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Olympus SP-590UZ - Test Shots - ISO Performance

By Cliff Smith



Our Score:


Over the next few pages we show a range of test shots. On this page the full size image at the minimum and maximum ISO settings have been reduced to let you see the full image, and a series of full resolution crops have taken from original images at a range of ISO settings to show the overall image quality. These ISO test images are shot indoors using reflected natural light for maximum consistency.


This is the full frame at 64 ISO.


Image quality is good at 64 ISO.


Even at 100 ISO there are signs of image noise.


At 200 ISO noise is a real problem.


Noise recuction kicks in at 400 ISO, but reduces the level of detail.


800 ISO is usable for web image and small prints.


Image quality at 1600 ISO is pretty terrible.


3200 ISO is available at 5MP.


Likewise 6400 ISO, but just look at it.


This is the full frame at 6400 ISO.


Andy Vandervell

April 9, 2009, 7:58 pm

Why do I get the feeling zoom length is becoming the new megapixel?


April 9, 2009, 8:09 pm

Well I personally think 26x zoom on a tripod will be very handy for checking out that bird at No.23.. Oh, dear who's that knocking at my door, sorry mister policeman I was taking photos of the sparrow on the ladies windowsill, I even said so on TR website, never noticed that half naked lady, honest.


April 10, 2009, 1:44 am

The Oly superzoom series hit its peak with the SP560UZ. Since then we've seen the SP570UZ, the SP565UZ and now the SP590UZ. Each new incarnation has more gimmicks and a longer optical zoom but each falls short in picture quality, the main reason someone buys a camera, mainly because the lens is too long and the number of megapixels is too great. It's pretty pathetic.

Dave Sebastian

May 17, 2009, 8:54 am

Recently got my SP-590 and so far has been pretty satisfied. I used the max zoom mostly outdoor and the picture qualities were very good. The image stabilization was a great help. My mom could never take a non blurred shot w/ my "old" Canon Powershot A80 (4MP, 3x zoom) but she could do a lot of good ones w/ a much longer zoom w/ this Oly. This camera has become a favorite in my family (obviously as it is new - we'll see how long it lasts) which has been ultra compact camera users for a long while (my wife always carry Sony DSC T-20 (8.1MP, 3x zoom) and my 9-yr old daughter carries Canon A-480 (10MP, 3.3x zoom)).


June 18, 2009, 6:22 am

Gotr this camera as a replacement for my old but trusty minolta....

I had read some reviews beforehand and must say that i am quite disappointed with the camera. large zoom is greta but the anti shake doesn't perform that well and sometimes its very hard to take good quality pics. No, I do not have parkinsons and keep my hands steady..

Has got a lot of options though but takes very long time to focus.

If I would have had paid full retail for this camera, I would have been majorly disappointed.


June 27, 2009, 3:48 pm

It is always disappointing to read criticism, negative or positive, from people who have not used the product in question. I am as anti-mega-compact as possible, but I've had to climb down most of the way from my prejudiced position. A friend and I recently exchanged kit for a weekend: he took my e-420 and its accessories and I took his SP-590.

Well, it is what it is. For example, there is no way of exploiting all of its zoom without a tripod, it's a 626 telephoto for crying out loud, and for the weekend I was reduced to using one of those little bendy ones... but the results were astoundingly good at the top end, given that it was a single-lens camera my colleague bought for about £230/240. Everything else was much as I expected: excellent value for money, even fun from time to time, but under-equipped for my expectations.

It's not a good camera for a photography fan, but it is an extraordinarily good camera for someone who wants to get good shots of just about everything they want to remember. That must put it at the top of the class for people who only look for those "memorial" shots, people who are probably the target market Olympus set out to please in the first place.

Results of the trial exchange? My colleague could consider a DSLR the next time he wants more out of a camera, so when I find the money to move on to an e-620 I'll let him try that, even though I think he'd keep the SP-590. I would still not consider buying a mega-compact, but I can see now why so many people do buy and enjoy them.

Horses for courses, and with that in mind I can't fault the SP-590.

