1 EAGLETON NOTES: A Replacement for My Olympus SP550UZ



Tuesday, 6 October 2009

A Replacement for My Olympus SP550UZ

A few days ago I dropped my Olympus SP550UZ with fatal results.  It had served me well for over 20,000 images over the last few years.  Fortunately it's not my only camera but it is the one that I use the most and for all my telephoto shots - it had an 18X optical zoom giving it a 28 to 450mm lens in conventional lens terms. Sandy of It's a Jungle Out There was wondering with what I would replace it.

What indeed?  I've been very satisfied with the Olympus with certain reservations: the lens is long and has a fragile and loose feel about it (mind you few camera lenses would survive a direct 1 metre drop onto a solid wood floor!)and the manual focussing was never entirely satisfactory.

So what are my requirements now?

Size is of paramount importance.  In this case small is good!  I would love (and have toyed with) going back to a full blown SLR with good telephoto and wide angle lenses.  In reality my lifestyle completely rules that out.  I travel a great deal by air.  Putting thousands of £s or $s worth of equipment in hold luggage is a lottery and virtually uninsurable.  My old camera and lenses weighed far more than my carry-on baggage allowance which has to include my lap-top as well as things I need on my journeys and my camera.  And the international carry-on allowance is generally 6 kilos (I don't travel first class!).  So I have restricted myself to a cross-over digital.

After size the optical zoom (focal length length equivalent) is very important.  I would like at least 560mm equivalent.  Good manual focussing (for flying birds) is on the agenda.  An in-camera panoramic ability would be good too. I also prefer re-chargeable AA batteries as a power source because one is always guaranteed power.  As all the following are fairly similarly priced price is not an issue.

So the question is "which one best satisfies those criteria?".  On the short-list are:

I tried the Canon SX!-IS because I am quite pro-Canon but  I absolutely could not get on with the manual focussing system.

I liked the Nikon Coolpix P90.  It has a 24X optical zoom giving a 26 - 624 mm equivalent. It has good write-ups and I liked the feel when I tried it.

The Olympus SP590UZ has a 26X optical zoom which is apparently very good.  Reviews criticise the noise when anything over ISO 200 is used and the fragility of the lens mechanism.  I have reservations as to whether the manual focussing system has been improved over the 550.

The Panasonic Lumix DMCFZ28 only has an 18X optical zoom but the lens is very much more compact than the Olympus and most of the others but at over a kilo it is very heavy. It does have excellent write-ups however.

CJ/Scriptor and Helen are Sony fans.  This is the DSC HX1 which CJ has.  I've tried it.  It is very intuitive and comfortable to use (though not, for me, as comfortable as the Olympus)  It meets most of my critera and is the only one with an inbuilt panoramic function.  It uses Sony-only lithium ion batteries and dedicated data cards and does not use mini-USB which most manufacturers have now agreed upon I am told.

So, on the basis that it is the only one with the panoramic function and meets most of my criteria, I have ordered the Sony.  Hopefully it will arrive soon.  The spare battery pack has already come.  So watch this space.


  1. Ooh this all sounds very advanced... My camera is just a little baby compared to all these ;) Some day I think I'll want one with more zoom... However I have such difficulties carrying and holding heavy things that if I had a bigger one I'd probably end up leaving it at home most of the time anyway...

    Hope you'll soon be having a good time with your new one!

  2. Thank you Monica. It's actually fairly light at just 544g. The size and shape makes it very easy to hold. I have to say that some of my best pictures - especially macro ones - have been taken with my Canon Ixus 60 which is tiny.

  3. I think mine is under 200g... including two AA batteries.

    Off-camera-topic, I was back-reading some more or less random posts in your NZ blog earlier, and a link from there also happened to take me to another blog of yours... Just thought I'd tell you I read that.

  4. You will probably find that after a week you get used to the ergonomics of any camera.
    I know someone with a Sony, they really rave about it. It's certainly less noisy than my Olympus 560UZ. There's the Olympus Penn, Need to buy a view finder for it making it an awful lot of money.
    It's the same old story, too much choice is is almost as bad as no choice.

  5. Oh, how exciting!!! Sounds like you really did your research, and it's always fun to look forward to something new!

  6. This is now my fourth Sony and I have been happy with each one - this latest one is, of course, the best yet by far. I hope you are as delighted with it as I am. Good shooting.

  7. I'll add my name to the list of happy Sony Camera owners. The first digital camera we bought was the Sony DSC-F828. It's still our main digital camera although I've now got a much smaller FujiFilm one that I can pack in my hand luggage when I go away without checked baggage.

    I'm annoyed to hear that the new Sony's don't all have mini-USB and standard cards though as that was one of the plus points for me with the DSC-F828. Not only does it have a mini-USB port but it will hold Sony Memory-Stick and Compact Flash at the same time - flick a switch to change which is being used. This makes having a lot of storage space really easy and you don't have to fiddle with opening the camera up when you need to change cards.

    As you point out the only downside is the propitiatory batteries. Mind you I'm hoping not to drop mine for a few years yet and so hopefully they might have sorted that out before I need to buy a new camera!