Olympus SP-100 Review

3.3
Expert Rating

Any discussion of the ultra zoom Olympus SP-100 camera has to begin with its Dot Sight feature, which will help you keep the subject inside the frame when using the zoom’s maximum setting. This feature alone makes this model stand out from the crowd, as shown in this Olympus SP-100 review. You may also like the best vlogging cameras under 300.

But the advanced features in the SP-100 (also sometimes called the SP-100EE) don’t stop with the Dot Sight. You’ll be able to use the Olympus SP-100 manual shooting modes to gain more control over your images, or you can shoot in fully automatic mode. You also have access to a viewfinder or a sharp LCD screen to frame photos. Still, the 50X optical zoom lens with the Dot Sight feature is the star of this camera.

Overview

Summary: Olympus attempted to overcome the problems with keeping the subject in frame with an ultra zoom lens camera by including a Dot Sight feature.

WHY IT’S A TOP PICK: Innovative Dot Sight feature makes 50X zoom lens more fun to use.

Price: $329 from Amazon
Available: April 2014
Model: SP-100

What We Liked

  • Great optical zoom lens range at 50X
  • Dot Sight feature allows you to keep the subject in the frame easier at the maximum zoom setting
  • Large right hand grip makes it comfortable to hold the camera
  • Video quality is good for a large zoom camera
  • Camera includes an electronic viewfinder

What We Didn’t

  • Huge and heavy camera, especially when the zoom lens is fully extended
  • Image quality shows some noise in low light photos
  • Image sharpness at the full zoom range isn’t quite as good as it could be
  • Battery life should be better
  • Manual control options aren’t as extensive as intermediate photographers may want

Olympus SP-100 Key Specs

Image Sensor Type1/2.3-inch
Megapixels16
Optical Zoom Lens50X
LCD Touch Screenred-x-icon
Viewfindergreen-check-mark
HD Videogreen-check-mark
ISO125-6400
Avg Battery Life330 photos
Weight21.1 oz.
Size4.8 x 3.6 x 5.2 inches
Price$329
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Design and Build

Olympus SP-100 review
The Olympus SP-100 includes a Dot Sight feature, which makes it easier to keep the subject in the frame when using the 50X optical zoom lens.

Even more so than other ultra zoom cameras, the Olympus SP-100 is a large, bulky, gigantic, enormous — pick your favorite adjective — camera. When the 50X optical zoom lens is extended to its full telephoto measurement, the SP-100 measures about 8 inches from the end of the lens to the back of the camera body. And it weighs more than 1.25 pounds.

Still, it’s that large 50X zoom lens that makes the SP-100 such a tempting camera. The ability to shoot close-up photos of far-off objects and wildlife is simply an amazing feeling, making this a great camera to take with you when on vacation, where you don’t quite know how close you can be to subjects and which types of scenes you’ll want to shoot.

One problem with large zoom cameras is photographing a moving subject when the lens is fully extended. Even a slight movement of the camera is greatly magnified at the far telephoto setting, meaning it’s easy to have the subject end up out of frame. And you’ll be unable to acquire it again until you zoom out a little bit for a wider view of the scene. The Dot Sight feature gives you that wider view, allowing you to point the crosshairs at the subject, which then will be back in the frame, all while maintaining the maximum zoom setting.

And as you’re framing your photos, you’ll have two options: The LCD screen or an electronic viewfinder. Both options offer a sharp view of the scene, especially the viewfinder, which has 920,000 pixels of resolution. You will press a button to switch the active view between the display screen and the viewfinder, rather than having the SP-100 automatically switch between the two whenever you lift the camera to your eye.

When comparing the Olympus SP-100 vs. Canon SX50, both cameras have a 50X optical zoom lens, but the Olympus model offers 16 megapixels of resolution versus the 12.1 megapixels of the SX50 from Canon.

Another common comparison is the Olympus SP-100 vs. Nikon P600. The Nikon model has a larger zoom lens than the SP-100 — 60X versus 50X — and the two models have nearly identical resolution counts. But the P600 costs about $50 more than the Olympus model.

Image Quality

Olympus SP-100 sample photos show that the overall image quality for this camera is not one of its primary strengths. The SP-100EE has a little bit of softness in its photos when the telephoto lens is at its maximum setting. And you may notice in some scenes that the Olympus camera’s colors are not quite accurate. These problems don’t occur all of the time, but they do occur often enough that they need to be mentioned.

The SP-100 offers a full range of automatic features and manual control features through its mode dial. However, Olympus primarily designed this model to work in automatic control mode. You can’t even shoot in the RAW image format with this camera.

Bottom line: The Olympus Stylus SP-100EE manual controls are not going to give you the full range of controls that you’d receive with the best entry level DSLR cameras, but its manual controls are quite a bit better than most of the best point & shoot digital cameras offer.

Low Light Performance and Movie Mode

Olympus SP-100 camera
With full manual control shooting modes alongside automatic shooting modes, the Olympus SP-100 works well for inexperienced and intermediate photographers.

Olympus provided a dedicated movie recording button on the back of the camera, making it easy to start and stop your video recording. You’ll have quite a few options for shooting movies with the Olympus SP-100EE. You can record in full HD video resolution at up to 60 frames per second with this model, which is a common setting. However, the SP-100 also has some high-speed movie options, including 120 and 240 frames per second at a reduced resolution.

As you move the 50X optical zoom lens while shooting movies, you will notice the lens makes noise that the video recordings pick up, causing some minor audio problems.

The Olympus SP-100 struggles a bit in low light photography performance, which is a common problem for ultra zoom cameras. You’ll notice noise in your images once you reach ISO 800. And you won’t be able to set the ISO manually when shooting in Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority modes.

Battery Life

Considering the large size of the SP-100, you might expect a large battery, both in terms of physical size and in terms of power capacity. However, Olympus chose to include a smaller battery with this model, claiming a capacity of about 330 shots per charge. Testing shows a more realistic number is around 225 shots per charge though. For such a large digital camera, its battery life should be better.

Olympus Stylus SP-100 Review Wrap Up

My Olympus Stylus SP-100 review shows a digital camera that has a great set of features, but it isn’t quite as strong in terms of image quality as some similarly priced models.

The 50X optical zoom lens, Dot Sight, and electronic viewfinder are all great features that very few cameras can come close to matching. While it would be nice if the SP-100EE had slightly better image quality and battery life, this model still will work very well for photographers who are seeking a model that can capture photos of wildlife over long distances … especially if those animals are moving fast.

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Kyle Schurman

Kyle has been a freelance writer for 20 years, focusing mainly on technology related topics. He's written product reviews, product overviews, how-to articles, product best of lists, and other types of articles.

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