Frank 5

July 13, 2009, 2:43 pm

This review is exceptionally harsh. This camera is very nice to use in Auto mode taking very good quality pictures. The Super Macro pictures are about as good as those from my Leica D Lux 4. The 26 x zoom can even be used in auto mode by eg. going into P mode first and then switching to Auto. Setting the Iso to 64 or 100 and colour to vivid gets you fantastic sharp pictures all the time at any focal length. Taking pictures of ships 8 miles out at sea you need to steady your hand against something to get a lovely sharp picture at full 26 x zoom. Well done Olympus. The ED lens is super high quality consisting of 14 lenses ( 4 aspherical elements ) in 11 groups. LCD at 230000 pixels can be seen in all lights but the next time Olympus will have to do 460000 pixels on a 3 inch screen. Excellent value for money with good quality small body.

neo filto

August 5, 2009, 9:39 am

guys which camera is good olympus sp590 uz or canon sx 10 s

patrick marks

September 1, 2009, 12:36 pm

I've just spent 3 weeks using the 590 in Madagascar in a variety of settings from jungle to open savanna and feel the results have been mixed and sometimes a bit disappointing. OK I've mainly used it on autofocus, but many of my shots were for clearly visible subjects, though the problem of vegetation near an animal could ruin a shot as the camera would focus on a leaf just in front throwing the animal out of focus. With time constraints of photographing animals I found it frustrating to see good shots ruined where with my old olympus slr I'd have manually focussed on the subject and nearby vegetation would not have been a problem. I also felt that the focussing sometimes struggled with the closeups of soft surfaces such as a lemur's fur and I often heard the camera struggling to get a subject which might be quite close in focus! I found the 12m setting quite slow to save pics not a good thing when trying to focus on a moving animal! So all in all not overly impressed and wondering if I can afford a digital slr!


September 1, 2009, 1:19 pm

@Patrick marks and others: This is precisely my problem with these super zoom cameras. They give a vast zoom range that allows you to see and pick out many potentially good shots but almost always the results are disappointing. Every now and then they'll enable you to pick out that far off object - be it a bird, castle, etc. - that another camera simply couldn't get close to but once you inspect the photos you'll find things are slightly blurry, something's not in focus, and just generally the exposure and dynamic range of the shot it poor. Personally, I'd rather have nice shots the majority of the time and just accept that the cool looking sailboat on the horizon will have to remain little more than a speck in my photos.


February 10, 2010, 8:55 pm

To all of you....I am seriously considering a purchase of the 590...but I get a little confused by all of these posts. For one thing, how in the world could anyone possibly expect a sharp, clear picture using the MAXIMUM zoom setting without a tripod?! And for those of you who are taking photos but still complain about softness or blurriness in the photos, is that because you're using one of the auto modes to shoot? I'm sorry, but nothing, NOTHING, beats good ol' fashioned manual settings to let the camera do what it is designed to do---take good clear pictures! And for another thing, if you were the owner of Olympus, would you dare to put out a product in a highly competitive market that doesn't work right? Come on, people, use your heads a little bit. How many of you, even if you're a very good photographer, have read the manual from cover to cover, and then went out and tested all of the information that the designers of Olympus said about this camera? Or did you just assume that this camera would perform like all of the ones you've had in the past? Did you fumble with the controls? Read the manual! Did it not focus right or something came out blurry? Read the manual! Do you think Olympus recommends using a tripod for maximum zoom photography? If you don't know the answer to that, READ THE MANUAL!! What I'm coming to believe is that the so-called experts aren't really experts at all in doling out their biased opinions towards cameras...I don't know how many reviews of cameras I've read where there's no mention at all of them reading what the manufacturer has to say about it's product...they just go ahead and ASSUME to know what it is supposed to do based entirely upon past experiences or on what they may have heard/read...and that just doesn't get it! If you owned a Mercedes and had a problem with it, would you blindly accept what your cousin Willie has to say about it or would you do the smart thing and see what Mercedes has to say? Do you get my point? All of these reviews have to be taken rather lightly because of people's own biases and, sometimes, uninformed opinions rather than what the camera manufacturer has to say. Gee...here's a novel idea...for the next camera you're considering, go to the manufacturer's website and get all the info you can from them, then go read all the reviews you can about the one you're considering, then go back to the manufacturer and address your concerns WITH THEM. My guess is that you'll come away a better informed purchaser. I'm not saying that this camera is perfect, in fact, there's no camera out there that is, but using your own smarts to figure out what to buy will result in a satisfied mind...and isn't that what you want anyway?!


