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Olympus Intros 18x Optical Zoom Digital Camera

Center Valley, Penn. — Olympus announced a new slate of digital cameras today, including the first consumer point-and-shoot to offer an 18x optical zoom lens.

The company also launched two new Stylus models, including an ultra-durable one, and four models in its FE-series of entry-level cameras.

The 7-megapixel SP-550 UZ’s 18x lens spans a 28mm to 504mm focal length (35mm equivalent) and offers two forms of image stabilization — a CCD-shifting mechanism and digital image stabilization which freezes images using a higher ISO and faster shutter speed.

The camera features a high-speed sequential shooting mode for snapping off images at up to 15 fps in quick succession while a “pre capture” feature records up to five frames worth of images before the shutter is fully depressed.

The SP-550 UZ also incorporates Olympus’ Bright Capture technology for low-light shooting with light sensitivities as high as ISO 5000.

The camera offers a 2.5-inch LCD screen, electronic viewfinder, 30 scene modes, VGA/30 fps movie capture, manual exposure control, built-in help guides, and RAW image file recording. It also includes several in-camera editing options such as red-eye removal, cropping, brightness adjustment and the ability to add frames and titles to images. A “lighting fix” feature can be used on underexposed images to reveal detail obscured by darkness.

It will work with an accessories lens and the PT-037 under water housing. The SP-550 ships in March for an estimated retail of $499.

Olympus also toughened up its all-weather Stylus camera, making the 7-megapixel Stylus 770 SW a true underwater model capable of submersion in up to 33 feet of water. Thanks to a reinforced construction and stainless steel body, the camera can also endure temperatures of up to 18 degrees below zero, a fall of up to five feet and up to 220 pounds of pressure. It is 0.8 inches thick.

The 770 SW offers a built-in manometer, which measures water and air pressure and records the measurements to an image file, allowing users to identify their altitude and air pressure at the time of image capture. Additional features include a 3x optical zoom water repellent lens, a 2.5-inch HyperCrystal LCD screen, digital image stabilization, in-camera editing and 27 scene modes — including four custom underwater settings and a super macro mode for focusing on subjects as close as 2.8 inches.

It uses Bright Capture technology for low-light photography with a light sensitivity as high as ISO 1600 and features a built-in LED illuminator to provide light without using a flash. With the PT-035 underwater housing the 770 SW can descend to approximately 130 feet under water. It will ship in March for an estimated $379.

The company also introduced an all-weather model, the 7-megapixel Stylus 760. Like the SP-550 it offers two forms of image stabilization (CCD shifting and digital stabilization) and Bright Capture with sensitivities up to ISO 2500. The technology is available for movies as well as stills.

The all-metal Stylus 760 features a 3x optical zoom, a 2.5-inch LCD with a 140 degree viewing angle and a backlight boost function, 26 shooting modes (including three underwater modes), built-in help guide, and in-camera editing.

The camera will ship February for an estimated $249 in black, silver, pink and light blue.

Rounding out the line will be a quartet of entry-level models in the company’s FE-series shipping in February. The cameras also incorporate “My Favorites” setting that lets users save nine resized photos to the camera’s internal memory for showing off.

The FE-210, 230, 240 and 250 all feature a 2.5-inch LCD, built-in help guides and digital image stabilization.

The 7-megapixel FE-210, for $149, includes a shooting guide that lets users choose a desired effect while the camera adjusts settings automatically. It features 16 shooting modes and a 3x optical zoom lens.

The 7-megapixel FE-230, for $199, will be 0.6 inches thick with a metal body and features Bright Capture, a 3x optical zoom and 19 shooting modes.

The $249 FE-240 sports a 5x optical zoom in a 0.79-inch, all metal body and incorporates a 7-megapixel sensor, 16 shooting modes and Bright Capture. It will be available in black and silver.

The 8-megapixel FE-250 will offer a 3x optical zoom, sensitivities to ISO 3200, Bright Capture, 16 shooting modes and a 0.8-inch thick body. It will retail for an estimated $299.

The FE-230 and FE-240 also offer the company’s Digital Image Stabilization Edit feature, which uses a built-in gyro sensor to track camera movement to correct blurry images in-camera after they’ve been captured.