The SP-565 UZ is the latest “ultimate portable zoom camera” from Olympus and is very similar to the SP-570 that I recently wrote about. The 565 and 570 have virtually identical specifications; the main change being that Olympus wisely removed the electronic (i.e.- non-mechanical) zoom ring from the lens and placed it around the release button. Like the SP-570, the SP-565 resembles a small SLR until you turn it on and the f2.8-f4.5 20x optical zoom lens (with a staggering 35mm equivalent 26-520mm focal length) extends from the body.

The SP-565 UZ boasts a 10 megapixel sensor, image stabilization, a 13.5 frame per second burst mode (more on that later), a pop-up flash, and a hot shoe. In addition to a host of automatic modes, the camera features complete manual controls, the ability to shoot RAW images, and video at up to 30fps.

During testing the SP-565 felt more like a small SLR than a compact camera. The main noticeable differences are the electronic zoom control and the fact that the viewfinder is a small LCD screen, as opposed to the optical viewfinder found in an SLR. My only issue with the camera is that the viewfinder is dark for a second or two after each shot while the image is written to memory. Olympus should consider better buffering so to allow a quicker second shot.

Unlike most digital cameras these days, the SP-565, like others in the UZ series, operates on four AA batteries instead of a proprietary rechargeable. Using AAs is a bold decision by Olympus, but they are less expensive and recent advances in AA NiMH rechargeable batteries make this a relatively minor issue. Those who travel extensively may also appreciate the availability of AA batteries on the road.

There is one catch: At a full 10 megapixels, the SP-565 is only capable of 1.2 frames per second (fps). To achieve 7.2 or 13.5 fps the resolution is decreased to 5 and 3 megapixels respectively. However, to keep this limitation in perspective, a decent 8×10 in. print only requires 3 megapixels, and 7.2 fps (5 megapixels) is more the fast enough for sports.

The SP-565 produced the great quality images we have come to expect from Olympus, and the ability to shoot in automatic, aperture priority, shutter priority, fully manual modes, and a host of other features make it a very flexible camera. The Olympus SP-565 UZ is a great option for those seeking a small, flexible, lightweight camera with an amazing zoom range that exceeds what most people carry with their SLR.

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