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Olympus Announces 18x SP-560UZ with Smile Shot

As the sophomore version to its first 18x optical zoom camera, the updated compact carries a higher megapixel count, slightly wider zoom, the latest TruePic III processor, and two new Scene modes called Smile Shot and Quick Shutter.

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*****August 23, 2007* – Olympus today unleashed the compact, ultra-zoom SP-560UZ. As the sophomore version to the SP-550UZ, the company's first camera with18x optical zoom, it carries a higher megapixel count, slightly wider zoom, the latest TruePic III processor, and two new Scene modes called Smile Shot and Quick Shutter. The 8-megapixel Olympus SP-560UZ has a suggested retail price of $449.99 and is expected to ship for October.

The SP-550UZ was the longest zoom non-SLR on the market when Olympus announced it last January. A class of 18x optical zoom cameras has emerged since then, categorized by SLR-like features in a smaller frame. Competitors include the Panasonic FZ18 and the Fujifilm S8000*fd, *both launched last month.

The new Olympus SP-560UZ offers the widest zoom capabilities among its competitors. It's fitted with an f/2.8 to f/4.5 extending lens, constructed of 14 lenses in 11 groups. With an equivalent focal range of 27 to 486mm, the updated camera touts a slightly wider but shorter zoom range than its predecessor; the SP-550UZ's lens reaches from 28 to 504mm.

At $50 less than the 7.1-megapixel 550-UZ, the Olympus SP-560UZ carries a higher 8.0-megapixel count. Both models are fitted with 2.5-inch, 230,000-pixel LCD monitors.

Whereas the previous Olympus edition included the TruePic TURBO image processor, the SP-560UZ upgrades to the TruePic III. With it comes Olympus’s Face Detection system to auto expose and auto focus on faces. Other features include Shadow Adjustment Technology for high-contrast lighting, Perfect Shot Preview for live preview of different settings, and Perfect Fix with built-in editing functions.

The new camera has 33 Scene modes, including two new shooting modes. Olympus’s Smile Shot comes just days after Sony’s launch of the "Smile Shutter" feature, which Sony declared the first in digital camera history. Similarly, the new Olympus Smile Shot is a preset mode that automatically captures an image when the subject smiles. The Quick Shutter mode captures images once the user hits the shutter, without having to wait for the auto focus lock, to allow for faster shooting.

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The camera maintains the 15 fps Sequential Shooting and Pre-Capture burst that takes photos before the user hits the shutter. The Sequential Shooting mode, however, comes with some asterisked fine print; it captures images at a lower 1.2-megapixel resolution. The Olympus compact also borrows the dual image stabilization system from the SP-550UZ, with both mechanical and digital image stabilization. 

The Olympus SP-560 UZ has full manual exposure control with JPEG and RAW shooting abilities, and includes an eye dioptric.

Olympus Comparison Chart

18x Optical Zoom Compact Cameras Comparison Chart

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