February 10, 2010, 9:24 pm

@Billy: Okay, first thing, for the sake of everyone, including yourself, be a little more succinct.

As for the general points you're raising, they don't really hold up. Yes, you will probably need a tripod for many shots at 626mm but that's not why the majority of shots on such cameras come out blurry, out of focus, or unsatisfactory in some way.

Reading the manual has nothing to do with it. Knowing how every function works is not going to make the camera any easier to focus, produce less hazy shots, get rid of optical distortion. Yes, the real novice might learn a few tips on how to turn off the flash, manually set the ISO and hold the camera steady to get more natural looking indoors shots but such scenarios are special cases. A complete novice should be able to pick up a semi pro SLR, stick it on auto, and take great shots without reading the manual. Where reading the manual comes in is in learning what all the other dials do.

As to the rest of the stuff you're on about, you seem to be making the case for reading reviews, which we encourage, but simultaneously forgetting that these comments are on a review already. The message is somewhat garbled. As for contacting manufacturers directly, it's a damn sight easier said than done if you have a technical question and good luck on getting an honest answer.


February 10, 2010, 11:01 pm

Thanks for your post, Ed. OK, mister master photographer, did you read the manual of your last camera to know exactly FOR YOURSELF what that particular manufacturer has to say about its own product? And, I don't know what your experience has been with contacting manufacturers( but obviously it must not be very good because of the content of your comment ), but, for me, I've never had a problem with contacting Canon and getting an answer inside of 24 hours, once, only taking about 2 hours---and they answered the problems EVERY TIME. I still say that contacting them about any concerns is the best route to take. If you can't find out anything on the first attempt, then try again with someone else. Jeez, just keep trying. There, was that succinct enough?


February 10, 2010, 11:27 pm

@Billy: Much better.

Of course it's worth trying to contact manufacturers about your concerns or if you have a technical problem. I was referring more to the idea you allude to that, when making a purchasing decision, talking to a manufacturer is going to be of much benefit. That's precisely the point of independent reviews like ours; to be unbiased, knowledgeable, informative, and authoritative. Obviously what we say is ultimately opinion but then isn't that the same for what the manufacturer says?

As for reading the manual, no I didn't need to. I know what every function on my camera does. Such things are fairly standard and I learned through use. I don't see how that's relevant anyway.

You still seem to be missing the point somewhat. You were implying that reading the manual will somehow make you a better photographer or improve the quality of your images. I'm saying that it will in a few exceptional circumstances but for the majority of the time it won't significantly change the final output.


February 11, 2010, 12:09 am

Ed, I feel like we're making progress...what I originally said was, when considering a camera, go to the website, get your info, then read reviews, like yours, and compare. If there's a discrepancy between what the manufacturer says versus what practical users have to say, then contact the manufacturer to see if there might be something being done incorrectly, hence, the Mercedes example. I guarantee you, there would be somebody at Olympus, for example, who could show anyone who cares about all the ins and outs of the 590, better than anyone...and that's my point. I certainly appreciate and rely upon reviewers like yourself to provide info about cameras but you can't possibly know everything there is to know about each camera. My point is, on the 590, one of the problems complained about has to do with focusing correctly. Well, the 590 has a Soft-Focus feature on it and there could always be the possibility that that feature has been triggered inadvertantly or maybe there's a problem in general with the camera. Who knows for sure, but Olympus might have a better solution than anyone, that's all I'm saying.


February 16, 2010, 9:36 pm

Ed, I just received my 590, took it out of the box, and immediately didn't like the feel of it--it almost feels like a plastic toy. But I do like the rubberized grip on it. This camera is in stark contrast to my other superzoom, the Canon SX10. THAT ONE feels like a camera should and, so far, has lived up to very good standards. I haven't tried the 590 for picture-taking yet but am anxious to. The main reason for getting it is the Beauty Mode, Soft Focus, and other photoshop-like goodies.

I have to admit to some real frustration in picking out a camera. All I really want is a good camera that takes pictures, nothing more. I don't care about the video capabilities, I'm trying to become a good photographer, NOT a videographer! Help me, Ed. With about $1500.00 to spend, what is a good superzoom or DSLR camera you can recommend that has good photo taking abilities? It may have extras but what I want is a good camera that produces good picture results. Now I'm relying on your expertise!

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