Cool cameras and other stuff

Olympus 550UZ: A killer digital camera?

Written by Gail Bjork

The Olympus 550UZ is causing excitement among advanced digital camera users. But I won’t buy it.

Olympus 550UZIt’s not often a new camera generates excitement across brand loyalists but the Olympus Stylus 550UZ is doing just that!

When I first read about it my photographer’s heart skipped a beat. I virtually jumped right into the queue with others lined up to buy it sight-unseen as soon as it hits the market next month (Feb 07).

And why not?

The cameras features almost everything a photo enthusiast would want: an 18x wide optical zoom with a 28-504mm 35mm equivalent lens (!), Image Stabilization, a large sized LCD, plenty of manual controls and more.

Until now, those of us wanting to shoot both wide angle and long telephoto have had to settle on owning two cameras; unless you bought a digital Single Lens Reflex camera and interchangeable lenses.  Even though compact cameras don’t match the image quality and high ISO performance of a dSLR, many don’t want to lug around a heavy camera and lenses.

Why I’m sitting this one out

I eventually calmed down after a few days of reading forum posts by current and potential Olympus camera users examining in-depth the specs for the 550UZ. I will not be buying it, however good the image quality turns out to be.

The deal-killer for me is the use of xD picture cards. I don’t own any. I don’t intend to buy any.

Another who shares my concerns about the use of the xD card thinks rejecting the camera just because of the card it uses is going too far.  I disagree.

The preproduction model of the SP-550 apparently has sluggish shutter lag, in part because it uses xD memory cards. They are much slow than other cards such as Secure Digital. I’m not willing tolerate a new camera if it has an old problem such as sluggishness and shutter lag.

Besides, I’d need to buy new cards and a compatible card reader. This adds about $100 to the cost of the camera.

No thanks.

Most believe xD cards are going the way of SmartMedia cards and I’m certainly not willing to invest in a card headed toward eventual extinction.

At least FujiFilm was wise enough to add a SD slot to some of their new digital cameras!

Make up your own mind

Buying a digital camera is a very personal decision. You need to decide for yourself if the Oly550 meets your needs. You may already own xD picture cards so the card need not be an issue.


I highly recommend you read professional reviews before buying. Hopefully image quality won’t be sacrificed because of the huge focal range.

I’m hoping another manufacturer announces a similar model that is as inticing…with SD cards. If not, I’ll wait until the upgrade to the 550UZ has dual memory card slots. This camera really interests me. If it’s good, too bad the xD will be the deal-killer for at least me.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.