Monday, August 27, 2007

Ten new cameras from Olympus SP560, Stylus 1200, 830, 820, 790SW, FE300, FE290, FE280, FE270, and now 795SW

This is wild. Olympus goes in burst mode with nine new cameras! The most interesting of the nine appears to be the SP-560, an 8mp version of their 18x superzoom SP-550. Original announcement date is very early Thursday August 23, 2007

[8/24 update]: All apologies for the delays in covering the nine new Olympus cameras, the two new Nikon DSLRs have stolen all my cpu cycles :)

[8/29 update]: Finally, one week later, I am going through the Olympus models! This post has been bumped.
[8/29 update #2]: Another Olympus camera has been spotted. See bottom of the page for more details.

Meet the SP-560

  • Press release at dpreview
  • In a nutshell this is the 2nd 18x superzoom from Olympus, it features an 8mp 1/2.5" sensor, and promises improvements over the SP-550.
  • Detailed coverage at RAWsumer. RAWsumer is a term I created to denote all non-interchangeable lens cameras that support RAW natively. This is different from terms like Prosumer and Bridge camera, since the definition of RAWsumer is very simple and testable. Prosumer and Bridge cameras usually mean different things to different people in different contexts.

    Meet the Stylus 790SW
  • Press release at dpreview
  • This is the next most interesting in my opinion because of the shockproofness (1.5 meters or 5ft) and waterproofness (3 meters or 10 feet).
  • A bit of a surprise is that it resists the temptation to go for higher megapixels, it has a 7mp 1/2.3" sensor
  • It has a standard 3x folded optics (the dreaded 38-114mm range), face detection, 2.5" LCD, True PIC III, 27 scenes, available in five trendy colors, 220 CIPA
  • If you read "dual image stabilization" in their materials it refers to the duality of ISO and shutter speed adjustments. There is no optical (lens) or mechanical (sensor shift) image stabilization here.
  • Price: $300 in September

    Meet the Stylus 1200
  • Press release at dpreview. Also featured at dcresource
  • Continuing with the tradition of the 8mp and 10mp 1/1.8" Styluses, the 1200 features the latest sensor du jour, a 12mp 1/1.72" sensor.
  • It featured face detection, a more agreeable 3x optical (35-105), 2.7" LCD, TruePIC III, no optical/sensor-shift stabilization, weatherproof, in silver and black
  • Price: $350 in October

    Meet the Stylus 830
  • Press release at dpreview
  • This is the most interesting of the three new Stylus cameras. It features a 5x optical zoom (36-180mm eq) with sensor-shift stabilization, and an optional underwater case
  • Sensor is 8mp 1/2.3", which some of the Stylus models had switched to a few models ago.
  • Also 2.5" LCD, face detection, blazing speed at 3mp resolution: 7 fps (11), and available in five delicious colors
  • $330 in October

    Meet the Stylus 820
  • Press release at dpreview
  • As the name indicates this model has a lot of similarities with the Stylus 830, except for the sensor-shift stabilization. And this one has a bigger LCD, and available in four fashionable colors.
  • So if you like bigger LCDs, this one is for you with its 2.7" LCD!
  • This is priced to sell, a rather nice price for what it offers (at least on paper)
  • $250 in September-ish

    Meet the FE-300
  • Press release at dpreview
  • The FE-series continues to grow up both in featurs and in size. So now we have the 12mp FE300, yes, it uses a 12mp 1/7.2" sensor!
  • It featurs a 3x optical zoom (35-105mm eq), Face detection with Smile Shutter, 2.5" LCD, and the usual assortment of features one would expect in this range
  • Will this camera be co-promoted with the movie the 300? :)
  • $300 later in the fall (the price we pay for more megapixels!)

    Meet the FE-290
  • Press release at dpreview
  • This is perhaps the most interesting of this batch of FE-series as it starts at 28mm with a 28-112mm eq lens (yes, that is a 4x optical zoom ratio). It has a 7mp 1/2.5" sensor. Yes, seven megapixels not a typo!
  • A 3" LCD is also a high point from a consumer perspective, and the usual assortment of features.

    Meet the FE-280
  • Press release at dpreview
  • Next in line we another LiIon powered FE-series camera, the FE-280, which features an 8mp 1/2.3" sensor, 3x optical (36-108mm eq), 2.5" LCD, face detection with smile shutter (smile shot, whatever...), and an optional waterproof case.
  • Not a bad value pack (well except for the xD card)
  • $200 in September-ish

    Meet the FE-270
  • Press release at dpreview. Phil wrote an interesting opening paragraph in this, discussing the impact of cameraphones on entry-level P&S digicams.
  • Last and least is the last remaining FE-series camera with AA support, and it's the entry-level model of the group.
  • A 7mp 1/2.5" adorns this beautifully crafted matchbox. A 3x optical (38-114mm eq) gently captures the light. A 2.5" LCD bares the camera's soul. Two AA batteries are its tower of strength (that was the only way to make you read this!)
  • This one is not coming to the USA market (at least not initially anyway).

    Meet the Stylus 795SW
  • An eagle-eyed dpreview forum user has noticed that another Stylus camera has appeared on the Olympus Asia website.
  • The camera in question is the Stylus 795SW, which appears to be similar to the 770SW, but with TruePIC III and such but with the same waterproof and drop-proof rating as the 770SW. The newer 790SW has shorter distance ratings for both categories and is a bit more bijou-ish.

    Opinionated Analysis
  • Sadly Olympus is not learning from their friends at Fuji. They continue with xD only and their gimmicky requirement to have an Olympus-branded memory card in order to take panorama photos. Wake up Olympus and smell reality :)
  • The Stylus line-up continues to have a weatherproofness advantage over the rest of the market, although that is partially negated by the use of the xD card. In other words, if they accepted a dual xD/SD card slot like newer Fuji cameras do, waterproofness could tilt the scales for a number of people looking for a compact digital camera!
  • Olympus has jumped on the Smile Shutter bandwagon as well. So take that Sony, you are not the only one anymore! Personally I'm holding out for the Look-of-Surprise shutter to capture those spontaneous momentous ;)
  • Does Olympus have a random number generator that decides which cameras will get the optional waterproof case?
  • And now to the positives: The SP-560 is promising - assuming as a 2nd generation product it improves upon the issues pointed out by SP-550 reviewers. In theory, Olympus should be one cycle ahead of the Fuji, Sony and Panasonic super-superzooms.
  • The Stylus 790SW is a unique camera and if it wasn't for xD, it could have been a blockbuster model
  • Two 12-megapixel cameras were introduced by Olympus, one as a Stylus and one in their general purpose FE-series. This is perhaps a sign that Olympus won't be attempting to re-enter the advanced mid-range segment this year, despite the popularity of the Canon G7, G9, Nikon P5000, Panasonic LX2, Leica D-Lux 3 and Ricoh GX100 and GRD
  • The Stylus 830 and 820 are interesting models on paper, the 830 because of its sensor anti-shake and the 820 because it's a nice consumer-level bundle at just $250. Expect this camera to do well at the big box retailer stores.
  • The FE-290 is another good idea by Olympus, a camera starting at 28mm in a sea of 35-38mm P&S.
  • Ironically AA batteries are offered in their top and their bottom models, with the seven cameras in-between going with LiIon (and with good reason, they want them to be as slim, trendy and lightweight as possible!). The non-entry-level entry-level cameras are becoming more and more bijou as well. It's not just the cutesy Sony T-series types anymore!
  • And this concludes our one-week delayed Olympus coverage!

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