Olympus's entry into the megazoom class delivers the greatest magnification rating of any of the products we tested for our roundup. At 20X, photos taken at a distance of up to 30 feet from the subject looked as though the photographer had been right up close to the subject.
The SP-570 UZ's range is also stunning: This model covers the equivalent of a 35mm film camera's range of 26mm to 520mm; it's therefore great for taking both wide-angle pictures and very detailed macro (close-up) shots.
But Olympus's zoomy monster isn't a one-trick pony by any means. The SP-570UZ also features a servo-controlled zoom; 23 distinct scene modes; the ability to let you manually modify ISO, aperture, shutter, and focus settings; a "guide" mode that steps you through the photographic process; and intuitive controls.
The camera's controls are familiar to anyone who has some experience using a digital camera. Four buttons controlling basic functions line the left edge of the 2.7-inch screen, while five buttons arrayed like a directional pad serve double duty as controls for the flash, the self-timer, and the macro (close-up) mode. You turn a ring on the lens to adjust the servo-controlled zoom, but a small motor actually moves the lens. It's intuitive, but the motion of the motor-driven lens--which doesn't move exactly in proportion to your turning of the dial--took a little getting used to before it was no longer distracting.
We also had a bit of trouble getting the autofocus to lock onto targets in low light. The autofocus would scan from one end to the other trying to sharpen the image, and sometimes took up to 2 seconds to fully lock on to a focal point. In bright daylight, however, the iESP targeting system (which the autofocus controls use to pick a spot to focus on) worked remarkably well, and produced clear shots even at the maximum zoom, aided by the image stabilization system built into the lens.