting variable, from macro, burst, and drive mode to ISO, white balance, focus mode, sharpness, saturation, and contrast.

Early Images

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 01
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 02
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 03

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 04
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 05

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 06
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 07

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 08
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 09
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 10

Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 11
Olympus SP-500UZ 6MP CCD Digital Bridge Camera 12

Very interesting images, as rendered by the CCD sensor, and updated on the desktop image editor with tweaks, my standard routine, with Auto Tone Correction, Crop, Tone Curve, Brightness & Contrast, and Unsharp Mask.

Olympus SP-500UZ, Top back

A good vintage digital with a CCD sensor here, for enthusiasts who do not want to overstretch their budget on digital cameras, enthusiasts who are looking beyond the high cost and longish timeline of buying, developing, and scanning film negative images, or simply for photographers who want just to have fun with vintage digicams.

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