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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Olympus SP810: Incredible 36x Zoom Lens

I've always had a kind of lustful affection for what they call "zoom" or "superzoom" cameras. After so many years of carrying around a shoulder bag that weighed as much as a medium-sized dog, the idea of having a good-sized zoom lens in a relatively full-featured camera that was small enough to carry in the pocket of a denim jacket has really appealed to me. The first digital zoom camera that I ever had was a Nikon Coolpix 5700 about five or six years ago and I loved that camera, but because it was on loan from Nikon I eventually had to give it back. That was a great camera and it took wonderful photos, but it only had an 8x zoom and while that seemed huge at the time, by today's standards it's kind of tiny--today 12x and even 24x zooms are pretty common.

And then, of course, there is the amazing Olympus SP810-UZ. The "UZ" in the name stands for "ultra zoom" and at 36x, it is all that and more! In 35mm terms, the lens has a zoom range of 24-864mm--and that's a pure optical zoom, this is most certainly not a digital zoom trick! Yes, from super wide to a whopping nearly 900mm lens. A 900mm lens is more lens than most professional sports or wildlife photographers carry. The longest 35mm lens that I own is 400mm and even with a 1.4x tele-extender, that's only 560mm--add on a 1.5x cropping factor for my D90 and you're STILL NOT at 900mm!)

I'll write more about the other features of the camera in future postings, but I've only had the camera a few weeks and I'm still just in awe of that incredible zoom range. The two photos here were taken from the exact same position and both were handheld. The first photo shows an old New England clock tower near my home and if you click on it and blow it up, you'll see the arrow pointing to a small area of the weather vane. The second photo was shot at slightly less than full zoom and while not razor sharp, it's stunningly sharp (and keep in mind, at 900mm there's not a lot of depth of field). And again, both shots were made handheld. The idea that I can handhold a 900mm lens and get sharp photos just blows my mind. In fact, I've been driving all around town photographing the tallest weather vanes I can find and I'm having a blast. I've been sharing the photos on Facebook (friend me!) with hometown friends and we're having a lot of fun taking close-up looks at these tall, tall weather vanes (I'll post a few more later this week).

Yes, there are a few things about the camera that I'm not thrilled with (I'm not a fan of electronic viewfinders) and I wish the camera had a RAW mode. But for a camera that sells about $300 and has a 900mm lens? I'm sold. If you've ever sat in the stands at your kids' football games and wished you could get close-up shots of them--this is the camera to consider.

Read more about the full line of Olympus cameras here

Book Note: If you're looking for a comprehensive book on exposure, my book Exposure Photo Workshop has just been released. It's fully updated and revised (with hundreds of new photos) and Shutterbug magazine called it "...the best book ever written on the subject." 

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