While it didn't come loaded on our review sample, version 3.1 of the SP-560UZ firmware adds support for Olympus wireless flash units. If you install the optional firmware upgrade through the included Olympus Master 2 software (instructions can be found on Olympus' support site), the camera can be set to function on one of four different channels to wirelessly control Olympus' FL-50R or FL-36R flash units. This is the first time we've seen this feature on a non-SLR camera, and it can be useful for users who want to set up a small studio.
In our lab tests, the SP-560UZ far surpassed its slow predecessor but otherwise showed middling performance; it's responsive enough to shoot without much trouble, but it feels sluggish at times. After a 2.4-second wait from power-on to first shot, the camera could record a new JPEG every 2.1 seconds with the onboard flash turned off. With the flash enabled, that wait bumped up to 2.5 seconds between shots. RAW shooting was quite slow, capturing a single uncompressed picture every 13.5 seconds, though that's not abnormal for a non-SLR. RAW shooting is a welcome feature on any non-SLR camera, but the extra long shot-to-shot time definitely limits its usefulness. The shutter lagged a slightly sluggish 0.6 seconds with our high-contrast target, and 1.5 seconds with our low-contrast target. In burst mode, the camera captured 11 full-resolution JPEGs in 9.7 seconds for an average rate of 1.1 frames per second. The camera also features a high-speed burst mode that can shoot 15 still photos a second, though it can only record at 1280 x 960 or lower resolution, and doesn't refocus between shots.
If you want a camera with an extremely long lens for less than $500, the Olympus SP-560UZ is one of only a few choices available by retail. The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-H9 has a mere 15x optical zoom, but its slightly nicer pictures offset its slightly shorter lens. Otherwise, you'll need to invest in a digital SLR with a very long lens, and together they can cost a lot more.
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(Shorter bars indicate better performance)
|Typical shot-to-shot time||Time to first shot||Shutter lag (typical)|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)